Minds over Matter (Anesthesia and Vicoprofen)

Part I:

Time: 10:05, night before surgery

Honestly, this is just a bit of a prewrite done on a crappy iPad keyboard that is only being worked on due to no other devices. Yeah yeah, too spoiled. Whatever.

I wanted to just sorta document my mental state, and my current worries, before going in to the surgery, which will be the first time in my memory of going under general anesthesia, something that I find to be completely fascinating.

As a person who has issues with sleeping quite often, the thought that there are drugs out there that are able to force you to lose consciousness immediately are actually really really scary to me. For that brief moment in time, I don’t know what is going on in the world at all.

For babies, the reason that they are so fascinated by the game of peekaboo is because they have not yet developed this understanding that even if it is not being observed, the world around them still exists. Therefore, when something is taken out of their view, their understanding is that it literally ceased to exist.

Even as a reasonably grown person, this still frightens me so much. What will happen when I totally lose consciousness? What kind of person would I be?

While I have not had general anesthesia before, I have had braces, and for quite a bit of time, used laughing gas. Even though the gas itself is total crap in my opinion, as I believe the reason that it is effective is because it deprives your brain of oxygen, it was an odd sensation, something that I cannot recall clearly.

Another part of my worry is the post op, where I actually have Vicodin for the pain! So excited, not cause of drugs, but because OMG IM A BIT MORE LIKE HOUSE. I don’t know how vicodin will affect me, and I don’t know how I’ll be. I’m a bit worried about being not myself, which also makes me question for who is myself. But I suppose this feeling shall pass soon.

I should sleep; I do have big things planned tomorrow! Good night.

Part II

Time: 4:45, day of surgery.

It’s a bit late, but given that I’ve pretty much been sleeping to let the general anesthesia and the numbness wear off, I would say that I haven’t missed too much. So I’ll try to give a blow by blow of what happened, in the overly detailed and hilariously funny style of David Foster Wallace. Please, join me in laughing at this horrendous piece that will follow.

7:50, arrive at the scene of where a horrendous murderous crime will soon be committed. Much bloodshed is to be expected, but everything was so nice and clean and orderly. I briefly wondered if this was how a convicted murderer felt like being led to the execution room, but it felt slightly better than that. Looking around the small rented waiting lobby, I spotted several yearbooks piled up behind a desk, waiting with a thin level of dust signaling the level of interest people had in looking at their friends before getting teeth pulled. I pulled a copy out and laughed for a while at the cheesy design, even as my heart sorta flipped as my name was called.

8:02, just barely a minute late. All of the consent forms were in and all the fees were paid; I didn’t have anywhere to go or anyone to sue. The operating area was very small, just a simple chair in the middle of an inconspicuous room, although the way the door closed behind me was quite ominous indeed. The lady nurse who brought me in seemed nice enough, although she fired off questions without really expecting answers, so my answers were just as curt and unrevealing. She would go through dozens of these setups per day, it won’t be as if she remembers anyone. I felt a pang of guilt as I thought about her daily life, just getting these vitals in over and over. Although, it wouldn’t be a bad lifestyle, not a remarkable amount of hurt, and judging by how much my bill was, definitely worth the pain. I tried to be a little more interesting as instruments began being stuck to me.

8:05. Weight was taken, as was my blood pressure, so now it was just that little clippy thing on your finger. Google tells me it has a name, called a “Fingertip Clip Oximeter” because I suppose it measures oxygen levels as well, which honestly is pretty cool. Think, if you had to measure oxygen content in your blood perhaps a couple decades you would have a room-sized machine that constantly squeezed out blood from your year. Yikes. Modern medicine is cool. I got some monitors on my chest and stomach, just a little bit icy to the touch. Sigh. Even with all the advances, we still can’t get room temperature monitors.

8:07. I’m starting to regret wearing the super loose fitting clothing that the doctor dictated to me, because I’m slipping just a little in the nice comfy chair. I make a slight mention to the nurse and soon, the chair is leaned back so barring a huge full body spasm, there wasn’t any way that I was getting out. I’m looking forwards, but my glasses have already been taken, making the room just a little more blurred. My eyes aren’t horrible, w/ -3.25/-2.50 (I just went to the optometrist as well yesterday), so I could still make out outlines, but everything was a little fuzzier. Perhaps this would be how the anesthesia feels like?

8:12. The only reason these events have such accurate timestamps is that there was this big old digital clock in the room, although an analog one would have looked a lot better I suppose. Doctors don’t have enough time to interpret clocks during surgery, I guess. As I speak, the doctor, a discharged army major governing all major dental care in western Afghanistan for the past 11 years, comes over. He has a supremely rapid-fire manner of speaking, with enough knowledge to predict any kind of silly question that I may have. He scares my mom. I like him. He comes in and chop chop chop, in goes the IV.

8:14. Last event before I black out. A little bit of a pinprick on the right arm goes in, which I’m pleasantly surprised at. My parents have always had much difficulty in working with any kind of needles, with my mom fainting and my poor poor dad just not having very thick veins. He reminds me each time I want to donate blood how he had 5 attempts at locating a good vein before it succeeded. By the end of it, he was a bruised and upset mess. But my IV is pretty nice, and I can feel a slow reaction. I get a nice little breathing tube in, pure oxygen! To think: I’m paying for this canister of oxygen, as confirmed by that nice little bill that my mom is still holding onto outside. I’m spending the last few moments in a bit of a daze, sorta wondering how much of this experience I would remember. Evidently, quite a bit. Soon, I’m out.

I think I did dream a little while under, although it was one of those dreams that wasn’t “dreamlike” but more like “embarrassing reality” moment. I’d rather not delve into my subconscious there right now.

?:?? I’m being led from that comfy chair over to another undisclosed room, and all I see is that there is a bed and pillows and a nice bed sheet. I lay down and nearly black out again, but I can still hear the echoes of the nurse. It sounds like a different nurse, although honestly I can’t confirm. My mouth feels funny, and my throat is so dry, but before I can protest I’m already out.

?:?? The nurse is offering me ice cream, and this is when the stubborn me begins to kick in. I’m thinking, I can’t be so drowsy, I have to respond! Cue really awkward and ambiguous hand motions, which persist until I later get a pen and paper. My mom has joined me, and I can’t remember what she asked me but I remember making several “thumbs up”, “hand waves” and maybe one shadow puppet. I don’t know what I was thinking.

9:10. I’m led out of the room onto the car, my mind beginning to clear even though it feels like I have no control over major motor skills. Not no control at all per se, but no fine control, so my legs were quite wobbly. The nurse besides me smells nice, but soon I’m in the car and driving off. My mom wants to take me straight home, but I protest vehemently in a really awkward way and soon we’re at school, ready for taking care of business day.

?:??. No clock right now, although I was getting a better sense of myself. I’m still not really able to walk without getting super dizzy, so I’m hanging/hugging my dear mother for dear life. I don’t know how I looked to others as I somewhat swung from line to line with those puffy cheeks, although I got several waves from friends. Ah, it is good to see them again, even in this incapacitated state. Sole moment I remember with clarity is that I got denied to switch to the class “Intro to Dance”, which I seriously wanted to try out. Screw Interlake students and people who are too scared to take risks. (Of course that includes myself for being too chicken to sign up for it originally)

10:ish. Back at home. Brain is getting fuzzier, so I somehow stumble into my bed with my mom at my side. I change my gauze for the first time and am pleasantly surprised at how little blood is there. Wait. That’s my eyes acting up. There is a lot of blood. Crap. My entire mouth is still totally numb, so I take the most careful of sips of water before I watch myself in the mirror allowing the water to slowly trickle out of those hideous swollen lips. My mom laughs, and we limp over to the sink where I feed myself a bit of the ice cream the nurse gave us. Mmmm, Häagen-Dazs chocolate. Yum. Even if about a quarter is lost to the sink. I take my first pills, this giant capsule of Amoxicillin and then the generic version of Vicoprofen, called Hydrocodone-Ibuprofen, a safer mix than what Vicodin really is. Less addictive, more pain relief. Yes. Soon, I’m blacked out again.

The rest of the day was pretty much a haze, although I do remember the baby food my mom made. It was … surprisingly tasty, although difficult to swallow still. There wasn’t nearly as much of the drug-induced confusion that I had imagined from House or XKCD, although to be fair, I’ve taken Vicoprofen at the minimum limit, one pill per 6 hours rather than 1 per three hours. I guess if I get back to my laptop, I’ll type more of those thoughts on consciousness that have filled my brain while sleeping. Hehe, so meta. Thinking about what it means to be conscious while being half unconscious.

Note: This actually turned out a bit better than I expected! Even though it isn’t nearly as good as I wanted, it was something that I didn’t cringe over like crazy afterwards. I hope that this amuses you, or perhaps relieves you a little bit in case if you will be needing to remove wisdom teeth soon. Big shoutout to Dr. Rowshan’s clinic; even they were rather pricy, they really did have great service. Thanks!

Part III:

This is a bit shorter, although I wanted to sorta explore consciousness and memory here. I said earlier that I didn’t feel a great much amount of effect from the drugs, although to be fair there is a larger effect than I expected. My grasp on language and memory seems a little worse than usual, which is bad seeing that my memory is horrible as it is.

Although, what really is being conscious? It’s one of those things that you can’t really describe, and to be honest, you couldn’t really subjectively tell. Influenced by this Doctor Who episode (INSERT LINK HERE), you DEFINITELY feel that whatever state you are in is reality, even if it is actually a dream. How can I tell that this one is real?

Maybe that is just an exercise in futility, and it really is up to us to make the best of whatever state we are in. Treat everything as real as possible and show the best of humanity.

In conclusion: I didn’t get nearly as loopy as expected, so no long incoherent half-drunk post as I expected. But I hope you enjoyed the read! Talk to you soon, even as I speak with 4 less teeth.

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