Tuesday 27th April 2010
Gestation: 30 weeks, 4 days
One year ago.
We sit here waiting. We’ve been here before.
The same vaguely comfortable seats. The same grime on the armrests from years of patients; all waiting for day surgery, all waiting to be served their sentence with a knife.
We’re back in the same private hospital. The same one as last time. Exactly the same pre-admission clinic as for Suse’s shoulder operation.
Just six months ago.
And we have the exact same television, still on, still showing drag racing. I never knew a television’s speakers could be so tinny. The on-off button is cleverly located on the remote. The screen has no buttons at all.
Just very big speakers.
“Yes?” says the plus-sized lady from behind the reception desk. She does so without looking up.
“Is there any chance of changing the station?”
“Or even turning it off?”
“Oh, we can’t do that, in case someone else comes in here.” I look around the empty waiting room. “People love the tele,” she says. Her eyes stayed fixed on her monitor.
“They do, don’t they?” Her eyes don’t move. Or more accurately, they race back and forth across the screen, absorbing her favourite blog. “Well, can we at least change it to the news, or something other than drag racing?”
In one move, she picks up the remote and changes stations, past the cable news service and onto free-to-air news. Again, without breaking her gaze. This woman knows remote Braille.
I sit back down. Suse looks through a magazine while I try to block out the noise. Braille lady gets up and disappears, so I quickly approach the counter and flick off the sound. As I do, a man walks past, the same effeminate gentleman who checked us in. He continues down the hall, patting his perfectly combed white hair against his head, his legs clearly moving, yet still seeming to float rather than walk.
I’ll blame it on him.
“All I can smell is food,” says Suse.
All I can smell is sterilised surrounds.
At work, all day everyday, I smell nothing. Now, in this spot, this place that my wife comes every couple of months to have something cut open, all I can smell is hospital. It smells like a hospital. Why doesn’t my hospital smell like a hospital?
And then the vacuum cleaner starts up.
* * * * *
We’re at the end of the day. It’s 5pm, and our check in time was just thirty minutes ago. At my work, there are really only two list times, morning and afternoon. Come to a private hospital, and they have check in until 7pm. You want a tired surgeon operating on you? Go for it, they go till 10pm.
Another couple walks in. They sit, and copy our pose – the woman opens a magazine she has little interest in reading, and the man stares at the TV. By now we’re seeing reruns of M*A*S*H. How apt.
“Susan?” We look up, past the generously sized lady, to a kindly nurse. She smiles as she beckons us through.
We shuffle into a second room, where Rosie remarks on Suse’s low blood pressure, a habitual pre-op process. We check name bands, consent forms, and then name bands again. We’ve been in this room before, too.
Déjà, déjà vu.
Rosie takes Suse to get changed, and a few minutes later she returns, the picture of hospital dowdiness. Somehow they’ve made my wife, the fashion designer, look like a frump. Her middle cord wraps twice around her lithe frame; one size fits all. A few seconds later, from down the hall we can hear Rosie say, “Do you want the next Fleischer girl?”
Suse looks across. “Sounds like Fleischer is my pimp,” she says. She looks down at her hospital garb. “And I’m not wearing undies.”
“You do look very fetching, honey. Good luck with your audition for Fleischer.”
Rosie returns, smiling. “Are you ready to go?” she asks.
“Are you ready, honey?” Suse grins, suppressing a smile.
We are shuffled to the next sets of chairs, where we meet Donna. She goes through the basically the same thing. We confirm that Suse does not in fact have a metal train sleeper stored in her belly, and that all of her limbs are el naturale. Her teeth are her own, and her eyes are too.
I know, I know. The woman is a freak.
Round the corner we head to station three. This time, to meet the anaesthetist. He apologises for being the replacement for another gentleman that we have never before met. We accept his apology with grace. He could have told us he was the mayor and I would have bought it.
All except for the scrubs.
He walks us through the procedure. He tells us where he’ll put the drip, and that Suse is likely to have a slightly sore throat from the garden hose that will be shovelled down her gullet.
“I like that man,” Suse says at the end, “he has a very nice bedside manor for an anaesthetist. Do you think he’s gay?”
“He must be if he’s nice,” I reply. We laugh easily, but I know. I know. My wife’s silliness is in inverse proportion to her nervousness.
I feel a deep ache for what she is about to endure.
* * * * *
From here, we move to the next bay, where we sit some more. Suse gets the chair that goes up and down, while I sit in the chair to that doesn’t. Suse goes to the toilet four times, testament to her pre-operation nerves.
We wait, and wait, and wait some more. My alarm goes off, telling me that the car needs moving and we’ve been here for two hours already. It’s not a bad ploy getting you to move all the time; that way you don’t realise just how much time has passed.
Eventually, Dr. Fleischer arrives. She looks tired and slightly bored; I get that this is her look. She seems like one of these incredibly functional, overtly intelligent people, for whom day to day interactions are a bit of a chore.
“How are you, Susan?” she asks.
“Good,” says my adorable wife. She’s absolutely not good. She’s so far from good that it’s not funny. But this is meek Suse, scared Suse, compliant Suse. She just wants to get it right, and she doesn’t want to make a fuss.
I just want to hug her.
Fleischer goes through a few things, and we fire a couple of questions back at her. They’re the best we have, and yet she deflects them with a bored superhero wave.
Suse has one last nervous wee, I kiss and hug her, and then she is taken through.
While I return home.
To wait for the phone to call.
To be continued…
* * * * *