The thing I loathe about general anesthesia is the nausea that follows, no matter how many precautions are taken or drugs given. I’ve had several surgeries requiring general anesthesia, and not one time have I escaped without nausea so overwhelming that I can’t move without holding a bag to my mouth. The last time, I woke up in the PACU (post anesthesia care unit) with cold compresses on my face and two nurses doing everything they could to help me stop sweating. I had soaked through three gowns before I even became coherent because I was sweating so profusely. This intense sweat is apparently a sign of nausea. It was one that I hadn’t experienced before and hope to never experience again.
For two of my surgeries, I’ve been given a scopolamine patch to help combat the nausea. This drug is known to be useful for treating sea sickness. The last time, I was given a prescription for it so that I could put the patch on the day before so the drug would already be in my system before surgery. I’m not sure why, because I’d already used the patch, but I looked scopolamine up online. I know that the internet is filled with ridiculous and scary stories, but I couldn’t help looking further than the drug reference sites that held that actual, useful information I needed.
Drowsiness, disorientation and hallucinations are all listed as possible side effects of the drug. Ok, I knew that. But I didn’t know that scopolamine is commonly referred to as “the devil’s breath” in Colombia where it’s a street drug. There have been reports, true or not, that this drug is used to “hypnotize” unsuspecting people into zombies who are willing to clean out their bank accounts and hand over their money. Scary, right?!
I know that the small scopolamine patch behind my ear is a far cry from the “devil’s breath,” but that didn’t stop me from being melodramatic about it. I had these stories in my head before going into surgery, and they apparently stuck with me. When I woke up in the PACU, I sat up, grabbed my friend’s arm and whispered conspiratorially, “You know I have the devil’s breath” before flopping back on to my pillows completely passed out.
I think this time I’ll pretend I’m on a cruise or something more pleasant, so maybe I won’t be worrying about “devil’s breath” when I wake up. I want to wake up with a tan and a drink in my hand.