Friday, November 12, 2010

Adventures in anatomy

On Wednesday I had my first ever colonoscopy. Light anesthesia left me with no memory of the procedure itself, though I will long remember the gallon of nasty-tasting liquid I had to consume the day before, and I haven't yet forgotten the gas cramps that were more troublesome than I'd expected.

All in all, it was no big deal, and I'm glad to check it off my to-do list.  I am left with a clean slate, colon-wise, and with four vividly colored, glossy photos of scenic spots along the way. You know how much I enjoy posting photos, but I'll spare you these.


My younger daughter, Kelli, had surgery this morning on her wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome) and her elbow (cubital tunnel syndrome). The doctors used some kind of nerve-blocking method instead of general anesthesia, so Kelli was able to call me while her husband drove her home. She said she's doing great "except for the dead weight" that is her arm at present.

I know she'll be fine, but the idea of her having elbow surgery gives me unpleasant flashbacks to a time in 1975, just weeks after her 11th birthday.

I arrived home from work late one afternoon, having stopped at the grocery store, to find my daughters and some friends playing in the front yard. As I popped the trunk lid to unload the groceries, Kelli approached and said, "We were playing a game where one kid stands on a broomstick while two other kids pick it up, and I fell off and hurt my elbow." I'm sure I must have made some attempt at a soothing, maternal reply, but I don't remember the specifics.

Kelli helped me carry in the groceries. Only when I noticed she was still hanging around the kitchen did I stop to take a look at her elbow, and I was shocked to find it swollen nearly twice its normal size. We sent our dinner guest home with nothing to gnaw on but  apologies, then drove immediately to the emergency room. That's where we learned that the tip of Kelli's "funny bone" had been broken off and would need to be surgically repaired the next morning.

In those days, at least in that place in New York, parents were not allowed to spend the night in the hospital with their children. In fact, parents' visitation was confined to regular visitation hours. The doctor did assure us we'd be able to see Kelli for a few minutes  before she went into surgery the next morning, and someone told us exactly what time we could come. Kelli was brave, but I was heartbroken to leave her there alone.

The following morning, because Kelli's accident had happened after I left work the day before, we left the house extra early, stopped by my office to leave file-cabinet keys for my boss, and arrived at the hospital half an hour before the time we'd been told we could see Kelli. We weren't early enough. They'd moved her surgery ahead by more than an hour, and she was already in surgery when we arrived. It still makes me tear up to think about her facing that experience alone.

After the surgery, the doctor told us that they had successfully screwed the broken bone fragment back in place and that Kelli was in recovery and doing well. We asked when we could see her. "Why, tonight, of course, during regular visiting hours."

Visiting hours arrived, and so did we. We walked in to see Kelli with a cast on one arm and a pot of flowers in the other one. She was up, walking around, moving the flowers for another little girl who'd been moved in to share her room. That's my girl.

I don't remember how many days Kelli stayed in the hospital, but I do remember that the doctor told us she'd be released as soon as he made his rounds on Friday. Friday happened to be a Good Friday. The doctor happened to have decided to get an early start on his Easter weekend trip to the Hamptons, and he didn't make rounds that Friday. When the three of us (including older sister, Kim) showed up to take Kelli home, we were advised that we couldn't do that, because the doctor hadn't released her. He'd be back on Monday, they said.

We stood there for about half a minute, grappling with the idea of leaving an 11-year-old girl in the hospital for two extra days unnecessarily, then my husband bent and scooped up Kelli in his arms. I followed his lead and grabbed her stuff, and the four of us headed to the exit.  We stopped once, in an attempt to pay the bill, but they told us they couldn't give us a total until after the doctor released her. My husband replied, "Well, then, I guess you'll have to bill us later. I'm taking her home now."

And he did. She was home for Kim's birthday sleepover that night and home for her Easter basket on Sunday morning.

The only other thing I remember about this episode occurred later, when I took Kelli to the doctor's office for a scheduled follow-up appointment. We showed up at the appointed date and time, only to discover that the doctor's office was locked up tight and had a sign on the door: "Closed for Duration of Strike." Yes, there was a doctors' strike in New York in 1975.

I don't remember how or when we got the cast off Kelli's arm, but I know we got it done.


  1. OMG! I don't know where to start on this! I'm appalled that they made you leave Kelli alone in those days. I remember having my tonsils out but my mom got to stay.

    I think your ex was most heroic that day, scooping her up and taking her home! Good for all of you doing that!

    And finally... I've been having the most god-awful pain in my elbows. I was told it was tennis elbow but no matter what I do, the pain is there. I don't go to the doc cause - while I do have ins., I can't afford the tests!

  2. I'm glad you and your husband took her home! I'd have done that too. Doctors back then really thought they were God and the world would have to wait for them. I imagine the bill showed up in a timely manner, strike or no strike. I hope they didn't try to bill you for the two extra days.

  3. Wow, what a story! I'm so glad you took Kelli were much more polite than I could have been!

    Years ago, when my daughter was in hospital, I couldn't stay either. Doctors really did think they could do anything they wanted in those days and hang the feelings of their patients. I'm glad times have changed, if only a little.

  4. Holly, I thought he was heroic, too. Even though I'm the kind of person who feels uncomfortable going in a door marked "out," breaking the rules was exactly what needed to be done.

    So sorry you're having trouble with your elbows. Are you saying your insurance won't pay for the tests even if your doctor authorizes and recommends them? That's messed up.

    Janet, I couldn't believe the doctor did that. He could have at least authorized someone to take his place, but Kelli didn't even see a doctor that last day.

    Marion, we weren't all THAT polite. We were working ourselves up into full-out flight or fight mode minute by minute.

  5. I knew I forgot something-my doctor has been pushing me to get a colonoscopy but I'm putting it off for a while. You have to have someone drive you home, right? The whole thing sounds like NO fun at all, and I just read in the paper a few days ago about a procedure that's less invasive than a colonoscopy, so maybe if I put it off long enough, they can test me some other way. ;-)

  6. Janet, yes, you do have to have someone drive you home, and my discharge papers said I needed to have an adult stay with me for the rest of the day and overnight. The invasive part of the procedure was actually the easiest part because I don't remember it. Like your doctor, mine pushed me for years to have a colonoscopy, and I put it off a long time. Blamed it on not having insurance. I understand why you aren't eager to do it, but I must say again how glad I am just to have it over with.

  7. Velvet, I just have such crappy insurance - blue Crap @ 310 a month - and my deductible is so high that when I go in for anything that requires "testing" I usually have 1000 or more out of pocket I have to pay. So more often than not... I just stay in pain!

  8. Holy Moly, I'm glad he took her home! Wow.

    Now, to you. I have a little something called Ulcerative Colitis, and Colonoscopies? Used to be twice a year, every year, since I was 23! Now, it's once a year. My doctor knocks me out each time, on request. :-) And, after all these years, it IS the prep that is the worst part. Friends don't understand when I say that but I know now that you do!!!


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