Mistaken Surgery

Here's my response to a writing prompt posted on the Writer's Digest forum.  The prompt was called "Mistaken Surgery."

The Surgery

By K.V. Briar

I came out of the anesthesia slowly. It felt like swimming in thick black water, treading it, struggling to break through the surface only to be pushed under again. Finally I manage to pry open my eyes. The harsh glare of the fluorescents seers into my retinas. I blink, try to focus.

“Mr. Gibson?”

My tongue is thick and swollen in my mouth. I nod instead of attempting a reply.

“You don’t respond well to anesthesia,” the nurse remarks. She’s a young girl close to my own age. Very pretty. In any other situation I’d flirt with her, mentally keep track of how long it took me to make her blush. Right now I don’t feel like flirting. I feel sick. Something’s wrong.

“My name is Jenna, I’ll be your nurse today. If you need anything just let me know.” She smiles at me, but there is something missing there. Normally when girls smile at me it’s playful or coy. I’m not conceited, really, but I am used to attention from the opposite sex. Jenna’s lack of interest perplexed me. “Dr. Ramsey will want to check your bandages and go over the care instructions now that you’re awake,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”

The bandages? I run a shaking hand down my torso, feeling neither bandage nor a tender spot. In fact, there wasn’t any indication that I’d had the surgery. Maybe the painkillers were doing a good job of blocking out any discomfort, but shouldn’t I feel something?

A couple minutes later a thin man in blue scrubs enters my office with Jenna. She hands the doctor a chart then checks my I.V. fluids. I meet her gaze, hoping to find some reassurance; instead I see something awful . . . pity.

What reason does she have to pity me? I only had my gallbladder removed; it’s not even considered a major surgery.

“Hello Ian, I’m Dr. Ramsey,” he said extending his hand for me to shake. I awkwardly shake it, wincing when the movement pulls on my I.V. “I’m pleased to say the surgery went well. Jenna tells me you had some problems coming out of the anesthesia, not surprising under the circumstances. With extended surgeries patients often experience side effects from the anesthesia. How are you feeling now?”

Extended surgery? How long does it take to remove a gallbladder? “How long was I out?”

“About ten hours give or take.”

I felt my eyes bulge, I’d been told it would be under an hour. “That long?”

Dr. Ramsey frowns. “It’s a delicate operation. What with all the nerve endings and tissue that needs to be repositioned. I think you will be very happy when you see the work. I must say you’re doing extraordinarily well. Most of my patients handle this conversation poorly.”

Panic tightens my chest. Nerve endings. Tissue. When they were prepping me they told me it was an easy surgery that can be done microscopically. They didn’t mention anything about nerve endings and tissue placement.

Jenna pushed a metal cart to my bedside. It was laden with gauze, surgical tape, and antiseptic. That’s an awful lot of gauze for one little incision. Couldn’t they just cover it with a Band-Aid?

Dr. Ramsey took a seat on the metal stool and rolled it to the foot of my bed. “Let’s have a look see. If the wound isn’t too weepy we’ll be able to call in the specialist to fit your prosthesis later today,” he said enthusiastically.

My stomach dropped. I couldn’t breathe. Surely I’d misheard him?

He drew the heavy blanket downward. Now I know why they needed so much gauze. My right leg ends just above the knee.


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