Body Voices

Can I Have a Few Kilos of Fat Removed Along With My Gallbladder, I Ask My Surgeon

Sunita Pandey tries to view her father's recent death and her own gallbladder-removal operation with a pinch of salt.

By Sunita Pandey, Lucknow

It’s just too soon. I lost my father just a month ago. It’s all a blur. The months of chemo, then that last nine-day vigil in the hospital, the ceremonies, the visitors. I haven’t even cried properly yet. And the very idea of a hospital is anathema for me.

I know my gallstone needs to be removed but does it have to be so soon? Loving cousins tell me how brave I am, how composed.

I am not. I am scared. I want to keep away from hospitals.

The husband and I have already had one long dramatic spat, that too in front of the children. The husband throws his phone on the floor. I too want to throw mine (at him) but the reasonable part of my mind reminds me this is the only one I have, and it has all my contacts.

All this drama is but a manifestation of my fears. My hope is that the Delhi surgeon will dismiss the Lucknow ultrasound and say there is nothing wrong with you, ma’am.

“You’ve probably been eating too many pakodis and it’s just gas rumbling around your middle.”

Alas, that is not so. I am admitted to the hospital.

The operation to remove my gallbladder is scheduled the morning after. That evening I sit staring out of the hospital window. I remember the last few days at home. How I would look out my bedroom window at the garden, wallowing in self pity, my loss, my stone, my worries, what a lousy life I had. Now looking out at this green stretch, how I long for that chair at home, that view, even that ‘lousy life’.

The next morning, I want the operation to be done and over with. I am bored now. I declare I want to spew out a string of abuses: the F-word many times and then MANY Hindi equivalents. The daughter-in-law is gently encouraging. She is all for catharsis. The husband finds a more comfortable seat to enjoy the spectacle better.

Then I look at the son. He has this pained expression on his face. I see him preparing to cover his ears and lose heart. “But I need some drama, son,” I wail. Meanwhile the daughter too arrives and we all discuss other ideas to reduce boredom.

A team of attendants wheel in the stretcher. Instant confusion. The husband gets preoccupied with hauling out his Bhagwanji statues and Hanuman Chalisa so I can seek their blessings.

I am busy yelling instructions to the daughter that she should keep the lemon pickle sent by nani in the sun.

She in turn yells to ask why am I acting as if I am not coming back? I mull over matters a bit and realise I wouldn’t like these to be my last words handed over for posterity, anyway: “Achar ko dhoop dikha dena.” I don’t even make pickle, for god’s sake.

My surgeon is the head of the bariatric surgery unit too. The daughter-in-law has been reading how he is in the Guinness Book of Records for removing a huge amount of fat from a teenager. “Ma, why don’t you ask him to remove a couple of kilos while he is removing the gallbladder,” she suggests.

The idea of “buy one get one free” rather entrances me. I spend the rest of the trip down to the OT trying to compose my request so it won’t be shot down.

In the OT, the head of the anaesthesia team Dr D arrives to ask if I am comfortable. I tell him that after my last surgery my throat had felt sore for hours. He reassures me. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I feel.

I convey my daughter-in-law’s wishes for my fat reduction to him.

I hear muffled laughter in the background. Dr D very seriously turns down my request: “Not possible, ma’am. That needs a separate kind of preparation.” Over the mask, I can see his eyes gleaming with mirth. Ah well, I tried. I wriggle more comfortably on the bed and then I am out.

Waking up in the recovery room is so much easier than my last surgery. There he is, Dr D. “Would you like something to drink? Tea, coffee?” he asks.

What? Really?! We are having a little tea party in the recovery room now? The last time I had to beg the sister to moisten my lips. She was so scared I’d throw up that she was really stingy with it.

Ohh, that was what drug addicts must feel… the craving for a fix. But now I have carte blanche to drink what I want. What a blessing!

And suddenly I have an epiphany. That is what life is all about, isn’t it? Counting your blessings. One more obstacle that has been thrown on your path. One more obstacle that He / She has chosen to remove. Yup, for the moment, I am all sorted.

Sunita PandeySunita Pandey, 54, is a homemaker, a post-graduate in modern history, and avid NGO volunteer. She has immense faith in the essential goodness of humans.

First published in the Winter 2018 issue of eShe magazine.