I always figured I would end up on the orthopedic surgeon’s operating table sooner or later, but I thought it would be for a knee replacement, not for a cervical disc fusion in my neck. But here I was, asking-actually begging-to have my neck slashed.
Shows what pain can do to you.
On the big day, I checked into a tiny room that was as cold as a freezer locker and received a backless hospital gown and a blanket so thin I could see through it. Eventually, a stretcher arrived for me and I watched the ceiling squares fly by as I was wheeled down long halls and into an elevator.
The anesthesiologist put an IV hookup in my arm. I was given meds that were supposed to relax me, but didn’t. “Don’t worry, you won’t wake up during surgery, we monitor your brain waves,” he said. What a relief. I hadn’t considered the possibility before that.
I wished they would turn up the drugs.
I was wheeled into what I recognized from TV as an operating room where masked figures in blue garb hovered over me, fiddling with various monitors. I felt a hot sensation in my arm and my wish for drugs was granted.
“Where am I?” I asked.
My eyes burned like fire. I had a large collar around my neck to support my head. Various medical people came in and out, checking monitors and doing whatever it is that medical people do to see if you are still alive.
My chest was congested and I couldn’t breathe. “Cough,” they told me. So, I coughed and coughed and nothing happened except it made my sore throat even sorer.
When I eventually woke up completely, I felt great except for blurry vision. I was ready to be discharged and go home. It wasn’t until later that I found I felt great because I was receiving morphine in my IV. The sneaks.
Breakfast was served-bacon, eggs and a biscuit. I wondered why they didn’t realize my throat was too swollen to eat.
The nurse’s aide came and bathed me with what smelled like Lysol. I wondered if she was using mop water. I was too weak to protest the burning disinfectant, but if there is ever a next time, I intend to be a hippie and refuse baths.
By evening, it was time for my first walk. I was afraid my head would fall off and go rolling down the hall. Two nurses dragged me and the IV stand down the hall and wheeled me back quickly when I nearly passed out.
By the following day, however, I would be able to walk up and down the hall with assistance and without mooning anyone.
I continued to cough. I’m not sure how long you can go without sleep until you become delusional, but given a choice between breathing and sleeping, sleep does not seem very important.
I wanted to go home. Finally, on the third day the doctor came and discharged me. A mere five hours later, I was able to leave. I was much weaker than I realized and fell on my knees trying to get into my house.
The bad news: the doctor forgot to put a date on the prescription he wrote for pain meds, so the drug store wouldn’t fill it. The good news: I had pain meds left over from pre-surgery.
I slept sitting up in a chair for the first week after surgery, if you can call it sleeping. Nights were hell, coughing all night and trying to breathe. I called my primary doctor for an appointment, and found that I had bacteria in my lungs transmitted by the tubes in my throat during surgery.
I wondered why someone didn’t think of that sooner.
Not fully coherent, I took pain pills along with other medications, which must have been too much sedation as I dreamed of being three people, one who slept, one who floated around the room on sparkling fireworks, and one who coughed.
The doctor ordered a neck monitor to electronically stimulate my neck and make it heal faster. I call it a high-tech witchdoctor necklace and have threatened to decorate it with chicken bones and feathers.
Surgery is gross. I do not recommend it. Pain is worse and I recommend it even less.
Next time, I intend to find an easier way to get material for a column.
Sheila Moss, Humor Columnist