By the time you read this column, I will not be the man I was when I wrote it; I will no longer have a gall bladder.
It is hard to accept that an organ which has been with me since birth will be removed.
When my brother had his taken out more than a quarter of a century ago, it was a major operation where surgeons made a huge incision and the patients had to be hospitalized for several days.
Now, it is a laparoscopic procedure (doesn’t “procedure” sound less intrusive than “operation”?) with four small incisions to insert cameras and tools.
The technical name for it is a cholecystectomy. One thing that scares me is that as an English teacher I can’t pronounce it (koh-luh-sis-TEK-tuh-me, if you are curious).
Such an operation is the number one outpatient procedure done in the country so I am not alone (though that does not make me feel any better).
My surgeon told me that he does hundreds of these a year. I hope that doesn’t mean he has the chutzpah to perform mine blindfolded.
My son found an online video of the procedure. I declined to see it.
Once I began telling people about my upcoming surgery, everyone had a story to share: “Oh, my mother had it, my brother-in-law had it,” etc.
No big whoop.
Well, when it’s happening to you, it is a big whoop.
Plus, tragedy struck my mother back in 1982 when during a routine hernia repair operation, the anesthesiologist who was intubating her mistakenly ruptured her esophagus. She nearly died, but even though she recovered, she was never able to eat properly again for the remaining 24 years of her life.
That plays a vital part in how my mind works.
About seven years ago is when I first had the symptoms: my stomach hardened tight as a drum, my back hurt, my breathing became rapid, and I was drenched. I thought it was a heart attack. Each episode lasts about 90 minutes, averaging one every 10 months.
Finally, I had an ultrasound which detected gallstones. Ever since I found that out in November and met with a surgeon who recommended the gallbladder removal, I have been on Surgery Watch 2018, obsessed with the impending surgery.
The only previous surgery I have ever had was back in high school when I had all four wisdom teeth extracted. Not even when I had a colonoscopy was I completely under, choosing twilight sleep instead.
People tell me that having a positive outlook is essential. With that in mind, in preparation for my recovery, I’m stockpiling chocolate pudding, true crime books and Netflix shows.
However, anytime I do not have control over my fate a sense of uneasiness strangles me. Remember the old cartoons when a character had a little angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other, both persuading the character how to act?
For weeks now I have had two voices inside me, call them “Smart Brian” and “Scared Brian.”
Smart Brian knows that this surgery is the best thing for me.
Scared Brian doesn’t know that to be 100 percent certain.
Smart Brian knows that a week or so after surgery, I will be fine.
Scared Brian pictures a life-altering diet of soft eggs and bland toast, which is why I used the last weekend as a farewell to my favorite foods, planning my final meal.
There is always that nightmare scenario reminiscent of the climactic scene in “Kings Row” when the Ronald Reagan character wakes up and screams, “Where’s the rest of me?” upon realizing his legs have been amputated.
I told my surgeon, “On March 7, you are the most important person in the world to me.”
And he replied, “And on that day, you are the most important person to me.”
I will let you know how it all turns out.