Vanity surgery day

I stepped out of my hotel into the emerging light at 7:30 am and immediately noticed white chunks falling from the sky. It’s been so long since I’ve seen snowfall, I didn’t know what it was at first. Then, remembering, it became something beautiful.

I made the hour-long journey along the Seoul subway to Irwon, the stop for Samsung Hospital. I was early, but they led me into a waiting room where I de-clothed and put on some pajamas. A nurse came in and started speaking in Korean. I smiled “Do you speak English?” She laughed, and then changed languages for me. She left and I waited almost a full hour, reading about the technological history of film sound and trying to stay awake. Finally, a doctor I hadn’t met before came in and, without even examining me, explained the process. He spoke good English and drew pictures. He also explained the possible side effects: infection, inflammation, nerve damage. I signed the document and we went into the surgery room.

It was a typically cold looking place, all metal and white light. Some gentle American pop music was playing on a small boom box. They strapped me into various monitoring devices and went to work. They sterilized the area and layered me in gauze and other coverings. I felt about a half dozen tiny pin pricks around the area where they applied the anesthetic.

Throughout the surgical process I could feel various types of pressures, tuggings and scrapings. It felt as if they were doing this to a thick bandage covering my skin, rather than the skin itself. But what freaked me out was the sound. The cyst was very close to my ear so I could hear every detail. There’s nothing quite like the sound of scissors snipping through skin. I played a little guessing game with the whole process: Now they’re scraping the bugger out. Now they’re snipping again. Now they’re sucking out the juice. Now they’re suturing.

I was connected to a beeping heart monitor the whole time. I played a little game with that as well. I wanted to see how slow I could make it go through relaxation. I didn’t have much success. The moment I heard a new sound or conjured some horrible thought, the beeping accelerated. They all spoke in Korean, so I didn’t understand anything they were saying. But I paid close attention to emotions and inflections. I heard curiosity, indecision, fascination, laughter, decisiveness, and finally that musical vocal sound of the work nearing an end. It finished with the only English word I heard: “OK.”

They removed all my layers and detached the machines. The nurse showed me my incision with mirrors, then showed me the disgusting creature they removed. Wow, I said. It’s big! she said. She helped me off the table and led me by the arm to my waiting room (which read, simply, 짐). I asked her if she could take a picture of the beast and she said yes, so I gave her my camera. I changed back into my clothes and she came back a few minutes later. (I’ll post the pic in a couple days. ew.)

She told me to sit down and then sat down next to me. “Mr. 짐,” she began. Then she went through all the precautions and expectations for the next month or so. I have to take antibiotics and pain killers for the next five days. After six days I can remove the stitches. No alcohol or tobacco for a month. I have to go back in tomorrow for a cleaning, then again Monday for a checkup. So I have to stay in Seoul for the next three days.

She asked me a lot of questions too. When did I come to Korea? Why am I doing this in Seoul and not Pusan? What’s my occupation? She was very nice and very pretty and I couldn’t tell how much was relevant and how much was small talk. So of course I managed to develop a quick crush on her.

Then I asked a few questions: Is it okay to travel to Singapore and Malaysia in two weeks? It shouldn’t be a problem, so long as there’s no infection or complications. I play drums in a band… Oh really? Yeah. …Is it okay to play a show I have booked for next weekend? Sure, no problem.

And that was it. My first surgery (not counting the many times I got stitches for being a hyperactive kid). The only bummer is not being able to drink for half of my vacation, including the band reunion in Singapore. Oh well, given the prices of alcohol in that area, it’s probably a blessing in disguise. By the time I get to Langkawi, land of cheap booze, a full month will have passed. More on that in a future post.


2 Responses to “Vanity surgery day”

  1. You got to wear pajamas?
    You have to take your own stitches out?

  2. I’ll have the stitches removed in Pusan.

    I went in for cleaning today and the guy said there was some fluid building up under the stitches. The reason is because it was such a big cut to get the bugger out. So he said they might have to cut again on Monday.

    That doesn’t sound good. But we’ll have to wait and see.

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