December 01, 2006

About surgery, under the influence of narcotics and daytime television

The doctor entered the room to find me sitting in a reclining patient chair in a pale blue back-tying gown, legs curled under me, wiping away nervous tears.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

After reading 10 pages of disclaimers, risks and complications that may or may not kill me during the shoulder surgery I would be undergoing in 20 minutes, as delineated by a series of very precise ratios (heart failure: 1 in 10,000, infection: 1 in 4,800) I wanted to run screaming out of the office. But instead, I collected byself and muttered “Yes, oh, yes. Just… nervous.”

“Well, that’s perfectly normal,” he said softly – almost fatherly (or at least I imagine that’s what fatherly is like. I wouldn’t really know, as my father is a fucker).

“Oh, good. So odds of pre-op tears are what, then? 9 in 10?” I was trying to be funny. He was trying not to look at me like I was crazy.

After a series of questions (he must have asked me 5 times when the last time I ate was) and an overview of what he was about to do to me, he stood to leave, assuring me the anesthesiologist would be here shortly to poke needles into me. On his way out, he patted my knee.

“We’re going to take good care of you,” he said, causing my eyes to well up again under his sypmathetic (feigned sympathetic?) gaze. I felt like a total wuss. “I’ve done a few of these before, you know.”

He had. He is the former Mariners’ shoulder surgeon. I knew he was good, but goddamn was I still nervous. Doc left me to gather myself while he readied the operating room.

As promised, prick-man entered shortly later (prick as in stab as in stab me with sharp pointy objects) and gave me first some sort of pokey thing in my left arm (I didn’t look, but in the end I was attached to a clear tube and a baggie of liquid which made me feel a little like an 80 year old, particularly when I factored in my bareness under the thin robe and the shuffling steps I would have to take while pushing the baggie-cart attached to my arm down the hall to the operating room).

He then ran through my options for anesthesia during surgery. Either way I’d be out, but he said I could opt in to having what he called a “block” – a needle in my neck that would cause my neck, chest, shoulder, arm and back to go totally numb for up to 24 hours – through the most painful parts of my recovery.

“Yes, please,” I whimpered. “That sounds nice. Numbness. How does it work?”

“Well, we put a needle in your neck, and then give you a series of shocks through the needle to make your arm and neck twitch so we know it’s in the right spot,” he said. I shuddered. He continued. “The shocks last a minute or two, and then when it’s in the right place, we put in the medicine and your affected body parts go to sleep.”

He launched into some risks, while I fantasized about how horrible the shocking part and needle in my neck part would be. He then assured me I’d be asleep when it happened, which sealed the deal.

“I’m in,” I said. “When do we start?”

Shortly later I was strapped down on a bed in a mostly stainless steel room. The sterility of the room was more than just clean, it was almost morbid. There wasn’t as much as a nice framed photo on the wall. It, and the observation window on one side of the operating bed, reminded me eerily of the vet’s office in which I recently had to put my cat to sleep. More shuddering and some positive self-talk barely drowned out visions of a surgery gone wrong, a Kervorkian doctor, etc.

Once I was settled, Prick-man said “Here comes the don’t care drugs. They’ll take about thirty seconds to work.”

Of course, I took that as a challenge. I started to count to thirty in my head but was interrupted at eleven by a blissfull giddy feeling.

I felt myself start to grin and giggle, which was the last thing I wanted to do – grin and giggle while going under like some imbicile. But I couldn’t control it. The drugs were good, and my filter was overcome.

Embarrassed and smiling like a dope, I went out.


“How are you feeling?”

I blinked, seeing only two blurry figures. Blinked again. Two became one.

Third blink, and finally: focus. There was the nurse, peering down at me, smiling.

I grinned back, and immediately realized I was through surgery and high as a kite. And it started again. I couldn’t help myself. Filterless, I opened my mouth to respond.

“Waaassted!!!” I slurred, googling and giggling.

I got dressed with some effort (and help), and home with more help, where I crashed on the couch immediately after calling every one of my friends on speed dial, leaving most of them euphoric, slurring messages about how awesome I felt and how much I loved them. (So pretty much just like I do every Friday and Saturday night, really, but this time I was on a delightful narcotic high, and couldn’t feel one whole side of my body.)

That block was the best thing I ever did, because the first night and half-day went by with no pain, just a weird tingling in my hands and a few moments in the night when I woke up realizing I was holding my own hand, even though it felt like someone else’s.

The second day, though, is here and now that the numbness has worn off, I’m in a good amount of pain. Plus, I can’t change my shirt or button my jeans on my own, which means I’ve had a series of friends and family members swinging by to make sure I’m fed and clothed.

That said, though, I’d have to say thus far my verdict on surgery is that it’s pretty awesome. I get 30 vicodin, 30 oxycodin, and about four straight days of babying, sleeping, movies, and one-handed writing, by blackberry or computer.

Oh, and daytime TV, which before this surgery I didn’t even really know existed. Great, trashy stuff. After about my fifth hour of Matlock reruns, Judge Kathy, Judge Mills and Judge Franklin, I switched to Oprah, where I learned a little tidbit that I immediately called pretty much everyone I know to share, through hysterical hiccups and a few exchanged anecdotes about ex-boyfriends:

For every 35 lbs a man loses, he gains one inch in penis length. How about that?

I mean, one INCH! I suppose that must taper off a bit at a certain point, like once you can actually look down and see it, instead of doughy, hairy flab, don’t you think? Good stuff.
Just thought I’d share.

Okay then, back to the drugs. It’s about time for Judge Judy and some applesauce. Also, it took me probably an hour to type this with only one good hand. Backspacing is a virtual impossibility. So if you find typos or decide this is poorly written, please excuse me and keep it to yourself. I’m pretty proud I made it this far.

Have a great day working, suckers. I’m going back to the couch. (Oh, and I happily accept get well gifts, so feel free).


Ben said...


I'm happy to hear that you made it through your surgery with flying colors. I recently found out that it is almost worth getting hurt just to get prescription pain killers. Aren't they great! I was in Thailand in September, and was in a cab that was hit by another car. After a stint in a Thai hospital, I had to travel two days in some of the worst pain of my life, (alone), from south Thailand all the way back to Atlanta. That being said, the vicodin that was prescribed when I finally got home, almost made me forget about how bad the whole situation was. So at least some good comes out of injuries. That, and I now have a few really cool scars on my side that are the perfect lead in to the, I had my kidney stolen in Thailand story. I hope you recover quickly, and enjoy the drugs.


Trebuchet said...

Hey! No fair trumping my minor surgery story with a way cooler Kidney Stolen in Thailand story!!

Glad YOU recovered, and yes, the drugs are simply magnificent.

nico said...

but how did you hurt your shoulder?

Trebuchet said...

I tore my rotator cuff (partial thickness tear)_ and my labrum and had a bone spur responsible for all the tearing. I wish it was a good story, but it's just not... just many years of volleyball.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the surgery was successful and that the drugs are cool!

I love the judge shows - I can watch them all, with a little Cops in between. Ah - sick days...

Anonymous said...

RE: Penis length

In college I lost about a hundred pounds after being a fat bastard for most of my life. I was very surprised by that particular fringe benefit.
Enjoy your painkillers.

Anonymous said...

I can half-attest to the penis size thing. Meaning I only lost about 17 lbs (two years ago) so, I only got a half inch.

Damn thats funny shite.

For thin~ish people (ie. the ones that can see thier penises without the use of a mirror placed on the floor) the benefit comes in the reduction of the fat that covers the bone right (pubic bone?) above said Johnson.

Whee! Penis fun-facts.

Trebuchet said...

Yay! I love all the self-disclosure, former fat bastards and dozen-plus lb losers! More, please! MOOOORRRRE!!!!
Also, congratulations on your newfound sexual prowress and the healthier versions of you(s).

Chuckles said...

I can confirm the penis thing. I read about that in Playboy. I am hoping to lose flabe but I doubt I will lose any weight past 225. I am currently hovering between 225 and 235.

Also, take care of yourself. I didn't follow my doctor's instructions on physical therapy and still suffer problems in my wrist and pelvis from a sledding injury.