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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Catamaran surgery

Commentary by Betty Bell

"What’s the lowest line you can read on the chart?" the Doctor asked me.

"What chart?"

"I think it’s time to schedule your catamaran surgery, kiddo."

My hearing isn’t great either, though I did hear what he actually said—cataract surgery. But when it comes to facing medical fragility I’m just like that poet lady, Emily something, who always saw things slant. I knew I could cope with catamaran surgery, so catamaran surgery it’d be. There was a summer when I flailed around in a catamaran and scored a bull’s eye on the only rock on the beach. That surgical repair hadn’t been the least bit traumatic.

"Catamaran surgery isn’t an ordeal anymore," the Doc said, not even batting 100 in the Soothing Department. "We use laser surgery now, and with the new implants you’ll be astounded at the results."

The Doc was way ahead of himself—before I could get to astonished I had to get past process.

What with all the catamaran-afflicted people feeling their ways around the world, he couldn’t schedule my surgery for two weeks, plenty of time to visualize, then visualize again, what would happen after I was wheeled into the operating room and needled fast asleep; time aplenty to see with 20-20 clarity the doctor plucking out my eyeball and slipping it into the specially lubricated eyeball holder he kept close by, and then zeroing in on the jelly-like mass with his star-war laser. But I was a typical pre-surgery patient and thus too shy to ask if I had my visuals right. You’re told what to expect in even unimportant upcoming events, but when it comes to surgery we’re simply wheeled in like cattle in a chute. Surely there ought to be a step-by-step primer for every surgical happening—except childbirth, of course. Right-to-lifers could get ahead big time if they detailed step-by-step childbirth along with urging abstinence.

So here’s how it happened step-by-step with me, and maybe it’ll keep you from wearing out your worry beads when that likely inevitable catamaran surgery time is nigh.

My daughter drove me to the clinic, and as she walked me through the door she held my hand and said "It’s OK, Mom." That was the exact minute when switching the bound-to-happen-sometime mother-daughter role became a done deal.

I signed a stack of legal "Don’t blame me" forms and turned myself over to my chosen team in the practice of medicine.

In a big room with ceiling tracks looping about so that sliding curtains can be pulled around to make instant private rooms, a pleasant lady enjoying a good hair day made a little private room for me, put a yellow pill in my hand, handed me a cup of water, and told me, nicely, firmly, to swallow it. And then at some point between 24 and 36 seconds later I noodled-out. I was conscious, but not really, if you know what I mean. From then on everything happened to this little old lady I watched from above, a frightened thing gracefully stretched out on a mobile operating table that was then wheeled into yet another little private room.

Competent ladies, all enjoying good hair days and each as pleasant and soft-spoken and reassuring as the next, did things with needles and IVs and heart-monitoring patches and such, busyness that interested me not one whit. Then the doctor appeared, or rather his disembodied voice.

"How you doin’, kiddo?" I waved a hand, or I thought about waving—whatever. And I presume that the catamaran surgery then took place. I was conscious, sort of, and I was as least as calm as Redfish Lake at dawn. And pilgrims, you can count on this: Catamaran surgery doesn’t hurt even a tiny bit.

At home the next morning I took off my pirate eye patch as instructed, and as promised I was astonished, but I was only 43 percent as astonished as I was two weeks later when the other eye was lasered and I took off the second patch.

Post catamaran surgery surprises are a deliciously mixed bag. It was a total delight to suddenly see the bristly lashes sticking out as small shelves over Pearl’s eyes, Pearl being my canine companion of reciprocal love. Not so delightful to see that all of my peers had morphed into eruptions of wrinkles. But overall, I’d experienced a profound miracle, for suddenly the Discovery Channel’s mine. Now I’m looking for a maestro who can laser my knees and zap away all the sag and dimples and spots.

And then? I’m thinking mini-skirt.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.