Sunday, August 18, 2013

For the Love of Surgery

Surgery isn’t fun. Sometimes it’s scary. Sometimes it’s life or death. Sometimes the recovery period is awful. I’m not making light of such scenarios; however, as I tend to do, I am going to make light of my own recent surgery.  It is my fifth time under the knife in only about six years. I’m becoming a regular patient with three shoulder surgeries and two knee surgeries. Today I’m going to share my list of eight things that I don’t like about surgery.

1.       Pain meds. I have to admit my knee felt better on surgery day than it did the next couple of days because of the pain medication in my IV, but pain meds constipate me. I’d rather my knee be sore. The nurse suggested I use my pain meds and a “stool softener.” No thanks.
2.       Shaving my leg. Now, I’ve had arthroscopic knee surgery before. There are two little incisions right by my kneecap. So why does the nurse shave my leg eight inches above and below my knee? So I can’t wear shorts the rest of the summer out of pure embarrassment?
3.       Questions before the surgery. Why do five different people come up, grab my chart, read it, and ask the same exact series of questions? Doctor, intern, assisting nurse, prepping nurse, anesthesiologist. Yep, it’s still my left knee. Nope, I didn’t develop any new allergies since the last person asked. Yep, I’ve had surgery before. Nope, I haven’t changed my mind and decided to let you stick a needle in my spine. I’ll still go with general anesthetic.
4.       Showering. Lying on my back in the bathtub with my leg draped over the side of the tub doesn’t work. Showering with the shower door open and my leg dangling out doesn’t work. My leg in a garbage bag taped with duct tape works. Duct tape works for everything.
5.       Trips to the bathroom. The carpet is nearly worn out from my bed to the restroom. An IV must be necessary during surgery (and I surely enjoy getting all the hair ripped from my arm when they take it out), but it’s hard to deploy the rest and relaxation method of surgery-day recovery when I have to limp to the bathroom every ten minutes. I guess it’s better than the time that I couldn’t go. My bladder filled to explosion level. I was certain it was going to burst. I’m sure with an ultrasound my bladder has stretch marks. The hospital suggested I come in for a catheter. I finally peed out of fear. The dozens of restroom trips were better than the bloated bladder, but not much.
6.       Cottonmouth and vile taste on the back of my tongue. I tried to eat a graham cracker as a snack after surgery. It stuck to my tongue like dry cornbread. My mouth was so parched I couldn’t get the cracker unglued, and my tongue stayed that way the rest of the day. Drinking just led to longer pees in the bathroom. I brushed my tongue with toothpaste five times. My voice was raspy because of the tube they’d put in my throat, and my tongue was a baked slab of leather.
7.       Sleeping. Rather…not sleeping. Ice strapped to my knee, leg elevated a foot and a half, blankets pulled away from my head, pain medication wearing off, tongue made of leather, bladder working overtime…sleeping after surgery is wonderful.
8.       Memory loss. This has to be the worst thing for me. My wife and I were filling out a post-surgery evaluation form. One question was “Was your nurse friendly and professional both pre- and post-surgery. I said no. My wife asked why, and I said it was because as soon as I woke up, she pulled me from my bed, walked me to my car, and put me in it. My wife calmly explained I’d been in recovery for over an hour and that we had been talking for well over a half hour before we left surgery. Didn’t I remember getting dressed? No. Didn’t I remember eating a graham cracker? Oh, yeah. The dried cornbread stuck to my tongue. My wife said I told her I chose my snack poorly. I don’t remember that. Didn’t I remember the anesthesiologist stopping by? No. Didn’t I remember the doctor telling me I should no longer run? No. My wife said that I said, “I can’t run anymore? I’ll get fat!” Then I asked her three times if I could play basketball. She asked me finally if I had to run to play basketball and she claims it took me about 15 seconds to reach the conclusion that I did indeed need to run. Finally I said, “Well, if I can’t run, we’ll have to have sex every day so I don’t get fat.” I don’t remember any of that. I don’t remember getting wheeled into surgery. I don’t remember the car trip home. I don’t remember how I got in my bed. About three hours of my life existed, but the memory is missing. I hate that worst about surgery. 

You know, I hurt my knee playing basketball. Maybe it’s time to quit. I hate running to stay in shape. Maybe it’s time I found a different thing that I can enjoy more. (Sex was an option I thought of even under anesthetic delirium). Maybe I should appreciate showers, hair on my legs, saliva in my mouth, a healthy bladder, a good night’s sleep, and one good knee. Maybe I should appreciate surgeons who can repair a tear in my meniscus and take out four pieces of floating cartilage. Maybe having a wife and kids to take care of me is a blessing. Maybe I should reassess my love of surgery.