Last month, I became a statistic -- one of more than 8,000 surgical patients at Carroll County General Hospital each year.
More than that, I became a member of a growing statistical family -- instead of the traditional in-patient surgery, I was one of about 5,200 outpatients.
In my case, I was having a procedure I had been putting off for several years -- wisdom teeth extraction.
I arrived at CCGH at the all-too-early hour of 6:30 a.m. to register, fill out paperwork, and prepare to be sliced and diced. I was taken to the new Ambulatory Surgery Center, which had opened only a few weeks earlier, and never once felt treated like a statistic.
While I can recall being given anesthesia and being hooked up to an EKG monitor, the next thing I feltwas pain. The nurses were there with ice packs and pills, both needed after a difficult extraction. They were great, and before I knew it, it was noontime and two friends from the office had come to take mehome.
But just as when you enter, you have paperwork to fill out before leaving. Mainly, the post-operative instructions:
* Do not drink alcoholic beverages for 24 hours. Alcohol enhances the effects of anesthesia and sedation.
Shucks: We had to forget our plans fora few umbrella drinks at the cocktail lounge.
* Rest at home withmoderate activity as tolerated for 24 hours.
Nuts: There went thestop for a two-hour workout at the fitness center on the way home.
* Do not drive a motor vehicle, operate machinery or power tools for 24 hours.
Gee: That meant I had to cancel my plans to chop down some cherry trees with a chain saw.
* You may experience lightheadedness, dizziness and sleepiness following surgery. Please do not stay alone! A responsible adult should be at home with you for 24 hours.
This I wasn't prepared for, having been on my own since college and having no relatives in the area. It's the type of situation when one's never too old to ask, "Where's my mommy?"
* Progress slowly to a regular diet, unless your physician has instructed otherwise. Start with liquids, such as soft drinks, then soup and crackers, and gradually work up to solid foods.
This I was prepared for, having stocked up on fruit juice, ice cream, Jell-O and chocolate pudding.
*Do not make any important decisions or sign important papers for 24 hours.
While I had no plans to make out a will, this one -- even though I was groggy -- made me smile. For then the nurse asks you to sign the paper, right under the words, "I hereby accept, understand and can verbalize these instructions." So much for not signing important papers.
Six weeks have passed since the surgery, and another interesting paper came to my attention -- the $1,481 hospital bill; surgeon ($956) and anesthesiologist (bill to come) fees extra.
It's amazing how detailed the hospital bill was, from the $1,071 for the operating room; to $6 for EKG pads; $6 for sutures; $4 for stopcock 3-way (whatever that is); $16 for an injectable drug, but only $12.50 foranother, etc. Such details are required by insurance companies to make sure they are billed properly.
But the best news here were the goose eggs at the bottom, where it said "balance due." Thank God for my HMO.