I think back to the times that reality has seemingly slipped away from me and I’m transported to times of extreme emotion, intense lucid dreams, and the moments before losing consciousness after being sedated. The latter is the most vivid and of the experiences with my experience getting general anesthetic as an eight year old being the most memorable.
I was about to have my tonsils and adenoids removed at CHEO in Ottawa. Being a children’s hospital, CHEO offered up workshops for kids before their surgeries to go over the process in an effort to reduce stress. I remember meeting a surgeon and an anesthesiologist who explained how surgery and recovery worked. For a science-loving kid, I enjoyed it a lot.
However, on the day of surgery, I was still stressed and didn’t want to go with the nurse to the prep area. From my recollection, there were two parts to the sedation. The first part was a gas sedation followed by an intravenous. Of course, I couldn’t remember the second part but the first was remarkable.
As I went into the prep area, I was surrounded by blue gowned and masked people. They seemed kind. They fastened a mask on me and then told me something. I don’t remember what one of them said — like “it’d be alright” — but I remember my response and their reaction. I told them “I hope I remember that” and they all giggled.
Before the surgery, we were offered to choose the scent we wanted for the anesthetic gas. There were a few choices, among them chocolate and banana. I think I chose cherry. However, I don’t remember a cherry smell.
Instead, I remember a strong chemical smell and then instantly after sniffing it, the reality melting occurred. It literally looked like the fuzzy wavy distortion you see in dream sequences on TV shows. Then, there was the time travel. Poof. I was alone in a recovery area, awake. My throat was sore.
I can’t recall as vividly the other details of the experience. Someone came to see me. At some point I had a popsicle. Later, I saw my parents in a hospital room shared with another kid. I vomited on one of the stuffed animals I had brought with me (I remember because the stain is still there).
However, the space and time melting experience is one that showed me how delicate consciousness is. It’s like the layer of atmosphere around the earth. At any moment, with a few chemicals or physical actions, it can go.
As I grew older, this thought would fill me with anxiety and I’d hyperventilate. Growing even older, I’ve come to an acceptance of it’s etherealness and to appreciate more of this thin layer of reality and all of experience that’s held within it.