I developed kidney stones when I was four years old. This was back long before laser surgery, so removing them had to be done the old fashion way. Because of my young age and assorted health issues, no surgeon wanted to cut me open to remove them, so I wound up monitoring them through regular check ups. Various procedures were performed during these check ups with varying degrees of intrusion. The most intrusive up until I had the laser surgery a decade later was a horrifying experience well beyond the procedure itself.
Doctors were going to insert a tube which would travel through my urinary track up into my kidney and send images to a monitor for the doctors to view. I will leave it up to your imagination the tube's entry point. I was about six at the time, so putting me to sleep with a general anesthetic for the whole deal was the only reasonable option. They could not have a terrified child thrashing about in fear and discomfort during such a delicate procedure.
I spent the night in the hospital because because I was due up for the operating room first thing in the morning. A nurse came in very early to give me a short in the quad. It was a mild sedative to keep me from panicking. It gave me a light, pleasant buzz, but a small child's imaginaginings of the torments about to be inflicted by strangers in masks cannot quite be tamed by medication.
The hospital had a practice of an orderly pulling children to the operating room in a little red wagon to make the scary trip seem like fun. I remember the orderly asking me if I liked racecars, then making engine noises. I was not amused.
When we got into the operating room, the orderly cradled me in order to lift me up onto the operating table. I stared up at the four bright lights while a nurse put one of those surgical caps they all war on me. She smiled, then walked out of view. Suddenly, the anesthesiologist came out of nowhere from the head of the table and put the ether mask over my face. It was such a surprise, I panicked. I began breathing so heavily my chest hurt. Breathing that hard caused the mask to cling to my face. It scared me into thinking I was suffocating, so I tried to get up. I was having none of this.
The staff was not having any of my antics, either. I felt two hands on me. One was on my left shoulder. A man came into view. It was his hand. The nurse who had put the surgical cap on my a moment before put her hand on my right arm, and began stroking my head to calm me down. The two were trying to soothe me, but I fell into a terrified panic.
They had no eyes.
Their eyes were just empty sockets, with blackness floating deep into their skulls. With the surgical masks covering their faces, it was an horrific sight. What atrocities were these monsters going to do to me while I was unconscious? I tried to fight off sleep, but I could not. I 'floated' for a few seconds, then nothing but black.
When I awakened, everything was back to normal. I stayed in the hospital another couple hours, and was released. My parents even got permission to take me to my favorite fast food place instead of the normal requirement of eating a meal safely before being discharged. The doctors in charge said everything went perfect, so why not/ I had been a good boy. I deserved the reward.
I never mentioned to anyone what I had seen just before falling asleep, but it still traumatizes me now. I have had various procedures and operations in the years since, and I have insisted on IV medication to put me under. I have never suffered the experience again, so I guess I have associated it with e with the mask and ether. If I had surgery tomorrow, I would still insist on IV anesthetic. I will never run the risk of seeng those faces again.