I feel I need to document this stuff before it fades from my memory. Although what I’ve written about my recent medical dramas has certainly turned a few of you woozy, from letters I’ve received I also know that sharing this information has helped a lot of folks out there.
My wife woke me up at 4:30 AM on the morning of December 5. It was still dark out. I began dressing in anticipation of going to the hospital in very loose, baggy clothes. It seemed surreal. I felt out-of-body, like I was above or beside myself, watching everything going on with and around me. I didn’t feel numb; it was more like I was sleepwalking.
I got into the passenger seat of our car and my wife drove us down south to Orange County to the St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton. We entered the building, found the appropriate floor and began my check-in process. Off with the clothes and into a backless hospital gown. I laid down on a hospital bed and then nurses proceeded to prod, poke and examine me. With just a little difficulty the tubes from an intravenous (IV) drip unit were inserted into the back of my hand.
My anesthesiologist came by and introduced himself. My urologist (and chief surgeon for my operation) greeted me. His eyes twinkled as he said, “I just came by to see you so you know I’m not drunk”.
When it was time for the operation I remember being lifted by my bed sheet and shifted to a gurney. I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up. My wife said the anesthesiologist turned to her and said, “I just gave him the best margarita he’s ever had in his life. You’ve got time for one more kiss.” She said she leaned over and kissed me. Then I was taken away.
I woke up hours later. My first thought was, “I’m alive!”
I was very surprised that I wasn’t sore or in any pain. A nurse came in and showed me the glowing green button on the end of a cord. “This is your morphine,” she explained. “If you feel pain just press that button. It will release morphine into your system.”
There was a guy who was in pain in the room’s other bed. A curtain separated us. He ended up being operated on and released very quickly that evening. After that I had the room to myself.
Unbelievably, it was hours before my wife, mom and youngest brother (Dave is the head nurse at a hospital near Sacramento. I was extremely touched that he drove all the way down to see me through this) were told that I had awoken. During that time I plotted a practical joke. When they entered the room I was going speak with heavily slurred speech and tearfully ask why I couldn’t move the right side of my body. I ultimately decided that faking having had a stroke was too sick a joke for me to play even for my twisted sense of humor.
The three of them came in and it was joyful to see them. I told them the joke I had planned and jettisoned. They all laughed and then my mom told me of the joke they were going to play on me but didn’t.
My mom’s plan was to have all of them come in. When I opened my eyes, instead of being greeted with joy they were going to have long faces full of sorrow — as if they knew something horrible about my condition or the results of my operation that I hadn’t yet been told. Gee… I wonder where I get my dark sense of humor from…?
I guess the fact that we didn’t play those jokes on each other shows that we’re (finally) maturing.
I was given a device to build up my lungs so that I wouldn’t get pneumonia during my hospital stay. Here’s how it works: You put your mouth on one end of the device and inhale. That causes a little marker to move up. You need to steady your inhalation to keep that marker between two arrows. While you’re doing that a gauge rises behind calibrated markings. Your goal is twofold: keep the marker between the arrows; and try to get the gauge to rise as high as possible. The maximum height it will go is marked at 4000.
The nurse told me to practice and try to work my way up to 1500. I hit 2000 my first try. By my third round of this exercise I hit 4000 (thank you, daily running of miles of hills). Yay! No pneumonia!
By the second day I was well ahead of my predicted healing schedule. I passed gas (an important indicator) a day or two ahead of schedule.
Then I got an intense, familiar pain in my lower back. I knew what it was immediately. From lying in one position for so long I had formed a kidney stone.