I got a birthday card in the mail yesterday. A most insulting, most unwelcome card. My birthday’s not for several more months, so I thought it must be a mistake, but no. It was addressed to me, with a most sincere letter of congratulations and an invitation to join the AARP.

How rude.

To sprinkle a bit of lemon juice into the scratch to my dignity, I just had a procedure that is recommended when one reaches a certain age. It involves staying up all night to drink this straight-from-Hades concoction, which is supposed to be consumed within a fifteen minute period but because I am clearly an infant, it took me hours. So you see, based on my maturity level and my inability to take my medicine like a grownup, I am clearly not ready for the AARP.

Despite the fact that it took me hours instead of minutes, I did consume every drop of the rancid stuff. When I showed up for the appointment, everyone from the receptionist to the nurse to the anesthesiologist said, “You’ve got this. The worst part is over.”

They lied.

First, the place was colder than an Arctic igloo. They made me strip down to my socks and gave me this thin little excuse for a gown. I tied it shut, and the nurse immediately untied it so they could get in there. I shivered. I asked for more heated blankets—I want one of those blanket warmer things for my birthday—but the warm aaaaaaah feeling only lasted a couple of minutes because did I tell you? The place was colder than a betrayed ex-girlfriend’s stare.

 Then the nurse smacks on the back of my hand like it’s a spider she wants to smash to smithereens. “Your veins don’t want to pop out today,” she says.

Of course they don’t. The sub-zero temperature has sent them into hibernation.

She tries once, twice, and finally, on the third try, the needle finds the vein. Sort of. It hurts like heck, and I ask if she’s sure it’s in there right.

“Oh, yes. It’s in there,” she says. “Don’t worry. The worst part is over.”

A short time later, she passes me off to three more nurses who wheel me into the smallest-ever operating room. One of them, we’ll call him Steve, says he’s the nurse anesthetist. “It’ll be fine,” he says. “The worst part is over.”

He hooks me up to the sleepy juice, presses a button, and says, “This may sting a little.”

That’s when it all goes to Sheol in a shell bucket. Sting a little, my foot! It stings a lot. Then a lot more. The burn increases and climbs its way up my arm, and I know there’s been some kind of mistake. That’s not anesthesia they’re pumping into my veins. That’s acid.

I’ve had plenty of surgeries and procedures in my life, and I have never, ever experienced agony like that. I felt like something was eating away at my arm from the inside out. I screamed in pain.
“It should ease up soon,” Steve says.

It doesn’t. I reach to try and yank the thing out, and he holds down my hands. That’s the last thing I remember. I’m not sure if the drugs did a thing. I think I just passed out from the pain.

Next thing I know, a different nurse calls my name and tells me it’s time to wake up. That’s when I start to sob like a little baby. All I can think of is that pain and the torture of being held down and I knew they were trying to kill me. The poor nurse didn’t know quite what to do. She hands me a box of Kleenex and tells someone to go get my husband.

A Google search, later that day, told me that my experience is relatively common. Apparently, the drug Propofol is far more acidic than the human body, and the acidity causes a severe burn. Propofol is supposed to be administered with a dose of Lidocaine, to numb the area. But for some reason, they don’t always do that.

I’ll end the story there, because I don’t really want to talk about it any more. Just writing about it has been traumatic enough. But my experience has painted a pretty accurate picture in my mind of the importance of pairing truth with love.

At times in my life, I’ve been guilty of speaking my mind, of speaking the truth, without any love attached. When I do that, it can be like administering Propofol without the Lidocaine. It stings. It burns. It causes trauma and nightmares and deep emotional damage. Don’t get me wrong—truth is important, just like Propofol was important to my procedure. But when I add love and kindness to the delivery process, the truth becomes less harsh. It becomes less painful. Love is to truth what Lidocaine is to Propofol.

I wish I could take back all the harsh things I’ve said to others, true as they may have been. As painful as my experience was, it painted a valuable picture in my mind about how much damage I can do, if I don’t temper my words with love.

Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly-perfect children, and far too many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.