Al Batt: I can no longer say this man is all his original parts

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

My body’s check engine light came on.

Al Batt

Eventually, we become like our old car or aging house — fix, fix, fix.

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I was taught to never sit until I was invited. That has led to uncomfortable times for me in waiting rooms, which stretched the concept of time.

But soon, a nurse held my hand with her two strong ones. I was lightheaded. The room was spinning. I had heart palpitations. You’d have thought I’d never had a splinter removed before.

It had been a swell day, somewhere between everything was nearly copacetic and it could be worse when life flipped the page. I’d inquired about a concern I had, telling my doctor I was asking for a friend. When medical professionals look under the hood via lab tests and proper poking and prodding (a physical examination cures the ticklish), they find things. I wanted to channel Mel Blanc and give Bugs Bunny the voice to say,

“What’s up, Doc?” They checked me from A to Z and learned I could use a new alphabet. I’d been trying to stay in the pink without going into the red, but I needed surgery. The doctor and his staff told me what they were going to do and assured me they’d stop before I ran out of insurance. I told them I was a screamer. Every side effect they mentioned sounded like the name of a heavy metal band.

I showed up for the operation wearing loose clothing that made me look as if I’d crawled out of a laundry basket. I’m a veteran of the scalpel.

Every scar is a battle won, yet I don’t know how to put on a gown correctly. I was in the shop for service and wasn’t worried. I know talented surgeons watch a YouTube video before each operation and put things back where they belong. The surgeon was in and out and I was out, then in and out. I was strapped to a spinning wheel during the procedure as a smiling knife thrower hurled razor-sharp blades my way. Not really.

Surgical repairs were performed. The surgeon took nothing out of me, he put something in. Therefore, on my body’s P&L statement, it was a profit. One moment, I was hooked up to enough tubes and cords that I resembled a bowl of spaghetti. The next moment, I was asked to rate my pain on Yelp and was assured I’d soon be up groaning and shuffling around like someone my age. I knew how the snail that had been mugged by a turtle felt. When questioned by the police, the snail couldn’t remember anything because it happened so fast.

At home, I stood by a window. It’s a backstage pass to the world of nature. Patients with a view of leafy trees outside their hospital windows healed faster and needed less pain medication than those with window views of a brick wall, according to a study in the journal Science. We don’t have a brick wall in our yard, so I looked at trees and basked in their restorative influence. The radio played The First Edition singing, “I tore my mind on a jagged sky. I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.” The song is said to reflect a drug experience. Kenny Rogers, formerly of the New Christy Minstrels, was a part of the First Edition. The song was in the movie “The Big Lebowski.” It was music to listen to while the anesthesia wore off.

I turned off the radio and put on a Louis Prima CD. “Got a snap in my fingers. Got a rhythm in my walk. As the elephant say, I’m living in a great big way. Got a handful of nothing and I watch it like a hawk. Well, I’m doing OK. I’m living in a great big way.”

I’m thrilled I wasn’t reduced to rubble and I didn’t sneeze once during the week after surgery.

I’m not supposed to lift anything over 15 pounds for 6 weeks, so I carry a bathroom scale everywhere and weigh things I want to heft. The scale weighs only 2.5 pounds. Life is good.

What an amazing gift is another day.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.