Last Step

It is more than slightly intimidating to go into the room through the big sliding door and see everybody dressed up in full-on green surgical garb with masks and hair nets. I don’t remember this part. Feeling a little vulnerable, I change my clothes.

I ask to listen to my iPod during the operation — I remember being able to do this during the operation four long years ago when the subject of today’s surgery was inserted into my shoulder — but the nurse(?) says it’s best not to do that because they’ll be using something electric to stop the blood. Instead I can listen to music played from a computer in the operating room. Well, okay then.

She escorts me through a bunch of twisty little passages to said room. The computer is a dual-screen Windows XP. The nurse shows me that there is a folder with random albums sorted by year. I poke through the folders and create a playlist in Windows Media Player interleaving 1989 with a collection of classics from 五月天(Mayday). Then I get on the operating table and wait. One of the nurses compliments me on my choice of the latter band. A few tracks later, I deduce that my interleaving had been to no avail because the media player was set to shuffle. I spend a lot of time on the operating table at first not doing anything except stare at the ceiling. There is a white three-legged contraption there, with each hinged limb ending in a large blue-rimmed circle of surgical lights. There are white sans-serif letters inscribed on the rims, saying Chromophare® E 668 and Berch-something. I think the “something” was a synonym for “say” or “tell”. An after-the-fact search says it’s Berchtold. Typical human memory.

Later I am covered with lots of green cloth, which blocks out the ceiling. Instead, I can only see a clipboard and random paper forms on the left side of my peripheral vision, presumably propping up the cloth. The clipboard is a highly translucent pink. The form on top is yellow and has a box saying something about somebody paying; the form on bottom is white with a black-and-pink-striped right border. The clipboard’s clip also has random streaks of black marker across a white sticker.

Music plays.

The anesthetic needle goes in around 3:49. Then I feel poking and prodding and pulling and occasionally some liquid being squirted. I continue not thinking about much.

The meta-thought occurs that I should find something to think about to distract myself from the surgery. Subsequently, one very old math problem that I’ve gone for more than three years without solving floats into my head:

n points on a line are given and the distance between every pair of points is measured. No distance appears more than twice. Prove that at least ⌊n/2⌋ distances appear exactly once. (link, repost)

Seriously, somebody solve this and spoil me on it.

A dozen or so tracks later, it’s over. I get to see the contraption that has stayed with me for four years, a white circle with what is probably dried blood inside and a dangling thin white tube. I’m dizzy, but nothing more. The nurse tells me that I should take one of the painkillers once I get them, before the anesthetic wears off. We walk out. I do so.

Car. Home. Sleep.

My shoulder is still sore and awkward, but I know this too shall pass. Soon I will be able to swim and do freezes again. On that happy note, I give up on doing anything productive or producing any meaningful post content for the rest of the day and instead farm Flight Rising’s Coliseum.

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