No One Told Me

No one told me I’d wake up looking like a watermelon-shaped Mata Hari with a colorless turban-like thing swooped around my head. Or that I’d have little IVs in my toes that scorched my skin every time I moved. Or that my blood sugar would go crazy from steroids, leading countless nurses to ask if I am diabetic, launching me into a rages of: “No, I am not diabetic. It was the steroids.”

Or that I’d be in the neuro/psych ward where a woman–could have been 27 or 57—-would moan in anguish all night, pleading for someone to bring her baby back.

Or when I politely vented about not sleeping because of her anguish, and asked her age, the nurse would just curl up the edge of her lip. Or when I suggested maybe the moaner was “sundowning,” the nurse would be shocked — “that’s a very specific medical term.”

No one had informed the nurse I was not the normal patient — that a Human Biology degree from Stanford made me a quasi medical professional, or at minimum a good faker.

My almost six-hour surgery the day before was to correct glossopharyngeal neuralgia, a condition that made it feel like a collection of dozens of toothpicks was connecting with my throat or that a fraction of those would intermittently pierce my left ear canal.

Doctors along the way did mention that swallowing after the surgery might be an issue, but I didn’t really understand that until I chocked, coughed, and spit up water. Water, you see, is too thin. Swallowing that I couldn’t fake.

One of the nerves the surgeons monkeyed around with to fix the terrible pain that en-grossed my face governs swallowing. Another one is in charge of balance. It’s good that I can walk to the fridge without tumbling. It’s just too bad that the only real food I can eat is tiny morsels the size of cat kibble.


A former journalist, Kristen Henderson now writes flash and memoir. When she was bored during the pandemic, she founded Bright Flash Literary Review. It’s a labor of love and she loves it. Kristen splits her time between her homes in Los Angeles, CA, and Lamy, NM, where the sky never ends.