Adventures in Cholecystectomy Land – Part 2

Argh. Survived. Recovering. Also caught a cold, so that makes it extra fun.

Maunderings on Facebook and elsewhere, before, during (sort of) and after:

After my cholecystectomy tomorrow, I expect to make medical history by being the first person ever to suffer the gallbladder version of PLP (phantom limb pain).

A few hours sleep, then up early for surgery, something new and scary in my life. Dang it, wish I could talk to my Dad. I really am a little bit scared, and he’d tell me “You’re gonna be just fine, Hank.”

No food or drink for 12 hours before surgery? That means you always go into it hungry and thirsty. If there was really a God, we’d only go into the operating room after a 4-course feast with lots of wine and some sort of really rich dessert.

And away we go! Up so early, and so cold, it sort of feels like a hunting trip. As we left the house I paraphrased Elmer Fudd: “Be vewwy vewwy quiet. I’m huntin’ gawbwadduhs!” At the hospital. They put one of those medical wristbands on me. My first, I realize. Waiting room. TV talking about guns, guns, more fucking guns! I pull a book out of my bag, show it to my friend. “In case I get bored during surgery.” We laugh.

The nurses are nice. I wanted to humanize myself with all my surgical staff, so I made a point of telling them my name, and asking theirs. I tossed in a joke, which was generally well received: “In the pre-surgical paperwork, I checked the boxes for ‘Full head of hair,’ ‘Well-endowed’ and ‘Tall,’ so I’m eager to see how good a job everybody does!”

Wheeled into the surgery, a very large room filled with a bewildering array of machines. Before I can study them, consciousness ends. I wake up on a gurney, propped up and with my friend Carl there.

After surgery, I discover this: For a sick introvert, the hospital environment is a continuous wave of pressury incursions. Everything seems loud and bright and sudden.

I have to stay there until I’m able to pee. No sweat, I think, we old guys are champs at peeing! But when I stagger to the bathroom with my wheeled IV tower and do the internal things that always results in pee, nothing happens! Gah! They’ve taken away my pee-power! I try three more times over the next hour or so, finally get about a tablespoon’s worth. The Doc says I can go.

Worst part of the whole experience? They have to wheel you to your car in a wheelchair. You’re NOT allowed to walk. To the post-surgical body, that wheelchair ride feels like ten miles of broken concrete and speed bumps.

Back home resting. Abdominal surgery: The amazing adventure that the patient never gets to consciously experience. Admittedly a good thing, but still … Ah. The courier has just arrived with the drugs. Later.

The pain drug, Lortab, I think it is, hydrocodone and acetaminophen, gives me weird microdreams – freaky shit that lasts only seconds, but wakes me up each time – so I stop taking it after two pills.

Post-surgery stomach did NOT want chicken soup. Lucky I only ate 4 spoons of it. But then again, I got some good ad copy out of it: Campbell’s Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup – Tastes as Chickeny Coming Up as It Does Going Down!

Atheism is a triumph of reason over emotion, but so is this:
1) You have a horror of the helpless inevitability of vomiting.
2) You know that if you eat anything right now, you’re going to toss it up 15 minutes later.
3) You know your body has to have some sort of nutrition in order to get better.
4) You eat.
5) You throw up.
6) Repeat, 10 times, throughout the day and night.

A mere 1G acceleration applied to your head, even resting on the softest pillow, will give you an awesome headache after 12 hours or so.

Post-surgical victory Saturday morning! I’ve eaten two whole meals without throwing up. ‘Course both “meals” consisted of one-fourth of a slice of dry toast and about 3 ounces of watery juice, but hey … IT STAYED DOWN. Getting some normal gut noises too.

It’s funny – you hear about people having surgery or recovering from accidents, and the stories always focus on the happy milestones of recovery. Nobody ever tells you what it’s like from the inside, that it’s this slow-moving horror train of pain, thirst, exhaustion and nausea, accompanied by a desperate desire to just feel normal again. Heh. Now I’m wondering if childbirth is like this. If one of the solutions to the population problem might be young women getting the full story from their experienced sisters.

NSFL (not safe for ladies) joke ahead. This is for the guy tribe only. Ladies, please do not give each other those knowing looks, or if you do, at least have the grace not to snicker and make cruel “one-inch” gestures which might wound the masculine pride. Ahem: My doctor told me I wasn’t to lift any heavy weights for two weeks after surgery. I said, “But how am I supposed to take a leak?” HAW, HAW, HAW!! (I get to blame that on post-anesthesia haze. But my dad would have laughed WITH me and AT me about it, and it would have been one of those forever memories.)

Still more post-anesthesia haze: If there are any Space Aliens secretly orbiting Earth and tapped into Facebook as a way to learn about us, I’d just like to extend an invitation for you to meet an Earthling face to face. I’m open-minded, kind, compassionate, and I’m a lifelong science fiction fan, so I promise not to be turned off by your no-doubt-beautiful physical appearance. Unless you look like giant spiders, in which case, fuck off, chitinous space scum, I’ve got a gun.

DAVID BRIN (!!!) posts an answer: “This exact scenario is described in my “Invitation to ET” page, which is expanded and makes up part of my novel EXISTENCE.”

A good laugh on Facebook, when I post “If we had evolved from canines, it would be perfectly acceptable to snarl when other people’s children approached us unasked,” and friend Raymond Dickey answers, “I don’t see why lack of suitable ancestry should stop us.” I clutch my stitchy belly and promise him a beer someday.

Saturday’s post-surgery menu: Jello, lemonade, green tea, half a baked potato. Taz would sneer. But it all stayed down. Surgery veterans … how long should one wait for that first BM? 54 hours and counting here. I feel like a 2 year old sitting on the potty, waiting for it to happen so I can go play.

And that reminds me of Sonny Leger, rodeo clown and bullrider, one of those legendary people you meet and never forget: Here’s Sonny in typical form, coming out of the bathroom “God DAMN! I just shit out a full-growed brangus bull, horns and all! Sumbitch tried to come out SIDEWAYS!” This was at a wedding reception.

Two items of apparel I would never have even considered buying when I was younger, but can highly recommend now: There is nothing more convenient or comfortable after surgery than a thick terrycloth robe and fuzzy slippers.

Sleeping lousy. Up EVERY DAMNED HOUR to pee. What’s up with that?

Sunday’s menu-so-far. Large bowl of Cheerios and Life, serving of Jello. Thinking of the joke in The Talisman where one character promises another, “Richard, if we survive this, I’ll buy you two chili dogs at Dairy Queen.” To which Richard replies “Barf me OUT!”

Today, Sunday I’m thinking about going for a walk outside, but it’s 24 degrees out there, and I’m not sure I want to shower and dress.

I have lost more than 10 pounds. I’m guessing less than one of those was the removed organ. I also finished A Game of Thrones, have just started A Clash of Kings, and my friend Bill is coming over later to bring me the DVDs of the mini-series. I think I’ll be feeling close to normal in another day or so. The head cold is annoying, but not really hellish. I’m off work for a week, and hoping to get something done on my BraynDrops book.

I get an occasional sharp little twinge where the holes are, but other than that, I’m fatigued, achy, sort of blah. But alive.

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