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Collected editorials

Down, down into the rabbit hole

Whatever will they do?

This is written in the week before Stupid Tuesday, er Super Tuesday, when Amerika almost holds a national primary. The Republicans have a collection of white males, most of whom are of interest to paleontologists. Enough said about them.

The Democrats have cut their number of potential candidates down to two, the black man and the woman. Now they have a problem. Are they going to be racists and pick the woman or they going to be sexists and pick the black man. This is a serious dilemma for the party of the politically correct. Sexist or racist – which one to pick? Whatever will they do?


Babies are selfish and power seeking. That’s how they survive.
– Dr. Phil.

The knife, Richard, the knife

I am, I suppose, under the mistaken impression that I am still alive – certainly there is no evidence of any consequence to support that belief, but I am a man of faith.

That said, here is a minor recounting of the events of January 17, 2008. Deborah and I had driven down to Sioux Falls the night before. Early in the morning we drove to doctor #1, a rather pleasant dermatologist by name of Brian Knutson. After the usual process of taking my name, serial number, and proof of payment, he excised the cancer on the side of my nose. They applied the Mohs procedure and determined that they got all of the cancer – unless of course they didn’t, there being no certainty in these sorts of things. Still, he opined that the odds were in the mid nineties that they got everything. Given that he had a physics major in college, I have every confidence that he had the right of it.

Next we drove to the rabbit hole, er hospital, where doctor #2 would close the gaping hole in my face. Yes, I know what you are thinking but not that hole. I need that one for sipping fine wine, eating delicious chocolates, and propounding wit and wisdom to my fellow citizens who would otherwise suffer bouts of depression for lack of my golden words.

Doctor #2 was one Dr. Breit, a plastic surgeon that I been referred to some time previously when the physicians in Aberdeen had tired of messing with my face.

When we were first conferring with him he suggested that he could do the cancer cutting himself. I wasn’t too partial to this idea since he wasn’t set up for doing the Mohs thing and I didn’t want any nasty little surprises this time around. It was settled that someone else would do the Mohs and he would do any necessary plastic surgery.

Thus it was that we went to McKennan hospital to have the wound closed. We went through the usual process of signing forms and being sent from one place to another. Eventually we arrived at a waiting room where the lady in charge said something like, “Oh, you’re in the wrong place, you need to go do your lab work. I’ll escort you there.” This was our first clue that we had stumbled into the rabbit hole. We were escorted to a rather ratty area where of gaggle of technicians wanted my blood and my dignity.

Here is a piece of advice for anyone who is going to enter the hollowed halls of Medicine. Don’t go alone. You need an advocate who will protect you and question the actions of those who will want to poke and prod you. Do not take anyone who is subservient to authority. What you need is someone with the soul of a lioness defending her cubs.

Our Lady of the Large Black Dog is, ahem, a wonderful lioness.

She said in words more elegant and refined than mine, “What the hell is this lab work crap? Why are we here and do you have the right patient?” The technicians (most of whom looked as though they didn’t precisely follow the health department’s guidelines for a healthy life style) were a bit taken aback. After some discussion it was settled that this was surgery and in surgery the SOP (that’s standard operating procedure for you human beings who aren’t familiar with the corporate mind) is to look at you blood to make sure that your blood has enough potassium or plutonium or something. One of the rules is that the technicians always have more bafflegab than you have knowledge.

Rather quickly they drew some blood and took my blood pressure. After a consultation with some chicken entrails or whatever modern high tech equivalent they used, Igor’s nephew escorted me deeper into the rabbit hole. (The hospital maintains a set of Igor wannabes who escort people from one place to another. These people are called volunteers, which sounds much better than Igor wannabes.)

In my new hole they gave me a “hospital gown”. I have a theory about these gowns. In fact I have several theories. The obvious purpose is to keep you from wandering around about seeking a refuge from Those Who Are About To Do Things To you. Then, too, the medical people probably don’t like the aroma of your clothes. Perhaps it is best if we don’t explore that topic. However my leading theory harkens back to my days in the Marine Corps. The first thing they do in Boot Camp is break your will. Surgical gowns are part of the process.

My lioness pointed out that they were going to work on my nose. Why, she asked, did I have to take my clothes off if they they were going to work on my nose? Good question. I don’t recall a good answer, but I am sure it was SOP. Such a useful answer, SOP.

Then we waited. I’m not sure why. Actually I do know. Remember that bit about breaking your will in boot camp. Enough said.

Eventually a young woman who may have been a nurse showed up. Her task, other than blandly violating my dignity, was to hook me up to an IV. This was an unfortunate experience. She looked at my left arm and decided that the veins were playing least in sight, so she tried the right. Mostly she tried my patience – I don’t like needles to begin with and I’m really unhappy with people playing roly-poly with my veins. Eventually she decided that it would be better if the aneshesiologist would do it.

I forgave her though. She was a very pleasant young thing, albeit not particularly competent. She endeared me to her when she asked how I was doing and I told her that I felt like a mushroom. (ANCIENT JOKE ALERT!!) She looked blank, so I followed with the punch line – they’re keeping me in the dark and dump fertilizer on me every so often. She cracked up. It’s always a blessing when people aren’t familiar with the old jokes.

After a while a male nurse showed up and said, “Are you the trouble maker?” I allowed as how I had shy veins along with a shy bladder – I didn’t actually say that but I am sure I said something equally silly. He popped the IV in without trouble. There is a moral here but I am going to leave it to my readers to draw it.

Then two gentlemen who purported to be anesthesiologists showed up and allowed as how they were going to put me out. PUT ME OUT??? What the hell is this, put me out? You don’t even want to know what the lioness said. The two gentlemen of Verona or whatever were taken aback. They seemed to think that I was in there for an operation on my shoulder. We explained that the wound in my nose needed to be closed. They thought that was a bit odd and maybe we should talk to the doctor. What an excellent idea.

After yet another wait Dr. Breit showed up. He was puzzled that I wouldn’t want to be totally out while he performed his arcane rituals upon my face. My view, one heartily endorsed by my lioness, that there was no sense at all to having total anesthesia when local anesthesia would suffice. Eventually he accepted the thought that one of his patients might be willing to be awake while his his nose was being reshaped. We compromised on the thought that I would have some dope in the IV to keep me dopey but that I would be awake.

After yet another wait persons came and strapped me into a gurney – I think that’s what they call it – and wheeled me into an operating room – a very chilly operating room. I gather that they were behind on the heating bill.

Thereafter I became the center of attention with people hovering over me. My part was to lay there very still with my eyes open and my ears listening. I felt people stick needles in me, cut things, and push my face around. At one point somebody stuck a finger up my nose to hold things in place. On the whole the experience was interesting and different; all things being equal, however, I would prefer sitting on the couch with a nice bowl of popcorn watching a movie on the telly.

When they were all done with whatever they were doing I was trundled off to a “recovery room” where I got to wait until they were convinced that I could be let loose, suitably accompanied of course. In due course I was sent back to Our Lady. However I couldn’t leave until I had eaten something and drunk something. They gave me some packaged food and drink left over from the days when airlines gave out snacks. Then the lady who was supervising my recovery said that I couldn’t leave until I urinated. I made mmmphing noises and she allowed as how she would take my word for it. Finally I peed and they let me out of the place.

It turns out that the doctor did a pretty good job – my nose is cleaning up very nicely. Good doctor, bad bedside style.

The next day a functionary from the hospital called to ask how my stay at their charming domicile went. I allowed as how they did a good job but I had a few complaints. I know that this is South Dakota and we raise a lot of beef here, but I don’t take kindly to be treated like a steer in a cattle chute. The functionary made soothing noises so my complaints probably went to the same place that such complaints always go.

Small wisdom for small minds

If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.
   — Isaac Newton

If I have not see as far as others, it is because I have stood in footprints of giants.
   — Richard Harter

This page was last updated January 7, 2008.

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Collected editorials