Published January 18. 2013 4:00AM
I'm pretty sure my father is going to get mad when he reads this article.
When I was a kid, he made me write down the definition of "appropriate" 50 times after I told a dirty joke in front of a priest who came to our house for dinner.
I had to do a pacemaker once, on an austere woman who reminded me too much of the nun who gave me a detention in seventh grade for flirting with a girl named Kelly. When I made the initial incision, the patient was deeply sedated, her head and body draped in a sterile blue field. While we worked, someone said something funny, followed by a dirty joke, which reminded me of a truly dirty joke, which I - of course - told (unrepeatable here). The blue drape shook.
The scrub-nurse and I stared wide-eyed at each other, afraid that our patient had been awake.
"Are you OK?" the nurse asked.
"Pretty funny," the patient said, giggling, and drifted back to sleep.
When I went to see her later, she had a school principal's stare.
"How are you?" I asked.
"Fine," she said.
"Do you remember anything from the pacemaker implantation?"
"No. I didn't feel anything."
Recently, I was on the other side of the blue drape. When Gatch (Dr. Daniel Gaccione) said he could fix the pain in my shoulder, my surgery date was set. At Pequot, Eric Balch, the anesthesiologist, gave me a shot and then he said something hysterical and I laughed so hard, it hurt. And then I woke up, trying to recall what Balch said.
Three days later I was back at work in the ICU with a comatose patient. The ICU nurse kept smiling at me, as if we shared an inside joke.
Finally, she said, "How's your shoulder?"
"How did you know?" I asked.
"Are you kidding? I was your recovery nurse. You talked to me for over an hour," she noted.
I had absolutely no recollection of that conversation. Under normal conditions, I struggle to prevent myself from saying inappropriate things that I think are funny (just ask my wife), and here was this nurse, who incidentally is one of the prettiest nurses in the hospital, with whom I spoke for an hour while stoned on anesthesia drugs, disinhibited more than usual, and to whom I said God-knows-what.
"Eeewweell, did I say anything stupid or inappropriate?" I asked.
"Nothing inappropriate," she said. She didn't comment on the stupid part, but at least I dodged the inappropriate bullet again.
A few days later, I was at a party when I saw the pastor of a local church, someone I like and respect. I told him I'd just had shoulder surgery and I showed how I could raise my arm over my head. When he seemed impressed, I joked that my secret was that I rubbed Viagra on my shoulder so that I can raise it up over my head. He turned red. I kept on, saying that if my arm stays up for more than four hours, I'd have to seek immediate medical attention. He just walked away.
When I got home, I decided I might have to write down the definition of "appropriate" a few more times.