Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Did we blunder into a rerun of a Twilight Zone?

It was all very surreal.

A phone call, a physical, and zip within days we were transported from our daily lives to the office of Dr. Charles Wilson, neurological guru, yes, the world's foremost specialist in brain and spinal surgery. From his aerie on Twin Peaks in San Francisco he attracted neurological residents as well as patients from all over the world.

July 4th, 1985, as the staff of UCSF's Moffet Hospital did their workups on Jean I sat at an eight floor hallway window at dusk looking over Pacific Heights at the tops of the columns of the Golden Gate Bridge. As the skies darkened, I could see the canopy of sky rockets a part a fireworks display celebration at the Presidio.

The surgery, it was explained, consisted of inserting a tube the diameter of household sewing thread from the skull down the spine to the lower abdomen where the previously blocked spinal fluid would be absorbed and eventually excreted.

The work was done with the use of microscopes. The residents commenced the surgery exposing the site for"Charlie" who stepped forward to do do the fine work. I was told that on a typical case his job was finished in about three minutes. Because of the intensity of his concentration, he seldom exceeded twenty minutes on a case.

The morning of the surgery arrived. I was told that Jean would probably be taken to pre-op around 8 so I was there early. About 7 the nurse came in and said to relax the surgery would be at 10:30. A procession of nurses commenced with various workups. About 10:00 am the anethesiologist came into introduce himself and get some backround. Toward 11:00 a gurney arrived, the transfer was made and I walked as far as the door marked "authorized personel only".

Time wore on. I told the nurses I was going to the cafeteria for lunch as the noon hour had passed.

Seated at the table with my tray I glanced around the room recognizing the anathesiologist lunching at a nearby table. As he appeared to finish his meal I approached and asked him for news of my wife's case.

He informed me that some emergency situations had come up and it might be a while. He advised that I speak to the nurse in charge of pre-op using his name to request to be allowed to sit with her patient.

She took me into a room larger than most gymnasiums. The light was subdued. Along the walls and down the center were rows of gurneys, possibly one hundred or more. Each with a somnambulent form covered with a white blanket and a drip bag at its head dispensing anathesia.

Jean recognized me but promptly went back to sleep. An aid brought a chair. In the dim light I soon began to nod. The quiet was interupted from time time as a group of people in green uniforms with green hair nets, green booties and masks approached a gurney examed the paper work and wheeled the patient presumably into one of the surgical theatres. As the hours wore on an occasional new patient would be pushed in but on the whole the room began to appear empty.

At 5:45 with only two or three others still in the room, through the sea of emptiness the green men approached us and the sleeping Jean was scooted to the surgery entrance. I fell back returning to the eighth floor thinking about an article I had read in Readers Digest suggesting one have operations early in the day as the doctors tired as the day wore on.


Blogger Danny Barer said...

Very evocatively written.

You're now describing events that occurred after I became an adult. During the summer of 1985, I was 20 years old, had finished my second year at college, was working at B. Barer & Sons, and was sharing frequent wistful long-distance calls with my then-girlfriend.

On July 4, 1985, I was manning a table at Pioneer Park that was advertising the community theater production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC which was going to play at the Fort Walla Walla Amphitheatre. I recall the elderly man who walked over to the table, looked at the sign, and then stared at me indignantly. "Well," he demanded, "where is it?" "Where is what?" I said. "The Sound of Music!" he exclaimed.

9:57 PM  

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