Well, the holiday is almost over. They’ve left me in relative peace for the past couple of weeks, but I have been summoned back to the meat-works tomorrow for my next “procedure.” A normally innocuous word that takes on a chilling new gravitas when used in the same sentence as “hospital.”
This particular procedure involves two large Polynesian nurses sitting on my chest, while an alleged medical professional – who doesn’t look old enough to be shaving yet – tries to thrust a video camera on a flexible rubber hose, an ultrasound probe wrapped in a condom, and assorted needles, knives and other instruments of torture down my gullet, in order to retrieve a small tissue sample for the hospital trophy cabinet. All this is to happen while I am only mildly drowsy after being injected with a concoction with all the sedative qualities of a small glass of your Aunt Flo’s cooking sherry.
Now the reason I know all this, is not because of my encyclopaedic knowledge of medicine, but because they tried to pull exactly the same stunt – sorry, procedure – on me a fortnight ago.
It all started promisingly enough. I signed the inevitable victim consent form, which basically relives them of all culpability in the apparently not unlikely event that they accidentally amputate a perfectly serviceable limb due to a paperwork mix-up, or sew me back up with a pair of folding step-ladders and a Black & Decker cordless drill left inside me.
Then after introductions, lame doctor jokes – “Really? This is my first time too! Ha Ha!”, and handshakes all round, I take the short, and now familiar horizontal glide into the O.R. I’m immediately gratified and reassured by an impressive array of complicated and expensive looking equipment, lights, video monitors and of course The Machine That Goes “PING!”
“Wow!” I thought. “These guys really look like they know what they’re doing.”
Which just goes to show how wrong you can be. Maybe they really weren’t joking about it being their first time after all, I don’t know. They started threading tubes and pipes down my windpipe with all the enthusiasm and determination of a crew of drain-layers being paid by the yard. “This might be a little uncomfortable”, an unseen voice said with no apparent sense of irony. I ask you, what happens when you stick just one of your own grubby little fingers down the back of your throat? You gag. You choke. You puke. Right? It’s hardly an obscure, or little known medical phenomenon is it?*
But these guys seemed genuinely surprised, when I started retching and spluttering, and generally thrashing around like a freshly landed trout, on the river bank. Like it was the first time it had ever happened. What exactly occurred next is now mercifully lost in the mists of anesthesia, but I ‘m pretty sure I remember trying to gouge the doctors eyes out with my bare fingers, and tossing 200Kg Fijian orderlies across the room like rag-dolls before being subdued by the hospital militia. I’d been warned cancer was going to be a battle, but I wasn’t expecting hand-to-hand combat.
When I came to in the recovery room a few minutes later, the doctors came and explained that they had to cut the procedure short in case I did myself, and presumably them and their expensive equipment, any lasting damage. They looked rather crest-fallen. I couldn’t help but feel I’d let the side down badly and apologized for my selfish and undignified display of self-preservation instincts and will to live. “Don’t worry” someone offered, “some people have a stronger gag reaction than others”. No shit! I’ll remember to put it on my resume.
So anyway. I’m back to the fun-factory for another game of spit or swallow tomorrow afternoon. I imagine that this time, for the safety of all concerned, I will be wheeled into O.R. straight-jacketed, strapped to a warehouse trolly and wearing a hockey mask like Hannibal Lecter.
I will be reporting live from North Shore hospital tomorrow.
*The professional drinkers amongst you are no doubt familiar with the Tactical Chunder, the time-honored practice of prolonging an evenings festivities by means of a digitally initiated system-reset, to make room for just one more round of Creme-De-Menthe Frappes. No? You just haven’t lived.