I am, according to my anesthesiologist, a Difficult Case.
Apparently, as he detailed in a one-page letter dated the same day as my gallbladder surgery (did he write this while I was still unconscious, I wonder?) I have what is known in the most simple terms as a “difficult Airway.”
(Difficult being the operative word here, as it’s used in the three paragraph letter three times.)
From what I, a recipient of dual medical degrees from the Universities of Google and the College of Mom, understand, there were issues with the breathing tube. They eventually were able to place the breathing tube, but only with the use of something called a “glidescope,” which (you gotta admit, you went there, too) sounds sort of like a particular type of grown up battery-operated toy.
I knew this, as the anesthesiologist explained all this to me and The Husband while I was in the hospital. Like most anesthesiologists I’ve met, he was a nice guy. Still, I’ve been professionally sedated before so all this was kind of surprising. Furthermore, there was the anesthesiologist’s additional recommendation:
“It is suggested that you purchase and wear a Medical Alert bracelet identifying your “difficult Airway,” he writes. “This will alert health care professionals to your special problems in the future.”
Your special problems.
One of the stories my mom loves to tell about me as a kid is how much I hated Band-Aids. I was the kind of kid who walked on the perfectionistic, goody-two-shoes side of life. The one who was her own worst critic. When you’re wired that way, eventually you stumble and fall and you get a boo-boo. And when that happened, I was pissed. I even hated the word boo-boo. The pain, that was nuthin’. I had that under control.
It was the fact that I needed a Band-Aid.
It was the fact that people could see that I was defective. That I screwed the hell up.
You know, at all of eight years old, playing outside with the neighborhood kids. We couldn’t have any of that.
If I skinned my knee and required a Band-Aid, I’d immediately retreat to the house. Where I’d stay for, you know, a few years. I became the sort of kid who preferred reading her library books and banging out stories on her orange typewriter from Sears to being outdoors (not to mention the potential social embarrassment of being the Misfit Toy on the block).
That mindset’s served me well for the past couple of decades or so.
But now you tell me that I should wear a Medical Alert bracelet – which, make no mistake, I fully understand and agree with and plan to comply with because I’ve got two kids involved now – and that eight-year-old boo-boo hating part of me becomes the rebel against the Band-Aid once again.
I don’t need the world to know of my special problems.
Because my special problems are none of the world’s damn business, thank you very much.
I’ve had a day to stew about this, because I’m at that point of this recovery where I’m antsy and more than ready to resume my life.
As my mom would say, I need to Get Some Perspective.
Which I have been trying to do.
What if I looked at the Medical Alert bracelet not as a Scarlet Letter but as a reminder?
I mean, okay, I have a “difficult Airway.”
I bet that’s true for most of us, isn’t it? In the course of our days and our lives, don’t most of us struggle with remembering to simply breathe?
To remember we’re okay just the way we are?
To remember we’re allowed to ask for help, especially when we’re in trouble?
And don’t most of us need a gentle tap on the wrist, some visual reassurance that it’s okay if people see our special problems?
Because maybe, just maybe, we need to remember that we’re not alone. That we’re fixable and not as broken as we think.
And that everyone has their own special problems and needs a Band-Aid once in awhile.
photo taken by me at the Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia, PA, May 2009.