It was a laparoscopic hernia repair (bilateral Lichtenstein, if you’re interested) in theatre seven at the UHWI. Late morning in what could be called the winter months but which was really a sunny day in February. The hum of air conditioning set the scene.
When you step into operating theatre, you’re greeted by a temperature drop. That’s fine. Equipment might overheat.
You change into scrubs, grab your shoe covers, cap and mask and trod down to the very last theatre at the end of the drab concrete-coloured row. The paint perks up a little when you hit theatre six but so does the AC.
Dante’s Inferno should be rewritten with Frozen’s Elsa in the starring role, because you cannot imagine any kind of hell more intolerable than a cold one. Like the nine circles, you descend through seven unforgiving levels of frigidity. (Theatres one and two are out, you know. Electricity problem. Which puts the recovery room/anaesthesia headquarters a step above purgatory, uncomfortably playing into their established superiority complexes).
You sit on your hands, stick them up your armpits, fail to cover them with your scrub top because there’s always a bit of skin sticking out with hair sticking up. Your fingernails turn blue. You lose focus of the screen with its graspers and scissors and capillaries. At the same time you realize you’re hungry, you realize there are probably a million students in the room and no one will notice if one of you goes missing. One does.
You buy coffee. And a biscuit. You stick your hand out of the change room window to grab at sunlight and get snickered at by a passing porter.
You go back. It’s more tolerable. Minutes pass. Your boyfriend retracts his arms into the body of his shirt straight-jacket style and the short sleeves flap around comically. He keeps offering handshakes. Your bare arms have goosebumps. More time passes. They’re unrolling the mesh now. Then tacking it in. Then suturing the umbilical incision (finally).
“Meet me in the classroom,” says your wavy-haired consultant.
After two tries you all find the classroom and open windows to let the sun in despite the plexiglass that cuts you off from the outside. You stretch your palm out along its transparency but it just feels cold.
When a nurse comes in to turn the AC on, a dozen seniors and half as many juniors screech NO.
“You guys are cold?”
“Yes we’re cold.”
“But Dr. Wavy-Hair is hot.”
On cue, Dr. Wavy-Hair walks in. “Your students are cold,” the nurse tells him archly. He surveys you all for a moment over rimless lenses then quips, “Too bad.”
You survive the next hour by sitting on your hands and fantasizing about arson. When you’re finally released you step into the nearest patch of sunlight and press your palms to glass that is actually warm and shiver a bit when a strong breeze passes. You stand there in the sun and you wait and wait and wait for the warmth to reach your bones.