I made my video debut last week while undergoing outpatient surgery.

Although I reported early, I had no make-up session. For my premiere, I wore a gown stamped "hospital" and no lipstick or mascara.

Since I didn't want a pale, permanent record of myself in that outfit in the family library, I declined the surgeon's offer of a copy of the tape.

Audition for this video occurred when my physician detected a slight abnormality which needed removal. He scheduled me forfilming at the ambulatory surgery unit of a Baltimore County hospital.

The ambulatory concept reflects the community's rushed lifestyle and helps streamline costs. Tender loving care is still in, but pampering is out.

Patients -- hungry, thirsty and grouchy from an enforced 10-hour fast -- walk in and sign up for minor nips and tucks. The slightly sick all don a backless dress and go to sleep with a little help from the friendly anesthesiologist.

I had the usual pre-performance jitters, but still felt in control of the situation when I recorded name, address and phone number with the receptionist.

Heronly line, "Who is driving you home?" burst all illusions of independence.

After surgery, groggy from anesthesia and sometimes incision-sore, patients need a chauffeur.

The staff tries to allay patient anxiety, putting everyone on a friendly, first-name basis.

Dr. Mike, the anesthesiologist, offered pre-op play by play. Kim and Kellyintroduced themselves as my operating room nurses. I couldn't get anyone to call me Mary Gail, though. The name is too long.

None of the players looked much older than my college-age daughter. How did they land parts in my medical drama? I wanted a gray-haired, wrinkled cast that looked wise and experienced.

I can't describe details from the actual film sequence. Once Mike told me the stuff he was tubingin would make me feel cross-eyed, I bowed out. Lights, camera, action all commenced while the star slept.

I awoke to my doctor's description of a few minor surgical complications that necessitated an overnight stay.

Since I couldn't wake up, where I stayed made little difference.

They also should film the waiting room. Action aboundsas anxious relatives pace and exchange details until the doctor enters.

He provided my husband with a diagram of the surgery and told him he could visit me on the third floor after I awoke.

Experiencetold my husband he would have plenty of time to return home and packan overnight bag with a few necessities. Although we have conflicting ideas on what's necessary, he assumed I would be grateful.

He said he felt reassured once he heard a wifely complaint, "You really aren't going to ask me to move off this stretcher, are you?"

Hospitals and insurance companies discourage overnight guests. If you must stay, mend quickly and don't get too comfortable.

Stressing the need for self-reliance, they offer "control-your-own-destiny" pain medication. Don't call a nurse, do it yourself.

Carefully monitored by the staff, patients in pain self-inject by pushing a little button atthe first stab of discomfort.

Rest is critical to recovery.

They tell you to rest, but they don't mean it. Just as you doze off, a nurse dragging a squeaky blood pressure machine-on-wheels begins her rounds. You hear her coming from rooms away.

They know that you'llleave even faster if they match you with a roommate from hell.

My roomie wheeled in right after me, chatting loudly in medicalese. A staff nurse, she portrayed her surgery in graphic detail, assuring mehers was much more serious, complicated and painful than mine could ever hope to be.

Besides, she was a super woman who worked a full shift minutes before swapping her white uniform for an exact replica of the gown I was wearing.

She provided me with hourly bulletins of her progress throughout the night and frequently switched to friendly conversations on the subject of her husband and children.

She treated her nursing colleagues to repeats of the information as they dropped in to check on us.

I recall fondly the days of pampering during my last maternity visit to a hospital. While that baby has been growing up these past 13 years, hospitals have rethought their strategies.

I could really relate to soothing sponge baths and back rubsthat since have been scrubbed in the name of efficiency. The morningafter surgery, the floor nurse told me she had pushed a chair up to the bathroom sink.

"Have a seat and clean up a bit, if you want," she said as she left my room.

What a way to treat a superstar!

They asked me to share my dressing room with another prima donna. They dressed us in identical outfits and eliminated pampering, rest and relaxation.

I walked off that set the very next day.

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