Time’s up.

My gurney begins rolling toward the OR, and now it feels real.

The George Washington University Inn shouldn’t be difficult to find, but my nerves are in overdrive. I scan the street numbers on both sides of the street to make sure that I don’t overshoot. I have a moment of not-quite-panic as I come to a building that just has to be the Inn, but only has an entryway for a tiny Italian Trattoria.
A few more steps reveal a drive-in courtyard just past the eatery; I sigh in relief and slowly make my way along its narrow sidewalk toward a secluded entry, mildly regretting that I can’t stop for a glass of Chianti.
It’s an old Inn, but having spent time in a few very questionable establishments in New York during my days traveling for business, I can tell the difference between just “old” and “old & dirty.” I check in with little hassle, and make my way up to my suite. It’s spacious, with a kitchenette, dining area, living area, and a bedroom with a king bed. The bath is huge, and I decide that a relaxing shower before bed is definitely the plan.

Carefully laying out my clothes on an armchair becomes a subconscious assertion that I’m in control, and that all of my planning is coming to fruition. When I start lining up my toiletries on the bathroom sink, I realize that I’m definitely wound up, and decide to skip directly to the hot shower.
Forty-five minutes later I’m lying on the sofa in my sleepwear, feeling a bit more human, but no less nervous.
Eight months of doctors’ visits, paperwork and planning all culminates in the next eighteen hours. In twelve hours I’ll walk into George Washington University Hospital alone, check myself in, and be prepped for RNY Gastric Bypass surgery. Eighteen hours from now, it’ll be over, and I’ll be in recovery.

Or you’ll be dead.
My subconscious is being maudlin again tonight; the memory of my friend Eileen’s sharp retort jumps to the forefront, and I rally.
Don’t say that. Don’t even put that thought into the Universe. You will be fine. I know it. I believe it – and so do you.

I walk into the bedroom and set the alarm clock on my phone, then think better of it, and call the front desk.
“Can I have a wakeup call at 4:45 AM?”
“That’s quite early, sir!”
“Yeah, I have to check in for surgery at GW tomorrow morning at 6 AM.”
“Oh my! I wish you all the best; we’ll call at 4:45 AM. Have a good night!”
I lay down, just hoping that I can actually sleep, and the universe sees fit to grant my wish, immediately.

My phone alarm rings before the wake-up call, and I’m instantly alert. I lay staring at the darkened ceiling until the phone rings.
“Mr. Akins, this is your wake-up call. It’s 4:45 AM.”
“Thank you. I’ll be down to check out in about an hour.”
“We’ll see you then, sir.”

Another shower, a few moments re-packing my bag, and I’m heading to GW Hospital. The District is deceptively calm at 5:45 AM – the panhandlers are all still asleep, and the only traffic around GW seems to be a trickle of doctors, nurses and medical students.
The Surgical Admitting area is terrifyingly busy for 6:00 AM, but the orderlies and staff have their routines down to a science. Twenty-five minutes later, I’ve changed out of my sweatpants and into a gigantic bariatric patient gown, laid down on my gurney, and am about to be poked.
The nurse is not a vampire, and I get stuck about 5 times before she finally gets a vein that works.
The anesthesiologist comes to talk to me, and for once, I feel like I’m actually giving informed consent – he’s incredibly thorough, patient, and professional.

Dr. Afram pops through the curtain.
“Are you ready! You’re ready! You’ll be fine, this is a great hospital!” He has entirely too much enthusiasm for this hour of the morning.
It occurs to me that this man will literally have his hands inside me within an hour, and I have a moment of nausea.

A stylized image of an operating theater.

My gurney begins rolling toward the OR, and now it feels real. My heart is thumping, and the nausea returns. We roll into the OR; the lights are dimmer than I thought they’d be.
“Mr. Akins, let’s get you up close to the table, and then just scoot over from the gurney onto the table.. Yeah, just like that. Great! Ok, lay back…”
There is a giant bundle of towels in the middle of the table, and I twist in confusion, trying to figure out how to lay down on them.
“Yeah, those towels are going to help us position your insides for easier access. Just go ahead and lay back, like that… yeah. Perfect. Oooooh-kay.” I am sorry I asked.
“I think I’m going to have a backache when I wake up.”
“Trust me, you won’t feel it. We’re giving you the good stuff. As a matter of fact, I’m going to give you something to calm you down right now…”
A feeling of lassitude seems to spread from my chest into my limbs. I relax.
“Yeah, I feel…”

I cease to exist.

Pain. Pain more intense than anything I have understood was possible. I want to scream, but I can’t breathe deep enough for anything except moans of agony.
“Hold on. Hold on, Mr. Akins. Just a minute. Hold on.” A prick of pain, someplace else.
I cease to exist.

I wake again; there’s pain, but it’s distant. It’s almost someone else’s pain. I look at the nurse sitting at a computer beside my bed. She sees me move my head, and glances at me.
“How’s the pain?”
“I’m ok. Am I OK?”
“You’re doing fine. You woke up on the way down here, before we got the morphine pump hooked up, and we had to give you a shot of Dilaudid.”
I smile. “I’m ok.”

I fall asleep.

T-Minus 48 Hours.

…he makes a comment about how cute another participant’s handbag is, I complement her matching scarf, and it’s a girl’s night out.

I walk over to the “Bariatric New Patient Seminar” at GWU Hospital with another patient from my surgeon’s office. He’s a good looking guy that I just can’t see “needing” the surgery. Somehow, in the moment, I’ve forgotten how many people have told me that I “carry [my weight] well”.

We sit down in the seminar room, and are joined by other surgeons’ patients. We are the only men, and for a few seconds it’s weird. Then he makes a comment about how cute another participant’s handbag is, I complement her matching scarf, and it’s a girl’s night out.

The nurse giving the seminar can barely keep control of the room – we’re like Jr. High kids on our last day of school, cracking jokes and laughing at things that totally aren’t funny.

When she finally gets us to shut up, we do around-the-room introductions.

“Aaron Akins, with Dr. Afram. I’m having an RNY the day after tomorrow.”

“And you’re just now taking the seminar?!”

The nurse is surprised.

“Uhm, yes?”

“Well, I guess you’ve already done your pre-surgical blood work, then?”

“Uhm, no..”

“Oh dear. Well, I’ll call down to the lab real quick and ask them to squeeze you in before closing. You can’t go into surgery without a CBC, CHEM-7, O2 and Typing!”

Now I’m feeling nervous – what else have I missed, and what the hell is CBC and CHEM-7? I’m attentive for the rest of the seminar, and ask all sorts of annoying questions.

A drawing of a blood vial.

The receptionist at the lab is irked when I walk in at 1-til-5.

“Why didn’t you come in last week for this?”

“No one told me I needed to, I’m sorry.”

“Who is your surgeon?”

The nurses make up for it.

“You’re not gonna pass out on me, babe?”

“Nope! I just don’t like to look.”

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m a vampire!”

“I don’t see any sparkles…”

“We only twinkle in the son, darlin.”

We discuss Taylor Lautner’s abs.

On the way home it occurs to me that I never said anything about being gay. I wonder how she figured it out until I remember that I’m the one that brought up sparkly vampires.

There is one more day.