I’ve always been one for remembering dates. The first date for Dan and me. The day he proposed. The day I found out I was pregnant with Maggie. The day we closed on our first house. Those sorts of things. (However, I’m only kind of okay at remembering birthdays. That is, I’ll REMEMBER it’s your birthday, but I most likely will forget to TELL YOU that I remembered it was your birthday. So I’m halfway there.)
So of course today, I reflected on the 20th anniversary of the day that a surgeon cut me open on the operating table, removed most of my innards, and operated on my left kidney. I was ten years old.
It was a long time ago, but I can still remember a lot of things pretty clearly. I remember being very sick for a while- nearly a year- before the doctors figured out what was wrong. I remember my pediatrician telling my mom that I was just nervous about going to school or I was trying to get attention. And of course my mom KNEW that wasn’t true. As I lay on the couch, my face green and pale and my body weak and dehydrated from puking for 7 days straight, she KNEW something was wrong. I remember when we went to Children’s Hospital after a night spent on the couch next to a paper bag, watching Nick at Night. I remember peeing in 8,092 cups and the nurses taking 7,289 vials of blood and undergoing several rather uncomfortable procedures (catheter, anyone?) before they finally did an ultrasound and saw the problem.
When it came time for my surgery, I remember being upset that I was going to miss my 5th grade Valentine’s Day party (and to this day, I can’t remember if I actually missed it or if I was just panicking that I would miss it.) I remember being in the pre-op area, behind a curtain, all alone, and the nurse asked me if I was getting an IV or gas for my anesthesia. Being ten, and scared, I just agreed with whatever she said, and then started crying as she prepped my arm for the needle. Then someone came in and corrected her- I was supposed to get the gas mask instead- so I was saved. I remember when it came time for the gas, it was grape ‘flavored’ and the doctor told me to count backwards from 100. I think I got to 96 before ZOOM! I was waking up in recovery.
I remember the girl in the room with me- she was young, maybe 4? 6?- and she had spina bifida. It made my surgery seem routine and minor, even if I was in pain for a few days. And it makes the 5 inch scar on my left side seem like a non-issue. Sure, my surgery was necessary and it WAS a little bit scary (the doctor later told my parents that if we had waited much longer, my kidney could have burst and then… well, that would have been very bad.) but the surgery fixed the problem and soon, I was good as new. And 20 years later, there have been no other issues.
At the time, I didn’t really understand what a big deal it was, having such an invasive surgery. But now- as a mother- I can only imagine how stressed out and worried my parents were. Imagining my baby girl being sliced open by a surgeon… just. No.
Anyway. So Happy 20th Anniversary, Left Kidney. I’m glad you decided not to explode on me. That was nice of you!