Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Chronic strep throat and sinus infections led our pediatrician to the conclusion that our nine-year-old son, Chandler, should have his tonsils and adenoids surgically removed. (As opposed to the thought had by yours truly that magically wishing them away or clicking my heels together three times would somehow prevent a visit to the operating room.)

A consultation with an ENT (ears, nose and throat) doctor confirmed that the procedure was necessary and a surgery date was scheduled. A week after Christmas and a week before school resumed, we felt confident that the timing of the tonsillectomy would allow an ample recovery period. It ended up however, that physical healing for my son took longer than anticipated and mental recuperation for me is still somewhat suspect.

The day of surgery went well for Chandler. He was calm during the pre-op rituals, rolling his eyes appropriately when I asked if the “happy medicine” given to him could be shared with his legal guardian. The nurse did not really think that I was funny, which is fine, because I really was not joking.

As the medicine took effect, I watched my son drift in and out of goofy joy land, that wistful place I would like to visit when the loads of laundry in my home threaten rightful sanity. Chandler stared with fascination at the ceiling tiles above him, only to then turn his attention to the magic and wonder of the bed rails:

Every once in a while his focus would find me long enough to inquire why my eyeballs were so close together:

or how it came to be that I was the only mom with two noses:

When it was time for surgery, the nurses wheeled my son away and I felt a sob escape from that sacred place familiar to all moms. The place created uniquely for a child the moment they are born, that opening that will leave your heart vulnerable for all remaining days. I stood in the hallway, fighting for composure and losing badly, until I spotted a nurse I knew pretty well. Surely she had some random sedatives to spare......

(Oh, I kid.)

I sat in the waiting room pretending to read the book in my lap but totally eavesdropping on the captivating conversation happening behind me. There was an argument occurring between a husband and wife about whether time permitted a smoke break outside. In summary, the woman’s point was that while she hadn’t had a cigarette since her morning coffee and really needed one or four, she was afraid that she would smell like smoke when the doctor called them from the waiting room. And she didn’t want said doctor to know that she smoked. To which the husband responded, “But you do. So why you fakin’ it? Let’s go smoke.”

My name was finally called and a nurse led me to a small waiting room outside of the operating room. The doctor came in shortly after, removed his face mask, looked me squarely in the eyes, and said, “Those tonsils were rotten.” A simple, direct diagnosis if I ever heard one. I thanked the physician and he led me to my son.

Chandler was wheeled into a recovery room, sectioned off by movable curtains that allow for patient privacy. I sat in the small area with Chandler as I waited for his anesthesia to wear off, thankful that the surgery was a success and free of complications. I closed my eyes in the quietness of the space and prayed, grateful to God for keeping my sweet child safe. A sudden, loud sound interrupted my thanksgiving.

It was a familiar sound, but one out of place. Surely, I misheard.

The sound erupted again, but louder, accurately confirming what I initially identified. A man recovering next to us, separated by only a thin barrier of cloth, was burping. Note the plural form of the word as it was done with repetition and considerable volume.

(As a sidenote, the current Guinness world record for loudest burp is 107.1 decibels, which is louder than a chainsaw at a distance of 1 metre. Thank you Wikipedia.

In addition, Wikipedia notes “Belching in front of people in public places tends to be received in a manner similar to flatulence”. I wholeheartedly concur.)

Every ten seconds or so, the man would release a lingering belch, followed by his companion telling him to “let it all out” so he would feel better. I began to wonder if the man recovering had been anesthetized with a carbonated drink.

Clearly, the patient was uncomfortable, which made two of us. Mercifully, after a fifteen minute chorus of varying lengths of eructation (thanks again, Wikipedia), the burping man and his companion left the recovery area.

Chandler slowly came out of his anesthesia, a little disoriented and in some pain. The worst is behind us, I remember thinking, as I carefully helped him into our car. I could not have known that the next nine days would be so trying, that in my mental instability, I would begin to wish for the presence of the belching patient if only as a distraction.....


Callie said...

"So why you fakin' it?" HAHAHAHAHA! I want to write just like you. I love how you created humor, joy, anxiety, and the sacred in this event. It's so natural and fun to read. Definetely one of the best blogs out there.

Hope your February is uneventful compared to January.

Joni said...

Thanks, Callie. I'm hoping for the uneventful as well.

But somehow, I always find myself running around crazy like Noah right before the flood. : )


tricia said...

so glad chandler has recovered and is feeling better. i'm even happier that the man next to you in the recovery room didn't have a colonoscopy.... just sayin'

Joni said...


Good point.

Chandler loved the Dairy Queen gift card you sent. His mom could have used something a little stronger. : )