There are a few final things I’d like to review before we begin. I’m not trying to alarm you. I just need everyone in the room to be aware of the risks associated with today’s surgery. And while I’m completely confident that things will go smoothly, I also want you to know that there’s a slight chance you might explode.
Now, you’re a healthy person. Healthy people generally don’t blow up into a million pieces out of the blue. And based on our extensive preliminary testing we have no reason to believe that anything will go wrong. Your vital signs are normal. There is nothing in your family history to suggest that we will encounter any issues. Still—life is unpredictable. So I won’t rule out the possibility that your face could totally melt off the front of your skull halfway through this thing.
Stranger things have happened.
Just the other day a perfectly fit young man strolled in here for a routine check up. We weighed him. We checked his blood pressure. We rifled through his pant pockets when he wasn’t looking. Then he died abruptly in the exact spot where you’re sitting after his internal organs inexplicably boiled inside of him like a stew. But that’s life, right? People live. People die. Bodies burn beyond recognition from the inside out. I return my Redbox. Then we move on.
Rest assured, tragedies of an unprecedented magnitude are rare here. I’ve done thousands of these operations before and I’ve never had a patient who suffered complications resulting from the very procedure you are about to receive. I do, however, feel morally obligated to inform you that the potential for spontaneous combustion exists. Not just specifically as a result of this surgery. Any person could hypothetically burst into flames at any time for no apparent reason. Maybe that person is you. Maybe that time is today. Or maybe I will burst into flames and the fire spreads to you. These paper gowns are extremely flammable.
We have to cover all of our bases.
For instance, let’s consider a reality in which you black out during today’s procedure and regain consciousness at an indeterminate time in the future. Your right arm is tethered to an empty IV bag. The fluorescent lights flicker above you. Things are quiet. But what’s outside that door? Do you hear it? It could be an escaped mental patient stalking the hospital for helpless targets. It could be a horde of undead dragging their rotting limbs down the hallway toward your room. Or it could be a friendly nurse simply doing her nightly rounds. Regardless, I’m sure your future self will be glad that my current self had prepped you for all possible scenarios within that exact moment. Heck, most doctors wouldn’t even think to mention it.
You look nervous. Don’t be.
I can’t stress enough the importance of maintaining a calm composure through all of this. Staying calm will be the key to success here. That, and keeping lots of gauze nearby. But mostly staying calm. Because we don’t want anyone to lose their heads. Or their arms. Or their eyeballs which may pop out of their sockets suddenly and without warning. Again, that’s not something that you need to worry about. It’s just something that we’re prepared for. Preparation—like staying calm—is also key here. For example it’s helpful to ask questions ahead of time. Questions like “did someone warm up the defibrillator?” or “what time does the morgue open?” or “anybody know what this metal thing with the serrated edge does?”
I understand that this can be a frightening experience. I bet you’ve heard stories about doctors leaving medical instruments inside of patients. I promise to be very careful not to do that. And in the event that I do lodge a scalpel or my Kindle in one of your body’s many susceptible cavities, we’ll do our best to retrieve it promptly. If, during retrieval, a group of terrorists crash into the operating room and start taking hostages, then you may be required to crawl through that vent in the corner over there in order to escape.
My point is we all have to be ready for anything.
But in spite of the challenges you’re about to face, I’m still optimistic. And you should be too. Keep in mind that this is a Grade-A facility. The whole thing is first class: the lobby; the bathrooms; the Indian burial ground it was built on top of. Also, keep in mind that I’ve done this routine surgery so many times I could probably do it in my sleep. That is, if my sleep wasn’t interrupted by recurring nightmares of the unspeakable surgical accidents I’ve seen during my career as a physician. The very accidents that occur when you least expect them. To people like you…
In rooms like this one…
On days just like this…
All right, I’ve blathered on long enough. Let’s get to work on that ingrown toenail.