I was first on deck at Northside, which everyone tells me is an absolute blessing. It sure didn’t feel like one when I got up at 4:30. Nonetheless, I’m not dependent on anyone else’s surgery schedule, so I was basically assured to be first in, first out, and on the road before rush hour traffic.
I was given a few options for anesthesiology, and I always opt for the least invasive method. I truly believe the recovery from the drugs is often worse than the procedure. In this case, I received an epidural injection, a popliteal block (a block on the nerve behind my knee), and some sedation so that I would shut up during the surgery. I did drift in and out during the procedure, and I distinctly remember hearing the doctor ask for a scalpel, then ask about his drill. I mostly remember not really caring.
I spent an hour or so in a shared recovery room looking to my left, right, and across at the other patients. I’d had a relatively uninvasive procedure and hoped they were so lucky. I saw one woman wheeled in unconscious. She looked to be in terrible shape, but I realized she was still out. I heard faint muttering from the nurses of a masectomy. I couldn’t help but feel terrible for this woman and sincerely hoped she’d make a full recovery. I later learned that Jen had been in the waiting room conversing with two women. These were the same two we encountered at 5:30 am and had them witness my living will; I was so rushed to get all my paperwork signed, I’d barely had a chance to read any of it, nor to share more than the most basic smalltalk with these two who were signing a document that said the hospital must legally deprive me of food and water should I fall into a persistent vegetative state.
Jen had talked with these two at great length. She said their mother was back in the hospital for treatment of cancer that had spread into her lungs. I mentioned that I’d heard something about a masectomy, and Jen confirmed that the woman had fought breast cancer and was now seeing a relapse. How terrible I now felt. These two women had been so seemingly concerned when I told them I was in for ankle surgery. How foolish I now felt.
The hospital staff was excellent, and I was finally moved to a room. Our nurse was great, and it turned out her husband was a local cyclist for a rival team. We talked at length about healthcare, cycling, hobbies, and I received more than one lecture on how to and how not to rehab my ankle. There was also a list of criteria I’d have to meet before going home, including having the epidural wear off so that I could bear weight on my other leg, as well as demonstrating the ability to eat and pee.
I opted for the “surprise” plate and requested no red meat. They sent beef stew.
I talked quite a bit with the nurse while Jen ran out to get Percoset, aspirin, and some gas. Our nurse is a traveling nurse like my friend Erick, meaning she can pretty much get a job in any city. She’s on for three 12 hour days and then off for 4. She has a 2 year old and a husband who is recovering from being hit by an SUV. She went into nursing because she loves people, which was clear to me. I’d told her how I thought I received excellent care from all the physicians, who were no doubt experts in their field. But I realized that I really couldn’t have ever been one, because they don’t have the time to spend more than a few minutes with their patients.