A Pain in the Poo Factory 04
And so, I was told to report to Austin Powers.
“Austin Powers?” I was incredulous. “Wasn’t he in The Nurse Who Shagged Me? What’s he doing in Heidelberg? Why do I – ”
“Austin Towers,” levelled the receptionist, with the weary resignation of someone who’s heard the same joke a thousand times before. “And it’s the spy, not the nurse.”
It was Thursday, one day before surgery and I was becoming tired of the waiting. The day before I had finished what I needed to finish at my job in Castlemaine. John came over and cooked a dinner of stir-fried noodles. This was my last real food until sometime in the immediate future. I didn’t need to think about it. We drank red wine and talked and laughed. John was selling his house and looking for a house to buy in Bendigo. In between, he would move into the spare front room.
I started the fast on Thursday morning. It wasn’t hard, but on that restless warm morning I was more physically active than I should have been. I did a lot of house cleaning and washed the car. It felt a little like a goodbye to one way of life, or maybe I was preparing for a new one. I didn’t know which it was and it probably didn’t matter.
I called a taxi to get me to the station. I still didn’t feel hungry and I was in a good mood. “To the station, then,” boomed the driver. “Headed to Melbourne? Got anything exciting lined up?” I certainly had, I replied, and he managed to stay on the road. We had an entertaining conversation about the surgery, using plumbing metaphors that included duct tape, wrenches, downpipes and left-hand threads.
At Cathy’s place, I started on the first of the drinks they asked me to take. I was part of the Fast Track Program, for those having this colorectal surgery. It was meant to speed up recovery. I still wasn’t hungry and it was too late to worry about being hungry.
Cathy drove me to the hospital before 7 am. I was silent. I had completed some yogic stretches before we left. I did not know how long it would be before I could move so freely again. I wanted to stretch my body and enjoy it while it was still this way.
But a hospital is full of people and there is little time for introspection. The admissions hall was crowded with people, like us, in twos. They were grey and sombre. Until one of the clerks asked for a light to be turned on. Cathy caught the heckled comment first: “Please don’t. It’s too early.” Laughter crackled and broke the tension.
We sat with the admissions clerk. To my soft amusement, she asked all the same questions again and I brought out my Just Say No responses. But she then dropped a couple of beauties. “Any religious or cultural affiliations we should be aware of?”
“I’m sympathetic to neo-paganism.”
“What? Are there Druidic rites you want performed?”
“Well, not really.”
“I’ll take that as a no. Relationships?”
Next-of-kin was easy – that was Mattie. But Cathy was a partner, a significant other. None of this made much sense, but neither did it faze the clerk. After more laughter, we got it sorted.
Following such comedy I was in a sparkling mood. We sat down and waited for a call through another glass door into what appeared to be a preparation lounge. In airport terms, we had just gone through Customs. I was shown a bed and told to put on a hospital gown. That was the transformation, from civilian clothes to the white gown of the hospital inmate. They put tight white pressure stockings on me. With a powdered wig I would have looked like an 18th-century French dandy. But I was being prepared for surgery. Amanda came in to invite me to take part in an anaesthesia research project. I agreed to do it; it involved answering questions.
And then the poignant part; I said goodbye to Cathy.
They wheeled me here, they wheeled me there. They wheeled me down grim utilitarian corridors festooned with signs, yellow and black to warn, signs to tell of gowned areas only, signs telling here was this theatre and here was that theatre. There was one sign about infection control. Another about the staff Christmas party. I looked for signs about about Olivia Newton-John’s new album but didn’t see any.
They pulled up in what seemed to be a prep room, maybe it was a departure lounge. Through mauve glass doors there seemed to be an operating theatre. They asked more questions. Did I know what I was in for? Yes I did. We were certainly in the bowels of the hospital, I said. Yes, replied the anaesthetist. We’re underground. I sensed a warm flush, and then I knew no more.
Next time: The hook-ups