That One Time I Had Surgery Without Anesthesia


Now this is a story all about how
my life got flip-turned upside down.
I’d like to take a moment to just sit right here
and tell you all about my fucked up hospital care

In my local hospital, which I’ve mostly praised
In the nuclear medicine unit I spent most of my days
Chillin out’, 8th floor, following all of the rules
When some interventional radiologist got to being a fool

They took me down to surgery with no anesthetic
And when I begged for some verasaid they’re all “that’s real pathetic”
They pulled out one little port and they weren’t prepared
And then the wound got infected, so we all got scared!

 Let’s back it up to the beginning.

On the second night of the Jewish New Year I straightened my hair, put on a little eyeliner and tried make the result of six weeks of pure exhaustion and the constant pump of toxic antibiotics not visible on my face. And about half way through dinner, that went out the window. I don’t know what happened, but in-between the fish and meat course my face got bright red and I suddenly felt like I was going to faint.


My mom ushered me into her office to lay down. I called my doctor and told him how I was feeling. He suggested I give myself some more fluids. Luckily, I keep a spare set of infusion supplies at my mom’s house. So, determined not to miss out on a big family dinner (and brisket) I hooked myself up and dragged my IV pole back into the dining room.

But the fluids didn’t help and I just continued to feel worse and worse until mom and R.J finally pushed me out the door.

I think there was a mutual concern between the three of us at that point. We knew that Hurricane Matthew was about to knock down our door and episodes like this would be very scary if I was stranded at our apartment. I think this is really when we started considering checking me into the hospital to ride out the storm under medical supervision.

The next day I was dreading my daily visit to the infusion center. I knew they were going to have to change the dressing on my HUGE sorbaview bandage over my powerglide. It was going to hurt like a bitch, I had no doubt.

R.J got to watch me yelp and squirm while the tech peeled off the bandage—only to find the top layer had separated from the bottom and she would have to find a way to rip that off too.

That afternoon, as expected, my doctor told me it was time to go to the ER if I was still feeling that bad with the antibiotics in my system for a week. R.J had to leave while I was still in the ER so I spent an hour alone waiting for my room upstairs. I was having really intense muscle cramping from the antibiotics (and honestly probably also from the way I was clenching my entire body while they were ripping off the dressing that morning.) I was just spent, you know?

When I finally got my hospital room upstairs I got into the bed and just started crying. Enter my mother-in-law who swooped in like some kind of superwoman and started demanding IV fluids and Gatorade and medication. At some point the stress waterworks were just grateful waterworks.

Sometimes I forget that I do have people in my corner who will step up for me when I can’t speak for myself.

I got myself settled for the night and ultimately felt a lot better knowing I’d be safe at the hospital when the storm hit.

The next morning I saw my infectious disease doctor.


My unexpectedly awesome view

“Well, the ports got to go,” he said. “But you know that.”

And I kind of did. The antibiotics were obviously not working if I was feeling this wasted by them it really did seem like the obvious solution. After a consult with my internist we decided to have the port removal surgery performed by an interventional radiologist. This was on Wednesday.

My doctor was sure they wouldn’t be able to get me in until Monday. The hospital was on lockdown because of the storm and IR just wasn’t an emergency department. And my case wasn’t that urgent anyways.

So imagine my shock when a wheelchair shows up at my hospital room on Thursday afternoon, just as the storm starts blowing into town. Worst of all? The hospital didn’t want to be liable for family and friends during the storm so I was completely alone in the hospital with no one else to advocate for me.

“I just ate!” I panicked. “You can’t do surgery after I just ate. How will you put me under anesthesia???”


No one had an answer for me. At least not the nurse or the attendant. I begged the nurse to go grab me some xanax (oral) to knock back before going downstairs.

The attendant left me in a hallway. An empty hallway. Where all I could hear was the wind from the storm howling. I waited and waited, letting the anxiety of the surgery amplify in my mind. Were they planning on doing this….without anesthetic???


A nice male nurse found me in tears in the hallway and quickly steered me in the right direction, apologizing profusely for me having been left alone and in the wrong area. He checked me in and then sat with me. He said he didn’t know for sure, but he knew that many ports were removed without anesthetic.

We watched the hurricane report on TV until the surgical nurse came out. She was very nice and assured me that I would be fine, that we didn’t need anything besides the local anesthetic lidocaine shots. “It’ll be such a nothing thing,” she promised. “You’ll be done and like—that was it? Before you know it.”

I took a few deep breaths, trying to be brave. I’d been through plenty of procedures before. I’d had a needle in my eye, a tube up my nose—and one shoved through my chest wall—all while I was awake. What was a little slicing and dicing compared to all that?

I signed the consent form.

Still, as they wheeled me into another empty hallway, and, AGAIN left me alone for a good ten minutes—I panicked. I found myself sobbing and sniffling and when the nurse finally came out to get me I begged, “please—can we do this under anesthesia? I don’t want to be awake. I really don’t want to be awake.”

“You’ll be fine. I promise. You can hold my hand,” she said. So I asked for a paper towel, blew my nose, and climbed up onto the operating table.

Together, two nurses created a tent over my head, scrubbed down my port area and prepped me for surgery. At the last moment I begged for Zofran to help with the nausea of anxiety.

The doctor came in and began to shoot me up with the lidocane.

“Ah. AHH. That’s like Botox. Fuck!” I yelled. But eventually the pinch of the needle faded away. There was some pressure as she pushed and manipulated the port underneath my skin. It was a while before I felt anything—but then, a very sharp slice.

“OW! OW! I FEEL THAT,” I yelped.

“Is it like, you feel the pressure?”

“NO. I FEEL that. I feel the slicing!”


They paused and then more pinching as they injected more lidocaine into me. I was sweating through my clothes.

She started again. It wasn’t as bad, but it certainly wasn’t “pressure.” I kept up a steady stream of yelps and moans as she worked her way through. Then the tugging began.

“Oh my god. Please. What are you doing? Tell me what you’re trying to do?”

I couldn’t see anything over the sheet but it felt like the port was stuck and she was trying to yank it through layers of adhesions. (Which later I learned is exactly what was happening.)


“It’s just a little stuck,” she said. “We’ll get it. Just need to…”

More slicing.

I was hysterical crying at this point.


The pain stopped for a moment and then there was a nurse at my side injecting something into my IV.

“What is that?”

“Just a little bit of fentanyl…”

I felt the meds begin to take away some of the pain, but it was way too little and way too late. She ripped the port out at last and began stitching the wound closed. I kept shouting that I could feel the needle and they continued to slowly add more and more fentanyl.

And then it was over. I was shaking all over. They transferred me onto a gurney with a sheet and then I was being taken upstairs and back to my hospital room.

When I got there two of my favorite infusion nurses just happened to walk by and spot me. They came in and helped me dry my tears, call my mom, and get a sturdy dose of Ativan to stop the hyperventillating.

And this hospital visit was far from over.

My unexpectedly awesome view

My unexpectedly awesome view

Does this wound look funky to you?

Yeah. Just wait till I tell you why

In the meantime—read my mom’s latest post on the incident at Rare Disease Report.



  • I have tears from your story :'( (going to read your mom’s in a bit) I’m so sorry!!! That’s awful! I can’t even imagine – well, I can vaguely imagine and it’s terrifying and that’s probably why I’m crying as much as I am. Local anesthetics don’t work on me much at all, so every surgery I’ve had I instantly wake up in pain. I’m impressed you were able to hold still enough for them to perform the surgery.

    Read your mom’s post. Wow! Super powerful. And I’m crying again. Your mom’s demands of the doctor are perfect and far more appropriate than suing. (Though, it would be nice of the hospital to cover the excess costs incurred due to their negligence, but that’s in a perfect world.) I cannot believe you had to go thru that, and I am so glad you have your mother to push the hospital into action.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery, both physically and mentally.

  • Pingback: Botched Surgery Without Anesthesia, Part 2: The Corrective Surgery | Let's Feel Better()