Thursday, February 4, 2010

Recover, I Dare You!

It is time for me to put this Tale of the Tumor away and think on things less bulbous, rude and invasive, and more cool, like my scar that looks like a big osprey feather.  One last hurrah though has hatched in my fevered brain, so here goes:

If you are preparing for abdominal surgery and are facing a prolonged recovery period, both in the hospital and at home, let me offer a few survival hints if I may:

In reference to the hospital:

Abandon all notion of time the minute your feet hit that first shiny linoleum tile. Hospitals have some kind of agreement with the gods of quantum physics making time, (you know - seconds, minutes and hours ), either race away like water droplets blowing off your windshield in the car wash, or gum up into rivulets of cold running tree sap. Three ways this happens:

  • Nothing painful will be done on time or quickly. Things like the utilization of giant needles, tubing and catheters are announced with great resolve. “We will now puncture you with potential for excruciating pain and the spurting of fluids! Huzzah!” All the equipment is wheeled in with which to accomplish the anxious-making procedure, you grit your teeth and steel yourself for the onslaught and, holy batshit, a delay! Somebody next door codes, or the kid down the hall is wailing, or there is a shift change. And time just slows to a snail’s pace allowing one to really marinate in one’s own flop sweat and in the contemplation of what’s to come.

  •  Nothing to alleviate said pain will be done on time or quickly. In my case, my doctor informed me that I should have a visit from Dr. Morpheus around every 4 hours for pain, but I needed to ASK for it. Here’s where time really takes on a personality of its own and the nurses know they have you by the short hairs. The pain (The kind of pain one has when someone has been handling your entrails through a 14 inch incision which is now stapled together with concertina wire) would pop up and say, “Hi! Ready for another go-round?” What I thought was at least a 4 hour sleep was really only maybe 20 minutes or most of an episode of CSI.                 So I held out. When time is up, I then summoned my attending nurse by pressing the call button. “Yes?” she says over the speaker. “Pain meds please?” say I. “Ok.” Says she. Thus begins the ritualistic process of securing the meds from the pharmacy in another wing of the flipping hospital, the multiple signings in and signings out of a highly coveted “NARCOTIC” so we can be sure it doesn’t get jacked by some closet addict on the mile and a half walk to my wing of this hospital. An hour later, there comes my nurse with the injection. They always dismissed the sweat soaked linens, the washcloth I was biting down on and the death grip I had on my blanket, and I just coo’ed and sniffled as the syringe delivered the goods and the sweet sweet lethargy of Dr. Morpheus enveloped me for the next 20 minutes. In short, the pain and the relief never synched up. But it was fun trying.
  • Nothing about the patient’s personal hygiene can’t be “put off” until next shift. This is how I slipped through the cracks and was not offered the application of even a simple washcloth to my dopey face, never mind my armpits or other parts, for 4 days. Like pain relief, I had to ask, once I couldn’t even stand myself anymore drugged or not, if I could give myself a sponge bath and wash my hair which was now sticky and matted and very Edward Scissorhands-ish. Honestly, I volunteered to be discharged much too early, necessitating a return trip by ER, just because I wanted to wash my hair. To be fair, apologies were forthcoming and the shift change conundrum was mentioned as the problem. Hint: Ask your visitors to sniff and make sounds like “whew” when the nurse is there so they get the hint.

Interlude : Nurses say the dandiest things -

• “Boy when they found that tumor, I bet everyone thought you were dead girl walking! Good thing it was benign!”
• “Nice that you didn’t end up with a (colostomy) bag. My friend had a tumor like that and it wrecked her colon. And it keeps coming back!”
• “So how long have you had the Parkinson’s? I just lost my best golfing buddy to Parkinson’s. (welling up and sniffling).  Wow.”
• “When you poop, just relax and whatever you do, don’t bear down! You’ll just pop!”
• “Why don’t you like the blue jello?”

No lie. True quotes. I am kind of glad I peed twice/puked once on the floor there. I may have been on the morphine, but there may have been a botched enema as well.  Hmmm. Enema revenge is a new concept.

Maybe the peace sign there should've been another salute of note.

In reference to going home:

As intrusive and institutionalized as the hospital may have seemed, home was 180 degrees the opposite. My loved ones did not know what to do with this stinking, stapled up, babbling, hallucinating, puking, barely ambulatory hot mess with Edward Scissorhands hair and puncture wounds all over, but they tried so hard it makes me well up just thinking about it. A few things to pre-request before going home:

  • A RECLINER. A pillowy, towel draped, rocker recliner. I call it the HEALING POD. Everything revolves around the Healing Pod. Point it toward the TV with a nice view to the garden, and position the computer, bookshelves and array all liquids and pills on an end table within arm’s reach. It’ll look a little like the command center of the Starship Enterprise when Shatner was El Jefe Grande. Set up the portable “potty” they sent you home with right there (I called it my litter box so there was no confusion), so you can launch either end of yourself at it at a moment’s notice. Here’s a tip: Keep an air horn somewhere nearby for when your family is hiding from your last request for something you can’t do. Like dump out the potty or scratch that one spot near your ass you can’t reach. The air horn works well on the pets too who just have to jump on your sutures with terrifying joy when they see you again.

  • A SATIN BLANKET. My worst issue was tangling up in the bedclothes, pinning myself down like King Tut in his sarcophagus. A freak out provoker for sure! And I did! I freaked and it hurt! The slick jewel-toned pink and purple slippery satin blanket (my new cherished “woobie”) allows me to levitate and spin with no friction gumming up the works. Moving about in bed after abdominal surgery is its own circle of hell and my woobie was the key to sanity. And it is pretty.
  • MOMMY. (Or someone like your Mom) If you’ve read anything I’ve written so far on this serial topic, you know why.
  • REMOTE CONTROL. Self-explanatory.
  •  FROZEN LEMONADE. Nectar of the gods, and helps you not feel sorry for yourself when nothing else edible tastes, feels or looks good.
  • YOGA PANTS and BIG T-SHIRTS. Bamboo fabric no elastic drawstring pants to gently cover your lower parts where they cut you. Big T’s to camouflage the notion of never wearing a fucking bra ever again! Your sutures will thank you.
  • CLEAN EVERYTHING. Do not go home to a mess. Have your loved ones shovel all their steaming piles of mess into their respective lairs, and never look in there. Request that your recovery space is clean, swept and smelling nice. Although it was perhaps the last thing on my loved ones minds, my mortality and transformative pain was kind of distracting I reckon, it would have been lovely to collapse in my HEALING POD knowing that some Martha Stewart obsessive-compulsive scrubbing had been done.
So now, coming to you from the HEALING POD in my 6th week of recovery, I will now lay down this story and move on to others. Life yields up so much joy. I am a-gonna go live it now.

As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.


  1. I think I love you Linnnnn. That has to be the best description of pure hell I've read in awhile.

    I'm glad your healing. And I think its safe to say, we shall have a beverage one day cause you aint that far from me and I must meet you in person. I simply must.

    wow, that sounded really stalker"ish".

    I totally dig the pod and think I want one, sans the surgical excision of a small alien to get it.

  2. I swore upon stacks of Bibles I would NEVER tolerate a (eeewww!) recliner in my home ever. In my family, they are the last bastion of a colorful collection of radical stubborn man children. How the mighty have fallen.

    Adult beverages in person...Let's plan it! Something to look forward to! You made my day.

  3. See? All your concern about recliners was but a Tempest in a teapot. (Admission: At first the quote had me thinking about the epilogue of A Misdummer Night's Dream. At least in this case you could have slumbered in the recliner.)

  4. After surgery...healing pod, tv remote, portable potty, loose clothes, and a priorities. Glad you're up and about. Looking forward to hearing more of you.

  5. Linnnnnnnnnn. come back. soon. please.


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