Remember how I wrote that memoir? Well, I still am working on it. It has just taken a back seat to some of my other writing projects, because I don’t feel like I’ve had enough life experience to end it…you know?
However, I thought I would share with you all the first chapter of that memoir, and what better day than today! The day I’m having my 14th surgery (or something like that, I really can’t remember the actual number).
So, enjoy and stuff.
Chapter One – The Red Tricycle
My most prominent M.H.E. related memory would have to have been my first surgery ever. I was eight years old. I remember how, in the weeks prior, my parents tried to make it easier on me. I got to pick out the colour of my soon-to-be cast. I picked pink. I was excited about that. I wasn’t sure about the rest of it though. At eight, I didn’t fully comprehend what having a surgery really meant. I’m sure it was hard for my parents to explain it without scaring me. I was told that I would go to sleep, and when I woke up I’d be a little sore but then my leg would feel much better, and I’d have a pink cast that all my friends could sign.
On the day of my surgery, my sisters got dropped off super early at my mom’s friend’s house. I remember being jealous of Kathrynn and Josephine. I wanted to stay at the Armstrong’s farm. My friend, Ryan, and I always had such fun climbing hay bails. I pouted until I passed out in the car. Sick Kids was a good hour and forty five minutes away, and I was tired from waking up so early.
It was still dark when we dropped my sisters off, and the sun was only just beginning to rise when my dad dropped my mom and I off so he could go find parking. My mom got me registered at Information. While she did that, I stared in wonderment up at the giant pig in a tutu on a tightrope in the atrium. I saw it every time I came to the hospital. My earliest memories were of having it pointed out to me by my parents or grandparents.
“Look at the pig, Jessie!” they’d say, pointing up to it. I’d smile and giggle. A pig in a tutu, how silly. I smiled faintly as I looked up at it, but the nervousness I was feeling prevented that smile from reaching my eyes.
Just as my mom finished registering me, my dad joined us and we quickly walked up to the floor where all my pre-admissions exams would happen. I would later refer to this as the waiting room of the waiting room. I remember growing impatient rather quickly, and by the time we made it to the operating room, I was irritable and cranky. Having to be up so early, not being able to eat and then having to wait the half the day didn’t really bring out my bubbly disposition. Then again, I was exercising great patience for an eight-year old.
There were more toys in the O.R. waiting room, including a hockey table. I can remember overjoyed at getting to play on the hockey table with my dad. It proved to be a very easy distraction and in no time at all, I forgot my hunger pains and crankiness. Soon enough, a man in green scrubs, the anaesthesiologist, came to talk to us. He explained to my parents and I what he would be doing, although, I couldn’t quite understand it.
“I’m going to put you to sleep using a mask,” he said. “You’ll get to pick a flavour, what flavour would you like?”
“ Pizza,” I replied, after he named a few. My stomach rumbled. I was hungry. My parents chuckled.
“All right, pizza it is.” He smiled. He told us that he would see me in the O.R and that he would have my pizza ready. My dad and I went back to playing hockey on the hockey table. I wanted our game to last forever. My dad didn’t usually get to take time off work to come to my yearly check ups, he had to work a lot, so my eight year-old self thought it was cool to have him there on the day of my surgery, not that he’d miss it. I was a big daddy’s girl, and was basking in the attention.
Much too soon for my liking, more people in scrubs came to talk to us. One of those people was my doctor, Dr. Wright. He gave me a warm smile. I was beginning to fell apprehensive and overwhelmed. There were so many people surrounding him, all of them wearing the same green scrubs with the Sick Kids emblem printed across the breast pocket. It was very intimating, and I stared at the ground instead of meeting their eyes.
“Jessie, do you mind if I draw on you using this?” Dr. Wright asked, pulling a permanent marker from his pocket. I looked to my parents for guidance. I usually wasn’t allowed to draw on myself, at least not with permanent marker. They nodded, so I did too. Dr. Wright circled the bumps on my left knee, above and below my left knee and the one on my ankle. He drew smiley faces on all three circles and I giggled. As he drew, he explained to his colleagues and my parents what he was going to do during the surgery. I didn’t understand what he was saying, so I tuned him out and instead thought about pizza. I was still very hungry.
“All right, Jessie, I’ll see you in the O.R room.” Dr. Wright said, putting the marker back in his pocket. “The nurse will come for you when we are ready.” He gave me a kindly smile and left with the other nurses and doctors.
When the nurse returned, she told me that I could ride a bike to the O.R. I wasn’t really balanced on a two-wheel bike yet, my bones made learning a slower process for me than most kids. I chose the red tricycle. I rode it through the big doors and down the hall. The nurse kept pace with me and asked about school and my favourite things to do.
When we came to the O.R. room, the nurse opened the doors for me. I rode the red tricycle in, pausing at the threshold, my little eyes taking in the sight before me. The room was filled with people who all looked the same. I couldn’t tell if they were all from the group that had come to talk to me with Dr. Wright. They all had the same green scrubs, hats and masks. There was a lot of scary looking machines, bright lights and questionable looking tools laid out on a tray. The nurse was trying to talk to me, but I couldn’t hear her. All I could hear was my pulse pounding loudly in my ears the smell of the sterile environment made my stomach flop unpleasantly. I was so scared that I tried to back the red tricycle out of the room to go back to my parents. The nurse gently stopped me by grabbing the handlebar of the red tricycle.
The room erupted into chuckles over my escape attempt, and although my heart was pounding in my small chest, I felt good for making people laugh. I liked making people laugh. Somehow, the nurse was able to coax me up on the operating table. I started to shiver, it was freezing in the O.R. room, and it was so bright. The nurse put a warm blanket on me, but it didn’t stop my shaking.
“All right Jessie, are you ready?” The anaesthesiologist asked, not waiting for a response, as he secured the mask over my face. I started to panic, I didn’t want to go to sleep. I didn’t want to have a surgery and wake up in a pink cast. “I’m just giving you oxygen now,” the anaesthesiologist said gently. The nurse was stroking my hair to comfort me. I don’t like it, I tried to say, but my voice froze in my throat. I felt trapped. Tears welled up in my eyes.
“Okay, time for pizza,” the anaesthesiologist said, and the taste in the mask changed and got thicker.
“It’s yucky,” I remember crying. The mask muffled my voice.
“Count backwards from five.” He said.
“Five, four,” I tried. My eyes felt heavy. I felt like I was floating downward.
…to be continued.