I recently had to get some minor surgery, and I thought I was doing myself a favor by reading as much as I could about the procedure before it took place.
Unfortunately, some of what I read did not exactly sugarcoat things, and made the procedure sound quite painful and unpleasant.
Here’s one person’s account of her experience (in italics):
...removing the nasal packing is one of the most frightening and painful experiences you can have in a hospital.
followed by this warning:
DO NOT CONTINUE TO READ IF YOU ARE OF A SENSITIVE DISPOSITION – this is graphic and prejudiced.
Of course, I kept reading…
The packing will be grasped with the tweezers, then pulled steadily and firmly out with the assistance of a suction tube. This results in a horrific and painful sensation which feels as though brain tissue is being removed from a point beneath your eyeball. It is not only excruciating, it is quite terrifying to realize that the points of the tweezers are indeed that deep in your head: your nasal passages extend past your eyeballs. (This was almost an eight or nine in terms of sheer agony. Thankfully it was brief, but debilitating and demoralizing.)
What exactly happens then I am unsure, as this was the most painful part of the entire experience and I nearly blacked out. I cannot describe it without sounding melodramatic, but it was literally the most frightening and intense pain I have ever felt in forty years of my life (and I am including the thirty-four hours of mostly unmedicated labour, the spinal epidural, and recovery from an emergency C-section).
I’ve been lucky to have never had any serious injury or experience significant pain, but I’ve watched my children being born and that looked painful, but my wife was amazingly under control for all three births. Why did this Internet poster have to compare my procedure to childbirth? But she wasn’t quite finished describing things…
I went into shock while sitting there, trying to keep myself upright in the chair, holding the clotting basin under my own chin, shaking and trembling and crying. Perhaps you’re made of tougher stuff. The children and teens who were ahead of me and after me (they did all the packing removal for the surgery patients in the same hour one evening) were screaming in literal hysteria during the procedure, and even the older males (who pride themselves on toughness and have been through compulsory military service) were coming out looking dazed and shaky.
So that’s what I was getting myself into, and I had no reason to expect that I would face such pain any better than the people she described.
Well my surgery was successful, and I had a follow-up doctor’s appointment a few days later for the removal of the packing, which is what I was most concerned with. In the days leading up to the appointment, it was all I could think about.
Well the big day finally arrived, and I can happily say that my experience was nothing like that of the woman quoted above.
It was over in less than five minutes, and while it was an odd sensation, I certainly wouldn’t call it painful.
As I left the doctor’s office I realized I had gotten myself all worked-up for no reason.
I had read other people’s accounts of having the procedure, but none of them were quite as dramatic (or as painful sounding) as the one noted above. I basically just ignored these other stories and focused instead on the worst possible outcome.
I think such a reaction may be human nature. We tend to dwell on what could go wrong and tools like 24-hour news channels and the Internet only serve to amplify such reactions.
FDR had it right back in 1993 when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
We just need to be reminded of that today; maybe it would make a great Presidential campaign slogan…