I have just had stitches in my shoulder taken out. This is the last milestone in what has been the strangest journey of my life.
Two weeks ago I went in to have very routine surgery on a rotator cuff issue. Here is what I recall:
1. Having a panic attack on Wednesday morning at about 9:30am as I am rolled into the operating theatre and my doctor, my lovely, lovely doctor, talking me back to calmness.
2. Feeling the plastic of the tube down my throat and knowing that if I could just create a gap between my throat and the tube then I would be able to breathe again. All around me were people talking, softly and purposefully, but I have no idea what they were saying.
3. Being in my apartment and really needing to know the time but the time on every single device in my house told me a different time, so I called people, including people in countries other than China, and found out that it was for certain three thirty in the afternoon and I went to bed.
4. 20 hours later I awoke in my bed feeling very, very, very confused.
What happened between Wednesday 9:30am and Saturday 7am has been told to me by those who witnessed parts of that time. I will give you the ‘highlights’:
1. My mother told me that I was convinced that “they” were out to get me. She asked me what “they” were wearing and I told her white trousers and blue jackets. “There you go,” Mum said, “they are the nurses, they are there to help you.” I was massively underwhelmed and said “I can’t believe that you are on their side, I can’t believe you would side with them,” etc, etc and then hung up. Mum called me back immediately and I said “Oh, I know what they are doing, they make you call so that nobody else can contact me,” and hung up again.
2. My friend came bearing gifts of my favourite foods and I mentioned to him that he might see the parade of the 100 year old people if he were lucky. “How do you know they are 100?” he asked. “Well,” I said, “they are at least 80.”
3. Another friend visited twice. On one occasion I told her that at the wedding that was happening the man with the plastic leg (who says plastic leg??) kept leaving his leg all over the place and I had had to take it back to him several times and if she saw it on her way out, could she do me a favour and return it to him.
4. My doctor and his wife and his three children visited me. I spoke eloquently and lucidly about my life in China and was terribly interested in how my doctor’s wife found life Beijing.
None of these things, and many more that are not as pleasant (pulling out lines in my arms and feet – yes, plural), do I have any recollection of. When these stories have been told to me, they have been exactly that: stories.
I am not sure that I really believed in, or, perhaps, understood amnesia before this. I thought perhaps that if I tried really hard to recall then some things would seep through. The funny thing is, I don’t even try to recall because those moments do not exist in by brain. It would be like me trying to remember when I sailed around Cape Horn because I never have, I don’t sail, don’t even really know where Cape Horn is, I’ve never had the time or space or opportunity to do that and that is what the loss of those days feel like – not a loss because there is no possibility that it could have happened.
Kinda cool, kinda freaky.