Dear Nurse Marge,
How much do people remember, really, when they’re coming out of anesthesia?
Working in recovery, I’ve heard some incredible things. Most of it’s actually pretty funny. All of the filters come off and people say exactly what’s on their mind: people think our docs are really good looking and they want to run away with them, for example. (That’s when we know they’ve gotten the REALLY GOOD drugs!)
Other times, people come ‘out of it’ talking about their biggest fears: they’re really scared, and of course we do our best to calm them down and comfort them.
But I don’t know what to do about one particular instance where a patient really spilled the beans after her operation. She was telling me all kinds of things, in great and graphic detail. Really personal stuff. That’s not the problem: the problem is that she’s a cashier at the grocery store where I shop.
Every time I cash out, she looks at me and I can tell she’s uncomfortable. I’m thinking it’s because she’s worried about what she might have said while she was out. I try to pick another row to check out always — but this makes it look like I’m avoiding her. I don’t want to have to change grocery stores — but I don’t want to make her feel uncomfortable, either! I know they say Versed makes you forget, but I’m pretty sure she remembers.
What Should I Do?
Dear What Should I Do,
Relax. There’s any number of reasons this woman could be unsettled by your appearance that have nothing to do with what she did or didn’t say while coming out of anesthesia. It could be as simple as her knowing you knew she had surgery. We might be used to seeing people in various stages of undress — but that doesn’t mean that our patients are used to being seen that way!
It might not have anything to do with you at all. She might stare at everybody — or you might look exactly like the girl she used to know two jobs ago, and she’s trying desperately to remember your name.
The best advice is to act like nothing ever happened. If she brings it up in conversation (which is going to be tricky while she’s scanning your coupons!) try my method. Here’s what I say: “Absolutely I remember you! What a singing voice! I have to tell you, every time I hear “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” I think of you, singing your heart out and smiling from ear to ear!”
If that doesn’t match what SHE remembers….well, there are worse things.