As Dr. Aguas entered the examining room, I was immediately struck by his demeanor – at once gentle and soft-spoken, yet quietly confident. His initial examination was much more thorough than what I had been given in Wausau, with the doc looking up into my sinuses from the back of my throat – a process that required a tongue depressor and a mirror, as well as a goodly dose of topical anesthetic (and an even more generous dose of patience; my gag reflex worked quite well, thankyewveddymuch). There was a follow-up visit a couple of days later and some more probing and poking. And he gave me his diagnosis: What the doctor in Wausau had referred to as a “polyp” was actually a “juvenile angiofibroma” – a benign tumor on a blood vessel. I believe that the term “benign” was used inasmuch as 1) there was – thank God – no indication of malignancy, and 2) “badass” was – and, as far as I am aware, still is – not a generally accepted medical term. He went on to tell me that this was probably congenital – meaning that I had been carrying the thing around since birth – and that, over time, it had grown to the size of a half-dollar coin (and I write this realizing that there is likely a whole generation out there who may well have never seen a half-dollar in their pocket change). And, suddenly, everything I had experienced over the years started to make sense. (At least the thing about the nosebleeds and the thumping. The thing about not having any game with the girls was still unexplained.) This little beauty would have to be surgically removed; the standard procedure involved going in through the roof of the patient’s mouth…however, given the size of the thing and its behavior over the past week or so, other options might have to be considered. Frankly, it didn’t matter all that much to me; I just wanted this thing taken care of.
I was scheduled to be admitted to the hospital, I believe, the following day; once I was checked in, there was a battery of observations, tests and examinations – some of which were decidedly less pleasant than others. There was one in particular that could only be described as brutal but necessary; I will spare you the details. The one and only cool thing about this particular procedure was that a nursing class got to watch…if nothing else, I helped to further their education. (That class, incidentally, included one of my high school classmates; I still wonder what she thought when she realized that it was me down there.)
Once the results were in and everything was in place, surgery was scheduled for the following Wednesday – March 5 – at 9 AM. The date was given to me on a Friday, I believe; I suppose they had to get everything coordinated, inasmuch as there was a second doctor – Fernando Bersalona – who would be working with Dr. Aguas on the operation. Dr. Bersalona was, for lack of a better term, the “bad cop” to Dr. Aguas’ “good cop”. Don’t get me wrong – Dr. Bersalona was very friendly and personable, a lot more outgoing than Dr. Aguas – but he called it as he saw it; Dr. Aguas later made the comment that Dr. Bersalona “has a lot more guts than I do”. If having one excellent doctor on my side was reassuring, having two was doubly so. So I was not worried at all.
And I was not worried that Monday evening, when another nosebleed erupted. Why should I be? I was in the hospital now, and in good hands. I was not worried when Dr. Aguas was called in. And I was not worried when I was told that they were going to proceed with the surgery right then and there. As I was being prepped, I asked to use the phone. My thought was that if my parents got a call from Dr. Aguas at almost 9 in the evening, they would freak before they even heard what he had to say. Better that they were to hear it from me, I reckoned. For all that, I was still not worried – but now, it was partly because things were happening so quickly that I did not have time to consider the ramifications. I did not have time to ponder why they would suddenly move the operation up a mere day and a half before it had been scheduled to take place – or, for that matter, why they were rolling with it at that late hour of the evening.
The thought that I might not make it to Wednesday never crossed my mind.
The anesthesiologist put the mask over my face and told me to count down from one hundred. I remember making it to ninety-seven.