Saturday, November 04, 2006

I'm Alive, I'm Alive!!!

I made it! I am still drawing breath. Admittedly, it was touch and go there for a while. It only took five or six liters of blood and two or three hits with the paddles (Clear! Blap!,) but I pulled through against all odds. Miracles do happen. Thank gosh!

My wife and I arrived at the Whacknut Surgical Center and Rendering Plant just before noon yesterday. We were guided to a smallish room filled with chairs, most of which were taken, to check in at a small desk. Apparently, the place is undergoing some major remodeling as this room was partitioned with temporary walls. After several papers were presented and duly signed, some of which inform you that there is a reasonable chance that you will not leave the facility vertically, I was handed one of those blinking, vibrating, buzzer thingys they give you at some restaurants. A few minutes later, it blinked, buzzed and vibrated, and I met a nurse who was to accompany me back to a prep room. I tried to pre-order a "bloomin' onion," but she was having none of it. On the way back we stopped at a scale to get my weight. She asked me my height while I was on the scale. I responded that according to my weight I should be about 6'10", but alas, I measure in at only around 5'9".

After we got to the prep room, I changed into two rather immodest hospital gowns and the nurse proceeded to buoy my spirits by informing me how much pain, nausea and vomiting I could expect during the next 24 to 48 hours.

She set me up with an IV needle - I am a true wus when it comes to needles, but I managed to make it through without swooning. They called my wife, Jo back to further explain how awful the next day or so was likely to be. Thus reassured it was time to head for the surgical theatre. That's what they called it. I don't think I was the main feature. I was just one of the selected short subjects. I kissed Jo and bid her a tearful, and for all I knew, a final goodbye.

Upon my arrival, I was instructed to mount the surgical table which was minimally adequate for my rotundity. I just hoped I wouldn't toss & turn during the procedure. To forestall that possiblity a strap to secure me to the table was placed around my ample belly. The IV was hooked up, and a number of monitor thingys were attached to my fingers and taped to my chest (ooh, to be hairless,) and another stuck across my forehead. The anesthetist said that I should start feeling drowsy from the IV drip. I said, no I didn't feel a thing. That was my last moment of consciousness. Out like a light.

My next conscious sensation was in the recovery room. I was shaking like a leaf. They put a couple of warm blankets over me to no avail. Then came a shot of Demoral (truly one of man's greatest inventions) and I soon settled down. (Perhaps I was still shaking, but just didn't give a damn, I'm not sure.) In time I was wheeled back to the prep room, and a bit later my wife was summoned back as well. As I became more focussed, I realized that my mouth was so dry I could barely open it (some would consider that a good thing,) and my throat felt like someone had used a dry luffa sponge on it, and left bits of sand and grit there as well. (An air tube had been inserted in my throat at the onset of the surgery to insure my continued breathing, which they say is important, and also to allow for the heavy duty anesthetic gases to be pumped into my system.) I managed to pry my mouth open and squeaked out a request for something to drink - perhaps an aperitif. What I got was 7Up. I was also painfully aware of a truly bitter taste in my mouth, presumably from the aforementioned gases, which, when mingled with the overly sweet 7Up, actually became worse. At least I got some moisture in my mouth offering some relief.

My wife's Aunt Rose, the wife of the recently departed Uncle John, whom I mentioned in an earlier post, came to see me. That was very nice of her. Her son-in-law, Ed also came just after leaving a dentist where he had had four of his front teeth pulled. He was in worse shape than I, as he was still bleeding rather profusely. After a time we urged him to go home and tend to his own situation, which he finally did.

Shortly after, I was moved from the bed to a recliner to get me in a more upright position. I was asked repeatedly if I was nauseous, or if I was likely to be hurling chunks. My repeated response was no. Actually, to this time - around 10:30AM, Saturday, I have yet to experience any such feelings or urges. Whoopy!

After sitting up in the recliner for several minutes, I became aware of a call to nature. I needed to pee. Joan looked around for a call button and pressed one on the side wall. Unfortunately, that was not the normal nurse's call button, but rather the "Code Blue" button. All hell broke loose. Four or five nurses, aides, etc. came rushing down the hall; the "crash cart" was rattling its way close behind. Upon their arrival at my room, they actually seemed a bit disoriented and unsure of what to do. As most of the procedures performed at Whackncut are out-patient, "codes" are probably not common. We eventually explained our situation, and calm returned. But as everyone began to disappear, I reiterated that I still needed to use the John.

One of the aides assisted me in getting up and gave me a pair of crutches for the journey across the hall, which, as it turned out, I didn't need as I felt no pain or weakness in the knee. I just walked normally with the crutches up under my arms but with the ends held out in front of me. The aide found this humorous. She carried my still attached IV bag indicating that there would be a hook on which to hang it in the restroom. As I mentioned, the facility is undergoing significant remodeling. The restroom was newly done. However, instead of a hook, there was only a Post-It-Note stuck to the wall with "Hook" written on it. This, I found humorous. But my aide improvised by slipping the loop atop the IV over a push knob on the soap dispenser which was in place. Although, when I went to wash my hands after I had completed my "bidnes," I discovered there was no soap in it. I asked the aide, who had returned, if there was a Post-It-Note inside the dispenser with "Soap" written on it. Happily, we did find a bottle of soap in the vanity cabinet. The aide had heard I was self-employed and asked if I was a comedian.

In time it was determined that I was ready and able to make the trip home. My wife went for the car, and another aide was summoned to push me to the entry in the obligatory wheel chair. It took some time for my wife to appear. The aide suggested that perhaps my better half had decided to hell with this, and drove off without me. I wasn't the only comedian in the place.

I had been instructed not to eat or drink from midnight the evening prior to the procedure. By the time we got home, we were both famished, me still feeling no queasiness. Jo made me - what else - chicken soup. It was great. As the nite proceeded I managed to devour the entire can of soup, half of a ham sandwich, various and sundry snacky things, a few walnuts, and an entire pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream with Godiva chocolate topping. (I imagine only the soup would have been on any recommened list.)

So. I have triumphed against impossible odds. As of yet - and with, I presume, the aid of the prescribed Vicadin tablets - I have felt absolutely no pain in my knee. I am wearing a rather nifty device dubbed a "Cryo-Cuff," which is a Velcro secured wrap into which I repeatedly pour ice water from a thermal cooler via a connecting tube. When it warms up, I just attach the tube and allow gravity to drain it back into the cooler, let it mingle with the ice and water, then lift the cooler above the knee and pour the cooled water back into the wrap - all this to avoid or at least reduce any swelling. So far it seems to be working.

I have cancelled my afternoon rock climbing appointment, but I think I should still be able to go sky diving tomorrow. I don't see any problem with that.

If this has been agonizingly overlong, I apologize. I just had to get this off my chest. It's been such a burden.

Now, it's on to bigger and better things. I think I could do with another pint of that chocolate mint.



Terry S said...

Just thought I'd add a sobering note to my own post.

It is now 12:30AM Sunday morning.

The pain has set in. The anesthetic honeymoon is over.

Now, I need the crutches.


Zoe said...

Oh my goodness I've got tears in my eyes from laughing...sorry but you are a great story teller. :)

And I've laughed so hard I have to go pee now.

Dar said...

You sure know how to tell a story! I'm so sorry the pain killers wore off! If it's any consolation, you can order just about anything online...there are cancer patients selling their morphine pills for smokes.

Terry S said...


No, actually, I'm doing pretty well. The knee did in fact hurt a great deal from Saturday evening through about mid-day yesterday (Monday.) Since then, it has backed off considerably. It remains stiff due to a build-up of fluid, but I think I'll be back to a relatively normal state in a few days.

Thanks for the concern and suggestion, though. Glad you liked the story. It was fun to write.