I think he may have been on to something too. Mine certainly has been of late...though I don't want to put too fine a point on that. You never have to look very far to find people who make your own trials and tribulations seem trivial. There but for the grace of God...
A fellow kossack who underwent an even more serious surgery around the same time as me told me she discovered that she has a high pain tolerance and more-or-less sailed through it (I expect that more-or-less is the operative phrase). Unfortunately, I learned just the opposite about myself. I'm really not very good with pain. I guess I've always been more of a poet and less of a cowboy. Never a hard core badass, I pretty much bluffed my way through prison. In karate I was blessed with speed and was very hard to hit. I only occasionally got tagged, but not even Bill “Super Foot” Wallace laid a glove (or a foot) on my head. I always suspected there was something precious in there.
I don't want to get too graphic about what happened to me in the hospital. I don't want to spook anyone who is facing something similar. Just know that the doctors, nurses and medical science itself are all pretty damned awesome. The main concern is human error. The best advice I received from this community going into surgery was to have an advocate with me around the clock. Had my son not been there at the crucial moment, I may not have made it through.
The surgery took place around noon. I emerged from anesthesia that afternoon in a world of hurt. They had me on an IV drip of Dilaudid, one of the strongest pain meds available. It seemed insufficient. I asked for more. They gave it to me, not a lot more but a little. It seems there is a fine line between enough pain meds in that situation and too much. A little later my son returned from the cafeteria to find me slumped over on my side and barely breathing. He alerted the staff.
They tried to get me to come around by standing my bed up (amazing contraptions those) and yelling at me. Since I was non-responsive they administered Narcan, a powerful narcotics antidote. I emerged from my slumber standing up (or in a stood up bed) in considerable pain with all these frantic people yelling at me. I said, “What did I do?”
“It's not your fault,” my red-faced son said, “None of this is your fault.”
Now, the fun part of having all the pain meds sucked out of your system when you most need them is that you can't go back on them for six hours – something about the nature of Narcan. So I had a lovely six hours there. I'm told my commentary was at times quite profane.
The nurses were pretty much the upside of all of this. They were wonderful. How they manage to remain so compassionate, I'll never know. They are some of the world's best people with what may well be one of the world's worst jobs. They had a whole floor full of people in similar straits to my own and worse. They were under intense pressure just to deal with everything that was going on. Of course, in the new medicine, Medicine, Inc, the profitable thing is to under-staff the hospital and work the good people you have to the bone. Those nurses are heroes in my book. They work their asses off to serve real human needs, and at the end of the day after dealing with more crap than most will see in a month or a year, they still care. It's obvious. It's amazing. It's humbling. Like teachers, these people are horribly under-appreciated.
A little over two weeks later I am on the mend. I have most of my staples out and will get the last ones taken out this Thursday. Each day's a little better, but I still have a long way to go. Your strength and vitality doesn't just come roaring back. It's more a game of inches. My son gets me out each night and we walk a bit – he walks, I hobble. I'm so happy to be with my son whom I love more than life itself, I'm so glad to feel the chill of Fall in the air, I'm happy to be coming back, however slowly, and I'm very grateful for all the support and excellent advice I have received from this remarkable community. Thank you all. Much love always.