The two surgeons, wearing scrubs and serious faces, stood at my bedside for a pre-op conference. “Maybe we should have a snack first,” Doctor Sam suggested to her colleague. “No. We have to wait until after the surgeries,” Doctor Katie decided. Doctor Sam, a first grader, nodded and nudged me backward onto the couch, where I lay flat while she measured me in a vertical line from neck to waist. Meanwhile, Doctor Katie, a fourth grader, sat nearby, working on a stack of consent forms. She handed me the sheets and said, “You have to sign all of them — and don’t skip any pages.” Illegible squiggles filled the spaces above each signature line, and I asked what I was actually signing. “Oh, just stuff that lets us do the surgeries, and then you have to pay us, even if … .” She did a “c’est la vie” shrug. I had a bad feeling about this, but I scrawled my signature 13 times and realized, too late, that each of the consent forms mentioned surgeries. Plural.
Doctor Sam — a title she considered more friendly than “Doctor Samantha” — had assured me that this procedure would extend my life by 50 years. Further details were vague, except that I’d look really old by the end. Doctor Katie frowned when she joined Doctor Sam in the operating room. “You used up all the measuring space on her stomach!” The younger doctor huffed. “Playing surgery was my idea! I get to cut her first!” I really wished I’d read those forms. Finally, Doctor Sam sighed, erased her invisible markings and shifted her diagram closer to my left hip. Doctor Katie did her own measurement near my right hip and looked at her partner. “OK? Ready? Go.” They reached for two little paint brushes with pointed ends.
I jerked my head up. “Wait. You’re doing two surgeries at the same time?” They nodded. Neither of them laughed, or even smiled. Doctor Sam’s voice turned stern. “Go back to sleep.” “Excuse me, doctors,” I said, “but you haven’t anesthetized me yet.” My surgeons ran out of the room. Maybe they’d decided to eat their snacks, I hoped, but they returned all too soon, carrying a collapsible plastic water jug with a spigot. As Doctor Sam lowered the improvised anesthesia mask over my face, I prayed I wouldn’t start hyperventilating. Luckily, my teenage grandson, Henry, was working at a desk nearby, with a clear view of the operating room. Henry is the creative, witty guy I’d want sitting across from me at a dinner party. He also knows the difference between make-believe surgery and cardiac arrest. “Henry, if I stop breathing, you’ll call somebody, right?” He looked up from his laptop and smiled. “No problem, Grandma.” Doctor Sam glared. “No talking. You’re asleep.”