Staff column: It takes no gall to meet a president
Two summers ago I had to have my gall bladder removed. For the few months before it was done every time I ate something I would get a mild stomach ache, and then of course were those mad dashes to facilities that should be left unmentioned here.
Then one night in March 2006, I began having this tremendous pain in my chest and lower abdomen. I thought my heart was at it again, but the doctors and nurses, after hearing my symptoms said in unison, "Gall bladder."
When I was finally officially diagnosed by one of the ER doctors, he told me I had what amounted to a "lazy gall bladder."
My wife was standing there as he said it and she looked at me and said "I always knew you were lazy deep down inside."
Everyone around the ER really laughed about that but me; I couldn't find the humor in that statement. But finally after some delays for personal reasons and a summer filled with pain I finally decided that the day after Pioneer Day I would have the troublesome organ removed.
I came to the hospital early as they always tell you to do whenever you are going to have a body part taken out. They stuck me in one of those little rooms with the three solid walls and a curtain hanging from the ceiling for the fourth wall. Then they told me to put on one of those gowns that you can never tie yourself and reveals most of what you have to all of the world if you happen to leave the string too long and it get's caught on a piece of medical equipment as you scurry out of your cubicle to go to the bathroom, which was, of course, across the hall from your semi-private quarters.
I have to say my experience at Castleview was great, as much I may make fun of how things get done around the medical world at times. Being in a hospital, even for out-patient surgery, is generally something most of us don't want to do.
Of course the best part of the whole process came when they wheeled me away through the surgical doors and under that great big light in the OR. As I laid there I looked up and there were all these eyes looking down at me. I was basically bare to the world laying there in that revealing (but not appealing) hospital gown. Meanwhile they all get to wear masks, in my opinion not so much for sanitary purposes, but so you can't identify them later.
The anesthesiologist then said, "We're going to make you comfortable; we are going to put something in your IV so you will go to sleep while the doctor cuts your guts open, rips out part of your body and takes it away from you forever."
Okay, that's not what he said, but it is the way I felt.
The last time I had an operation they were still using a gas mask and I remember I sunk into the table until I couldn't see them anymore and when I woke up I was short one jammed up kidney stone.
This time, with a new dreamy sleep agent I floated up and above the table and then lost sight of them in a dark and floating state. I thought I might be dead because it seemed to me that I was following the path that all those that I had seen on television that had died and been brought back to life had described.
I remember when I was nine (about a thousand years ago) I had my tonsils out in a doctors office in Murray, and that day I dreamt about being a space hero fighting off alien monsters. At this juncture of my life, however, all illusions about ever becoming an astronaut were gone so instead I dreamt about talking to Abe Lincoln. He was right there next to me, hat, beard and well known black coat and all.
"Abe," I said, as if I wasn't surprised to see him. "How come you didn't duck that night at the Ford Theater."
Why I asked that question I didn't know.
"You see sir," he said in the voice of Raymond Massey who had played him in some old movie I had seen years ago. "I realized that my time had come. I had done my job and I think the union of the country, with the condition it was in, was better off without me."
I looked at him; they always said he was a really ugly man, but I didn't see it. He was so tall and straight.
"You should have hung around a few years," I said. "With your height you could've played in the NBA and made a lot more money than you did as president." Then I thought a little more about it. "You were a lawyer too so you could have really made a killing."
"I think that I had done what I needed to do; what the good Lord intended for me to do," he said. "Then he called me home."
Being a non-religious person this statement perked my curiosity in my unconscious state.
"What's it like in heaven?" I blurted out, finally finding myself talking to someone who I thought would know. "I mean, does it exist?"
Being honest Abe and all, I thought he could never lie; on the other hand he wasn't George Washington either."
"When I said I was called home, that didn't necessarily mean I went to heaven," he said. "There are a lot of things to consider when you die, and some of them have to do with where you will end up. I still haven't made up my mind about it."
"You mean that you still aren't willing to commit?" I asked incredulously. "It's been 141 years and you still haven't figured it out? You're more of a lawyer than I thought. You must be billing someone for a lot of hours before you make the decision."
He laughed, a Lincolnesk laugh. I smiled too.
"It's been good talking to you young man," he said.
That statement, about being young at the age of 54 made me really like him.
"You need to go now...." and he faded away and I started to see a light. It got brighter and brighter...had I died on the operating table? Was I going with Abe?
Then the light flashed and I realized I was looking straight up while my wife was taking photos of me in my inebriated state to send to the office with her cell phone camera. She immediately emailed them and I could almost hear the laughter from east Main Street.
"How are you?" she asked as she bent down and put her hand on mine.
I wanted to tell her about Abe, but all that would come out is a very weak "Okay."
I had met the most famous president in history and couldn't even talk about it.
Then I just wanted to sleep.