• the great illness of 06


    I went to the surgeon yesterday afternoon. He’s a funny little man with dark hair and beady eyes. A grandfather probably. As we sit in his tiny little waiting room, restraining Baby Bug from ripping up the three hundred worn copies of outdated People magazines that are stacked from edge to edge on the coffee table, I hear him through the wall ask a man to drop his drawers, bend over and grab his ankles.

    What? I turn to Toby with eyes wide and eyebrows lifting up underneath my bangs. Are we in the right place? Why are the walls so easy to hear through in doctor’s offices? Everything seems so dirty and low tech. Like I could be in the waiting room at a used car dealership or a mobile home park, or maybe I’m waiting to hear if I won a time share or something. A black plastic clock radio sits on an white whicker end table blinking at me, beside it sits a Gideon bible. The standard Motel 6 oil painting of a boat sitting in still water rests on the muted floral wallpaper behind us.

    I don’t know what I expect of a surgeon’s waiting room, but this is not it. I am so disappointed with the field of medicine these days. When I was at the hospital getting my ultrasound, everything seemed so high tech. The machines whirred silently as images of inner-space flashed across a monitor above me. It really seemed like they were looking inside me and getting to the bottom of things. But now I’m here and I’m supposed to trust this guy who wears a funny tie? I feel like I’m in the land of doctorville where medicine is a business and this surgeon is just as happy to cut out my gallbladder as a Jiffy Lube technician is to change my air filter.

    When he calls us into his office, (all of us: Toby, me and baby–which was really nice of him) he ruffles through my chart. He looks at me. He’s quiet. He seems to be enjoying some kind of inside joke. Then he shows me a paper inside the folder he is holding. It says “Brenda Ponnay, diagnosis: hemorrhoids”. Hemorrhoids!? Who said anything about hemorrhoids? I don’t have hemorrhoids. This is really not helping. I’m starting to freak out.

    “So I gather you do not have hemorrhoids,” he says with a chuckle. He scratches out the offending word with a ball point pen from behind his ear. I have the feeling he sees about a thousand gallbladder patients a day and this is his way to liven things up. I am not amused but I’m so anxious to trust this man, who is supposed to be an expert, that I try to see things his way. I tell him about my pains and he rocks back and forth in his squeaky metal chair, sizing me up.

    He leans forward and puts his elbows on the paper of the examining table that I am sitting on. “It’s like a game of bridge,” he says. “Do you play bridge?” Toby and I shake our heads. Neither of us have ever played bridge. “Someday you are going to have to have your gallbladder taken out. You can do it now or you can do it later.” He looks at us to see our reaction. We have none so he continues on, “You can spend the next four months talking to an intestinal bla-bla-bla bla-big-word and they might find out your pain is caused by something else. Or they might not. Or you can have your gallbladder taken out and that might solve your problem or it might not.”

    And the answer is…? I don’t know. Nobody knows. It’s just a great big mystery. So why not just take your gallbladder out! You don’t need it. It’s a useless body part! An extra piece that God threw in just for kicks! It’s easy to take out, so why not? It could solve everything. Or it might not. You came to a guy who takes gallbladders out, what more do you want?

    What I want is to see the pictures from the ultrasound. I thought he would pull them out, show me the sludge and stick them up on the wall or something. Maybe he would have a pointer and point to the sludge. I thought he would have numbers and percentages and maybe he’d circle some things and boggle me with science. But no. There are no pictures. I can see everything in my file and it consists of the questionnaire I filled out in the waiting room, a form saying I will sell my next child if my insurance doesn’t cover all my expenses and some kind of fuzzy faxed xerox copy of something that probably is related to the ultrasound pictures. There are no pictures though. It probably just says that I am actually a candidate for gallbladder surgery.

    I’m so bugged about the missing ultrasound pictures that I ask him about them. “Did you see them?” I ask. “No,” he scoffs. “I don’t read ultrasound pictures. I have readers that read them.” Oh. My bad. Like ultrasound pictures are such a waste of time for surgeons.

    But seriously. I don’t mean to doubt him. I’m sure he is a very good surgeon. He probably has the steadiest hands this side of the Mississippi. I’m sure that it’s totally normal that he doesn’t “read ultrasound pictures”. It’s just that I wanted to feel a little more assured about this surgery. I know it’s routine and probably the easiest thing to do next to pulling a tooth but still it’s my body and I’m usually pretty healthy. I don’t like to mess with things. I don’t even take birth control pills because I like to keep things as natural as possible. Cutting me open, taking a body part out and then clamping it back together with METAL tags that STAY THERE FOREVER just doesn’t feel very natural.

    Buuuuuuuut, neither does puking for weeks on end either. So it’s a gamble. And even though I don’t have a good feeling about it, it’s a gamble I’m going to take. (Not that I don’t mind a fat free diet. I’m doing great on rice and broccoli. I love broccoli. I found out I can have skim milk too so I’m living high on Kellogg’s Special K with strawberries. Good thing I’m allowed to have sugar.)

    I set up an appointment to have the surgery on Monday at 10:45.

    IN OTHER NEWS…. I owe you guys a movie. Guess who turned nine months during the great illness of 06? Stay tuned.