It was kind of cool, the pinwheeling, marbleizing filter that had suddenly fallen over my eyes as I lay on the operating table. I wanted to remove the oxygen mask to tell the anesthesiologist what I was seeing, but before I could reach for it, I was out.
And then someone was saying my name, and I was propped up in some bed with a lot of blankets but I was still cold and there was no way in hell I was opening my eyes because -- well, there was just no way in hell. "We're going to move you to a recliner, okay?" the voice said, bright and sonsy. "Just swing your legs over the edge and we'll help you stand."
Amazingly, my body complied. (Apparently, I'm very good at following directions even while semi-conscious.) Teeth chattering, limbs shaking, eyes still mostly closed -- why the recliner? I wanted to ask; let me stay in bed, please. But I couldn't muster a word. It didn't matter, though, because I was out again before I hit the chair.
At some point, the urologist came to talk to me. "We got the stone," she said. "It was impacted."
"Great," I said. And then I remembered why I was there to begin with.
The suspected kidney stone from early September never passed. And after weeks of waiting, hurting, and bleeding, it was time to figure out if the stone was the problem or if something else was going on. So I met with a urologist -- not the one who first found the stone but another recommended to me after my third trip to the ER. She scheduled the imaging studies for yesterday -- x-rays, with contrast injected into the urinary tract -- to see what there was to see. If there was indeed a stone, it could be taken out at the same time, while I was under.
"How's your pain" -- suddenly, that other sonsy voice was speaking again -- "on a scale of one to ten?"
"Two?" I ventured. My bigger concern was my ability to think or move (or were they really just the same thing?) -- both still muddied and slow and exhausting, like trying to levitate from a bed of quicksand.
"Good. I need you to drink something -- can I get you apple juice?"
My brain cleared for a moment. Apple juice equals sugar. "Don't think I can have it -- prediabetic," I said, eyes still closed.
"Water, then," the voice said. "And how about some crackers?"
"Can't," I said, fighting harder against the quicksand. "Carbs."
"I don't want the pain meds to make you nauseated," the voice insisted. "I'll bring you just a little to nibble on."
"Okay," I said, too tired to argue or try to explain anymore.
They're eye-opening, these moments of limitation. I'm used to being able to handle my own basic needs. When I can't, I fight hard to do it anyway -- for weeks, I've gone without more than over-the-counter pain relief because I needed to be able to function. To drive a car, to take care of household chores, to engage with other people just to feel connected to the outside world. And to monitor my health care in a system with a lot of cracks in it. I can't do that effectively on stronger meds, though, apparently, I still try.
I'm clearer today, but only just. I made the mistake of letting the pain meds wear off at one point yesterday, hoping to get my brain and body back, but it was too much. So here I am, typing five words a minute, reaching for clarity that feels just beyond my grasp.
I think I'm okay with that. Fragmented as this memory will be when I return to it in a few days or weeks, it will be here. To remind me that the limitations I feel are relative. Three days ago, I was complaining about not wanting to work out. Today, it's not a question of want at all. I'm just glad to be able to get down the stairs on these jelly-filled legs to brew some coffee. And come right back up to bed.