About twice a year, I visit my glaucoma specialist at Duke Eye Center in North Carolina. I usually have an exam under anesthesia (EUA). A couple of years ago, we agreed that maybe I could stop having EUAs so often. However, I have ended up having one at every visit anyway. My next appointment is in just two weeks and I am hoping and begging not to have anesthesia. My mom scheduled an EUA just in case, but my doctor can cancel it when I see her for my checkup the day before.
Last year, I wrote about having exams under anesthesia…
MY HOSPITAL NAP
“Sarah Smale,” called a caring voice with a slight accent. “Come follow me,” she continued, when I looked up from the book that had held my full and undivided attention.
In my mind, I had already mapped out every second of our encounter. Weight first, followed by height, with a few more quick procedures in the nurse’s small office. I remained stoic when my arm was squeezed incredibly hard by the blood pressure monitor. It felt like a dog biting down on a chew toy. The ear thermometer pinched, but it was over in just a second.
I followed along silently in my head, as the nurse recited, “No food past midnight, but you may have clear apple juice, clear white grape juice, or water until two hours before arrival time tomorrow.”
A few hours later, I sat in a restaurant, stuffing myself silly with chicken nuggets and steamed broccoli. For dessert, I eagerly wolfed down a vanilla ice-cream sundae, drizzled with gooey caramel sauce. I ate the next day’s breakfast calories for dinner, and felt as full as a balloon ready to pop. I would soon be asleep in my huge comfortable queen-sized hotel bed.
“Wake up, Sarah!” Mommy called.
“Really, already?” came my groggy reply.
It seemed like just a few minutes since I drifted to sleep. The sun hadn’t yet risen above the horizon, which made it more difficult to emerge from the comfort and warmth of my cocoon. One advantage of an exam under anesthesia in the morning is that I may go to the hospital in my pajamas. A trip to the bathroom, a quick brush of my long brown hair, an eye drop for my glaucoma, and we were off.
Traveling towards the rising sun, we drove for about 10 minutes, to the Duke Eye Center. A nurse with a puffy blue hat and scrubs gave me a warm welcome, and showed me to my cubicle. My nose filled with the pungent chemical smell of antibacterial cleansers. Surrounded by paintings of colorful farm animals, I sat quietly on a dark blue recliner chair that was covered with a big white sheet.
“It’s time to get changed,” announced another nurse, who brought a pale purple robe, and light green socks with white rubber stripes on the soles. The socks are super uncomfortable, and the white rubber on the bottom always seems to seep through the fabric to irritate my feet.
“What flavor would you like in your mask?” asked the anesthesiologist when he came in. “We have orange, cherry, mint, or bubble gum today.” Those anesthesia masks don’t smell as pleasant as I first thought they would. I chose orange this time, because it is the strongest scent I have found so far, and would most likely block out the terrible reek of the anesthesia.
When my turn came, I left Daddy behind with a quick hug, as Mommy and I skipped through the big metallic automatic double doors, into the Operating Room. Mommy was dressed in a white bunny suit, with a shower cap on her head, and a blue rectangular cloth mask tied around her mouth.
“You look so funny!” I giggled, as I forgot about my apprehension.
An incredibly bright, stark room awaited us. I shivered with the change in temperature, as we entered the chamber full of doctors and nurses wearing blue scrubs, colorful puffy hats and with masks over their mouths. The room was almost entirely white. A tall, narrow platform beckoned to me from the center of the space. It was certainly not homely or comfortable like a real bed. After I climbed up and lay down, I took a quick look around, glad to have some warm sheets over me. I noticed random wires and machines, and bags of liquid hanging from steel poles.
I will wake up the same way as I fall asleep, I reminded myself. My mind calmly wandered to happy subjects like water slides and snow days. Someone put a clear plastic mask with squishy sides over my mouth and nose. It had a clear tube coming out of it, connected to some gas. The gas has an indescribable acrid smell, which always stays in me for hours. The anesthesiologist called it stinky sock smell, but it’s even worse than that. The orange flavor in the mask made it bearable, but not at all pleasant. Sometimes I sing a silly song until I go asleep, but this time I named types of delicious candy, while Mommy stroked my hand. If I leave my eyes open, and try to fight the anesthesia, my eyes suddenly roll far back into my head way more than they could without the anesthesia, and the utter darkness comes too abruptly, too scarily. This time, I closed my eyes and imagined I was at home, going asleep in my own bed, with my favorite stuffed animals.
I have had enough exams under anesthesia to know how to wake up. If I wake up too fast, I get dizzy and sometimes spew vomit. As I awoke, I kept my eyes closed and barely moved. I listened to the doctors and nurses, and noises of the hospital surrounding me. Shortly, I was reunited with my parents, and slowly sat back in the reclining chair, while keeping my eyes closed. I relaxed and took it easy till the nausea wore off, then took small sips of ginger ale and tiny bites of crackers, enjoying my private picnic. This is the best part, I thought, feeling totally pampered.
Relief flooded through me when my ophthalmologist came to tell me, “Sarah, you did great as always. Your eye is looking wonderful! And the eye pressure is about 21, which is good enough for now.”
Yeah! I thought to myself, it will be at least six months till I need to have anesthesia again. I could hardly wait to get back to my hotel room to take a real nap with my stuffed animals.