Write On!

Sometimes Losing is a Win

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm

by Tara Wiley

Searing pain radiates through my entire body, and I am stunned awake.

I was told that I would awaken feeling better than I did before surgery. At least that’s what my friends who have had their gall bladders removed said. The pain of the attacks was always worse than the pain of the recovery, they promised.

My tongue fills my mouth. I need something wet, and I try to open my lips to ask for ice chips, because my stomach says absolutely NO to anything else.

My stomach. My legs! Somehow I thought the pain would be focused in my upper ribcage, like the gall bladder pain. My shoulders hurt; I knew the anesthesia would do that. I expected that. But the rest… what happened?

I push through the fog and try to open my eyes. A doctor stands over me, and by the crinkling of his eyes, I can tell he is smiling behind his mask.

“Hello, sleepyhead,” he says, far too jovially. “Everything went great. You are going to be SO pleased with the results, I promise. But for now, rest and let the meds keep you comfortable. I’ll see you soon!” I don’t recognize his voice. I don’t recognize his eyes. Then I remember the moment, going into surgery: the anesthesiologist had already started the IV, so it was foggy, but I do remember a doctor saying something about my doctor being called away or something… and then they start to draw all over my belly, not anywhere near my gall bladder… I try not to panic as I sink back into oblivion.

Dreams begin to flood over me, and the next hours are all a blur of pain and sleep and confusion.

I am in seventh grade, dribbling the basketball down the court, so proud of myself. I am dribbling! No one is stealing the ball! Maybe I’m beginning to get better at this after all. The basket nears, and I feel my confidence soar as I prepare for a perfect layup. All I see is me, the ball, the net, swooshing as I score two points – and then I hear the screaming teammates, the angry coach, the laughing opposition.

“Wrong way! Wrong way!”

“You just scored for the other team!”



The heat of shame, the humiliation, it is real, and I awaken in a sweat. Loss. Another loss. I click the morphine button, then the nurse’s station button, and ask for ice chips, and I think she comes in before I fall back asleep. I hear her saying I need to get up and moving soon. Which direction do I go, I think, and then realize we’re not talking basketball anymore. I sleep.

I am in high school. I am running late, as always, trying to find my homework on my desk, my keys in the basket by the door but they aren’t there, and my sister is irritated, I always make us late with my habit of losing things. My mother is yelling at me, and it just stresses me out, all this pressure, and I know that I am going to get both my sister and me in detention if we don’t get out the door soon, because I’ve made us late that many times. I am the queen of losing things, but I don’t get to earn a crown. The pressure –

Something is squeezing me. There is deep pressure around my abdomen and thighs, and then there are these thick tubes around my calves that pulsate, squeezing then releasing, and I want.them.off. I click the nurse button.

“The compression sleeves are necessary for healing, dear, and the ones around your calves keep you from having blood clots. Try to think of it as a nice, free massage. I know it can be irritating,” she soothes. It’s not soothing.

“I didn’t know –“  I swallow. Foggy brain makes it hard to articulate my questions. “Why compression sleeves?”

“Did they not cover this for you in your pre-op? I swear, I get so irritated sometimes with the way these offices cut corners and keep people uninformed,” she mutters, then raises her voice to a forced cheeriness as she addresses my concern. “After abdominal repair tummy tucks and liposuction –“

“WHAT?” The remaining fog instantly lifted with this shocking revelation. “WHAT. ABOUT. MY. GALL. BLADDER?!” The confusion passing across the nurse’s face does not comfort me at all.

“Just – just a moment, dear,” she stutters as she runs from the room.

Awake enough now to move, I lift the layers of sheets and blankets to look at my swollen body. Shock slowly settles over me as I recognize that I have most definitely lost something again. I wonder for a moment if it is my mind.

The nurse does not return. Fully awake now, I realize I am a bit hungry and most definitely need to pee, and besides, I have to determine what part of this is optical illusion and what is real.

A different nurse comes in to help me get up. It is not pleasant. She will not answer a single question. Despite the pain, despite the confusion, I am very aware of some very real changes in my body. I should be furious – I am furious – but then a sudden giddiness sweeps over me and I am suppressing a giggle – oh, it hurts! – because this time, the loss is most definitely a win.


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