Tuesday, November 29, 2005

beneath the planet of the thyroid

I go under the knife next Thursday.

Surgery, to be held at St. Peter's University Hospital, is supposed to run about two-and-a-half hours. The chief downside is that this is approximately how late the doctor was getting to see me for my appointment on Monday. I have fears of the anesthesia wearing off just as he arrives, and me wanting (but unable) to scream: "I'm awake! I'm awake! Look at my finger. Can't you see my finger thumping on the table?" like a classic episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

The operation is fairly straightforward: just go in there and rip it out. Possible side effects include continued bleeding after the operation, bruising to neighboring glands, and the doctor "accidentally" severing the nerve that leads to my vocal chords. That last one, although it has some people extremely excited, is unlikely.

More likely is that the nerve will take a beating during the operation. Dr. Camarotta said I may lose my voice for a few days afterward, or, if I can still speak normally after the operation, will find it tires out easily. (As a result, I'm canceling my scheduled address to the Democratic National Convention and all appearances before the British Parliament before February.) In any event, the damage would be temporary and I would be annoying old self in no time.

I'll also have to take calcium supplements for a few weeks, since the surgery also is going to affect my parathyroid glands. My chief thought on this aspect is that "parathyroid glands" sounds like a great poker hand, and since we're built with four of these glands, that means I actually have two pair. (I can only imagine what a straight flush would look like.)

The calcium supplements are needed because the parathyroid glands somehow are involved with the body's ability to process calcium. I had always thought we mainly need calcium for strong teeth and bones, but apparently a shortage of calcium can lead to seizures and numbness, in the span of a single day. So, even though it's purely precautionary -- you can lose three of the four parathyroid glands and still process calcium just fine -- I like the idea that calcium supplements are my friend.

Recovery from the surgery is supposed to last about six weeks, including two or three days in the hospital, longer if they forget to give me anesthesia or remove the wrong body part by accident.

Lastly, the doctor himself seemed like a decent fellow. His hands showed no sign of a tremor, he didn't scratch his butt the entire time we were talking, he didn't ask me what a thyroid is or how he could find it, and best of all, he never interrupted our conversation to scream anything about purple hippos wearing his pajamas.

So, eight days. The countdown has begun.

1 comment:

JJ said...

You are in my prayers.