When an Anesthesiologist Activated My Sense of Humor

A sense of humor can be such a gift. There have been a few occasions in times of grief when mine was a blessing.

A few years ago, there were a number of difficult things happening in our life and work in Asia. The frustrating “waiting game” we were in was indefinite and there were several factors that made it extremely stressful.  On top of that, I discovered I was pregnant for the third time. A pregnancy during transition was not the timing I had hoped for, but I was happy for this child.

We already had a healthy, kindergarten age daughter. We were so thankful for her. She was nearly born on an airplane, weeks before she should have been, but everything worked out okay. I carried my second child just over one trimester. That pregnancy was an emotional rollercoaster and did not end well. The babies you lose–you never forget what they looked like on the ultrasound monitor– kicking, waving, unable to be still 🙂 . Even if it was an older machine with grainy resolution, I treasure the few minutes I was able to watch him.   I had been carrying our third child a few weeks without knowing it. I miscarried a few days after learning about him.  Thankfully our daughter never knew, but for us he left way too soon.

Weeks later, thanks to chromosome testing, we learned he was a boy.

The day after the miscarriage I was lying in a pre-op room– cold, alone, and hooked to an I.V.  This unwelcome feeling of loss wasn’t new to me, so I was beyond wondering why I was in the situation. There was only emptiness and the loss of so many people, places, and things that had been my life before this transition. Now there was also the loss of a child, after barely having time to wrap my mind around a third pregnancy. So many unanticipated events in only a few weeks.  It was too much, too fast.

The presidential debate was the only thing on T.V., but  I wasn’t allowed to get up to change channels so I watched anyway. It provided little distratcion of the variety  I needed, so I was grateful to hear a knock at the door. Perhaps it was the anesthesiologist, but when I saw her, I decided perhaps not.

This woman had to be lost. With the bland emotional state I was in, all I could manage was a confused stare. Starting with her hair, I took everything in. Smooth curls, coated heavily with AquaNet™  (80’s kids never forget the smell) swooped toward the ceiling. How she had managed that tall of a ‘do with only a round brush, hair dryer, and bottle of spray was really something.  Styles from yearbook pictures in my late elementary school years were now rendered tame.  And there was a pale, purple tint to her white hair.

While the shiny crimson lipstick and sleek red shopping bag were a perfect match,  their color “popped” in overwhelming contrast against her lime green velour track suit.

“Oh, I’ve been watching the debates. Your country needs a president like that one, no?”

A slow smile and more staring from me. I was speechless. I glanced at the T.V., then back at her. Before I could manage asking whether I could help her with something, she spoke.

“Don’t worry. I’m not lost,” (had she read my mind?) “I’m your anesthesiologist. I wanted to spend a few moments with you to help you feel relaxed before surgery. Give me a few minutes to change and I’ll be back. I’ve just come from shopping.”

She returned not long after, the picture of professionalism, offering reassurances about the procedure.

Beautiful, expressive brown eyes twinkled down at me from above her mask– a gentle expression that could have belonged to a seasoned grandmother. I relaxed. She finished her explanation of what would happen and then paused before adding:

“You will fall asleep quickly after I give you this. This is the medicine that killed…(she named an American celebrity).”

I could feel my eyes widening with so many questions….like why was she telling me this?

“But don’t worry, it will not kill you. You will have a proper dosage.  I’ll be monitoring you.”

As she spoke, my eyes drifted to the defibrillator on the wall behind her. Trying to hold my eyes open, I silently commanded myself, “Don’t fall asleep. Don’t fall asleep.”

She was injecting the medicine into my I.V. port when I started shaking– with laughter.

“Madame are you okay?” She looked very concerned, but I couldn’t stop. Trying to suppress it helped– a little. Of course things were going this way just before my surgery.

“Yes. I’m okay. Sorry.” A flicker of confusion crossed her face and then she got back to business.

For weeks, my body and mind must have needed to release pent up emotion, because it was happening. The sight of her walking into my room the first time, combined with several of her comments about the presidential debate, and now the knowledge that the medicine about to hit my veins had killed a celebrity in my country— it all felt like an SNL™ comedy sketch. I fell asleep laughing.

I woke up in the recovery room– comfortable, warm, and feeling a little too great from the medicine. From there things grew calm– after I told the surgeon she was very beautiful,  asked why I wasn’t allowed to order Korean food delivery, and promised the entire nursing staff  I’d buy donuts for them.  (I overheard them talking about a new Krispy Kreme™ store nearby.) Thankfully medical professionals don’t make good on the claims of patients who’ve just come out of surgery.

Three  hours later I was released. My husband and I left the hospital to face several bitter realities, but I was thankful for the moments of lightheartedness that somehow entered into the day. They collided with my sense of humor in just the right way and brought a little bit of relief.

Looking back on a painful season of life, I can see bright points along the way. God’s guidance, healing, and love came through people and situations entering our lives at just the right times.

Remembering this tonight encourages me to continue faithfully in our new life situation and work, because He is in it with us.


Thanks for reading!

<3, Chrissy


For more stories, read my book, Flying in Labor, available through Amazon in Paperback & Kindle





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