|Sts. Cosmas and Damian: physicians and martyrs.|
Going to the hospital for, if not a life-threatening, at least a life-inconveniencing procedure under general anesthesia causes one to pause and meditate upon one's vulnerability and mortality. In the weeks leading up to this morning's surgery I mostly went about my daily business; but now, while I rest and metabolize the various sedatives out of my system, I have little to do except ponder Great Issues. I probably should also make room in my cogitations to consider the wisdom of publishing their fruits while still in a condition that would make it illegal for me to drive; maybe I will hold off on clicking that button until tomorrow. On the other hand, maybe today is the day to announce the happy news that I came through the surgery very well, with very little pain, and the doctor said everything looked good. I should have lab results on the biopsy in a week.
-- I have to first express my gratitude to my aunt, Margie Blake, who got up at an ungodly hour to drive out all the way from a neighboring county and get me to the hospital at 5:30 a.m.; stayed with me until I went into surgery; stayed at the hospital all morning until I was ready to go home; talked to the doctor for me after the surgery; and provided me with a very delicious potato soup and Jello. Her response to being so sorely put out by me? Happiness at being able to do it.
-- I have to also express my gratitude to the doctors and nurses and orderlies at St. Luke's Hospital in Boise for the extraordinary care they took to be kind and gentle, see to my physical comfort, avoid inflicting unnecessary pain and assuage my anxieties. These were people who get up extremely early in the morning, work long hours, perform strenuous and sometimes stomach-churning duties, ford innumerable streams of government red tape, and treat difficult and demanding people with kindness and compassion on a daily basis. I, who roll out of bed at the latest possible minute I can get away with and still make it to work, and then spend my days being difficult and demanding, don't know how they do it.
-- One point that forced itself upon me with great clarity this morning was the necessity of preparing spiritually in advance for that supreme moment when one is about to leave this life. The only real way to do this is to get into the habit of praying -- in particular, praying for protection from a sudden and unprovided death -- and frequenting the Sacraments. It is rash and foolhardy to count on being able to slide into heaven at the last minute after a lifetime of neglecting the things of God. After all, even if you don't die suddenly, you may nevertheless be in excruciating pain at the end, or you may not have all your marbles, or you may suddenly lose consciousness. (I tried but failed to be aware of the moment when I would lose consciousness in the operating room: I was waking up in recovery before I knew I had gone to sleep.) But even if you have the capacity for quiet concentration, a hospital is too full of distractions and interruptions for it. Make your preparations and intentions and resolutions for that time now, while you are still capable, and keep renewing them.
-- I did not seek the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, or Extreme Unction, before my surgery. This was because Extreme Unction is for persons who have begun to be in danger of death through bodily infirmity and not an anticipated cause from without. All the evidence up to now indicates that, apart from certain symptoms, I am otherwise quite healthy, so that to the extent, if any, that I was in danger of death, it was from an external source and not from one internal to myself. However, there are other ways to prepare for situations like this: going to confession and receiving Holy Communion ahead of time; getting in the daily Rosary before going in (even if you can't quite finish it); wearing the brown scapular (though the doctors will make you wear it someplace other than around your neck); arranging in advance to have a priest contacted in the event something goes wrong. If -- which God forbid -- my biopsy turns up something potentially life-threatening, then I will seek Extreme Unction in the hell-whipping traditional form.
-- You never want to eat a thick, juicy steak so much as on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, and you never want to go out and run errands so much as when you're not supposed to drive. I also would really like to take a shower tonight but can't.
-- I hope the Swedish chemist Nils Löfgren made it straight into heaven without stopping in purgatory for inventing Lidocaine.
-- One downside to the Internet is that the ready accessibility of limitless information makes people think they can be experts without the expense and arduous labor of going to school and gaining experience. Doctors and nurses must get really tired of having constantly and daily to burst people's Internet research bubbles.
-- I told myself to pick up some dark chocolate with almonds when I went to the store last night. Should have listened.