My gory career as a plastic-surgery nurse.

Health and medicine explained.
April 4 2006 5:30 PM

Mummysitting

My gory career as a plastic-surgery nurse.

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Illustration by Robert Neubecker. Click image to expand.

I was lying around in the living room on a recent Monday night, watching TV while my wife, Susan, packed for a weeklong getaway with a girlfriend. I wasn't completely tuned in to her, but the snippets coming through left no doubt: This was not your typical spa-and-shopping excursion.

"Let's see," she said cheerfully. "Soups. Music. Movies. Various teas. Paper towels. Simple Green—"

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"What do you need cleanser for?" I interrupted.

"In case we bleed on the furniture."

Silly me for asking. Susan was preparing for a female bonding ritual that I call "mummysitting," which refers to the selfless act of nursing a gal pal when she's recovering from cosmetic surgery. She'd done it once before—a few years ago she helped a buddy who got her lips puffed up, brows lifted, and nose adjusted. But this was to be a bigger, more complicated sit, ripe with potential dramas.

For one thing, Susan was accompanying her friend Anna Holm (to protect this woman's privacy, I've changed her name, in homage to the feisty Joan Crawford character in 1941's plastic-surgery chiller A Woman's Face). Anna was having five procedures done at once, from neck to forehead. That's a lot. Even as a layman, I knew that anybody getting worked that hard would come out looking like a temporary cross between Kukla and Mutant Leader from Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

The other twist: My wife was scheduled to get a nose job herself, two days after Anna's Tuesday-morning surgery. So they needed a second mummysitter, and Susan volunteered you-know-who, providing me with a rare chance to observe this Percocet-fueled pajama party up close. Susan would mummysit Anna the first couple of days. Then, on Wednesday, the night before Susan's schnoz flaying, I would drive from our home to a twin-bedroom hotel suite in a nearby city, where I would help both women by cooking sick-people food, running errands, and replacing "used" gauze.

Strangely, none of this sounded unpleasant. The challenge would call on years of otherwise useless skills I'd racked up—from a tolerance for ooze developed during my career as a boy taxidermist to my unmatched talent for boiling water, opening yogurt, and making toast.

Besides, I needed a break from work, and I was taking along plenty of alcohol. How bad could it be?

As women sometimes do, Susan and Anna assembled a mountain of supplies for the week. Useful: soups, milk, enough bottled water to fill a kiddie pool, assorted comfy blankets and cushions. Surprisingly useless: The complete Sex and the City box set, which mostly went unwatched because both patients were usually zonked.

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