So there I was, rapidly recuperating from my prostatectomy when WHAM! I get hit by a kidney stone (my fifth; the last one was about ten years ago or so).
Fortunately, my morphine button was all hooked up and available. I whacked that button several times (I later found out that it could only deliver a shot of morphine once every fifteen minutes. The nurses could tell how much I desired the morphine, though, because the machine kept a record of my button hits, successful or not). Floating on morphine, I could deal with the kidney stone pain. But the kidney stone meant I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital as soon as I had hoped. The morphine in my system also meant I wouldn’t be attaining my next marker of recovery (and the main qualification needed for hospital release) — a bowel movement — any time soon. Opiates are constipators.
From lying in one position so long (flat on my back, occasionally sitting up a little) I was getting itchy on my lower back. My brother Bob sent me a can of Monkey Butt Powder to prevent rashes but I had left it at home.
As I write this I recall a bizarre out-of-sequence element of this whole wild ride worth retelling:
There’s an urban myth that a prostatectomy makes your penis smaller by an inch or two due to the way the skin is gathered in the surgical rearrangement of the body plumbing.
Au contraire! What actually happens is that the scrotum swells up to the size of a large grapefruit (a deep purple grapefruit, no less!), dwarfing what the Japanese refer to as the Little Boss by comparison. It’s caused bythe removal of the nearby lymph glands. These glands serve as sort of traffic cops, directing the pathways of blood and fluids. Without them there, the fluids pool according to the laws of gravity. The scrotum is the natural recipient. Things eventually return to normal as the body repairs itself. My first glimpse was a shocker, though!
A big part of my recovery was getting me out of bed and walking again. My first attempt was unsuccessful. I had just taken a hit of morphine. With my wife’s help (she took off work to stay with me the entire time I was in the hospital) I sat up and angled my body to the edge of the bed. My wife helped me to swing my legs over off the bed so that my feet could touch the floor. I slowly stood up in anticipation of walking. I suddenly got very woozy and felt like I was going to pass out. My wife got me settled back in bed. We would try again later.
After the morphine had begun to wear off a bit I told my wife I’d like to try walking again. This time I was successful. Using my IV unit as a steadying pole, I made two snail’s pace “laps” around the corridors near to my room. I joked with one of the old guys I passed along the way. The laps wore me out but it felt great to get back on my feet.
During my recuperation I was told I’d have three choices of body position: lay prone, stand up or sit with my feet elevated. Sitting in a normal position on a chair would make me vulnerable to blood clots. A blood clot could be a disaster. It could kill me or, at the very least, delay my recovery an extra six months during which I’d have to be carefully monitored and be forced to take blood thinners. I knew I didn’t want that. I’ve been very careful about elevating my feet while sitting.
Eventually I passed my kidney stone. It was a small one. I wasn’t sure when I passed it and the nurses were not even concerned with retrieving it.
I began noticing how attractive the nurses were; so the sexual part of my brain at least was still funtioning at its normal obnoxious level.
With the kidney stone gone my next project became kicking morphine so that 1) I’d no longer be addicted to it; and 2) I’d get the opiates out of my system to facilitate that essential get-out-of-the-hospital BM.
I decided to go cold turkey. As pleasurable as each hit of morphine was, I was just going to stop taking it. The withdrawal was not pleasant: sweating, nausea, chills, clamminess, shakes, hallucinations, etc. — just like in the movies. I don’t want to play this up bigger than it was, though. I was only addicted for a short while, so my withdrawal was mild in comparison to that of a long term junkie.
I finally kicked it and really felt at peace and more in control of my will and body. Ahhhh!
I returned to walking, increasing the duration of my walks and their frequency as much as I could stand.
No longer on morphine, the boredom of being in a hospital began to set in and my sleep patterns became less controllable. I woke up at 2:00 AM on Thursday night. I was staring wide-eyed and awake into the blackness of the room. There was no way I could get back to sleep. I didn’t want to rouse my poor exhausted wife, so I buzzed the nurse. She came in and immediately turned on all of the lights, waking my wife. The following dialogue ensued:
Me: I need a mild sleeping sedative so that I can get back to sleep.
Nurse: Just hit your morphine button.
Me: I just kicked morphine; I don’t want any opiates. Just something mild, over-the-counter, like Ambien or Melatonin.
Nurse: It’s 2:00 AM. I can’t give you anything after 1:00 AM.
Nurse: A sleeping pill this late could make you sleep through the day.
Me (getting surly): And what do you think my lying awake until five or six AM will do to my sleep schedule? Look; this hospital must have every drug in the world. I’m not asking for some heavy dope — just a very mild sedative.
Nurse: I could give you some Tylenol — but it doesn’t have any Codeine in it.
Me: CODEINE?! I DON’T WANT OPIATES! I just want to get back to sleep!
Nurse: Well, why don’t you just tap your morphine button just a little bit…
(I knew that tapping it “a little bit” would give me the same dose as pressing it hard)
Me: DIDN’T YOU HEAR ME?! I JUST KICKED MORPHINE! I DON’T WANT ANY HARD DRUGS!
Nurse: (Long pause)…It’s after one AM.
Me: I know: The rules are the rules and there is no way that you’re going to do any thinking on your own. Okay; here’s what I’m going to do: You leave and go back to your post. I’m going to lie here in the dark and just stare for the next five hours. I will probably go out of my skull doing so and certainly end up sleeping all day long come sunrise but don’t you worry your pretty little head about me. Okay?
…and she turned out the lights and left.
Fortunately, my wife is a walking drugstore. As soon as the nurse was gone she supplied me with the mild sleep aids I required.
The next day my wife was eager to get me out of the hospital. I was reluctant because I still (thanks to the morphine) hadn’t had the prerequisite BM.
Then I was brought my lunch, the most gruesome excuse for food I had ever seen….