Grumpy, groggy me. Hanging in a funky motel room on McCarthur Blvd. in Oakland, recuperating from my eye surgery for a detached retina. One of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever been through. One moment I’m puttering along with my daily life. The next I’m being strapped onto a gurney by total strangers and wheeled off to be prodded, poked, knocked unconscious and cut up. . . . Then, I’m lying on a bed in the middle of nowhere (technically, Oakland, California) in total darkness in some weird zombie stupor state.
That’s life, I guess. You never know what cards life will deal you next.
Of course the first thing they do to prepare you for the surgery is, they make you strip off your clothes and put on one of those goofy hospital gowns with your butt hanging out. Then you got to put on this ridiculous plastic shower cap kind of hat, and plastic booties. It’s like they’re publicly humiliating you to get you in the mood for the whole thing.
The nurse who prepared me for the surgery was this black woman with a thick Jamaican accent. I could barely understand what she was saying. So I’m just sort of mindlessly answering her questions: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” And hoping she’s not slipping something in there like, “And would you also like to have your left testacle removed while we’re operating?” “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Then the nurse is asking me about my drug and alcohol history. So I explain about the ocean of cheap malt liquor I’ve consumed over the years. All all the cigarettes and drugs and etc. Then she goes over this long check list of potential health problems: “Have you ever had asthma? Allergies? High blood pressure? Diabetes? Etc, etc.?” And my answer is “No” to every one (except for “Depression,” naturally). And she’s kind of dumb-founded because my good health makes no sense in terms of my, um, lifestyle. “I haven’t been in a hospital in 40 years,” I admittedly, sheepishly. “Are you an athlete?” she said. That made me feel nice. That was a nice moment. The only one I would have.
Then they wheeled me into the operating room and this guy starts pumping the anesthesia into me. For some reason it was important to me to try and notice the process of when I go under. So I’m concentrating real hard while I’m taking deep breaths. But it was like I blinked my eye, and then it was 2 hours later as I emerge from the fog, and the operation is already over . . . My one big regret was that I wanted to take a selfie of me on the operating table . . . I really am kind of nut
My friend Mary was waiting for me in the lobby. So she wheeled me out of the hospital and into a taxi cab which took me to my motel room in Oakand. When I first signed into the motel the clerk handed me a card and a metal cylinder object with a bunch of buttons on it. “Where’s my key?” I asked. “The card is your key,” said the clerk. The cylinder object turned out to be the remote control for the TV. After about 15 minutes of diligent trial-and-error, I actually figured out how to turn the TV on. The last time I had a television set was in 1991 where there was this big knob on the TV to turn the channels on, and I had a bent clothes-hanger for an antennae. So I’m completely out of touch with the modern world.
I spent the first two days in my motel room with the lights out, lying on my bed in a zombie stupor. Slept 20 hours a day, drifting in and out of sleeping and waking states and this weird, in-between state where it’s all like a waking dream. Every now and then I’d make a groaning sound. “AAAAHHHHH!” Just to remind myself that I was still alive. Just my luck, my next-door neighbor is one of those guys who has people knocking at his door at all hours of the day and night. And at 3 in the morning there would be regular loud thumpings and furniture crashing and heated, screaming arguments between him and his girlfriend. So at least I had some live entertainment to aid me in my recuperative phase. And, on the positive side, if I felt the need for some crack cocaine to assist me in my recovery, I probably wouldn’t have to go very far.
On the third day I crawled out of my motel room to get some food and check out the neighborhood. I have a big, bulky bandage on my left eye, so people do a double-take when they see me, like I’m a prisoner-of war casualty, or like they just passed the Elephant Man or something. There’s a 99 cent store on the corner where all the items are, oddly, $2.99. I guess it’s a whole new concept in 99 cents stores. This is a happ’nin’ neighborhood!
It’s funny (ha ha). When I was younger I thought I was invulnerable. Like I was made out of steel . . . But now that I’m pushing 60 I realize how fragile the human body really is. We’re all walking on thin ice.
The detached retina eye surgery itself was nothing short of miraculous and mind-boggling. The surgeon actually goes in there with scissors and cuts the white part of the eye away from the pupil. Then they peel the white part back so they can get at the retina in the back of the eye. The retina is like wallpaper on a wall. When the retina detaches, it’s like the wallpaper has fallen off the wall. It’s sitting there in a pile at the bottom of your eye. So the surgeon actually goes in there and picks the retina back up and sticks it back to the wall. Pretty amazing. . .
I actually watched about 10 seconds of the surgery on a Youtube video. But once the surgeon started snipping away at the eyeball with the scissors I immediately turned it off and said to myself: “HOLY SHIT! I’m sure glad I didn’t watch this BEFORE my surgery.”
Sometimes its better NOT to know what you’re in store for.
Ace Backwords is a former cartoonist, writer and semi-normal human being. He's been sleeping in the bushes in the Berkeley hills for the last ten years with his four feral cats, Moo Cat, Fatty, Mini Scaredy and Micro Scaredy. Future plans include growing old and dying. Preferably in that order.
View all posts by Ace Backwords