The Oakland Raiders are in preseason, and I had preregistration for my surgery today. So while the Raiders and Cowboys are going at it Thursday night, I’ll be recovering from having five incisions across my Central America and moving Panama back to where it belongs.
The letter they sent me said that I needed to show up at 10 a.m. for preregistration (the money stuff) and testing (the jabbing and poking and prodding stuff). My first mistake was getting it into my head for some reason that it took an hour to get to the hospital rather than a half hour. So I showed up at the information desk at 9:30 instead of 10. No problemo.
A Hispanic woman about my age showed up and led me over to the registration area. She headed back behind the desks and I began to sit down at the only empty desk I saw. She said no, her desk was over there. She led me to the reception desk; you know, the kind that you stand up at because the desk is up higher? She sat down comfortable behind it. Fortunate for me, I’m tall, because my eyes just cleared the desk as I sat tall in my chair. Just like Michael Crabtree, she asked me for more money than I had, and we negotiated, me more like Al Davis than the 49er owner, whoever he is. I wrote her a check, and she strapped a plastic nametag on my right wrist. I always thought they put those on patients who might be delirious and wandering the halls. Apparently they also put them on people who can’t pay all their bills. That’s for the benefit of the collection agency.
She sent me to a department called preadmission testing. I remembered the area, because a few weeks ago they had stuck a tube with knots on it down my nose and into my stomach while they watched to see how I would react. They also mixed up some cement called barium and had me drink it to see if it would set before I pooped it out. The jury’s still waiting for the results on that one.
I was still early at this point, so I was surprised when they were ready for me. The nurse at the front desk gave me a red clipboard with a sheaf of papers on it and asked me to fill it out. They asked me a lot of questions like, “Does your left big toe hurt,” and “Have you ever had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever while recovering from malaria?” I closed my eyes and marked no on everything, including the one that asked if I was still breathing.
Halfway through the paper interview, a techie popped in.
I almost corrected her and said, “It’s Doctor Robinson. Mister Robinson was my father.” But I promised Shelly I would be good and only torment my own students, so I kept my mouth shut and nodded.
“I’m from radiology,” she said. “I’m here to get your chest x-ray.” I nodded again and followed her around to an x-ray room down the hall. From experience I knew that chest x-rays have always been touch and go with me. Growing up, I developed a positive reaction to TB tests, so they started doing chest x-rays instead. Right away they realized that years of singing and my plain old bigness have resulted in lungs that have a hard time fitting on the typical x-ray. I kept my mouth shut, which is saying a lot for a professor.
She asked me to hug the x-ray machine with my back to her, and I had flashes of hugging the toilet when I had food poisoning that vacation in San Jose. Then I was asked to put my arms over my head and turn to the side. Then she told me to go back to my paperwork.
I arrived at the paperwork to meet another nurse. “Mr. Robinson?” she asked. I growled, and said yes nicely.
“I need you to pee in this cup.” Surprise. I followed her to the bathroom and listened to her instructions, mentally asking myself if I needed to go pee. My body said no. But being the good little Pathfinder that I was, I told her I would try.
“And make sure you fill it to this line,” she added. “And don’t save the first of it, just the middle of it.”
Five minutes later, I was still standing at the toilet, trying to think of Niagara Falls and only getting the drought of West Texas. I reported back to her that I was as dry as Fort Stockton and she shrugged. She disappeared and reappeared with two large cups of water. The first one I downed in about five seconds. The second was filled with ice. I took a big swallow and immediately got brain freeze. I got it down and tried to finish answering her questions.
An Asian woman arrived with an electric machine with wires sprouting from it. “Mr. Robinson?” Grr. “I’m here to do your EKG.” She made me pull up my shirt and she put little stickers–about a dozen of them–all over my chest, sides and belly. Then she hooked four of them up to wires and started the test. I assumed that she would switch the wires around to the other stickers, but apparently they were only for looks. She had me pull my shirt up again, and she removed the tags and left.
In the meantime, the other nurse was still asking questions, and I was wondering about my manhood since I couldn’t pee in a cup. Another woman arrived and told me she would take my blood pressure and resting heart rate. Thankfully, she didn’t use the dreaded Mister title. She could have called me “Hey You!” and I would have been happy. Instead, she didn’t call me anything.
My blood pressure and resting heart rate were up, even for me. “You need to relax,” the nurse told me.
“Right,” I said. “Kind of hard when you have me bouncing off the walls here.”
“Think pleasant thoughts,” she said, and continued with my paperwork. I was still worried about filling that pee cup and asked for some more water. She disappeared and came back with another 32-ounce Big Gulp. I downed it dutifully, still waiting for Niagara Falls. Fact is, I would settle for the small stream that comes off my roof when it rains. So far, my body still told me it was West Texas.
Another Asian woman arrived, and told me she was going to take my blood. That was about the same time that radiology arrived and said that my lungs were too big for the x-ray. Hmm, no surprises there. I ran back to radiology and let them do another x-ray. I returned to the treatment room and had my blood drawn. Then I sat down to finish up paperwork.
Before I did that, they wanted to do another blood pressure check to see if it was better. Instead, it was worse. My BP was higher than it had been any time in the past 10 years. Well, whaddya expect? I thought, but didn’t say.
I signed a dozen papers, had the nurse realize that half of them had someone else’s name on them, and started over. I signed them all again.
“Now it’s time to try the cup again,” she said. I looked at her and frowned. My body said “No way.”
“I’ll try,” I said, and got a fresh cup and headed for the bathroom.
I thought of swimming. I thought of waterfalls. I thought of watermelon. And I peed. Not a lot, but enough.
It’s a good thing I got there early, because the whole process took over an hour and a half. Finally I got in my pickup and headed home.
As I sit here writing this, there’s a message on my cell phone. “Mr. Robinson (Doctor! please!), we need you to come back to radiology and retake the chest x-ray.”
I can’t wait until they knock me out on Wednesday. At that point, all I have to do is show up.