The pre-op instructions were specific; remove all jewelry on the day of your eye surgery. Dutifully I followed the directions.
I left my watch on the oak bedside table. I dropped my wedding band and three other rings into the china jewelry box. The octagonal lid of the fragile box made a raspy sound as I closed it. I hesitated when it came to the Medic Alert bracelet.
“Perhaps it won’t matter if I leave it on a little bit longer,” I thought. After all I might get into a car accident on the way to the ophthalmologist.
I have worn a form of Medic Alert for as long as I can remember. It has hung around my neck on a stainless steel chain or, in its most recent incarnation, around my wrist in links of gold. More than one doctor has cautioned me to wear it at all times. I wear it when I sleep, when I shower, when I am working, or driving and even when I am hospitalized.
That morning there was also a plastic catheter inserted in a vein on my arm just above the Medic Alert bracelet. The eye surgeon had explained, “The risk of any bleeding with this surgery is very low. However, it is better to get an infusion of clotting factor the day before surgery, just to be safe.”
“Wonderful,” the nurse at the day surgery exclaimed when she saw she would not have to start the I.V. line herself. “That will really speed things up,” she added as she led me to the room with the stretchers. With a few quick tugs she pulled the curtain shut so I could change into a johnny.
“We need to sedate you just enough so that you are awake but cooperative,” she explained, “I’ll be back in a minute to take your vital signs.”
Then the nurse spotted the I.D. bracelet still on my wrist. “How silly of me,” I said as the nurse asked me to allow her to unhook it and remove it to a safe place.
I did not tell her that it is my good luck charm. It is intended to ward off the evil spirits of inappropriate treatment in ambulances or emergency rooms. It is a health care surrogate if I were unconscious or unable to advocate for myself in an emergency.
As long as I have worn this talisman its purpose has never been tested. Not once have I been in a situation where its imprinted medical data has been required. The bracelet has never lived up to its promise. Perhaps it says more about my identity than I want to admit.