Getting Stoned, Part Three: Make Surgery Great Again
I’m in yet another doctor’s office. This one is a double-wide office space — one long counter, with nurses popping in from either side to call patients back. My surgeon visits this office on Thursdays, and another on Wednesdays. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays are reserved for slicing people open and playing God. I’ve fasted this morning, just in case they need to do more blood work. I’ve got a protein bar in my purse, right next to the two pages of questions I’ve brought for the surgeon to answer.
I fill out yet another patient intake form. Eventually, the surgeon’s assistant calls me back. When I walk into the exam room, I’m surprised that the surgeon is already in there — I guess when you set up in someone else’s office for the day, access to the whole office is limited.
He looks way too relaxed. He’s leaning back in his chair, in green scrubs and sneakers. He has glasses and when he smiles, his cheeks billow out like a chipmunk’s.
After a few cursory greetings, he says, “So, I’m gonna take your gallbladder out…”
Wait! What about my questions?! I think.
“Wait! What about my questions?!” I say. It comes out rather squeaky. Apparently I’m more anxious than I’d thought.
“I’ll answer all your questions,” he says with calm confidence. Then he pauses. For some reason, I relax. He’ll answer my questions. Okay. Suddenly, I’m okay letting him talk first.
He says it again: “So, I’m gonna take your gallbladder out.” I feel like he’s using some sort of medical school psychological trick on me — like each time he says it, he’s slowly hypnotizing me into surgical submission.
He tells me it’ll be a simple procedure. Laparoscopic. Three small incisions. There’s of course a “small chance” (air quotes and all) of complications. He runs through the list at lightning speed: “bleedinginfectionadversereactiontoanesthesia”. I’m annoyed at how nonchalant he is about this. And then, he says it:
“We’re gonna make your body great again!”
Dear God. He’s a Trump-et.
Before I can stop myself, I blurt out, “Oh God — are you a Trump supporter?”
“Darn right I am. We’re going to make America great again!”
“Really? You really think what he says is…really?”
“I want to see a wall. I want the illegal immigrants kept out…”
Okay, I think, Maybe he’s kidding. Maybe he’s actually mocking Trump supporters.
“…I want to see lower taxes. Don’t you want to see your taxes lowered?” Dear God, he’s serious.
“Don’t all candidates promise that?” I ask.
“And how many of them actually follow through with that promise?”
He pauses, and I take pity on him and say, “Well, let’s get back to my gallbladder.”
He shoots down all of my inquiries about alternative treatments — dissolving the stone, breaking it up, etc. I’m not surprised — based on my research, those alternatives are only used in people who aren’t strong enough for surgery.
Basically, because we can technically live without the gallbladder, they just opt to take it out. I am inherently not okay with this. I don’t buy into the whole “vestigial” org-ument. If I’m born with it, I figure I need it for some reason. Maybe our appendixes filter out some sort of toxic element we haven’t discovered yet. Call me crazy, but my instinct tells me that we haven’t actually learned everything there is to know about how the body works.
But he says it has to come out. Everyone I’ve spoken to about it knows someone who says it had to come out. My friend the surgical nurse says “Get it out.”
So, he’s gonna take my gallbladder out...
He draws me a sketch. As he draws the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, etc., I nod enthusiastically. “You’ve been Googling, haven’t you?” he asks. “Damn straight,” I say. “I’m very smart. I was going to be a doctor before I found out you have to cut up dead people in medical school.” A minute later, I drop the term “sphincter of Oddi,” and I can tell it earns me a smidgeon of respect.
He starts asking me questions. He pokes around my belly a bit and listens to it with a stethoscope. He makes more references to “making things great again.”
I can’t believe I’m going to let this guy come at me with a scalpel.
Even worse than his political leanings: He makes several references to my weight. He tells me that if I’m not careful, I’ll be coming back to him when my knees and hips go out. Apparently knees and hips aren’t designed to take 200 pounds of weight. I wonder if he says this to 200-lb men. Or 200-lb athletes.
When I switch the topic to nutrition and give him a rough outline of what I typically eat, I can tell he doesn’t believe me. “See, when I go out to eat,” he says, “I put half of what’s on my plate into a take-out box.” Because obviously, based on my EXTREME FATNESS, I routinely go to subpar chain restaurants and gorge on a pound of pasta in one sitting, barely pausing long enough to breathe.
I’m a foodie, you motherfucker, I want to say, and prefer my food in the form of pretentiously small, delightfully delicious portions, thankyouverymuch.
But I don’t say that. I’m not used to standing up to bullies, especially when it comes to my weight.
“Maybe I’m supposed to be this size,” I manage. “I eat healthy, and I’ve been like this a long time.”
“What did you weigh last year?” he asks. I avert my gaze and my posture slackens. And with that, I succumb to the bully. I am so mad, but too flustered to speak up. He knows he’s won. He throws me a bone: “You’re beautiful…”
I look him in the eye and say, as levelly and seriously and with as much power as my bruised ego can muster:
“Yes. I am.”
We move on.
We talk a bit more about how the procedure will go, and I tell him that if I wake up with a scar that spells out T-R-U-M-P, I will sue him. He chuckles.
As I stand up and he gets ready to walk me to the lobby, he tells me he’ll take good care of me.
“Do you promise?” I ask. My voice is suddenly childlike. All the bravado, all the I’m-going-to-convince-you-that-I’m-not-a-stereotypical-fat-girl energy is gone. I came in here today knowing what the probable conclusion was, but a part of me was hoping for an alternative. I am defeated. I am going to have a surgery and I am scared.
His demeanor changes too. For just a moment, he drops the goofy God complex and looks at me like a human being.
“Yes. I promise.”
We hug. I physically embrace someone who, less than a minute before, was on my shit list. And in less than a week, he will cut me open and I will be powerless to do anything about it and like it or not, I will be... altered. And between now and then, I need to somehow accept this fate.
As we weave our way back to the lobby, we joke about Grey’s Anatomy (he doesn’t watch it). I tell him about all the things they do on the show that would never fly in an actual operating room.
And just when I think we’re friends, that this will all be okay, he comes over to me at the front desk as I’m checking out. He has a piece of paper in his hand: the copy of my driver’s license his assistant had made when I checked in. He points to the weight listed on my license: 180.
He’s back on my shit list.