One Percent

I am the one percent.

Not the one percent you hear about on the news. The other one percent. The one where a doctor says, “You have a one percent chance of experiencing complications.”

That’s my one percent.

It started with a kidney stone. TMI, yes, but after weeks and weeks of drinking over a gallon of water every day, the darn thing still hadn’t passed. So, my urologist recommended a procedure in which he’d snake a little chomping thing up where the sun don’t shine, and he’d snag that stone and haul it out.

I remember lying on the table. There were masked faces looking down at me. The clock on the wall said 7:55. I remember the surgeon saying he was ready to begin and telling me the procedure would take thirty minutes.

I woke to a sea of angry faces with the clock now a few minutes after twelve, and one livid surgeon shouting, “THERE WAS NO STONE!”

My BP was 75/40 when they shoved me in a chair and wheeled me to the car. There was talk that I was an attention seeker, and they should not encourage me. “Make it uncomfortable for her to be here. Make her think twice before she does this again.” The surgeon even went into the waiting room and yelled at my husband.

Two weeks later, I was back for my follow-up, still in pain, mortified at the prospect of facing this man. They x-rayed me on the way in. “Procedure,” they said, even when I told them there had been no stone.

The surgeon stood in the hallway outside my exam room staring at the x-ray. Staring at his feet. Staring at the x-ray. Finally, my johnny and I walked into the hallway and stood beside him.

He said, “Maybe once every couple years I miss a stone.”

I said, “Am I off the stupid bimbo list?”

“I never thought—”

“Am I OFF the stupid bimbo list?”


“Okay. What do we do next?”

Next was a repeat of the previous procedure, this time in his office and without sedation. It did not go well, but he did say, “You’re a good patient.”

Later that week, an herb by the name of slippery elm came to my rescue. Easy peasy. I’ll remember this herb if I ever OD on Tums again.

I put the ordeal out of my mind for many years, until my dentist recommended I have four impacted wisdom teeth removed. The oral surgeon recommended doing so under general anesthesia. The surgery took place on a glorious, sunny Friday afternoon.

The moment I woke, I knew something was horribly wrong. My face was HUGE. And numb. I couldn’t feel my tongue. The surgeon had left for the golf course, and the nurse in Recovery looked nervous.

I was sent home with the surgeon’s pager number—call if anything went wrong. On Sunday, when the swelling began to go down, and I got the feeling back in my tongue, I realized my right jaw was hanging. I paged the surgeon and told him my jaw was either dislocated or broken, because, “I can’t close my mouth, and my teeth don’t line up.”

He yelled at me for paging him and told me to call his office in the morning.

The next day, he quickly ushered me through his waiting room, looked at my mouth, and said, “The jaw may be cracked and dropping a bit. If that bothers you, you can come back Friday, and I’ll put hooks on it to help it line up better.”

I went to my PCP. He sent me to the ER for x-rays. My mandible was in two pieces.

At the hospital, a nurse got in my husband’s face and said, “DID YOU DO THIS?”

He replied, “Do I LOOK like an oral surgeon?” Made me laugh. Jim can always make me laugh.

A very nice and very competent oral surgeon repaired my broken jaw with plates and screws. Thanks to the nerve damage, I was in screaming pain for 18 months. My chin and lower teeth are numb to this day, and my lower lip is marginally crooked.

Why am I revisiting these experiences today?

Three weeks ago, I had a very small stroke. Turns out, I have one vertebral artery completely blocked and one carotid artery 90% blocked. Tomorrow, I have surgery to open up that carotid. I have about a 1.5% chance of complications.

Buckle up.


8 thoughts on “One Percent

  1. I didn’t know about the kidney stone… I remember the jaw. 😦 Tomorrow, the procedure will go flawlessly. I can feel it. Hugs!

  2. Holy cow! Comparatively speaking, my life is totally dull. So glad you survived all this, and I wish you a speedy recovery and an uneventful life going forward. 😏

  3. You are an extraordinary woman and no doubt the 98.5% will win the day again! As long as you can still smile, and you can, life is good, really good, really! Thanks for sharing your horror stories in such a magical way. I can relate to some instances very well. You encourage me to think about my own eventful times in a doctor’s vice! Take care and come back to tell the story.

  4. Nancy, i met you thru the No Pipeline campaign, and enjoyed your thoughtful comments. The treatment you have received at the hands of the medical community sound unbelievable but I know they are too true! Wishing you well–no, scratch that, I am praying intensely for you to have a successful procedure, quick recovery, and no more medical errors. Yeech. Gotul Guwande’s book Being Mortal, tells about some of the complications of the medicine today—and he is a surgeon. If you haven’t read it, do so now! It will empower you, I think.
    Michelle Scott in Mason
    PS Can I bring you healing soup? I love making healthy soups…

    • Hi, Michelle! The surgery went great. Everyone at Beth Israel was wonderful. 🙂
      I’d kill for soup, but I no longer live in Mason. If anyone asks what they can bring me, I’ll probably ask for parsnips. I have chicken and celery and parsley and spinach… might have to get off the couch for a little while. 🙂

      • Well done to everyone at Beth Israel and soup is being served soon. Congratulations on your recovery and great sense of humor not dimmed in the slightest. Get well soon.

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