“You probably won’t even remember having this conversation,” says Dr. Miller, after explaining to me the procedure and IV medications she will be using to sedate me for my bronchoscopy procedure.
Challenge accepted. I turn and glance at my husband, who has accompanied me more for his own peace of mind than mine– I’m not worried. Maybe it’s because he’s worried enough for the both of us. In any case, Dr. Miller reassures him that the procedure itself is very low-risk; it’s the meds that carry the bulk of the risk, but with those she is also reassuring. (I will do some research later, post-procedure, and when I do I am glad that I didn’t read the horror stories on the internet before I went in). She will be administering fentanyl for pain management, and Versed for sedation.
“You should know,” I tell her, “that I had a procedure done several years ago to clear gallstones out of my bile duct, and the doctor told me afterward that they’d had to put me under general anesthesia since the lighter sedative ‘didn’t go well.’ He never expounded on exactly what happened, but I thought you should be forewarned.”
Shortly she leaves to prep, and I have some time with Nick before the nurse comes to wheel me out. While we’re waiting, I play a “game” with Nick, having him tell me something to see if I remember it later: He points out the nature scene on the view screen behind my head. I have asked to use the restroom before my procedure, so the nurse arrives and arranges my IV line onto a portable stand; I walk myself to the restroom.
Ever since the nurse placed the IV in my hand it has been stinging a little; she tried to fix it for me and it helped a little, but it still pinches. Well, it won’t be in very long; and maybe I won’t even remember it, so I figure I can grin and ignore it.
I say goodbye to Nick as I am finally wheeled into the procedure room.
Dr. Miller is there with at least four other nurses. They hook me up to a couple more IV lines, and one nurse hands me a nebulizer with lidocaine gas. At first, it irritates my throat and I cough a lot (more than usual, that is– I’m here in the first place to investigate the cause of my chronic cough which I’ve been struggling with for several months). But after maybe five minutes, my coughing subsides, and I breathe easy again. I point this out to Dr. Miller; she says “Let’s remember this.” And then she winks, because she still believes I will not remember. I say with a smile, “You know, I’m going to consider this a sort of experiment, to see how much I actually do remember.”
Why am I so confident that I’ll remember? Maybe I’m not entirely. But there are a few things I know about myself and how I tend to respond to anesthesia and other medications:
A. I often require more than the recommended dose of OTC pain meds to be effective, and they don’t ever last as long as they’re “supposed to.”
B. I’ve given birth three times, and always been lucid through the entire process. I only used an intrathecal epidural with my first baby, and it only lasted two hours before it wore off just in time to start pushing. After that experience, I decided I could definitely do it all-natural in the future.
C. At the dentist, the typical dose of general anesthetic is rarely enough, requiring the dentist to add an additional injection before I can’t feel anything.
D. I seem to recover from anesthesia quickly. I remember getting my wisdom teeth pulled (under general anesthesia) my senior year of high school, and being perfectly lucid afterward.
E. Apparently, all things considered, I just seem darn insistent upon maintaining my mental faculties and autonomy as much as I possibly can. Not that I’ve ever tried it, but I have the feeling that hypnotism would never work on me. I can’t even meditate properly.
I finish with the lidocaine and a nurse takes the nebulizer. I don’t remember falling asleep, so I don’t know how long it takes. Maybe there’s a short period of time which I do not remember, where I fall into “twilight sleep.”
I am in a sort of dream state, but still partially conscious. I hear voices, but I cannot make out what they say. I feel the scope moving around inside me. It doesn’t hurt, I just notice it. I’m not thinking about anything, just experiencing the tactile and aural sensations. Only later, when I come out of the sedative slumber, am I able to put the experience into words.
When I wake up, a nurse greets me. I am disappointed that Dr. Miller has already left; I wanted to tell her everything that I remembered. I learn later from my husband that she spoke with him briefly as I was recovering from the procedure. She told him she had to pump me with enough medicine “to sedate a horse!”