Through the looking glass: Now serving…part 1

The date: July 18th. I am lying in bed with my nighttime splint on my knee. Finally conceding to my children’s pleas for a trampoline, I had perused Kijiji and was met with success. Pulling in the yard with the new source of entertainment, exercise and fun, I was praised, loved and promised all manner of chores and schoolwork to show appreciation for my gift as they feverishly went about setting it up. Dion smiled at the new found adoration I had achieved and quietly strolled to the trampoline. After effortlessly hopping onto its surface he proceeded to bounce, twist and flip with ease. The children stood, mouths gaping, in reverent awe of the scene before them. Now, I agree that marriage is not a competition… however, gaining the respect and admiration of my children is paramount, and dammit, this was my moment!

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I decided it was necessary to show off my superior acrobatic skill. After five minutes, I realized the trampoline requires some prep on my part now. First I needed a sanitary napkin to catch the urinary leakage caused by each torque of momentum. Body goes up, then falls with equally building momentum. The sudden switch in momentum causes great confusion for the bladder and it cannot cope. Also, following an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) repair of my right knee (caused by trying to impress Dion skiing through the moguls in Jasper ten years ago… sensing a theme?) I decided some support to that knee was in order. A few puffs of baby powder to minimize the sweat, and I was good to go! A proud mom going to show her teenage daughter that she still had it, I marched towards the trampoline like a linebacker with a career on the line.

After being drugged and immobilized by EMS and transported to the hospital, I was forced to face the painful truth: I didn’t have it. In fact, I’m now unsure as to whether I had it to begin with! Abby bounced up and I bounced down and in the process tore my medial meniscus, strained my medial cruciate ligament and tore my anterior cruciate ligament…on the good knee. My ‘bad’ knee remained blissfully in tact. In short, it hurt almost as much as my pride. I was sent home sporting a sexy hip to ankle, blue and white splint during the day and a shorter sleek black number at night. I started physio the same week to try and reclaim my knee as my own and hopefully avoid surgery. Wonder if there are any wheelchairs on Kijiji.

Fast forward six months. I finally get to see an orthopedic surgeon. Not the one doing the actual procedure, mind you, but a colleague. I wouldn’t get to see the surgeon slated for my knee repair until I was wheeled in, naked save for a thin sheet of cotton, to the operating room some eighteen to twenty-four months later. He briefly examined my knee through a series of well coordinated, and highly educated, grunts and huffs. I wonder if there is an interpretive manual somewhere for this. After twisting, pulling, pushing and manipulating, I gingerly stepped off the table, certain that if I hadn’t required surgical repair upon my entrance, I sure as hell did now! He acknowledged that I would need surgery. Told me it would be booked within two years. Go home and wait for a call. In the meantime, use a splint and stay off the trampoline. Thanks tips.

Fast forward two years. Almost to the day. I receive a call to attend a pre-op clinic. “Oh! I’ve got a surgery date?”

“Oh, no. This is just a pre-op clinic.” She waits for me to absorb this, and then attempts to fill the awkward silence with reassurance. “But I do have some dates for the end of the month.”

“Perfect, I’ll take the 28th.”

“Um… I can’t book it until you’ve done the pre-op clinic.”


Succumbing to the rules of the system I dutifully completed my pre-op blood work and showed up for the pre-op clinic at 7:50am on the respective day.

Having not fallen far from the proverbial apple tree, my mother had been through this a few times…. in Westlock, alone. She warned me that it would likely be a three hour morning. I brought a book.

Stepping up to the clerk at the front desk we proceeded to exchange our familiar dialogue:

“Are you still at ‘address’?”

“Yes. I have not moved since yesterday.”

“Is your phone number still… ?”

“Yes. Still paying that bill.”

“Your family doctor?”

“Same since yesterday.”

Unmoved she hands me a stack of papers and a clipboard and directs me to a room down the hall. Scanning the papers I can’t help but wonder if it has my complete medical history since birth. Surely this can’t all be pertaining to one knee. Finding the room number I step inside and stop, deer in the headlights stare, as I realize this room is full of people sitting around a conference table. I step back out, moving slowly so no one sees me, and check the room number. Yup, this is it. I’m confused. I slowly step back inside looking to make eye contact with someone who may be able to give me some direction. No one meets my gaze. I notice a person sitting at a small table in the corner going through papers that seemed similar to my stack. Wearing scrubs, a gown and no identification, she looked like she just stepped out of the operating room; likely a janitor. I found an empty chair and sat. Scanning the room I noticed several other similar type stacks of paper. To my right were two more ‘medical type’ people with name-tags that identified them as pharmaceutical students. They avoided eye contact. Another person entered the room with the same caution that I had displayed. This person, however, caught the janitor’s eye and she acknowledged the patient was in the right room, directing her to take a seat and she’d be right with her. I looked expectantly at the janitor but was ignored. Looking at the pharmaceutical students was like a teacher trying to find a volunteer to answer a particularly difficult question about a chapter no one had read. Mental note: next time wear a bright scarf. Annoyed, I leaned forward and got ready to proceed ahead of any further entries.

Finally the janitor notices me and I proceed to her little table, squeezing by people to get there. The janitor takes my clipboard and asks how I’m doing. I mumble and look at the papers like a dog waiting for a stick to be thrown. She commences to confirm my personal information with the entire room. “Are you still at ‘address’?” I look around the room to see if anyone wants to answer.

Looking back to the janitor. “Since leaving the front desk, yes.”

“Is your phone number still…” she paused and looked at me with confusion. I had covered the information.

“May I look at it?” Turning the paper slowly I am able to scan the information that was all confirmed a mere walk-down-the-hall ago. “Yes. It’s all the same.”

Turning the clipboard back she proceeds to go through my medical history. After the second audibly irritated response of “nothing has changed. My surgical history has not been expunged” she nodded and collected the papers together. The complete and utter breach of confidentiality and privacy was far from over, however, as she directed me to the scale. Without moving from the chair I glared at the scale then back at the janitor. The scale was sitting right in the conference room. So close to one person that they were using it as a backrest. The janitor made a motion like a way-too-chipper cheerleader and beckoned me to the scale. Like a pouty child being forced to eat broccoli I proceeded to the scale. Now, I realize that my weight is visible to those around me and they could probably guess at my number as well as my height, but I don’t feel compelled to share it with the room. Protecting the scale like a dog at dinner time I scan the room for anyone trying to see the numbers. They’re clever. They pretend to not care.

Thinking the parade of privacy is over I sit back down at the conference table. The complete and utter trashing and abandonment of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act continues as we are now, as a group, going to discuss, in detail, our particular surgical procedures. Gobsmacked doesn’t begin to describe how I’m feeling.

The janitor lists off all the procedures they have on file and we are supposed to put our hands up when ours comes up. The fact that I did not put my hand up and I was the ONLY ACL repair soon became painfully evident. I embraced the process with the grace and respect of a pubescent female. I texted. A lot. The janitor, not to be put off by a pouty teen, charged forward and educated the entire conference room on the procedure I would be enduring. At the end of the riveting educational session she asked if there were any questions. I looked around the room expectantly. No one spoke. I turned to the janitor. “I think everyone is clear on it thank you.”

She continued, nonplussed, to discuss the other procedures that people were having. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make a complete and utter mockery of the entire charade. “So when John has his shoulder repaired he’ll have to spend the night? But the knee repairs can go home the same day?”


“Huh. Is that due to the fact that the shoulder is so much closer to the airway so the concern is unwanted swelling causing partial or complete airway obstruction that would likely cause their death were they sent home?” I am met with large eyes. From everyone. Clearly, I am not getting any coffee dates from this one.

“So, if you’ll all follow me…” the janitor clears her throat. “We’re going to head down to the Anesthists office.” Nope. That’s not a typo. That’s how she said it.

“Oh fun! A guided tour! Are there donuts?” I notice people are now avoiding me. As we pass the front desk I can’t help but notice the sign asking people to stand back behind the line to protect people’s privacy. I guess once we’re past this point it’s moot.

We are directed to a waiting room and notified that those patients who had to travel the farthest to get her would go first. So now, I’m penalized for living in the same town I am receiving medical care from. Seems about right. I continue to sit there for another hour or so before finally being called by the Anesthesiologist. I am last.

The doctor is pleasant. He motions towards a chair and asks if I’d like to sit. I sit and prepare to finally privately discuss something pertinent to this procedure.

“I see you’ve had a hysterectomy?”

“Um, yes…does this procedure require a uterus?”

He giggles. “No, of course not. It just seems that you’re quite young to have had a hysterectomy.”

Awkward silence.

“So, “ he continues, desperately trying to build a rapport. “What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a high priced call girl.”

“Excuse me?”

“Is that a problem?”

“Um, no… of course not, I just…” He shuffles through my papers on his desk.

“Is this a date?”


“I’m a writer.”

“Oh!” His relief is visible. “That’s interesting!”

“More so than being a call girl?”

Silence. His forehead beads in sweat. “So, for this procedure….” He continues to discuss the only actual information of the day that I wanted and could not have obtained online. Discussing the procedure of a spinal nerve block and how the paralysis works, the recovery, side effects, etc. I ask a couple of clarifying questions and prepare to exit. Stage left.

“So, what do you write about?” I turn at the door and meet his hopeful gaze.

Pausing for dramatic effect, “I’ll send you the link.”

To be continued….

Jennifer Barry is a writer for The Spectator Tribune

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