Thursday, November 8, 2012

How I Spent My “Fall” Vacation Episodes 3 and 4

...And so we are back
Episode 3 – November 2 – Morning has finally arrived and the big day is here! While the other patients in the dig into their breakfast trays, I am left lying in bed anticipating surgery. Little did I know that I was getting the better of the deal.
Around 8:30, Dr. Haaf stopped into check on me and to talk about the blood work he ordered yesterday just because prepping your mind for surgery isn’t stressful enough. The doc had been keeping an eye on my glucose levels for several years and after being considered pre-diabetic for awhile, I have apparently crossed the threshold into actually being diabetic. Then after telling me that my cholesterol and PSA levels were good, he tells me I have a B12 deficiency which could potentially make me anemic.
And now it was time to head to surgery. The porter arrived with the stretcher and the transfer process began. After figuring out that I was completely non-ambulatory, the nurses in the room realized that they would have to use the overhead lift. Such a brilliant idea being that I had been lying on a transfer sling for two days now. Even still they managed to smack my head into the IV machine. One nurse seemed more concerned about whether they had any nail polish remover in the OR because they didn’t have any on the ward. At the same time the nurse announced that she didn’t think I’d be coming back to this room. I now go into another panic because I have to direct her to all my stuff including my charger that was plugged into the opposite of the bed. She assured me in such a way that I knew worrying would be a great idea.
I arrived at the surgery floor where I was left in the hallway in front of the nurses’ station. A tall good looking young lady in scrubs came over to talk to me and introduces herself as Dr. Brown, the anesthesiologist. Her first question is why didn’t I bring my BiPAP machine with me to the hospital because apparently the nurse in the ward upstairs was claiming that the one I was using belonged to the hospital. Time for more freaking out.  She reassured me that she would straighten it out. Then she explained that she didn’t feel a general anesthetic would be a good idea for me because my apnea, thick neck and small airway and she’d probably use a spinal freezing and that I’d be awake during the surgery. Am I thoroughly freaked out yet? She reassured me that she would give me sedatives and hook me up to my BiPAP which she was able to retrieve from the moron upstairs and I would likely sleep through the surgery.
It was at this point that everything came to a head and I went into an anxiety attack. I was lying flat on my back, tears pouring down the sides of my face and struggling to breathe. I had never felt so absolutely alone. I really just needed someone to hold my hand. The OR nurses and Dr. Brown were able to comfort me and talk me down. Dr. Brown also aided a bit by slipping something special into my IV drip.
A few minutes later we were in the operating room and the next struggle was to get me on the table. It turns out that no one involved in acquiring equipment ever bothered to make sure patient lifts, transports and tables were compatible. Instead it was probably a case of lowest bidder thus allowing for countless permutations where not every one worked. This was one of those groupings. It took some time but after a few attempts, I was finally on the table. Dr. Brown had me sit and told me I would be feeling some pinching in my back as she hooked up the spinal and then she slipped my BiPAP mask over my face, the surgeon, Dr. McConkey said hello and I drifted off to sleep. I was definitely conscious though during the surgery because I remember piping into one conversation about healthcare privatization, One the doctors talked about the main proponent for privatization was being paid big bucks by the American healthcare lobby. I asked “Do you mean that douchebag, Brian Day?” and the doctor simply replied yes.
We skip to the recovery room now. Unlike the times I’ve woken up from a general where you feel  like you are coming down from a great high and then into a nasty hangover, with the spinal I just plain woke up; a little groggy but my head cleared immediately.
One of the disadvantages of a spinal actually became a bit of a stress reliever both physically and mentally. Because my lower body had been numbed I was unable to use the little cardboard bottle. The recovery nurse recommended using a catheter. The concept sounded painful and it was somewhat. In fact the nurse used both of those medical euphemisms, “You may feel a little bit of pressure” and “This might be uncomfortable”. Speaking of pressure once the tube hit pay dirt, the flow was like a fire hose filling the bag twice before slowing down. I guess I really had to go. This also relieved the stress of having to wake up in the middle of the night to use the cardboard bottle.
Dr. Brown then introduced me to my new best friend, the patient controlled morphine drip aka the magic black button. If you hear a single beep it means a dose is being delivered. If you hear four quip beeps it means you’re still in the six minute lock out period.
It was now time to move up into the orthopaedic floor and room 621.
Arriving on the floor, I quickly notice that there sure seems to be a lot of old people up here and my ward was no different. The two guys across from me, Roy and Bill, were previous stroke victims who both fallen and broken their hips. The old guy beside me, Art, apparently was already suffering from Parkinson and had suffered a stroke and fell and broke his elbow as well. Art would become a nightmare and an even worse nightmare is Art’s daughter, Sandi. She spends hours at a time with her dad talking in a high squeaky baby voice to him and calling him “my little Poppa-loppa”. FML!!
The next big irritant was the day nurse for the three guys, Denise. She would come into the room overloud and over-cheerful. This initially drove me nuts because I am very sensitive to loud noises and horribly suspicious of really cheerful people. However over the next few days I would learn there is much more to Denise.
Around 6:30, my post-op liquids only dinner arrived. It consisted of beef broth, orange juice, milk and red Jell-O. Jell-O technically a liquid but this stuff was so firm, I was barely able to cut through it with my fork. Needless to say I didn’t eat much of it.
My bed is next to the door and there is a sink about six feet from me. I’d swear that this is the only sink on the floor because every staff member seems to pop around the corner to wash their hands then scoot out again. The irritating part is the taps are a bit tight and they don’t shut properly leaving them running. It is absolute torture and I can do nothing about it but stare at it or abuse my call button privileges getting the nurses to take care of it. Luckily, this where Sandi comes in handy because it drives her nuts as well. Not everyone is totally useless. ;-)
We are now at bed time, so I clutch on to my magic black button get ready for an E-ticket ride. Well, instead it was more of a disaster movie. Bill snored so badly, I wanted to lend him my biPAP. Roy was having a miserable night and Art was a complete pain calling out for no reason and climbing out of bed and setting off the bed alarm. Apparently this was Art’s typical behaviour. Me, I just lay there with my magic button waiting to hear the lovely sound of a single beep.
Episode 4 – November 3 – As morning breaks through the windows I lay there still clutching my magic black button.
I talked to the nurse first thing morning about the fact that there did not seem to be any drastic change when I self-medicated. She came back about 15 minutes later with a key and unlocked the magic box and made the correct adjustments to up the dosage. I hit the button and did notice a difference right away. I then waited the obligatory six minutes to hear the lovely sound of the single beep and I could feel it working a little more. Once again I repeated the process six minutes later...oops!...the pain had gone completely bye-bye...however I was getting the bed spins and feeling queasy. I rang for the nurse and she added Gravol to my intravenous cocktail. NAP TIME!!!! :-D
In the mean time, Denise reappeared all loud and cheerful opening all the bed curtains which drove me nuts. I like to build my little tiny tent cubicle.
Breakfast arrived and I now found out how little I had missed the last three mornings. The surprise under the dome was waffles and huge yellow clump that appeared to be butter. I’m thinking this can’t right, it says right here, Diabetic Diet are you guys trying to kill me or what? Denise pointed out that she’s pretty sure it was eggs which was true. If the waffles were any drier they would have been dust. Maybe that much butter would have been a good idea. The eggs were passable. The coup de grace was the oatmeal. I like my oatmeal thick enough you can cut it, this crap resembled gray soup. :-P
The Crown Prince dropped in with several items that I had asked him to bring up and we chatted awhile about his conference last week and my situation and some future plans.
Our visit was cut short when Sandi showed up and Bryan could no longer take listening to her as well as the other chaos going on and said he needed to leave. I fully understood and had no problem with him leaving. (Before I go any further, I do have to say Sandi has a good heart and helps the other patients in the room. She just drives everyone crazy!)
Pam dropped by next with my mail for the past few days and it was great check out some of the new stamps and coins I had received.
Not much else to report for the day, except I thought I had finally got a leg up on the breakfast thing. A food catering person came in after dinner with a computer tablet and I got to choose between oatmeal or Rice Krispees. Guess what I chose? Unfortunately I found out later this is a rather sporadic service where you may get someone coming by with menu choices at best one out of three meals for the day.
One of my favourite things for the day was meeting my night nurse for the evening, Esther. Esther is a sweet young thing that is so eager to please. I’ve the last week convincing her that my name is Dennis not Mr. Donnelly. As my somewhat wise dad always said, “Only two guys call me Mr. Donnelly. The one guy is trying to sell me something and the guy says I owe him money.”
And now it is time to cuddle up with my magic black button...Oh sweet, Morpheus here I come. ;-)
To be continued...


  1. Oh man, horrible horrible horrible.

    It can only get better. < Doesn't help, but keep it in mind.

    Hugs to you!

  2. OMG Denny! I feel for you :( Yeah no sugar. Wishing you a speedy recovery. xo