Under The Knife… Again

“Good Morning, this is Staff Sergeant Dalene, checking in.”

“Please state your first name and date of birth,” the friendly voice on the line said.

Cree complied, to which she told him that he needed to take a seat and someone would be there to pick him up at 0730. He shrugged, and walked over where Crystal had sat, in the corner of the room.

“They told me that they want me to sit and wait, but someone will be taking me back to surgery prep at seven thirty.”

“Well, we are a little early.”

The two of them snuggled together for a little bit, and in what seemed to Cree like no time at all, a small Asian man called his name… sort of. Mispronunciation seemed like a common theme everywhere, especially lately.

Crystal held Cree’s hand gingerly as they followed the nurse to a small curtain partition with a bed. The bed featured the traditional awkward gown, special socks, and a couple of things Cree didn’t recognize.

Surgery Prep

“Please change out of everything, and I’ll be back to ask a ton of repetitive questions, you can give your stuff to… who’s this?”

“My wife,”

“Does she have permission…”

“Yes, she can make any decisions in regard to me, and know everything,” Cree said, maybe more forcefully than he’d intended.

As soon as the curtains closed, Cree stripped off and folded everything except his socks, and shimmied into the gown. Crystal tied up the rear end as best as she could, to which they both shared a giggle. Then, true to his word, the nurse returned and began his triage, and barrage of questions. After he finished writing the last notes, the nurse vanished.

The two of them visited for awhile as Cree’s nerves began to get the better of him. Crystal took a few minutes to help him breath and relax, before a random doctor stuck his head in the partition.

“Oops, I’m sorry, I was looking for someone else.”

They shared a few more giggles wondering aloud if it was because he was expecting a macho Marine. Then another nurse stuck her head in, and asked Cree his vitals again. Once she was convinced she had the right patient, she dropped off the charts she’d been carrying and stepped out again.

Cree immediately grabbed the charts, and began reading over everything. He recalled all to vividly the plethora of nurses and doctors who’d all mentioned the wrong surgery. Once he felt satisfied that the right procedure was penned in all the right places, he sat the charts down with a satisfied thwack.

The Surgeon

“Hi Cree!” Dr. Grossgold said as he popped his head in the partition. “You finally made it!”

Cree smirked at the craziness of getting this surgery scheduled ,and then remembered his manners. “Good Morning Doc, this is my Crystal, wife. Crystal, is Doctor, or Lieutenant Commander, when he’s in uniform…”

“It has been a while, it’s Commander now,” Dr. Grossgold politely corrected Cree.

“Congratulations! That’s awesome!”

After a few more small talk minutes, Cree and Dr. Grossgold signed a few more papers. Cree’s careful verification that everything matched made the Doctor smile a little more. Once there were done, he told Cree that the anesthesiologist would be right in, and get things going.

Once the Doctor stepped out, an intern came in and introduced herself as the assisting surgeon.

“I’ll be making sure she’s well taken care of. Do either of you have any questions for me?”

“Why do they need to put him all the way under?” Crystal asked.

“Because they want her to stay relaxed throughout the entire procedure. The anesthesiologist can probably answer that better, but the general idea is we want to keep her safe and comfortable the entire time.”

As soon as the nurse stepped out, Cree giggled a little bit that she’d tried to correct Crystal. “Even my charts say male, this is funny.”


Soon enough, a taller gentleman popped in and began explaining the entire process of putting Cree under. As soon as they were certain that everyone agreed on the procedure to be performed, and the process of going under and coming out were understood, he stepped out again. Moments later he returned with a saline bag and all the little extras to set an IV.

Cree held out his left arm expecting it to go into his vein near the elbow, like everyone ever had done. The anesthesiologist smiled as he told Cree that there might be a little prick. Suddenly he felt a stab in the back of his hand, and a burning sensation that quickly dissolved. Then the specialist inserted a smaller IV needle, and attached the hose he’d put in the saline bag at some point. Then, he stepped out again.

A short bearded man, and a tall heavy set man stepped in next and introduced themselves and big Jim and little Jim. The two of them cheerfully went about placing the odd items on Cree’s legs and ensuring he was comfortable.

When the anesthesiologist returned, they began cracking jokes. Cree quickly learned that they called the cocktail a “Warm and Fuzzy,” “Gin and Tonic,” “Six pack in Sixty Seconds,” and… Cree immediately tuned them out as he began counting to sixty. The last thing they said before they stopped was “Truth Serum.” Cree noticed Crystal giggle a little at that.

“I don’t feel… never-mind, it’s…” Cree blacked out feeling like his entire skin was a soft velvet fleece.

“Please scoot over to the operating table.”

Cree wasn’t certain who said that, but he complied by crawling over to the table, fully aware that the gown wasn’t covering a thing. Then…


“There she is,” a pretty voice said.

Cree groggily tried to focus as his eyes opened up to Tinker Bell looking down at him.

“What flavor would you like?” the voice asked, and brought Cree’s focus to a nurse standing beside him.

“Red, please.” She handed Cree a red icicle and introduced herself as Erin.

Cree felt himself gingerly, and asked in disbelief if it was really done. The nurse instinctively told him to be careful, then laughed as she realized the futility of it.

“Can I see?” Cree asked, not believing his fingers.

Erin helped him sit up slowly and showed him the surgical site. There really wasn’t much to see, but Cree could see the painful lump finally gone, and that was enough. “Thank you.”

“Right this way,” a man said as Cree’s curtain opened.

“Hi Jim!” Cree said cheerfully, remembering little Jim.

“That’s Frank,” Erin told Cree gingerly, “and he brought your wife.”

“I’m sorry Jim,” Cree tried, “I mean not Jim… Frank. Thank you Frank.”

“You’ve messed up his name about five times so far,” Erin told Cree playfully.


“I’m here Cree.”

Lessons Learned

As Erin gave Crystal the discharge instructions, a brand new corpsman stepped in to remove Cree’s IV. As he set a piece of gauze on the back of Cree’s hand, he began pulling on the IV.

“You need to put pressure on..” Cree stated to say, trying desperately to grab his hand as the kid pulled the IV out, spurting blood everywhere.

“I’m so sorry!” Erin said as she clapped the gauze to Cree’s hand, using he other to get another gauze.

“It’s okay… I think… He just didn’t know to apply pressure first.” Cree knew he sounded weird, but he genuinely felt sorry for the kid. As Cree began feeling nauseous, Erin handed him a bed pan, and placed a small alcohol strip on his nose. The nausea dissipated immediately.

Frank sent Crystal to get the car as another, obviously seasoned corpsman stepped in. He brought a wheelchair and helped Cree sit down as Erin finished bandaging the now badly bruised hand. Finally, he wheeled Cree out to the front and helped him into the waiting car.

“Let’s go home Gorgeous.”

Things Done Well

  • Once the doctors identified the issue, making sure I got the appropriate care.
  • Avoiding alcohol and tobacco, allowing the doctors to treat me without trying to guess at my health.

Things To Fix

  • Don’t try and act macho when I’m injured.
  • Listen to Crystal when she tries to offer help.
  • Don’t allow people’s assumptions to dictate my self care.

Count Your Blessings

  1. The medical staff at Portsmouth for their amazing support and skilled surgical intervention.
  2. Elizabeth for her responsible care of her siblings for the duration of the trip.
  3. Crystal, for being a wonderful wife, and helping me see the humor in even the worst situations.

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