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The next time I feel like a new career, I know what it will be: surgery patient consultant. I know what you’re thinking, but this is not cynical. Consider…

You learn you need surgery, like I did—said surgery to take place in just a few days now. What do you do? Do you sing and dance? Happily call all your friends so they can congratulate you for being so lucky? Feel as though you’ve won the lottery?

Not unless you have some serious issues. If this is you, may I suggest some form of counseling as a starting point?

No. What you do is wish this wasn’t happening to you or worry about the procedure, the outcome, the finances, the missed work … the list goes on. Surgery is a scary bag of unanswered questions. But what makes it even more fun, unless you are lucky enough to be rushed into emergency surgery, is that between the time you first hear that you’re going under the knife and that fateful day, you have boatloads of time to think about it. Play out every possible scenario.

It’s an opportunity to consider every negative possibility and make things worse in your mind. If you’re a pessimist, or a writer, this is actually very efficient. The ability for your brain to jump from bad to worse is engineered right into the surgical preparation process.

Worried you’re not worried enough? No problem. Hell’s own cheerleader of impending doom is conveniently hanging right overhead.

But I digress.

YA Author Tom Hoover on Open-Heart SurgeryWhen you get right down to the wire, most hospitals have some sort of preadmission procedure that you have to go through. It’s a dry run of all the worst parts of a hospital stay. They test you. They make you wait. They give you complicated instructions for things you thought would be simple things.

For example, they wanted a urine sample from me. Just pee in a cup, right? Oh, you’re so naïve. I was given a cup, along with specific instructions about where I could and couldn’t touch it. I was also given a specific packet of hospital grade wet wipes (three to a pack) along with specific cleaning instructions and areas for each wet wipe prior to the actual urination. I was even taken into the bathroom and shown where to rest the cup and the wipes. Then she left and called “Come back to room 10” over her shoulder.

I wish I was making this up.

A consultant would have prepared me for this insanity. Set my expectations so I’d feel confident of the next steps instead of standing confused and naked in an ice-cold closet of a room afraid I was gonna do this wrong and mess up my whole surgical process.

Because I needed more pressure in my life.

Especially now.

Again, that was just an example.  There’s also the questions that they ask. That the insurance companies and lawyers and Congress have mandated that they ask … as interpreted by the seven or eight different medical professionals I saw during preadmission. My favorite was the first, when she got to the question, “Are you upset about anything concerning your surgery?”

“Yeah,” I said, “It scared me and I was pretty upset for a couple weeks when I was diagnosed.”

She pinned me to the chair with her eyes. “I think you know what I’m asking.”

I didn’t but I did some quick math and drew on the bazillion or so pre-surgical tests I’d already been through and came up with, “Uh, no, I’m not suicidal. My whole goal in even having this surgery is to live a long and happy life. Suicide seems counter-productive, y’know.”

She nodded, but didn’t like my attitude. Whatever.

The good news is that by the time I got to my chest X-ray, I knew the drill. So when the technician asked if I was experiencing any pain, I was able to respond in the most efficient manner possible.

“No. I’m not in pain. I haven’t fallen, nor do I have a history of falling. I’m neither depressed nor suicidal, and I feel safe in my home.”

Apparently, hospitals have an unhealthy obsession with attitude.

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