I’ve not had much personal experience with surgeries. (Thanks God). Still have my appendix and gallbladder, though missing my tonsils and adenoids for the better part of my life (not lonesome-type missing-just no longer residing in me-missing). After I’d started walking (‘she walks with purpose’-one of my favorite lines from the series Deadwood by Al Swearengen) about 5 miles a day for a couple of years in 1998, I acquired a limp. After several cortisone shots, it was determined my great toe needed repair work (actually wasn’t that great-it was just big and refused to bend). Other than breaking the same elbow 3, possibly 4 times (and counting) I’ve been lucky in avoiding hospitals.
Which brings me to my latest surgery notch on my belt (these are belts no one wants to wear or add new notches). I’ve just passed the 2 week mark since my knee replacement. One can’t help but worry when surgery is in your future. Just going to the hospital is scary. The place is full of sickness and germs. You’re either there to have something repaired, removed, replaced or a serious illness. MRSA infections breed and flourish no matter how many times those attending you wash their hands. BTW, during my 48 hour stint I never witnessed one person who came in my room and literally washed their hands before or after helping me. Not once. That surprised me. But everyone did use the automatic hand sanitizer dispenser. I’m not gonna put my hand on a Bible and say I was coherent at all times, (drugs were involved) yet think I’d remember that one nurse who thoroughly scrubbed her hands with soap while singing happy birthday for 20 seconds.
My main concerns throughout this ordeal should have been my brand new knee joint recently hammered into place, pain management, learning how to use a walker, avoiding nasty germs-lurking about, my rather-hard-to-look-at-incision, the tiny catheter resting in my upper thigh-busy pumping novocaine into a numb leg, my mouth (which was as dry as a popcorn fart), my constantly chattering teeth or walking down an endless corridor twice a day for physical therapy. But no.
I’ve had even less experience with prescription meds. For the last decade I’ve been taking one medication for Meniere’s Disease (a disorder of my inner ear which causes dizziness, balance issues. Probably started after my slow hearing loss really took a nose dive). It’s a mild diuretic (water pill) which helps balance the fluctuations of fluid in my inner ear. As far as meds go, I’m not counting the times I’ve been sick and needed temporary antibiotics etc, just the one constant prescription. And I’m not trying to minimize the destruction from drug addiction. I know it’s an epidemic, destroying lives of those who get hooked and those who love and worry about those addicted. I realized as a young age after drinking a few beers a couple of times, I loathe the feeling of not being in control. Although I sure could use better self control with my eating habits. Weighty issues makes me feel bad in a different in a kind of way however. I just don’t look or feel good when I’m carrying extra weight. Plus it takes a toll on my health (and my joints).
I read all the literature given to me, filling several folders about my surgery, rehab, most often prescribed medications before I was even admitted. I thought I was informed. Ha. The last time I took prescription meds for pain, they caused me all kinds of grief. But that was almost 20 years ago. It was Vicodin and I suffered hallucinations. Kept seeing this guy coming out of my laundry room (15 feet away) who I felt was trying to harm me. When Dr. Carpenter discharged me, there was pain medication prescription waiting for me at the pharmacy. I did not understand how much the side effects of the pain pills would affect me.
I was prescribed Norco for pain. Hubs knows how dicey I am under ‘the influence,’ so he immediately cut them all in half. Hoping maybe smaller increments spaced a couple hours apart might help more. But there’s a thin line between being goofy for a couple hours and letting the pain get out of hand. For the most part I took half a Norco about every 4 hours for the first week. And felt worse with every one I swallowed. (In my altered state, my defense is I was slow to realize how bad the pills were making me feel).
Not trying to get graphic here but sometimes there’s just no other way to explain the situation. Ok, the side effects I was so slow to recognize were right there in black & white on my explanation sheet for pain management. Common side effects: constipation, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, dry mouth, difficulty urinating, confusion and itching. I was suffering from 5 of the 8 listed. I could barely eat because I felt nauseous like there was no room in my body to squeeze in a few more mouthfuls of food. Dry mouth kept me sipping ice water (with a lemon slice). But my inability to to move any waste products (ok, poop) or water (pee) was literally scaring me. I’d been given laxatives as soon as I was admitted to the hospital to counteract constipation. How can I not pee? I can feel I gotta pee, but it takes 10 minutes to get the party started. And then it was a tiny dribble.
These trying side effects can’t possibly just occur for people recently coming back from surgery. So just how does one become hooked when the side effects are so debilitating? Do people simply talk themselves into a new way of life by saying, “Ummm, I like the way this makes me feel for a couple of hours and if I never urinate or defecate again in this lifetime, I’m ok with that.” I was terribly uncomfortable, hated how I felt, and was scared shitless. Literally. Scared. Shitless.
On day 10, I told John I was not taking another Norco unless the knee pain was unbearable. My stomach was in turmoil so I moved to ibuprofen. Not a smart move Neese. Basically, the identical side effects, which took another 2 days for me to reach that conclusion. Dang, I’m dense. Bloated and miserable, it dawned on me that the side effects of the medications ordered to help me were causing more problems for me than my newly minted knee. Holy shit. Talked it over with Shannon and the pain reliever with the least amount of side effects was Acetaminophen (Tylenol). She dropped off regular, PM to help my horrible sleeplessness, (feels like restless leg syndrome, just gotta keep moving that sore leg to a different spot) and Melatonin in case I didn’t care for Tylenol PM. (I didn’t. It made me feel groggy until noon the next day). I started a sleep routine, Tylenol and melatonin an hour before bed. No Facebook or internet for a couple hours before bed. A cold gel pack and pillow for my leg in bed. And a book to read until I got sleepy. (Yikes, I’m reading Dean Koontz’s 5 book series on Frankenstein. So much for calm and soothing).
Good news, I’m feeling better. Discharged from home physical therapy to facility therapy which starts this week in Chelsea. Learned how to go down the basement stairs, so decisions about what to fix for supper, and when to do laundry are again in their rightful place. With me. Graduated from the walker to a cane this week. This is a tricky one for me. My balance is not great on my best days. Now I’m trying to maneuver a very stiff leg, using a cane in what I consider the wrong hand! What? Carpenter advised me to use the cane as long as needed when leaving home. If I feel comfortable lurching through my little abode without, that’s fine too. His main concern is me not falling-ever.
Went back to Dr. Carpenter for my 2 week check up. He was pleased (well it was his all his doing). He was satisfied with my movement, motion and mobility so far and tickled with how ‘straight’ my leg is. He was a little surprised at how badly bruised my leg is. He looked on the inside of my calf up to the new joint, then on the outside from my ankle to my thigh and said, “ah, don’t be too concerned with all this bruising. This was me-ah-us during surgery.” Right doc, I already figured that part out…