April 7, 2009

Sleepless in scarsville

5 am: I’ll take an ineffectual codeine-laced suppository and try to go back to sleep.

It’s not pain in the sense of sharp jabs or undulating waves. It’s being the Wife of Frankenstein whose face has been stitched onto her skull one stitch at a time. It pulls. All the nurses warned me that it would pull and were they ever right.

There is numbness around my mouth. Yesterday Nando said, "Don’t try to talk to me. All you can do is mumble and I don’t understand you."

Under my neck it pulls. Around my jowls (which are supposed to disappear anyway but who knows, as the bottom of my face is covered from cheek to neck) it pulls some more. Around my ears it pulls and also aches, as if the ears had been punched. My lower eyelids feel sore, but not much. My upper eyelids don’t feel as if they have been touched. But Dr. Delos had talked about doing a lot of cutting on them, so why don’t they hurt? And where are the scars for that?

March 29, 2009

Blood lines

My two thick wrinkle lines that had stretched from nose to mouth had been replaced by two red lines. My eyes had red streaks beneath them, some crumbles of (I supposed) dried blood and they were pulled. I thought, "I don’t want them to look so pulled when I get better." Blue bruises above the eyes but I still saw the traces of all that overhanging flesh Dr. Delos had called attention to, that he had intended to eliminate. If it is still there now, where is it going to go a month from now?

March 27, 2009

Snow White . . . NOT

So naturally I went into the bathroom to check. Nothing to pass out about. Nothing as upsetting as the sight of a needle. But no Miss America contender either. Yes, ET was a good description. A fluffy cotton snow cap that trundled down from the top of my head and over my ears and down bordering the left and right sides of my mouth (unsmiling, because I still couldn’t smile due to the numbing effect of the anesthesia). It extended below my chin and covered more than half of my neck. The ends were tucked away at the back of my head somewhere.

I don’t know where most of my hair was but part of it stuck out of an opening in the top of my head at the back.

March 22, 2009

ET, pee, and me

4:10 am. I have to get up to pee again and now I can’t get back to sleep. It’s not the pain exactly because I can’t say precisely what the "pain" is. I do feel like my head has gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson and Nando says he feels the same. My surgery was only 3.5 hours, not 4 as originally anticipated, and that’s good. The anesthesiologist, arrogant as he is, must know his stuff. Whatever he had given Nando to make him feel like a jolly pepperone, it’s like the scene in "When Harry met Sally": I want whatever he ordered!

That evening and the next morning, Nando asked me several times how he looked. Like a raccoon. Dark half moons under his eyes and dark above them. A thin line of what had to be blood along his lower eyelids. Stitches? I couldn’t see them. The rest of his face unchanged. Actually quite lovely; his skin relaxed and firm, his forehead unwrinkled.

"And how do I look?"

"Oh, you don’t want to know." He had inspected himself in the mirror but didn’t think I’d be inclined to do the same. Blonde young nurse also advised against it.

"You look like ET right now. You should wait a few days."

March 20, 2009

Let it pee

Same day: 8:20 pm: I realize I am conscious. I get up, wanting to pee. I want to make it to the bathroom unassisted so I hold onto the salmon walls as I go along, and I succeed in making the long trip on my own. Nando is awake and asking, "What time is it? Is it 4:30 pm or 8:30 pm?"

The importance of his diabetic condition cuts through my confusion and I ask him, "Do you need to take your shot?" I call the nurse. It is now 8:30 pm. Nando has salmon (to match the walls?) and spinach. I am given orange juice but am allowed only one glass. A second glass might make me throw up, advises the nurse.

March 15, 2009

The operation

At about noon Blondie came in and said, "Now it’s your turn." It felt very unhospital-like to trot after her in my bare feet and my little white babydoll nightgown. Shouldn’t I be on a stretcher or at least a wheelchair? We walked the few steps across the hall to the operating block and I obediently lay down on the operating table. That was already a gas; how often do you get to WALK to your own operation?

I don’t recall Dr. Delos being in the room, though he may have been. The anesthesiologist was on my right and he asked me to hold out my arm. I knew what was coming; I welcomed the anesthesia (considering the alternative), but felt obliged to tell them about my psychological aversion to needles. "You should know I have a problem with needles. I faint when I see them. So I will look the other way." He gave me a piqueur. The nurse said, "Now really that didn’t hurt so much." I agreed but pointed out that psychological reactions are beyond our direct control and have little to do with "pain". That’s all I remember.

March 13, 2009

Tension and trauma

From then on, the car ride, the interlude in Monaco, the arrival in Marseille, we had both been calm. Except I noticed Nando had been acting more harshly to me, more critical, more impatient than he had been for several months. I asked him if he had been advised not to take his anti-depressant these final pre-op days. Oh no, he had continued to take them, he said.

So I figured this hostility was his way of releasing his tension. "Why do the traumas of the people nearest you always bring out the worst in you? It’s supposed to be the opposite: when the worst happens, it often brings out the best in people. Not you though."

March 11, 2009

The calm before the surgery

Blondie had asked me if I wanted something to sleep this morning since I wouldn’t be operated on till about noon. I had declined. "I guess I’ll be sleeping all afternoon. So it’s better to take advantage of the time now while I still feel okay." I’d rather feel like myself as long as possible before the operation. Besides, I wasn’t scared, more anxious and curious than else. I was actually feeling calm about the whole thing. Was it the pill under my tongue? My worst bout of tension so far had been leaving Homer in the kennel, wondering whether HE might need plastic surgery upon my return.

March 9, 2009

Dog dry afternoon

Nando was complaining about his mouth being very dry. I had a flash of waiting in a recovery room somewhere (after the dog attack in France? when my wrist was broken and reset in Monaco?) and having the same sensation. Dry block for a tongue. What I had craved was a Coke or lemonade. But there had been no one to respond to my cries. I was not going to ignore my husband's. I brought him a glass of water from the bathroom and guided it to his mouth. He took a few sips, giggling about his pepperone trip in between small gulps.

The nurse kept telling me that Nando had to sleep. He would see better, feel better, be able to eat a meal, if he would just stop talking and take a rest. Eventually he did, but it took almost half an hour.

March 8, 2009

Bloody business

I asked the doctor why he wasn’t familiar with the insulin equipment we’d used and his response was textbook French: "Madame, I am a doctor, not a nurse. If I need to know a patient’s blood sugar, I ask the nurse to do it. Also, I am an anesthesiologist. A specialization in diabetes is not within my purview. Chaq’un a son competence."

Murderously I thought to myself, "YOU are a doctor, asshole, which is more than I am. YOU knew or should have known that my husband is a diabetic. You BET it is your business."

March 6, 2009

Sugar shot

The doctor had brought a needle for the insulin but I didn’t want him to administer anything before knowing how much/what strength Nando needed. My husband was coherent enough to insist that I fetch his testing instrument from the toiletry bag in the bathroom. The doctor and nurse hadn’t a clue how to use it. So he explained to me in English and I did it (except for the blood prick itself) and gave the results to the doctor. His sugar was 264.

That’s high, said Nando, concerned in spite of his buzz. When the others asked what was normal, he told them "120 or so." Meanwhile, I dug the grey insulin pen out of my husband's medicine bag, and the doctor set it on 8 as per Nando’s instructions, and administered the dose. Then they left, with the nurse promising to bring him some food immediately.

March 5, 2009

Pepperone nose

Nando, meanwhile, was laughing. "What a trip!" he kept saying. "Boy am I stoned. I am a pepperone. I want to scratch my nose but I can’t find my nose. Hahaha."

He wanted to know where he was and where I was and what time it was -- the latter question he repeated often. He also kept insisting that his nose itched but he couldn’t find it. So I scratched it for him while he laughed delightedly.

As stoned as he was -- and he DID realize he was stoned -- he had the wherewithal to insist that his blood sugar be tested with his portable tester. So the anesthesiologist was rounded up, along with a nurse, to help Nando figure out the correct insulin dose and administer it.

March 4, 2009

Raccoon man

When I was led back to our room, five steps away, Nando was lying in the bed. Without my contact lenses or glasses, I had a hard time figuring out what, if any, had changed. His eyes looked darker, as if he had two black eyes. When he insisted on closer inspection, I put on my glasses and saw that his eyes were in fact blackened, lightly swollen, with little flecks of blood along the rims of the eyes. I wasn’t sickened by the sight so much as frustrated by my inability to comprehend what had happened.

February 14, 2009

Fat harvest

The fat harvesting would be from one leg only. So I asked Dr. Delos to remove it from my left side, as my right knee has been giving me problems for some time. He obligingly drew a large black circle on the inside of my left leg just above the knee. "If there are scars," I thought, "let’s keep them all on the same side." The scars from my dog attack were on the back of my left leg below the knee. (As it turned out, there were no permanent scars from the grand cru distillation).

February 7, 2009

Fat farming

I knew from Helene that he would be taking fat from one of my legs and injecting it into the lines running from my nostrils to the ends of my mouth. The fat above the knees is the best for this, she had explained briskly. I immediately thought of my plump expanse and decided it was DOC quality. The fat they’d be taking, in a process identical to liposuction, is grand cru fat, I mused. Why can’t they take a LOT of it? The deal is, they stick a needle into the leg and siphon off the fat. Then they run it through a machine to harvest the grand cru and they throw away the rest. They process the fat to make it right, and then they inject it into my mouth from the inside.

February 4, 2009

Silence through salivation

“You have a lot of loose flesh above your eyes. But you don’t have much of a pouche (bags under your eyes), none, really. But we may have to pull some of that skin up anyway, to keep everything in proportion.”

“Aren’t you going to take a picture of my face now? I look like Halloween. It’s neat.”

He thought I was joking and ignored me. But I was serious and asked the same question of the blonde nurse. She too ignored my request and gave me a pill to dissolve under my tongue. Not to be swallowed with water, but to dissolve in my saliva. Maybe they wanted to shut me up.

February 3, 2009

Small mark-up

Dr. Delos greeted me. He was now dressed in green. He had a camera and took pictures of me front, side, angled, looking up and down. He then took a magic marker and began marking up my face, making comments as he stroked.

"You have a small face."

"Does that make it harder?"

“No, just different.” I had a quick flashback to my conversation with Fabrizio Giugiaro of the famous car-designing dynasty, when he was explaining the difficulty of designing a small car as opposed to a large luxury vehicle. It’s easy to design luxury when you have a lot of space, he’d said, and more of a challenge to make a small area look elegant. Delos has the same challenge, I thought to myself, only he isn’t going to admit that to me. Maybe he doesn’t want to hurt my feelings. But I know the limitations of a small face: how many models are famous for their small eyes and pixie features?

February 1, 2009

Hello, baby dolly

While Helene had me sign the same form as Nando, she explained that he would be taken first. That had already been established (in my mind) because of his insulin problem. We had discussed it with the anesthesiologist in October.

Then there would be a young person who had a quick intervention. Then me. Best for last?

A few minutes after they had breezed off, a blonde nurse came in and led me to the room outside the block, the operating room catty-corner across the hall from our bedroom. I was wearing my little white lace-trimmed nightgown, baby-doll style. “Is this okay for my operation?” I asked her. I figured the white might not be practical -- blood drips and all -- but it did look hygenic. Plus the neck was scooped and there were two buttons as well, so it wouldn’t pose problems if I had to pull it over my head and my head were . . . sensitive. “Ça c’est parfait,” announced the nurse.

January 31, 2009

Wrong line(s)

Meanwhile, I tried to tease them. "It’s late. I thought you would be operating by now!"

Teasing a Frenchie. By now the lesson should have sunk in. “Oh, M. Delos has already done his rounds at the clinic,” Helene protested seriously.

“You mean down below at le Centre du Santé?”

“Oh no, rien a voir avec le clinique. That is a centre for thalassotherapy."

I hadn’t figured out what the connection was between the two facilities but this was not the moment to pursue that line of inquiry.

January 30, 2009

Tout va bien?

We both slept some more. At 7 am a nurse opened the door. “Tout va bien?” "Oui," I said. Nando was sleeping. Okay, she said, you can sleep some more, and she closed the door. Hmm, why bother to wake us up just to tell us to go back to sleep? I wondered. This isn’t exactly a hospital where they have to wake you up to take your temperature and blood pressure.

At 8:30 am Helene and Dr. Delos came in. She was in nurse’s green attire. He was dressed as I recalled from our previous visit: navy blazer, ivory pants, white shirt, dark tie. The very essence of Celebrity Surgeon.

“Tout va bien?”

"Yes," I said. Nando was struggling to wake up. Helene had one of the documents we’d signed and mailed to them last month, and she was waving it under his nose. “There is something you forgot to sign,” she said, and he signed it.