My mother needs to pay closer attention when she has surgery – then maybe she wouldn’t be so shocked to learn that a piece of her anatomy is missing, such as, for instance, her lung.
My 71-year-old mother’s recent odyssey back to good health has been a bumpy one since her stay at the Mayo Clinic in October. She’s endured painful tests, scoldings from her cardiologist, sarcastic emergency room physicians, and death-defying rides to doctors appointments in every type of weather from wind advisories to blizzards. And she has endured it all with the aplomb and grace of a foreign diplomat. But not knowing where part of her lung went, well, that one sort of threw her.
“When did you have a lung resection?” her physician asked her curiously on the second day of a recent five-day hospital stay. I was visiting at the time and I noticed the look of confusion on her face.
“What’s a resection?” I interjected.
“It’s when they remove part of your lung,” he explained.
My mother looked at me, I looked at her, the doctor looked at both of us.
“You don’t remember?” he asked, surprised.
Finally my mother said tentatively, “I never had part of my lung removed.”
“Yes you did,” he countered confidently.
My mother, not wanting to be argumentative with her doctor, politely said, “No, I’m sure I never had part of my…”
“Yes you did,” he nodded insistently. “The CT scan results definitely show you had a resection.”
The doctor then inquired where my mother had had her heart bypass surgery four years earlier.
“Perhaps it was done then,” he concluded. “I’ll call and find out,” he said, then turned on his heel and left the room.
My mother turned to me, her eyes wide. “How do you misplace part of a lung?” she said incredulously, shaking her head.
And so began one of the most unusual conversations I ever had with my mother in my life, and the subsequent hunt for the missing section of my mom’s left lung.
“Are you sure no one ever talked to you about taking a piece of your lung when you had your heart surgery?” I pressed.
My mother thought hard, pursing her lips.
“No, I don’t recall that,” she admitted.
“Perhaps they used the term “resection” and you didn’t know what that meant,” I proffered.
“That could be,” my mom nodded. “I was pretty out of it after the heart surgery.”
We sat in silence pondering the missing body part.
“I just don’t know what happened to it,” she puzzled, with the same consternation in her voice she had when she misplaced her jewelry travel case and all its contents two years ago. She never found that, either.
“Well, don’t feel bad mom, I lost my new pajamas somewhere over New Year’s.”
“He looked at me like I was crazy,” she said, referring to her doctor.
“Well, mom, it is a lung.”
“Well, I don’t care where it’s at now,” she said, resignedly. “That was a long time ago.”
Suddenly I’m beginning to wonder how hard she really looked for that jewelry.