Thursday, March 1, 2012

Kenneth the Maintenance Man

Right out of Berkeley, I worked for a Consumer Products Company. I had worked for a bigger one in the summer the year before. Although I wanted to be a doctor, I wasn't sure how to apply, or even if my courses I had taken in Chemical Engineering met the prerequisite requirements. So I wore a white coat, as a Research Scientist. And I fit in as best I could.

Engineering had really not prepared me for life in the outside world. My Emotional Intelligence was not the greatest. Just like it had been through high school. And to get what I needed done, I couldn't go into a lab and create. I had to work with bosses, and teams. It was a stretch.

One of the ugly Senior Scientists in New Product Development sat me in his office and explained to me why women should be paid less than men. 'They spend all their time off work being pregnant!' I got upset over that one. I made a point to go back into his office and say any comments of that sort are unwelcome and I will report it to the big boss at once if he slips up around me.

There were my people I enjoyed. The Packaging Wizard Ed C., who shaved every unnecessary   millimeter of plastic off a bleach bottle to save millions of dollars. The was the Queen Nose, who worked with fragrance. Because of my first project P-99, I worked with her a great deal, and became The Princess Nose of the company. My product is still on the market today : ) .

When I got sick and needed surgery two years into the company, I saw who my friends were. Isma T, the smoker administrative assistant, said, 'just let them zap and don't worry'. Isma, by all probability, drank. Okay, Isma. Suzanne B, another administrative assistant, gave me a white teddy bear with a heart and a wind up thing in the back for it to play music. When the pain was its worst, I clutched that bear for dear life. I focused on the music to take me away from my world of swelling and pain and nausea. I kept that bear for a good long time.

Kenneth M, the maintenance man in the blue work shirt and dark pants he wore every day, sought me out. He too had survived brain surgery. He knew he would be in the hospital for a while after, so he took the bus to the hospital on operating day. Ken had to learn to walk all over again. And he had to learn everything else too. His voice was funny. But his heart was spot-on. He put his hand out, palm open and said, 'look. You are having surgery. You have to trust in your surgeon, and put your life in his hand like this (tapping his finger into his open palm). You have to be calm. That way you will be like GOOD MEAT (tender). Otherwise if you stress you will be like TOUGH MEAT and you will hurt a lot more after. It's going to be okay.'

That sharing of his story empowered me. With my anxiety over the surgery, I didn't let it take over. I still was nervous. But it could have been worse.

Recovering from surgery, I remember who came to see me in the hospital. And who sent flowers. I got mixed up and thought another coworker who survived brain surgery named Brian sent me flowers instead of a classmate from engineering school named Brian who was a closer friend. My favorite was the Christian in Packaging who lived in San Francisco. His family had lived in The City for many generations. After church he came with his wife and two daughters. Scott C. was terrified to be in a hospital. But his love of Christ, and his love for me, surpassed that fear. I was so grateful!

If you are going for surgery, here are some suggestions to make your experience easier:

1) Know yourself. If you like to be in charge, and in control of things, very organized, you will be out of your element. Try to imagine you are just going to let them 'borrow you' for a few days to get you better, and cut your plans way back. After surgery, I couldn't even read. I felt icky. TV made me seasick. give yourself time to just BE.

2) Don't pack too much for the hospital. Only the very essential toiletries, and maybe slippers. Even though hospital gowns are not attractive, you might stain your nicer things.  Most people take an extra gown to wear like a robe over the main gown so the butt doesn't show when they walk. Remember, gowns are open in the back and have ties, one at the neck and another at the waist.

3) Stay in the moment. The surgery hasn't happened yet, has it? Stay in the Now. When it does, know the recovery is not forever. Your body has a wonderful capacity to heal itself.

4) Everyone has scars. Don't worry about it. They will fade. What is important is YOU. No matter what they take away from you, or stitch or make numb, your identity is what lies within. You may not be aware of it at this time, but perhaps the lesson will make sense to you down the road.  I know for me, my brain was different. Everyone gets a concussion when their pituitary is operated on (back in the day, probably not now. They use drills now.) My mind is fast, but back then, it was brilliant. I don't tell people, but all through medical school I KNEW my brain was different. And it made me sad not to have my old brain back, the one that got me through Engineering school. Did it matter? No. But it hurt my pride and I missed it. I am here and enjoying life just the same without it.

5) There is a wonderful phenomenon called 'riding on prayer'. Surgery is very spiritual. I went to the O.R. floating on prayer, and I knew everything would be okay. It wasn't just the versed. I felt the versed hit, but this ecstacy was different. Total Love and Warmth and Nurturing. And when I woke up, I got a message from the Angels on how to improve my life. "Leave M (my husband). Leave C (my work)." You go Somewhere during surgery. I think you get a nice long chat with people that count in Heaven. I really do.  I hope you enjoy it.


Reiki Doc