I arrive at the hospital, with its overflowing crowd jostling its way into the sliding doors. I hate living here, so many people all the time, crushing into too small spaces. I hate why I am here, my body has failed me; it cannot do what it is tasked to do – it is bad enough that it could not sustain this pregnancy, but now it cannot expel it is its own – my organs and muscles betray all sides of me. Because the waiting room is so crowded, I must wait with my husband – on the floor. On the day my insides are to be emptied, I am sitting on a cold floor with its barely pile carpet, waiting to have my vitals taken.
My veins have collapsed because I am so cold – they have wandered deep into my hands and refuse to breech the surface so that the needled can in turn, breech them to gain access to my flowing blood. The nurse decided that taping hot packs to my hands will do the trick, so she knocks cabinet door open with her hip and grabs a roll of sticky blue tape and wraps my hands like packages and whisks the curtain closed behind her in a speedy flourish. I sit there, alone, hoping they allow my husband back to witness, yet another cruelty bestowed upon me by urban medicine.
He enters my curtained-off space and grabs my chart from the end of the bed, flips through a few pages, scanning quickly. “So, what brings you to surgery today Mrs. Kendall?” My mind goes white and read – what the hell is he asking me? He’s looking at my chart, so unless he is fresh off year one at medical school, he must understand the words written within the pages he’s just callously flipped through. I am just another specimen to him. I wish for him the excruciating pain of watching his wife, girlfriend of potential daughter lay here like I am today, dealing with a resident that shouldn’t ever have his hands inside of them.
The anesthesia is kicking in but I ask anyway, “Can my husband come with me?” But I’m not really sure if the words are coming out of my parched mouth because I feel that we’re rounding the corner away from my curtained space and into a wide hallway – I can feel the speed, but I can’t say the speed. I realize the operating room is full of people; it’s not just the massive overhead lights that distract me, it’s that there are five people in addition to my doctor standing over me. A nurse with beautiful long black silky hair asks me to confirm my name, which I must’ve been able to do because I feel myself being transferred to the surgery table.
My doctor is leaning over me – her blonde halo merges with the lights above. Her diamond necklace swings near my chest, and I fall into a methodical gaze – did she wear this to hypnotize me? Why is it so big? Did I help her to pay for this? Isn’t it rude of her to wear this spectacular piece of ancient rock when I am laid bare, feet in stirrups, wearing only paper? I am colder than the diamond as it swings more furiously as she walks toward the end of the gurney where she will do her work.
We drove to New Jersey the next day – maybe a few days in Atlantic City will make it all go away. But the blood won’t stop; my doctor had said I could be back at work on this day, but I’m sitting on the edge of a hotel hot tub not knowing where we can drive to for more supplies. I wonder if we should call the doctor, but I am numb. We hit the slot machines; we win enough to pay for the tolls home. I sob through dinner because I think that my husband’s filet of sole, is my soul gone belly up – exposed, stuffed, face down in the plate.
A news article catches me eye – “unnecessary operating room participants allowed in for training purposes” runs across my screen. I read and sit very still. Women, under unnecessary general anesthesia, are enduring “extra” hands in procedures such as dilation and curettage after miscarriage at the hospital where I had to sit on the floor and wait for vitals. Training, without patient authorization, has been taking place. Unskilled hands are allowed inside a woman’s being, without her knowledge. I bled from Maryland to New Jersey and back, and for weeks after because the untrained were allowed inside of me, by her and her diamond. My second miscarriage, new doctor; done as an in-office procedure, one doctor, one nurse, no general anesthesia – and I was able to walk myself to the car after without hemorrhaging. That diamond, and its owner, tried to take my memories from me – but she failed – I know.
Ann Kendall: mother, writer, English professor, traveler, advocate.