Pectoriloquy |

Plastic Surgery FREE TO VIEW

Virginia Chase Sutton, MA, MFA
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Editor’s Note: The poet wrote this poem “during and after my father’s elective surgery to repair an aneurysm. He has never been the same since, and this was the first of what I’m sure will be many attempts to explore that truth. I…fund my writing habit by running a children’s art studio.”

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (http://www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).

© 2010 American College of Chest Physicians

Chest. 2010;138(6):1517. doi:10.1378/chest.10-0024
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Everybody does it but most won’t admit it.
And so I chose it too. My upper arms flapped
like white sheets hanging on the line
on laundry day after weight loss. So I detoured
to Buenos Aires where I was sliced
for twenty-five hundred bucks. What I couldn’t
afford back home. At dawn, at the best hospital,
I doused myself with a gallon of antiseptic.
Donned a gown straight out of a Dr. Kildare film
from the thirties—long sleeves, banded wrists.
Then the surgeon undressed me, stood me in a hall
and he marked my arms with lines and whorls,
where he planned to cut. Stroked my arm
while the anesthesiologist jabbed a needle
into my hand. Post-surgery, naked, no gowns
available so I quivered under my blanket.
Curious, I stayed awake all night in my teak-lined
room with white leather sofas. The same shot
used each time, mine marked with a bit of tape.
Early the next morning, I was booted out and
four days later on a plane home, stitches still
elbow to armpit. When my arms turned green, I raced
to the ER where they saved me from infection.
Ten days in a hospital bed, unmoving, I developed
a bed sore. IV blown four times. The surgeon yelled
Book an OR when he couldn’t see the stitches.
Cut open again. He marveled at the beauty of his work,
just thin red lines for scars. They don’t bother me
one whit. Was it worth it? Litany of pre-surgical tests,
primitive conditions, the near-loss of both my arms?
Elective surgery in a country where I didn’t speak
the language? But now I go sleeveless in the coldest
of weather, don’t care that my upper arms have grown
a trifle flabby. Now I fit into shirts and dresses
I always longed for. Never mind the horrific swelling,
lack of mental acuity from pain meds that made
one thigh talk to the other as I listened in. I got
what I wanted. What we all desire but never admit—
changes to the body we’ve been given, desire
for perfection never very far away.




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