“Are you cold?”
“Yes,” I told the nurse.
In a few minutes here she came with this silvery apparatus in which she enveloped me, slipping the upper part over my head and smoothing the long straight part down past my naked feet. I felt as though I were in a helium ballon, and that at any moment I might lift off, and head straight for the ceiling. For in a short time from somewhere near the bottom of my bed, she turned on an apparatus that began pumping air through those little canals. Warm air! It felt wonderful. (Check the picture in an earlier post and you will see they also were cool enough to see that my surgical hat was of a matching material!)The date was December 17, 2015, and I had checked into the Fontana Kaiser hospital where Dr. Noel Victor (pictured here) would perform a modified radical mastectomy on my right breast. His team had been assembled and many of them came to talk with me during my prep time, including the anesthesiologist and his assistant. My vital signs were checked, an IV was started, and often I was asked, “What surgery are you having done today?” Once a nurse said, “Are you having surgery on your left breast . . .?”
At that point I interrupted her, sat straight up, and adamantly said, “No, it is my right breast.” I continued. “Please let me see your papers.”
She held them where I could see and asked, “Is that your signature?”
“Yes,” I said as I scrutinized the document which clearly indicated it was my right breast which was to be removed.
She smiled and said, “I was going to ask, ‘Is it your left breast or your right breast?’ I was a bit antsy and had not let her finish the question before I interrupted her.
All of us have read, I suspect, of heart-breaking cases where the wrong limb, or other part of the body was amputated. My staff that day was very careful. Once a nurse asked me, “Has Dr. Victor autographed you, yet?”
“No, I don’t think so. What kind of autograph?”
Soon I knew, for Dr. Victor came in to talk to me, and with some kind of a pen –maybe a regular ole Bic, who knows?–signed his name at the top of my right breast. Another nurse told me that when I would be taken to the surgical unit, I would not be admitted if Dr. Victor’s signature was not there.
My husband and my children had been in and out of the holding area, praying, loving, and fully supporting their dad and me. Finally it was time to head to the surgery unit. “We’re giving you a little medication to relax you,” someone said, and I hardly recall anything else after that for quite some time.
“Your family may all go with you as far as the “hugging corner,” the nurse said. “After that we make a turn, and they may go no farther.”
We were a parade, I imagine, as we traipsed down the corridor of Fontana Kaiser; my loved ones, and me, in my silver hat and my matching tunic.