I wake up even earlier than the required 6AM and try to get prepared and relaxed for the catheterization: this involved sliding a little pastic tubing up the urethra all the way to the bladder: after about three hours of complete anesthesia, it turns out, the bladder muscles relax, and release any urine accumulated there, irreparably contaminating the operating field. So the tube pipes the urine in a little sack, but to avoid that at relaxation time it too slides out, it is held in place by a little balloon filled with water at the bladder end. Unpleasant as the sliding is, it is nothing compared to the filling of the balloon with a tiny quantity of water, which instantly makes you feel you haven’t taken a leak in the last ten years.
Horrible is the only way to describe it and it horrifies me to think that I am supposed to arrive relaxed at the tubing operation.
After a couple of hours or so (which seemed like perhaps ten) they take you down, which is good because you know you’ll be taken off your predicament soon. All doctors here do their best to impersonate “Grey’s Anatomy” lookalikes: they all are rather handsome, and wear colourful head wraps. The first thing I notice is how numerous they are and I ingenuously put it down to maybe the coexistence of two operations at the same time.
Then my friend the broncoscopist shows up and in her calm voice encourages me to relax, which at that point I am not very good at. She slides her fiber optic up one of my nostrils and proceeds down my throat until she reaches its bottom – but that obviously is not enough as she needs to visually inspect that the tubing they will insert in my throat lodges firmly at the top of my lung branch.
So she needs for me to breathe normally so that the throat will open enough to let the fiber down – a few plunges are needed, and any failed attempt sends a convulsive “Throw up! Immediately!!” message to my brain who’s only too willing to oblige. Again the soothing voice works her little miracle and I finally understand what I need to do, and I finally hear her announcing “I’m down !”.
At that point I understand why there are a couple of rather muscular young doctors standing to attention. At her throw of the switch, one of them rams what feels like a decidedly too big tube up my other nostril and a third guy starts working on my throat (or so it feels, at that moment some memories are a bit confused); I also understand why they have been busy strapping my lower body and arms to the operating bed with large velcros. As I swear they are about to kill me (all of my airways seem hopelessly blocked) I shake desperately and although not of a heavy frame I distinctly feel my right arm – being taller than average maybe the strap didn’t exactly fall where it was meant to – breaking loose from the velcro band, an act of brute force of which I thought myself absolutely incapable.
I also hear someone yell “Breathe with your nose!” (couldn’t really say I heard it, but the tone implies also a “Dumbass !” addition): this is where they are already pumping gas and it takes less than a second for me to stop causing trouble. This overly dramatized tale takes place in literally less than five minutes, and they all move so well-synched and competently that they probably don’t even have to think about what they do.
But I did.
The next thing I see is a crowd of tired-looking faces looking down and calling my name – if I see them, they must see me, and they seem satisfied with that; I have another split second of conscience realising I am back on my bed, then oblivion for a few hours interrupted by questions to my wife about when they are going to take away the unwelcome companions of the catheter and the nose to stomach probe which was lodged (mercifully during my sleep) to keep the stomach clear of any blood. But none of them are going until the morning, so sleep well, Gianni.