Through the looking glass: Now serving…part 2

A few days following my privacy parade adventure, I received a call with a date for surgery. February 6th. Perfect. 6am. Not so perfect. But I’ll take it nonetheless. I am a mostly compliant patient. By mostly I mean, when I was handed a paper with all the medications to avoid for ten days prior to surgery, and I was hammered with a rocking headache a week prior to surgery, I weighed the pros and cons and decided a pain free death was worth an Advil. Of course on the morning of, I would lie. But I’m sure they’re used to that.

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I had every intention of showing up at 6am still in PJs and fully prepared to nap until my surgery several hours later. Oddly, with the knowledge of the procedure to come, sleep was eluding me. By 5:30am I was up, showered, shaved, face on and ready to go. From there I was sure I was destined to lay in the hospital bed for a few hours, wide awake, waiting, not so patiently, for the pleasant Anesthesiologist to come and puncture the middle of my back with a harpoon type needle, which would then render everything from the waist down essentially numb.

Everything seemed to proceed smoothly and I was almost disappointed that I wasn’t met with my comrades from the conference room… almost. In the event that the pending operation may have caused a two-week binge, I was weighed again. Trusting that I had not shrunk, my height was not re-taken. Oddly, none of my particulars were confirmed, including address, phone number and family doctor. I guess it doesn’t matter once you’re at this point. I would be asked to repeat my full name and date of birth many times, however, to confirm lucidity. They didn’t find it funny when I kept using different names and birth dates.

Finally my number was called and I was wheeled into the ‘holding area’ outside the OR. The Anesthesiologist came by and re-introduced himself. I was more than a little disgruntled that he didn’t remember me. I’d worked so hard to make an impression.

Once I got to the OR I began to shiver. It was freezing! I really hoped the Anesthesiologist was able to hit a moving target! He was. I barely even felt it. Within seconds my legs were warm and I relaxed. Met only by masked faces, probably more janitors, I was draped with enough fabric to reupholster my love seat, sofa and ottoman including a curtain that was placed in front of my face. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was for my benefit or theirs. The procedure began. I must have dozed off because I have no recollection of anyone announcing the start of the procedure. I went from getting comfy on the bed to being addressed by the smooth South African lilt of the Orthopedic Surgeon. “Jennifer, can you see this?”

Squinting at the TV monitor “Yup. What is it?”

“That’s your medial meniscus.”

“Huh. What’s it doing there?” Naughty meniscus, you shall have no pie.

My next memory was hearing counting. “One, two…” I opened my eyes… “three” I’m dragged off the bed. My attempts at getting up failed miserably by the lack of response from my lower half. Feeling the next bed firmly under my shoulders I relaxed.

“Hey! There she is!” Did I go somewhere?

“Welcome back!” Thanks, did I miss the cake?

“Can you wiggle your toes?” Everyone stared at my toes with great anticipation. Feeling like I was trying to move the feet of someone I couldn’t see, I was unable to acquiesce to their request.

“That’s good. It’ll be a few hours before you’ll be able to feel anything.” So why did you ask?

Snuggled back into my room I was handed bells, whistles and a glass of water. IVs were checked, drugs were added, drains adjusted and I was left. The very first sensation I felt was my kidneys. And they were screaming for attention! When the nurse appeared again, I relayed my distress. She offered a bedpan and I gratefully accepted. You know you need to go when…

Needing the extra strength of another set of hands, she brought in Helga. Helga looked like someone had peed in her corn flakes. I knew it wasn’t me, but if they were handy I would have gladly obliged. With all the finesse and tenderness of a Russian Wrestler (I say Russian because everything sounds tougher in Russia) Helga rolled me, shoved the bedpan under (although it could have been in for all I knew) my unfeeling rear end, rolled me back and left. The other nurse, somewhat more compassionate to my plight, offered to turn on water, flush the toilet, show me pictures of waterfalls and whatever else she could do to help. It was all completely futile. Left alone, I tried everything, but not being able to feel anything I really didn’t know what I was doing! I do know, that nothing worked and I was slowly sliding off the bedpan. The one part of my body that seemed to defy me after the third sneeze was now locked up tighter than an oil drum. After several minutes of futility I rang the nurse and, together with Helga, still grumpy, pulled the bedpan out from under me. The nurse offered to catheterize me just long enough to empty my bladder. You know you REALLY need to go when…

Several minutes later the nurse left with 1000 ml of my urine. That’s gotta’ be a record! Left alone I snuggled back in my bed for a rest. I was awoken sometime later by the most obnoxious display of flatulence I’d ever heard. Glaring over my shoulder I searched for the audible and nasal assailant and was met with an empty room. Glaring in the direction of the noise I realized my still very numb rear end was the source responsible. Horrified I looked to the door for witnesses. None. There was nothing left to do but giggle.

From there the day progressed well. I ate, laughed and marveled over each feeling I recovered until it got to my knee. Thankfully it was almost the last thing to come back. It hurt. Big shock. Warning: The following paragraph contains a graphic description of a medical procedure. Reader discretion is advised.

Basically, the surgeon bent my leg as far as it could go, drilled a hole through my tibia and femur via the knee joint, and threaded my new ACL through it, securing it in place with bio-absorbable screws. The new ACL is from a graft that was harvested from my hamstring. My directionally challenged medial meniscus was trimmed back to a manageable size and shape.

Yup, a little achy.

Now, paramount to any orthopedic procedure is the symbiotic relationship between ortho and physio. Enter the Physio-Terrorist. Within seconds of being advised that he was close I became nauseated. Coincidence? I think not. A pleasant (demeanor often derived from sadistic tendencies) gentleman entered my room. A cordial exchange followed and then his true sadistic nature was revealed. “So, I hear you’ve got full feeling back. We’re just going to stroll down the hallway and get you to go up a few steps.” Big smile. Met with a glare.

“Huh, marvy.” None of this was a question and he’s still standing there with my crutches in hand. Knowing this ‘test’ was standing between staying in the hospital or going home, I decided to surrender and prepare for the stroll. Having felt great up to this point, it didn’t seem to be a big challenge. I had yet to discover that my room was three miles from the steps. Uphill. Both ways. In a snow storm.

Getting the crutches organized and my now not-so-numb behind covered, I began my journey. Given the lack of privacy protection I was certain my procedure was a matter of public record. I wasn’t concerned with being met with stares or curious onlookers. After several huffs, grunts and deep breaths ‘we’ made it to the steps. Seeing my rapidly fading color, the Physio-Terrorist graciously pulled out a chair for me to rest. Nope. I’m a boss. I got this. I thudded up the stairs, turned, thudded down, sat in the chair and…. passed out.

I awoke with several cold cloths placed strategically around my head and neck. I squeaked out “bucket.” A little louder “bucket.” Finally I heard the word repeated but still couldn’t feel anything in front of me. Last ditch effort “BUCKET!” Feeling the cold metal pressed into my lap I let go. Like I had a choice. After several well heaved moments, I was done. Fully conscious, stomach empty, feeling back in full force everywhere. Get me home.

A few minor paperwork trails to tie up and I was on my way. I was set to come back in a week for more physio-terror. Color me excited.

Overall, given the rather intrusive commencement to this ordeal, I was pleased. I had been well cared for and respected by knowledgeable and compassionate human beings. Isn’t that all we could ask for? Now left hobbling on crutches for a while, I should be good as new by spring. Right around trampoline season. Awesome. Cue medic.

Jennifer Barry is a writer for The Spectator Tribune

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