Lesbians in Stitches
E-mailing with a Southern writer friend who was about to have back surgery, I tried to think of funny things to say. Laughter relieves pain by distracting us and by triggering the release of endorphins, our natural painkillers. I suggested a humorous anthology of surgery stories. After a few attempts I came up with the title Lesbians in Stitches. My friend immediately wrote back, “I’m in!”
It all started with my sweetheart’s hysterectomy. The first step for me, despite being a college grad and an English major, was learning to spell hysterectomy, which I did by using my trusty spell checker. It’s not much of a teacher, but it’s a great labor saving device. But then, so’s a hysterectomy—a labor saving device that is, in at least one sense.
Then there was the prep for the surgery. My poor sweetheart. They had her drinking people Drano for 12 hours. You figure with a major surgery coming up, you can have a great last meal, like steak and mashed potatoes and NO green vegetables and then maybe a pint of Dulce de Leche ice cream to balance your diet with dairy. But alas, she was given a double dose of two kinds of Drano and they needed an unconscionably long time to work. Too late she learned she was not invited to her own last supper.
Hungry, thirsty and with normal apprehension, my sweetheart directed me to the best spot in the hospital’s parking facility. She’d developed an intimate acquaintance with that lot while enduring eight nightmare days of half-living in my room after I had my left knee replaced last year. I was determined not to leave her side as I knew it was my sweetheart’s vigilant presence that saved my life when homeless embolisms decided to squat in my lungs.
My sweetheart is home recuperating now and the big news of the day is that her Steri-Strips have all fallen off and her stitches have been revealed in all their glory. The other stitches, that is. We were surprised to learn that she’d been stitched up inside too, and more surprised that those stitches do not dissolve. They tend to be found on exiting the body. Fortunately, my sweetheart has been reading posts on hystersisters.com, a woman-to-woman on-line support group, where veterans of the procedure—and there are many, many, many—write about their experiences and read what others went through.
Just a few weeks before, another friend had a double mastectomy. A couple of months before that, yet another had the same procedure. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I have enough fingers to count the number of lesbians I know who have undergone that procedure. Knees, chests, bellies, what lesbians over a certain age aren’t in stitches?
It’s hard on gay couples to anticipate surgery, but on the way into the operating room last year, a Christian nurse asked us if she could pray before they knocked me out. That kind of knocked me out itself: two dykes getting our souls prayed over. Or maybe she was praying the doctor would replace the correct knee.
Seriously, Florida is where, just last year, a woman fell ill while on a cruise. Her partner was denied access; the woman died. We were horrified, but when we went in to register at our Florida hospital, there was absolutely no question. The forms we filled out let us check “next of kin” and “life partner.” Wow. I was stunned. Not stunned enough to be wheeled to the ER, but stunned nonetheless. In 2010, even in Florida, our bond was recognized and respected.
I was the one the surgeon asked for when she finished stitching and I was the one who got to stay in the room to protect my sweetheart from vampires looking to draw blood or mistakes in medications. When my sweetheart said I was spending the night, the nurse rolled in a recliner. I couldn’t figure out how to recline the darned thing until 4 a.m. and then was so wiped out I slept through the surgeon’s first visit, but I was there, a very Significant Other.
Our Southern writer friend had her back surgery yesterday. Her partner texted that all went well. I wonder how many stitches she had and if they were able to choose “life partner” on the registration form. I wonder what we will check if, after we marry, one of us has to get stitched up again. I don’t want any scalpels slipping at the mention of a lesbian marriage.
Somebody needs to run with this Lesbians in Stitches anthology idea. What have other dykes gone through? Knowing lesbian writers, reading one another’s stories will have us in stitches.
Email Lee Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org.