That’s what my surgeon said to me Tuesday afternoon as I got myself comfortable on the operating table at Albany Med’s somewhat sketchy-seeming “South Clinical Campus.” “Ready to be deported?” It took me a second. She was about the take out my port. I was ready.
It was truly weird to be fully conscious and lying there with a drape in between me and my right collarbone area while Dr. P. bustled around, injected some seriously burning lidocaine, and started pulling stuff out of me. First the catheter that went from the port into the subclavian vein, then through that vein to the superior vena cava near my heart. That was easy to remove. She sewed up the “track” the catheter made with a stitch or two and apparently that was enough to both close the hole in the vein and keep a hematoma from forming. (I know all this because I asked lots of questions. I asked lots of questions because it was far too weird to be lying there talking about something ELSE while this was going on. I tried that when the nurse asked me about being a doula, and it felt weirder and weirder to try to be two people at once: one being operated upon and one having a totally separate conversation. My hold on calm reality started to loosen.)
It was apparently harder than usual to get the port itself out. I guess a little too much me had grown around it, plus it was a smaller port than usual and maybe harder to get a grip on. Plus I think the way the operation is done, the calipers are inserted into the incision and then blindly put around the port under the skin, well, never mind these horrifying details. The port was a little bigger around than a quarter, metal with a plastic disk at the top, and about 1/2″ or 3/4″ high. It was really cool looking and I desperately wanted to keep it as a souvenir, but they were so totally not allowed to let me have it that I couldn’t convince anyone to bend the rules. But that was after it was out. Dr. P. had to switch calipers and tug and tug and tug to get the thing out, which felt truly horrible. In fact, what I could feel of all that yanking felt so horrible and distressing that I asked her to remind me that it wasn’t part of me and I didn’t need it. Finally it came loose.
They had attached a gel-covered “cautery pad” to my leg to ground me before the operation started, so I assume she cauterized whatever little bleeding vessels were in there, and I know she did a bunch of swabbing and blotting, and then sewed it up and taped on a big wad of gauze. Then I was up and off the table, threatening to go through the garbage that night to find the port, and back into the pre/post-op area feeling only a bit disassociated. 15 minutes after I sat up on the table, I was in the car riding home. I had to cadge some Tylenol from the post-op nurse because I could feel the lidocaine wearing off pretty quick. They didn’t even offer me any! And at first they said no, they didn’t have anything to give me.
So that was Tuesday. I’ve been on painkillers on and off ever since but am officially, I guess, done!