Anesthesia Awareness

They told me I wouldn’t even remember it.

They said that I would slip into a deep slumber and, when they were through, I would not have even felt the passage of time once I regained consciousness. To be honest, I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since I was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The pain kept me up at night and even painkillers did little to alleviate my suffering. The anxiety mixed with the depression and pain until I had thoughts which I will not repeat here. This gastrectomy was the last bit of hope I was holding onto. Little did I know the terror I was in for.

I remembered the anesthesiologist telling me to count backward from ten. True to their word in that respect, I fell into a deep slumber before I was halfway finished counting. The only problem was that sleep did not last. I was awakened by a pain unlike any I had ever felt before in my life. The sedation had worn off, but the paralytic kept me still, so my agonizing screams at every incision were, to those in the OR, the sound of silence. I could not move a single muscle, I could not open my mouth or my eyes to alert those performing the operation as to the pure agony I was undergoing.

My mind couldn’t even form a single coherent thought. My brain was on fire with a sensation that went beyond pain; something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Still, the surgery continued. Still, there was no outward sign that I was awake and suffering more than I ever had in my entire life. I don’t know how long it was. It felt like days of merciless torture. After what felt like an eternity, the pain went from overwhelming to simply mind-numbing. Then, not long afterward, it went from mind-numbing to the sensation of having just been stabbed. Make no mistake, these were marginal improvements. I was still screaming on the inside, but not as loudly as when the anesthetic first wore off.

When I could string together sentences in my mind again, even though still paralyzed, I thought about how much money I was going to sue this hospital for. I came to the conclusion that no amount of money could make up for what I had endured. I just wish I could move. Then I heard the doctor say my name. That was immediately followed by the words “Time of Death, 8:00”. When I heard that, I immediately started to try and fight the paralytic as hard as I could. “I’m not dead!” I screamed over and over again in my mind. “I’M NOT DEAD!” But I remained unheard. The terror of being wrongfully pronounced dead struck me almost as hard as the torture I had been enduring for what had seemed like an indefinite period of time. “I’M NOT DEAD!”

The cruel amused voice of the doctor whispered in my ear. “Oh… we know you’re not dead. After all, it’s only 7:30.”