The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Surgery

The third week of August was a busy one, and I spent little time in the office. Jason had his five-year checkup at noon on Monday. (He did very well and cried only a little when he was vaccinated three times.) I worked at home that morning and came into the office after taking Jason out for a late lunch at his favorite restaurant, Jake's.

Tuesday morning I had to stay home because Squires Fence And Deck was replacing our creaking, decrepit fences and gates. That was supposed to take half a day so I planned to work from home in the morning, but the job was not done till mid-afternoon. (Even so I am pleased with the new fences and especially the gates. Also the price was very reasonable.)

I had to prepare for Wednesday's surgery in two ways: First, I had to take a small amount of aspirin every day. (Aspirin thins the blood and helps to prevent blood clots.) Second, I had to abstain from food and drink after midnight Tuesday. The surgery was scheduled in the afternoon, so that we could bring the boys to day care in the morning. Never have surgery in the afternoon if you can avoid it. Missing breakfast and lunch isn't so bad, but it's torture not to be able to drink even a sip of water.

We arrived at the Fremont Surgery Center at around 11 am. I signed in, and we spent some time in the waiting room -- like everyone else these days, surfing the web on our phones. A nurse took me to a changing room. I took off all my clothes and put on the thin hospital gown, cursing as I tried to tie the straps behind my back. My costume also featured a blue hair net and tight white stockings (also to prevent blood clots).

I came out of the changing room (which looked like a very clean locker room). "Did you take everything off?" said the nurse. "Yes, everything." I visualized myself splayed out on the operating table, the surgeon and nurses working on my knee and happening to look up ... "Could I put my underwear back on?" The nurse agreed that this was a good idea.

The next step was to put an IV in. I now had fluids flowing into me, but as a result I needed to use the bathroom -- three times! Taking a pee while hooked up to an IV is a pain. Some hospitals use portable IV holders, basically a four-wheeled base with a long pole attached. The Fremont Surgery Center did not, so I had to grab the handle of the IV bag, walk to the bathroom, and put the bag on a hook near the toilet (while worrying that the line was too close to the toilet or the ground).

A nurse came by the bed to shave my leg above and below the knee, and to cover the skin with a yellow iodine solution. After that she handed me a purple marker. You've probably heard horror stories where patients were given the wrong operation by accident. I was told to write YES on my knee.

The tall blonde anesthesiologist introduced herself, and made sure I not consumed anything that day. After a wait, I was wheeled into the operating theater.

It was beautiful and gleaming, with shiny Stryker brand machines all over. I climbed onto the Y-shaped table, splaying my legs. The surgeon talked to me briefly. One machine had a wide hose and I wondered whether it would be used to suck blood and parts out of my knee. No; a nurse attached it to a vest which she put over my chest and inflated it with hot air! Now I was very comfortable.

I had wondered what it would be like to lose consciousness. Would I wake up groggy and disoriented? Would I even remember what had happened before the surgery? The last time I had surgery was in 1977, when I had tubes inserted into my ears to drain inner ear fluid. I remember a black mask over my face and the horrible smell of the mask, or the halothane, or both. This time there was no mask; the anesthetic would be delivered through the IV. I thought about how jealous Sherry would be of the hot air vest; she had complained of her operating room from years ago being freezing cold.

Then I woke up. It was like waking from an afternoon nap, delightfully refreshed, and I was fully conscious. There was a cup of apple juice, and that was the best drink I'd ever had. I wolfed down some crackers, which made the nurse tell me to slow down.

An Asian fellow named Allen instructed me on how to use the ice machine and the CPM (leg movement machine). Then the surgeon came in. He said everything went well. He gripped the ball of my foot and pushed it toward me -- "you and your wife should do that more tonight." Then his nurse assistant gave me instructions. There were so many instructions I had to repeat them to make sure I had them straight:
  • Calf pain could possibly be blood clots and was bad
  • Elevate the leg as much as possible for the first few days
  • Use crutches when moving -- the crutches were to move in sync with my right leg, to take weight off it
  • No alcohol while taking Vicodin
  • Use the ice machine but not the CPM. (The butterfly-shaped applicator of the ice machine was already inserted into the large black brace attached to my leg.)
They put me in a wheelchair and loaded me into the car. We headed home.




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