Good morning, friends. As I told you last Friday, I had major abdominal surgery and I was in the hospital until last night. The hospital in question was Wake Medical Center in Raleigh, N.C. and, if you have to get sick, it’s a damn good place to go. Interesting side note: Wake County was declared the best place to have a heart attack by Men’s Health Magazine, due to the cutting edge technology employed by Wake County EMS (of which I am a member) and Wake Medical Center. These folks are very compassionate and give excellent care. They get all my business, which is happening way too often these days.
That’s not to say a stay at Wake Med is fun. Far from it. It’s never fun to feel bad and anyone who checks into the hospital without feeling bad is absolutely batshit crazy. Lewis Grizzard once said “Surgery is easy; you’re asleep. They could cut off your toes and you wouldn’t care. It’s all those things they do to you before and after that make you crazy.” Take my most recent experience, for example. I showed up at 11 AM for a 1PM procedure on Friday. Fair enough, it takes some time to get ready for something as intense as surgery. After about half an hour, they took me back and instructed me to get completely undressed and put on the gown and socks provided and get on the bed. Modesty suffers a quick death in medical procedures and the standard hospital gown strikes the first blow. You have take off every stitch of clothing and don something that seems purpose-made to expose your backside to the world. The socks don’t help, either, because they’re compression hose designed to aid your circulation. Unfortunately, they reach up to your knees and look like something your weird uncle might wear with shorts and sandals. Then, I was stuck multiple times for IV’s, blood work and the like, which is always fun. Finally, my family was allowed to come back and sit with me while we waited for the doctors to arrive and do their part. One by one, they showed up and made their manners, which I think is only right. If you’re going to gut me like a fish, at least have the decency to stop by say hello first. Then, it was time. I said my goodbyes and they wheeled me into the OR. This was the easiest part of the whole thing, since all I had to do was fall asleep. I’ve never had trouble falling asleep and they helped by putting something wonderful into my IV. The next thing I know, I’m waking up and people are telling me it’s all done and it went great. Supposedly, I talked to my doctor, but you couldn’t prove it by me. In fact, Friday from 1pm through about late Saturday evening is a huge blur. Between the anesthesia and the morphine (wonderful stuff, morphine), I was in a major drug induced haze, which shielded me from the indignities that were being inflicted almost every waking minute. I did have enough coherence to keep myself covered in the presence of my daughters. Which was no easy feat because I had a Foley catheter inserted (click the link if you’re not sure what it is, I’m not describing it here) and no underwear beneath my lovely gown. As the drugs wore off, the catheter came out and I could pee on my own; which meant standing in the middle of the room, peeing into a jug and leaving it out for all to see so my nurses could monitor my “output”. There is what seems an unhealthy obsession with bodily functions in the hospital. Everyone wants to know if you gone, how much you’ve gone, what it looks like, etc. I know it’s one of the ways they measure your progress, but it’s just a little unseemly. With any surgery, it takes a while for your bowels to wake up and, as I had abdominal surgery, it took even longer for mine to get going. I was having some problems and they tried numerous ways to stimulate that, all of which flung dignity to the winds. Let me tell you something, lying on your side with your naked butt exposed while some young woman squirts a Fleet enema up it is pretty much the epitome of undignified. I was backed up and felt bad, so bad I prayed on the john (something I’ve never done before) begging God for help in pooping, not just to go home but because I was absolutely miserable. As usual, He answered in a roundabout way: my doctor came in and decided I could as well at home as there, so I he released me. Within five minutes of the pronouncement, I couldn’t stay off the john. By that point, my attitude was “Whatever it takes to get out of here”. Because, when you need it, the hospital is a fine place to be. When you don’t, it absolutely sucks.
I know this has been long, but it’s just beginning. The pathology report came back and showed this is a recurrence of the colon cancer I thought I’d beaten 5 years ago. That means 6-8 months of chemotherapy. When it rains, it freakin’ pours. I survived then and I’ll survive this time. It’s still gonna suck though.