the abscess in my ass
Yo everyone, as you can tell from the title of this post, I’ve had my first ever surgery. Although it was a pretty minor one as surgeries go, it was pretty vivid for me, who have not been to any hospital or nursing home before for any problems of mine. That is if you discount being born. Which you should, because I don’t think of it as a problem. Anyway, so, although I’m not through with the unpleasant business yet, I thought from the morning I’d ease my nerves by writing about it (in addition to trying to shadow-practice robotic dance moves to the accompaniment of I’m a Scatman). Actually, no, I thought I’d write this down because maybe later on in my life I’d like to have a look at it, and also because my writing is getting a little rusty.
So, around two weeks ago, when I was living in the hostel at college, a swelling kind of thing started to develop on my right bum, a few inches to the side of the shithole, so it wasn’t really interfering. But a few days later, sitting down, lying down and moving around became slightly difficult. I had what we call pachhaye fora. Anyway, I was also having gastritis then. (Don’t think of me as a forever-ailing patient sort of thing. I generally fall ill pretty seldom, but it’s a lot of stupid factors there at the hostel that don’t agree with me that’s causing the problem. Not just for me, but also for a lot of other students.) I would have an urge to throw up five to ten minutes after every meal. I had it under control for a week or so, but then it got stronger and I threw up a number of times, so I decided to come home to Kolkata and get checked. So I came home on the night of last Wednesday, 28th of January.
On that night I got checked by a doctor for the gastritis, and I showed this same guy my swell. I mean, I had to lower the rear of my pants in his chamber to show him, and Dad was in the chamber. I know this wouldn’t have been an issue at all if I had been raised in some Western country (or among the tribes in Nicobar Islands, for that matter), but being raised in India has such tiny difficulties. So anyway, I showed the doc, at an angle, hoping Dad couldn’t see very well. The doc gave me antibiotic pills and an antibacterial lotion thing to apply on my swell (we Bengalis would call it pachhar molom). He told me I should see indicative changes within three days or so, but if the swell remained or increased, I’d have to get a surgeon to cut it out. (ouch.)
When I came back home that night, Dad wanted to see the thing for himself. I shrugged and sighed inside and showed him.
I also read up the information leaflet that comes with the antibacterial, because I’m studying biology now. What I could make out was that it stops bacterial protein syntheis, and it’s ‘bacteriostatic in moderate concentrations and bacteriocidal in higher concentrations.’ And it wasn’t to be continued for a long time because that would help select a resistant strain. This much I understood. The idea I got was that I needed to apply a lot at a time, for a quick few days, and not give the bacteria the time to come up with a resistant variation.
So I was very happy and impressed with all this information that made some sense to me and applied my pachhar molom and took my pills. (My taking pills is not a short phrase ‘took my pills’. It is an epic journey I’ll tell you about later, maybe.)
I did this stuff for a number of days. On the second day, I thought the swelling had subsided a little. Remembering the doc’s words, I felt happy.
But from that point on, the swelling didn’t seem to succumb any more. The pain increased. Dad said once that he could see a yellow sort of head at the centre of the swell, that maybe the thing was going to come out now and be a proper external growth like thingy. That idea did not appeal to me. I thought the lotion thing was supposed to force it back down.
Later on the yellow thing went away and it was just red again, but the pain didn’t go. I guess Dad called up the doc to ask about the surgery and he gave a green signal. I was supposed to go have my surgery on Sunday at Sevangan Nursing Home, which is quite near my house, by a guy who’s the uncle of one of my Dad’s college-mates, and is already guilty of giving a wrong (and eventually one that turned out to be fatal) diagnosis when my cousin dislocated his shoulder, partly because of me.
So when on Saturday night Mom and Sis charged Dad about the choice of the surgeon, he said the guy’s an FRCS, and that’s supposed to do for an ailment like this. That when my Dad was a kid and all, some woman in the household from the upper generation would normally execute the operation with a da, which is a long iron blade used for slicing fruits and veggies. I got a little irritated at such a reply, and I replied back saying the idea was fine, but there was an even better time in human history when even that wouldn’t be called for, and people would just die. That was also a good option. A low-cost lifestyle. Dad just smiled at that. I looked away at the TV again.
At night, I talked to Dishari for a long time. I’d taken a painkiller at around 8.30, and its effect is supposed to wear after 6 hours. By the time I was done talking and going to sleep, I could start feeling the pain again. It was hard getting to sleep.
I woke up at around 5. My butt was paining badly. I was lying face side down (what do you call that, biologists, ventral side down, dorsal side up?), and there wasn’t any better posture. I tried to fall asleep, but it wasn’t possible. So I grabbed my phone from beside my pillow and hit the speed dial for Dad, who sleeps in the same bedroom with Mom downstairs.
My balance was low, so I had to hear that irritating recorded woman admonish me for that, before my call was allowed to connect. I gave it a couple of rings and hung up. Then I lay still, listening for signs of life downstairs.
Some time later, there was a cough and a light went on. I could see the landing wall outside my room door show a dull reflection of that.
So then my parents came in, I said I need a paracetamol (a para-acetamido-phenol, as we learnt in school), and Dad went down to get one while Mom sat on the bed. I could hear Dad going to the bathroom downstairs, and the sound of the flushing, and I was getting impatient. I finally got my pill, and took it, and asked how long it takes to have an effect. Mom said 10-15 mins. I found the pain slowly going and it was gone after around 10 minutes. I am still fascinated by painkillers. I wanna find out how they work. Paracetamol might be easy. At least it’s chemically simple. I’ll try to do a project on that in college some time.
Anyway, Mom was still there, so I told her to go to bed. She went after some time and I got to sleep.
I woke up the next day, and Dad took me to the nursing home at 10.30 am on a rickshaw. He told the rickshaw guy to be gentle on the bumps ‘coz I had a bump on my hump. I didn’t want the rickshaw guy to know that.
So I reached there, and the Doc who was supposed to be there at a quarter to 11 only showed up at a quarter to 12. Before that, it was pretty uncomfortable sitting there for so long. When I would get up to walk around a bit, the change of posture would make it really painful down there. I would see tiny stars in front of my eyes. There was a political party having some sort of meeting right next to the nursing home, and were blaring mikes. Once when I was sitting, I saw this nurse in a white saree with an orangish-red border come in the reception. She wasn’t too bad-looking. What was the problem was, she looked near about my age. I tried to sit in a better posture in a more cool way so she wouldn’t notice I had a bump in my hump.
When the doctor finally arrived, he was a little on the old side, balding, but with a happy face like the ones doctors have. He wore a coat and trousers. He owns that nursing home, by the way. So he came and saw me and he noticed the cut across my right eyebrow, which happened when I was at junior school. He said what surgery had I done for that, and I said nothing, that it was just band-aid for a few days. He looked dissatisfied and asked why I hadn’t visited him, he would have patched it right up. He asked me why there was a gap there, a place where there was no hair. I said because maybe the cut was deep and it took away the cells that are supposed to grow the hair. He grunted and said I should have come to him, and he would stitch the two parts of my eyebrow together. That’s what he would do before my surgery, he said. He looked half-serious about it. I said no, it’s ok, it helps to identify me, and I’ve put it as an identification mark on various forms. That if the scar suddenly disappeared and my cards and ID’s did not change, the police would be after me.
Then he ushered me and dad into his chamber and told me to lie down on a cot thing. I lay down face down, and told dad to shut the door ‘coz the other patients outside might see. He slid my pyjamas and underwear down, brushing hard against the swell. I made a number of sounds, I couldn’t control myself. That was pretty painful. Where a single touch was awful, pulling the tight elastic, brushing against the thing was really painful.
He said, ‘This needs to be cut.’ Then he told me to get up.
I got up, watery-eyed, and sat down. Dad looked a little taken aback with my sounds and stuff.
We waited outside for some more time, then he told me to follow me upstairs. My heart started going a little bit faster. I got up and followed. Dad also came. The nurse was also coming. The doc told her about laying me down outside. I said, outside where? On the road, the doc joked. Then he said outside the OT. I was thinking then, I’ve never been to the OT, I’ve never been to such things. Dad told the doc that it’s been a long time since I’d had a Tet-Vac (that’s tetanus vaccine). So the doctor told the nurse to also give me a shot. Right at the door that leads to a small chamber in front of the OT, the nurse told dad cheerfully that he had to wait downstairs. I gave him my phone, looking confident and cool so he wouldn’t worry, and went into that little chamber, through the door that had a light-able box above it saying THEATER in red letters against white.
The little chamber had a steel cot to the left of it, against a wall painted green, I guess, or yellow. No, I think green. The wall had a window with a violet curtain with vertical white stripes. I could see the next house through the window. I remember thinking that maybe the inhabitants of that house could see the people on this cot. The chamber also had a projection of cement below the roof on one wall where medical staff was kept in yellow labeled boxes, like crepe bandage, bandage than (I guess that’s meant to mean bundles), methyl something (isocyanate? No, probably salicylate.), dispo van, sigmoidoscopy and stuff. The room was giving off a stench. On one wall was the door to the actual operation theater, and to the side of the wall we came through, there was a small chamber containing necessary instruments and stuff.
So this nurse went and put a cloth and a pillow on the steel cot and set a little stool beside it and told me to lie down. I got up and lay down, facing the green wall on the left. I could see a few electrical boxes on the wall, old, pale yellow in colour, with levers. There was a switchboard, and a small Philips studio light pointed near the middle of the cot.
The nurse came and told me to give her my left arm. I was turned left, so it was difficult, so I got up and she shot me with the Tet-Vac. I looked away, although I wasn’t worried at all about the shot now. Some time in the future, I need to look at the place when I’m being given a shot.
I lay down again, and the nurse told me to turn a bit more to the left. Then she came and told me to pull my pants down a bit. I asked her, pants what? Man, I was thinking she’s going to see my naked ass. And I was worried about her noticing my posture downstairs.
She told me again to pull my pants down a bit, matter-of-factly. So I shrugged and sighed inside again, decided it was a ‘medical condition’, and my perception of the world needed to be changed temporarily. So I downed the pyjama and underwear a bit. There was still a cloth over me, though.
Then she, I guess, came and put down something on that stool I’d climbed on. It sounded like a lot of little steel things knocking against a larger steel object. It was the plate of surgical instruments. I think I also caught a glimpse of that. That made me a bit nervous.
Then a guy with a disgruntled face and an unfriendly frown came and asked what was the matter with me. The nurse was there, she said ‘abscess.’ I didn’t know what it meant, but I guess it meant a boil or swelling or fora in medical terms. He asked me, where? I said, on the back. He said, on the spine? I said, pachhaye. I didn’t like the looks of him. He looked like some staff who does maintenance stuff around and hangs around trying to catch the attention of the nurse or something. I was decided that if he wanted to see it, I’d tell him it was none of his business. But he didn’t ask and went away.
The doctor came. I told him that I had two questions. He said, sure. I said, the first was whether he was going to give me a local anaesthesia (that’s giving you a shot at a part of your body to numb your senses of that part). He said yes. Then I asked how long it lasts. He said so I was asking which lasts longer, the anaesthetic or the operation. I said yeah, because one of my friends (Aratrika) woke up in the middle of her appendectomy. The doc said oh, that was full anaesthesia. He said the operation is going to take one second, and the anaesthesia lasts one to two hours. Then I asked another question, how long the recovery is going to take, because I had to be back at college. The doctor laughed at this, and the nurse also smiled, in a positive way, not making fun of me or anything, but supporting that I was thinking of going back to college. I liked that. However, I don’t remember him giving me a clear answer to that. I also asked him exactly why we need the dressing and why it had to be changed regularly, I mean, what would collect in the dressing. He told me he’d show me.
Then he was asking me a few random stuff, which I diagnosed as something that doctors do to calm their patients. Then he took the anaesthetic syringe, and told me that this was going to hurt. That it would hurt a lot, he was warning me, because it was going to be pain on top of pain. I said ok, and I faced the green wall, thinking about Neo and the Matrix and a little bit about Dishari who’d told me not be so nervous. He inserted the needle.
My God, it was excruciating. Just the mere act of putting the needle in there, at the very heart of the swell, it was agonizing. I clenched my jaw, biting at a portion of the cloth they’d given to cover me, and my entire body clenched and my upper body was raised a few millimeters from the cot because I was so stiff I wasn’t exactly resting on it any more. I was making low groaning sounds. Then he actually started pushing the liquid through and the pain increased a lot. I went ‘aaa… aaa…’ and all, rubbing my face frantically with my hands. I could hear him saying, just a little bit more, when I wished it was over.
But then, it was over, and I slumped back a bit on the cot, breathing heavily. The doc was saying, very strong, you’re very strong, good, and I liked that, because it means a lot to me. I thanked him for telling me in advance that it would hurt.
Then I asked how long it would take for the anaesthetic to take effect, and he said around 10 mins. He waited around for some time, then he came back and picked up something from the surgical plate and asked me if I could feel it. I could feel his hands all right, on my bum, so I said yeah. Then he said can I feel him cutting there? I couldn’t feel any of that, and I was impressed and grateful for the anaesthetic. I said no I can’t feel him.
I could feel a little pain, but that might have been due to the apprehension and all. Within 15 seconds, he said the operation’s over. I laughed. I said, so quick? He said well, you’re going to give me 10 rupees, how long do you expect me to do this? Am I a common worker, who’s going to while away time to earn money? He was joking. I liked that. Then suddenly I thought of something and asked him if the operation actually was over or was he just telling me. He said a few moments later, still working on my bum, that no, he’d actually made a cut to inspect, and the real thing hasn’t been done yet, and that I’d be able to feel it a little when the real thing happened. I cursed inside. Later on I came to know that he was just scaring me, and that the surgery had actually been over.
I felt him and the nurse put some cotton on the thing and some other stuff, and wrap against my bum with some adhesive crepe, I think. At this point of time the nurse said that changing the dressing would hurt a lot. I was later angry, as well as glad that she’d said that.
Then I was just lying down for some time, and Mom and Dad came. Mom was fussing over me so I just snappily shushed her down. Dad said the stuff that had come out from me was on display in the little chamber at the corner of the wall, behind my head, and suggested that I don’t see it. I got up and we went downstairs. The doc was standing at the foot of the stairs. He wasn’t happy that I hadn’t seen that stuff that’d come out. He’d told me that he’d show me.
Anyway, the next day while in the shower, I tried to take off the dressing myself, because it was like a sort of private war. I knew that they may not handle it sensitively enough, and on the other hand, I was a little ginger to do it. But I took off the covering cotton, that was wrapped to my skin, while pouring water on it to ease the adhesive. The water came out yellow as it ran down. That was a bit unnerving. I told myself that it was the accumulated stuff in the cotton, and no fresh bleeding. So I took off the cotton and threw it at a corner. It was red and a little yellow. I was being reminded of the way women change their… you know… during periods and all. That was funny.
But then there was another cotton still on the site, sticking to my skin. I tried to get it off, slowly and carefully, giving it time, and with a lot of deliberation because it refused to come out, until I suddenly realized that I had a hole in there, and the cotton was sticking out from it, as if it had been tamped and packed in there. I was trying to pull the thing out of the hole. That was ouch. Also, I decided it wouldn’t be correct to remove that part of the dressing. The nursing home guys wouldn’t be happy. So I let it be, and put on my underwear on top of the dangling red cotton. I flushed down the other larger cotton I had removed, because I didn’t want anyone getting a scare.
Then when I reached there, the doctor was busy in an operation, and finally the disgruntled guy who had asked me about my fora the previous day, changed my dressing.
This was almost equally painful.
I went back to the same room, and this time its stench hit me with a lot of negativities, because negative things had happened there for me. I got up and lay down on the same cot, facing the green wall, looking at the same studio light and yellow electric boxes with levers, and the labeled boxes with medical stuff. This time a wind was blowing outside and the curtain would swell up.
This time there was no anaesthesia. He touched a steel needle to it, and started some pulling and coaxing. This was also pretty damn excruciating, and I again went into that low ‘aaa… aaa’, but the guy was a bit kind, finally, because he said a few times, ‘no its ok’ and all. He also wiped my bum with cotton a bit. I think I had started bleeding. I think what he was doing was pulling out the plugging from the hole with that needle. Ouch. Then there was a slight pause and then he said, I’m going to hurt you a bit now, okay? I’m going to hurt you a bit. Then I guess he stroked and pushed around the hole with the tip of the needle. This hurt. This hurt like hell. Or maybe he was putting the new gauze in. Then he was done and put the new cotton and crepe on me, and let me go.
Then another day’s wait till today, and today I was pretty nervous about changing the dressing again. The same guy did it today, and Dad was there to see because from now on he’d do it at home, and today’s wasn’t painful at all. I was relieved. I guess it’s just the first plugging after the operation that’s hard to change.
Anyway, so that’s my story. The rest is still in my future. I’m sitting in the evening of today, 9.21 to be precise, and that’s about it. That was the story of my first surgery. Although I obviously don’t want to develop such a swell thing (that was a pun) again, I’m still thankful in a way to this experience (although it made me miss a drama bout at our inter-college fest at Pune), because it has helped to face a number of pains and fears, and I guess that becomes important in life some day. Even if you are never required in your life to face pain and fear, I think it’s weak to never face them. It’s living a very limited part of what you can live, and being a very narrow piece of all you can be. And the exciting things lie at those regions, where pain and fear will repeatedly appear and ask you the question of whether you are ready to face them. I don’t mean to say that I’m very courageous and all. I know I’m not, and that’s a big problem with me. I haven’t had any training in courage in childhood, as I grew up. And that’s why it’s more important to me. That’s why those moments hold more than just pain, fear and suffering for me. That’s part of why I wrote this down.
See you again, then. See you around. And the moral of this story is to take good care of your ass, and to make sure your commodes are sanitized before you sit on them, and to not have much butt hair for the nurse to see and the crepe to rip off.