Morris wheeled Benson into the recovery room, a long, low-ceilinged room where patients were brought immediately after operation. The NPS had a special section of the rec room, as did cardiac patients and burns patients. But the NPS section, with its cluster of electronic equipment, had never been used before. Benson was the first case.
Benson looked pale but otherwise fine; his head and neck were heavily bandaged. Morris supervised his transfer from the rolling stretcher to the permanent bed. Across the room, Ellis was telephoning in his operative note. If you dialed extension 1104, you got a transcribing machine. The dictated message would later be typed up by a secretary and inserted in Benson's record.
Ellis's voice droned on in the background. "… centimeter incisions were made over the right temporal region, and 2-millimeter burr holes drilled with a K-7 drill. Implantation of Briggs electrodes carried out with computer assistance on the LIMBIC Program. Honey, that's spelled in capital letter, L-I-M-B-I-C. Program. X-ray placement of electrodes determined with computer review as within established limits. Electrodes sealed with Tyler fivation caps and seven-oh-grade dental sealer. Transmission wires- "
"What do you want on him?" the rec-room nurse asked.
"Vital signs Q five minutes for the first hour, Q fifteen for the second, Q thirty for the third, hourly thereafter. If he's stable, you can move him up to the floor in six hours."
The nurse nodded, making notes. Morris sat down by the bedside to write a short operative note:
Short operative note on Harold F. Benson
Pre-op dx: psychomotor (temporal lobe) epilepsy
Post-op dx: same
Procedure: implantation of twin Briggs electrode arrays into right temporal lobe with subdermal placing of computer and plutonium charging unit.
phenobarbital 500 mg
one hr. prior to
atropine 60 mg procedure
Anaesthesia: lidocaine (1/1000) epinephrine locally
Estimated blood loss: 250 cc
Fluid replacement: 200 cc D5/W Operative duration: 1 hr. 12 min. Post-op condition: good
As he finished the note, he heard Ross say to the nurse,
"Start him on phenobarb as soon as he's awake." She sounded angry.
He looked up at her. "Something the matter?"
"No," she said.
"You seem angry."
"Are you picking a fight with me?"
"No," he said, "of course- "
"Just make sure he gets his phenobarb. We want to keep him sedated until we can interface him."
And she stormed out of the room. Morris watched her go, then glanced over at Ellis, who was still dictating but had been watching. Ellis shrugged.
"What's the matter with her?" the nurse asked.
"Probably just tired," Morris said. He adjusted the monitoring equipment on the shelf above Benson's head. He turned it on and waited until it warmed up. Then he placed the temporary induction unit around Benson's taped shoulder.
During the operation, all the wires had been hooked up, but they were not working now. Before that happened, Benson had to be "interfaced." This meant determining which of the forty electrodes would stop an epileptic seizure, and locking in the appropriate switches on the subdermal computer.
Because the computer was under the skin, the locking in would be accomplished by an induction unit, which worked through the skin. But the interfacing couldn't be done until tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the equipment monitored Benson's brainwave activity. The screens above the bed glowed a bright green, and showed the white tracing of his EEG. The pattern was normal for alpha rhythms slowing from sedation.
Benson opened his eyes and looked at Morris.
"How do you feel?" he asked.
"Sleepy," he said. "Is it beginning soon?"
"It's over," Morris said.
Benson nodded, not at all surprised, and closed his eyes.
A rad-lab technician came in and checked for leakage from the plutonium with a Geiger counter. There was none. Morris slipped the dog tag around Benson's neck. The nurse picked it up curiously, read it, and frowned.
Ellis came over. "Time for breakfast?"
"Yes," Morris said. "Time for breakfast."
They left the room together.