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    Both Together

    Phil's Gall-tastic Adventure Part 2

    The water is so yellow, I'm a healthy student
    Indebted and so grateful, vacuum out the fluids

    Waking up from surgery is a weird experience. (At least it was for me.) It's a lot like passing out and waking up in a strange place... you have no idea where you are or how you got there. And being a guy who needs his glasses to see past his nose doesn't help.

    My first post-operation words were, "I'm c-c-cold..."

    Things were... fuzzy (for the lack of a better term). It was strange. To me the only thing that existed was me, the bed I was lying on and the nurses that were running around (one of which was kind enough to provide me with an extra blanket).

    I may or may not have slept that night... it's quite possible I was passing in and out of consciousness... but the next few hours seemed more or less continuous.

    As I lay there, I tried to get a bearing on where I was. The first thing I noticed was the tubes delivering oxygen to my nostrils as I attempted to move my head. Then I realized my legs were heavier than normal (I would later find out that I was wearing boots that helped blood circulation in the legs). Then I realized I was thirsty. I guess going a day without food or water will do that to you.

    Hey, you know those "nurse call" buttons you always see near hospital beds? Well they're there for a reason... because without one it's nearly impossible to get a nurses attention. I spent the next few minutes trying to flag down a nurse with minimal movement.

    When I finally got the attention of a nurse and told her of my dilemma, she responded, "You're not allowed to have anything to eat or drink because we're not sure if you'll have a reaction to it. But we can give you ice chips."

    "That's fine," I said as I wondered to myself how long this ban on food and drink would last. I wasn't hungry... it was more the principle of the thing.

    By now, I had a good mental picture of where I was staying. I noticed the multitude of monitors hooked up to me. I could guesstimate the distance from my bed to the door (in case I had to make a dash for freedom a la the Twilight Zone episode The Eye of the Beholder), and I noticed the other patients in the room in various states of discomfort.

    Some indeterminate time later (after my ice chip snack), one of my doctors comes by to see how I'm doing. He checks my boots, my incisions and takes a look at my vitals. I inform him of my inability to take deep breaths and he assures me its normal. Then he asks, "How's your drain doing?"

    "My what?"

    He proceeded to show me a plastic bulb filled with some sort of fluid. That bulb was attached to a plastic tube, which disappeared into a large bandaged area on my midsection.

    Without a watch or glasses to be able to see the clock on the wall, it was hard to tell how much time had passed. But sometime later, I guess all was going well because they removed most of the monitors from my person. Then came my next challenge... standing up.

    Getting up from a lying position is a thing all of us take for granted. Let me tell you, after my ordeal, I no longer take it for granted. I tried to get up like a normal person does, but I had four small incisions in my midsection. So I couldn't exactly use my stomach muscles to get me upright. What followed was a 5 minute ordeal of trying to get up with the help of my nurse, stopping every once in a while so I could adjust to my new position before moving on to the next one.

    After taking care of some, uh... bodily functions, I was rewarded with a nice comfy chair and my first taste of food.

    Clear liquid breakfast. That's what I was given. As the elderly woman next to me ate Cheerios from a disposable plastic container, I had chicken broth, tea, apple juice and orange jello. Which, incidentally isn't the strangest breakfast I've ever had... but that's a different story altogether.

    Finally, I was able to get my glasses and see just how wrong I was about my surroundings. I also happened to notice that I was fortunate enough to have a cute nurse to attend to my simplest of needs.

    As luck would have it, I was told that I was being moved to another part of the hospital because they needed my bed in the recovery room (that's when I learned exactly where I was) for other post-op patients.

    I'm not exactly sure where they moved me to... I wasn't privileged enough to get my own room yet. If the recovery room was hell and a private room was heaven, this was purgatory. Beds separated by curtains but individual TVs for each patient.

    It must have been close to noon because my new nurse (who was also quite cute) asked me if I was hungry and if I was in any pain. Yes on both counts. She put in an order for a lunch tray and pain medicine, respectively.

    When you get treated in a hospital or pretty much anywhere, they ask you a million times, "Are you allergic to anything?" My usual answer was, "Not to my knowledge." Well, things have changed.

    When they call it "pain" medication, its not supposed to give you pain, is it?

    Percoset, as it seems, is not one of my friends. I've been told that most people feel good after taking it. Not me. It seemed to have the exact opposite effect on me. It accentuated the pain to the point it was all I could think of. When my lunch tray arrived, the nurse found me lying in a cold sweat, breathing short shallow breaths. Eating was low on my list of priorities.

    After the percoset wore off, I did what all patients do to pass the time in hospitals... watch TV. Generally I don't watch much TV. (A few hours a night at most.) It's not that I think I'm better than TV, it's just that today's shows don't grab me the way that they used to.

    Anyway, I turned on the TV and after a couple seconds of channel surfing, I knew immediately what day it was. That's right, it was September 11th. The same thing on every channel... Over and over again... In some sort of endless loop.

    Between the endless September 11th "One Year Later" coverage on every station and the "pain" medication, I was ready to go crazy. That is, if I could move without the aid of my IV stand.

    A couple cycles of September 11th coverage later, I broke my unintended fast with a roast beef sandwich the nurse (a different one, but also cute) was kind enough to provide me. Again, I wouldn't realize it at the time because my hunger was overriding my taste buds but like all hospital food, this sandwich didn't taste like anything. How can mayonnaise not taste like anything? I'm thinking hospital food must be specially prepared to remove every bit of flavor from what has the potential to be a tasty meal.

    Soon after, I finally got my own room, complete with door and my own personal bathroom.

    My next few days in the hospital would be a variation on that first one. Watching TV to pass the time, doctors visiting me once a day to see how I was, nurses (most of who were cute) checking in on me every few hours to give me antibiotics check my vitals and eating tasteless food.

    Oh and the needles. Oh the needles. By the time I was discharged, I had enough needles stuck in me to make Kurt Cobain blush (if blood could still flow to his cheeks). Let's see... there were the heparin shots so my blood wouldn't clot so I wouldn't die from Deep Vein Thrombosis... the IV that jabbed at my arm every time I bent my arm at the elbow... and the multitude of blood drawings that made me feel like a happy meal for a vampire.

    All in all, it wasn't a bad stay. I mean, I did get a week off from work. (More like 2 and a half weeks with the recovery period after my discharge...) I haven't had that much free time since I started working... granted, I had to get a piece of me removed to get that time off... and I did have to cancel my trip to N'Oleans but at least I missed the whole hurricane whatever-the-name-of-the-hurricane-was thing.

    Hmm... maybe I'll get my appendix out sometime next year (maybe around Spring) so I can have some more paid vacation/sick time...

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