My awesome operation

November 24, 2010 • 8:28 am

Like an old Jewish man, which is what I am, I’ll bore you with the details of my operation.  Actually, there are only a few things I want to say–the main one being that it went very well and I’m back at work (against doctors’ orders, of course).  I have antibiotics and pain medication, but there’s no pain so I’m eschewing the latter.  Sadly, my sense of taste is temporarily impaired, but that shouldn’t last long.

First of all, a big thank-you to my surgeon, Dr. Jacquelynne Corey, who reamed out my proboscis with great finesse, and to the good-humored anesthesiologist, Dr. BobbieJean Sweitzer, who patiently explained to me the ins and outs of full anesthesia, and answered scientific questions completely irrelevant to my treatment.  I am grateful to the surgery and anesthesiology residents, and the OR nurses, whose names I’ve either forgotten or did not know.  Finally, kudos to Donna Morrone, RN, who kept me up to date with appointments and information.

Unfortunately, I have nothing to report about the experience of anesthesia.  They zonk you out a tad with a Valium-like substance, but then the lights went out instantly. I didn’t even count backwards from 100.  And it seemed that I woke up only a moment later, but actually three and a half hours had passed.  There were no dreams, and I suspect—despite reports of “out of body experiences”—that dreams are less frequent under anesthesia than under regular sleep. This would, of course, say something about the brain mechanisms that get shut down during operations.

The only hitch was in intubating me, which they usually do during sinus operations.  It apparently wasn’t easy.  According to a letter Dr. Sweitzer gave me to pass on to future surgeons, I had a “difficult direct laryngoscopy” because of “limited mouth opening” (who would have guessed?) and “relatively large tongue.”  Also, I had a “difficult tracheal intubation” because of my “short stubby epiglottis and redundant soft tissue” (that sounds like an insult—redundant tissue indeed!).

Finally, they need to do something about those hospital gowns that expose your butt!  There’s just one tie in the back, and leaves little to the imagination (they gave me a blanket to drape over my back while walking to the operating room). Surely, after decades of surgery, someone can invent a better and less demeaning way to clothe a patient.  If they need instant access to your back or rump, why not Velcro or snaps?  If anyone knows a rationale for this, do post it below. We’d like some dignity, you know!

As for the University of Chicago Hospitals, I have nothing but praise for their treatment in this case.  Everyone was friendly and eager to ensure that all my questions were answered.  With luck, I’ll soon be breathing freely.

45 thoughts on “My awesome operation

  1. I think it’s an authoritative thing, you’re more bound to listening to doctors or complying with them when you’re in a vulnerable buttocks-bare state.

    Look at Abu Graib, Auschwitz or the Inquisition. It’s basically the oldest terror device we have next to inflicting pain.

    Obvious difference being that hospitals are generally beneficial to health.

    I may have gone off the ramp comparing the situation, but I think the point still stands. Though I now slightly doubt my first-instinct assertion.

    1. Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt at all that there’s at least a kernel of truth to what you write. It’s much the same reason that I was wheeled into the procedure room on a gurney, even though the only impediment I might have had to making such a journey under my own power was a similar back-less gown.



  2. No idea about the gowns, but shouldn’t you be keeping your nose well clear of grindstones for the time being? ;>

  3. Congrats on making it through whole!

    Don’t be afraid of the analgesic narcotics. If you hurt — even a little bit — take ’em. If you don’t, leave ’em in the bottle. Pain slows recovery. And, if you’re like most people, taking more of the drugs than you need will make you feel bad, not good.

    I have damned little memory at all of yesterday after whoever-it-was started the sedative. I don’t even remember the drive to my parents’ place, let alone time in the recovery room — even though I was apparently asking all sorts of questions about everything while there. And about the only thing I remember from Mom & Dad’s place is eating matzah brei.

    I had a great cat nap when I got back home. As with all great cat naps, this one was powered by a napping cat. Thanks again, Baihu!



      1. Come to think of it…those parts of it really were pretty awesome.

        Oh — I should have mentioned.

        The matzahs were home-made…in preparation for tomorrow’s dinner: kishke roasted with the pot roast.

        You’re welcome to join us, I’m sure.



  4. You realize that when you’re under they dress you up like a French Maid and take pictures. I saw that in the Doctors Gone Wild video.

    You’re lucky, though. I wish I had a certificate saying I don’t have a big mouth.


  5. Glad to know that everything went well – muted taste buds suck though. You shoud take a couple of days to lay on a couch, watch old movies and read.


  6. When I needed procedures at the hospital where I also worked, the doctors and/or nurses would often automatically offer two gowns. You put the first one on with the back open, then the second one over it, facing the other way. Don’t know if that constitutes ‘insider’ treatment, but you can always ask and your nurses will not give you a hard time about it. Its waay more dignified, and warmer to boot.

    1. Yes, someone else told me that, too. But of course this doubles the price of gowns. WHY is it necessary to leave the back fully open?

    2. They also often have pajama pants to offer.

      I think that hospital gowns have to be useful across a wide range of mobility (from none to fully ambulatory) and health status (from emergency to healthy). Hospital gown design gives priority to the poorest end of the range (immobile &/or emergency), where easy access is essential. (Plus, people who are in bed a lot tend to get all wrapped up in their clothing.)

      Anytime anyone goes under general anesthesia, doctors prepare to handle an emergency situation, which includes making sure they have easy access to your chest (for defibrillation), appendages (IVs, arterial blood gases & other ways to monitor perfusion), urethra (catheter), and other parts. Modesty just isn’t a consideration. Unfortunately, that’s no consolation for conscious, healthy folks.

    3. To answer your question, though, leaving one’s back open is more acceptable than leaving the front open. When all of the ties are in place and used correctly, usually 2 pieces of material cover the buttocks, and only a small part of the back is left exposed.

      There’ve been various grants awarded in recent years to redesign hospital gowns. Some people were playing with a wrap design that covers the body 1 1/2 times, but all that extra material is costly and reduces access.

  7. Congrats on your successful surgery, Jerry. I have had 3 operations in which I received general anesthesia. Each time was completely dreamless. The docs told me to count backwards from 10; I made it to 9 when I went out. Each general anesthesia experience for me seemed to last a long time, but in reality each of the surgeries lasted about 2.5 hours. I think this is what death is like — a long dreamless sleep.

  8. I’m an anesthesiologist.

    My patients often tell me on emergence that they have have had wonderful dreams & are often annoyed that they had to ‘wake up’ before it was over… When I ask them what they were dreaming, they just smile & decline to elaborate further. Good, possibly erotic dreams are seemingly quite common.

    Better luck next time. 😉

    – evan

  9. There’s just one tie in the back, and leaves little to the imagination (they gave me a blanket to drape over my back while walking to the operating room).

    Perhaps you got shortchanged. It has been a while, but I remember two ties, as in this cartoon. According to the hospital gown Wikipedia, they are particularly offensive to modest folks such as Muslim women. A Missouri state representative attempted to legislate a better hospital gown, but his bill died in committee.

  10. Very pleased the surgery went so well!

    How was/is your hangover?

    For my last surgery, they had me wear two of the regular old crappy gowns: One facing each way. This made it more or less like a judge’s robe sort of deal and was great for privacy/dignity. For the required post-op pee, I just needed to lift the whole lot — in the bathroom.

    Nurses really are amazing aren’t they? I’m glad you spread thanks around. I always do as well. And no one hears their name enough: Good onya for naming the people that helped you.

    My times under general anesthesia were just missing bits of my life. No perceptions whatsoever. The going-under and coming-up bits varied; but the actual under part was — completely missing.

  11. “relatively large tongue.”

    I think that is the reason we come to this website, large and knows how to use it 😉

  12. Well when I had my op here in London in September they either gave disposable underpants or let you wear your own, proveded they were cotton. That is because no Englishman can expose his behind to the world, unless it is to a policeman on a stag night. I had to wear surgical stockings as well – everyone does here now because of a slight risk of embolisms & they cost the NHS about £7.50p a pair! Surely the open back is so a/ in an emergency they can whip it off or b/ you can get to the loo if you need to. Velcrove would be more expensive.

    Glad you are better – my experience of anaesthesia was the same – apart from the extra ‘e’ in my anaesthesia!

    1. “Provided” – argh!
      The experience also gave me an insight on death – it is nothing to fearv for it is itself ‘nothing’.

      Don’t want to sound gloomy though!

  13. My two experiences with general anesthesia (tonsils/adenoids and wisdom teeth) were much like Dr. Coynes: nearly instant, one-way time travel. If only it was true suspended animation, i could wake up 4000 years from now with lots of cool gadgets and be rid of all of today’s irritating people (sorry, family and girlfriend! I’ll miss you).

    Anyway, counting backward from 10, I expected to make it all the way to zero… “no big deal, I’m breathing fine”… but to my surprise, zonked at 8!

    Actually I may have dreamed the second time, but waking to find a mouth full of bloody gauze and people in scrubs staring at me quickly erased all memory of any dreams.

  14. Wishing you a speedy recovery, especially to your sense of taste. I think that might be caused by the nasal trauma, as we get a lot of our sense of taste through smell, IIRC.

    Reading your first sentence, I was struck by your identification as an old Jewish man, and wondered if you might devote a column to what it means to be Jewish, and what it means to be in your 60’s.

    I am about to hit 60, on the binary date of 01/01/11, and for some time I have been identifying my self, somewhat jokingly, as ‘old’, though with my taking up cycling (100 miles around Tahoe) and losing weight, in many ways, I’m in better shape than I was 15 or 20 years ago. In other ways, not so much – thank you pfizer for vitamin V!

    In any case, was wondering what your thoughts were on all that. And thanks so much for all you have written here, it’s a constant source of wisdom and wackery.

  15. It’s good to hear that you’re back on the mend.

    My only experience with full anesthesia was similar to yours — I remember trying to count backwards from 100 and reached maybe 98 before going out. There was no sensation of time passing when I work back up, I think a couple of hours later.

    And yes, they need to make hospital gowns that cover one’s butt.

  16. The hospital clothes are practical for the physicians – no fuss gettin ’em off and someone doped up or out of this world with delirium can even manage to go to the toilet without making a mess of the gown. It’s a wonder the catholic altar boys aren’t required to wear ’em. The surgeons in particular don’t like wasting time on anything; if you come in wearing a $20k suit they’ll probably cut it off before even thinking if it could have been removed in one piece.

  17. The last time someone accused me of having “redundant soft tissue” they weren’t talking about my nose, so count yourself lucky.

  18. Congrats on what looks to have been a pretty smooth operation. Re the gowns: for my appendectomy about a year ago, they let me wear boxers under the open-backed gown. Upon coming out of the anestheisa, though (I had a very vague sense of having dreamed something, but details were elusive), I found that they’d been pulled down.

    Needless to save, I have some…concerns. At least it wasn’t a Catholic hospital…

  19. Hey Jerry, great to hear that you made it through the surgery! I saw on the wiki entry that only 65k people or so have gone through the surgery so you’re in a fairly unique demographic!

    How is it that expanding the space between the bones inside your face would cause them to ‘set’ into another configuration? Wouldn’t there be additional pressure as they settle from them not being in their intended shape?

    I’ve had difficulty drawing breath through my nostrils my entire life, get frequent sinus headaches when I exercise, and I’m pretty much forced to sleeping with my mouth open. I’ve never had frequent sinus infections though. I had heard of the surgery where they chisel out bone and bore holes into your face but that sounded scary. This sounds less terrifying.

    What exactly was your sinus condition? I’ve always felt that I could do with a wider air passage. Maybe this is for me!

    1. I was diagnosed with “chronic sinusitis”. I don’t want to give medical advice, but do check with your otolaryngologist about the benefits of this surgery. Not that many people are yet qualified to do the balloon stuff. I know the balloon opens up sinuses, and have heard that it moves bones, but do check.

      1. If Dr. Corey has a web page, she should note that she has your recommendation.

        Otherwise, not that I ever thought that you sounded nasal, but will this change how your voice sounds now?

  20. I know this wasn’t particularly life-threatening, but I’m really glad to hear you taking the time to thank the doctors, registered nurses, and all those humans who played a role in this. Whenever someone is successfully benefitted by medicine, it seems like not only do they of course primarily thank their God, but they also seem to never think to mention some thanks to the actual people who played a role.

  21. Glad to hear you’ve made it through surgery okay, Jerry. No idea why the Gown of Humiliation persists! Perhaps we need to be kept in our place as patients.

  22. Your lights-out experience (or lack of experience I should say) was very similar to mine. Glad you made it through with no problems! The video you posted about the operation makes it look like they crushed your bones rather than cutting them out. I hope it makes a huge difference and that you can breathe like never before once you have healed.

  23. Yes, I’m also pleased to hear that everything went well. There really isn’t much dignity in a hospital… I used to get angry when I was younger and nastier, now I just submit: shikata ga nai (a useful Japanese phrase to keep in mind for such occasions).

  24. Glad to hear you came through ok. At 78, I’ve had quite a few visits to operating rooms. Now, if you want an “out-of-body” experience, you’ve got to slip the anesthesiologist 50 bucks and ask for the good stuff (sorry, I couldn’t resist). As for those hospital gowns, when you finally wise up and go for a colonoscopy (I had one and survived), you’ll understand why the gowns are open-backed.

  25. You just woke up and realised you’d lost a couple of hours? Dead lucky.

    I woke up to find tears rolling down my cheeks and all the nurses standing around saying things like Oh,you poor thing. Aw, what a shame etc.And they wouldn’t tell me what I had revealed to them because they didn’t want to depress me further.

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