I am a composite of many things. I’m not gonna bore you with an adjective that might fit, but there’s a slim-to-none chance of a new acquaintance harboring these lingering thoughts, “oh I can’t wait to get to know her better.” In a nutshell, I’m a nondescript person living in a descriptive world. Fair warning though, this post lacks some finesse, so if your bothered by minor gory details, maybe you should skip this one.
I’ve never considered myself vain. I’m not fashion conscious and wear minimal makeup on rare occasions. I carry some negative baggage on how I look. Meaning I wish there was less of me to see. I just feel so much better about life when I look decent in clothes. My yo-yo weight issues have kept me company for most of my adult life. I gain a few pounds then spot ‘Will Power’ close enough to become my bosom buddy, only to have the little shit disappear a couple years later, just as I’m relishing his long term commitment plan on maintaining for granted. He obviously doesn’t view our relationship in the same high regard as I do his. (Or he presumes I’m gonna stop shoving food in constantly). A couple years later I grow weary of lugging the extra 25 pounds around when suddenly I see ‘Will’ on the front steps again, willing to renew our friendship. He’s fickle.
I recently passed a milestone birthday. A biggie. As this momentous occasion loomed on the horizon last winter, there was a niggling in my brain suggesting I have a thorough maintenance checkup on some of my parts since my extended warranty had finally run out. (The dude from India just stopped calling). Went to my primary care for my physical and Dr. Arntz suggested:
1. Make an appointment with my orthopedic doctor who specializes in hands. Dr. Aubin diagnosed Dupuytren’s contracture (a thick cord of tissue that pulls a finger into a bent position, aka, trigger finger). I had a twofer. Yay Neese. A quick and easy fix though. A shot of cortisone in 2 spots of the fleshy part of my palm. Ouch. A sore hand for a week but it’s better.
2. Make another appointment with my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Carpenter who replaced my right knee in 2019. Now my left leg was bothering me. X-rays showed my knee is not good but the pain is in the back of my leg, from my upper thigh to mid calf. He sent me to a neurologist who ordered a round of physical therapy after an MRI showed my back/spine is in pretty good shape. The physical therapy is for Piriformis Syndrome. Laymen’s term please. My big butt muscle is compressing on nerve causing tingling, numbness, pain and a limp. It’s fixable. PT is helping.
3. Have a thorough eye exam. When the eye doc asked about any noticeable changes I told him my peripheral vision was way off. Hubs strung a clothesline in the laundry room downstairs 5 years ago. When our shirts are partially dry I hang them up (no clothespins, just plastic hangers). As I turn from the dryer, the clothesline is literally 15 inches away and a foot above my head. I miss the damn clothesline 75% of the time on the first try. I don’t know why but that’s definitely different than a couple of years ago.
He wanted to run another test so I went back couple weeks later. He had me look through a view master like device. Simple enough. I pressed a button every time I saw a yellow dot. One eye at a time, the other eye was covered. Out of a possible 64 dots that flashed, I saw 6 with my right eye and 16 with my left. Never thought from my 3 minor health issues, my eyes would take the trophy.
Another referral to a specialist named Dr. Ambani. (The snowball effect with doctors. Still, would rather get a referral from my PC rather than have him try 6 different things before sending me to a specialist). She sat me down and explained my eyelids are so ‘hooded’ they’re covering part of my eyeballs, limiting my vision. One of the reasons I lift my eyebrows/forehead when I read-that movement simply lets me see better. Right eye is worse (I sleep on my right side so it’s puffier). She got out her iPhone and took 20 closeups of my face. It was embarrassing and quite unflattering. Said I should have surgery to remove some eyelid skin/fat (gross) so my eyes will open further. To make matters worse, my eyebrows were drooping and would sag even further south after removing eyelid tissue unless they were boosted north. Oh the ‘gravity’ of the situation.
These pictures and her diagnosis went to Medicare for approval, emphasizing this was for medical reasons not cosmetically. After a few weeks the surgery request came back with a thumbs up, so I was put on the surgery schedule a month in advance. I’m not gonna gross you out by trying to explain what’s entailed in the 2-1/2 hour procedure. Same day, in and out in a few hours, (which turned out to be my only criticism). I wasn’t coherent or ready to go home. The post op staff kept murmuring in my ear because they couldn’t get my hearing aid back in. “Wake up Denise, it’s time to go home. We can’t give you any more medication, let’s wake up now.” I don’t remember getting in the car, the ride home or walking to the house. I slept in my recliner for 36 hours. My head had to be higher than my heart to curb swelling. I was still pretty nauseous, so only a few sips of water and a couple bites of toast during that time.
What I looked like is hard to describe. Part Herman Munster, (but without the gaudy scar because my surgeon’s meticulous) part Bart Simpson, part walking wounded Civil war soldier. My entire head was wrapped in a foam ace bandage, beige colored, mummy headgear, cupping my chin. Tufts of my silver/white/gray hair stuck out everywhere. (My iPad Pro has facial recognition and it didn’t know me for 4 days-hahaha). My eyebrows were visible and my right ear (at least they remembered the appropriate ear for my hearing aid). If I hadn’t been mostly unconscious-even I would have found this hysterical.
Dr. Ambani warned me to leave the Civil War headgear on for 48 hours before my first shower. I stewed about this before surgery but since I was so miserable it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I could shower after Hubs unwrapped my head. Stitches and staples (really the thought of seeing staples in my head sort of freaked me out, but they were very small) dotted my hairline. Gulp. If you took a horseshoe and lined it up behind both ears, that was the section I could scrub without pain or feeling faint. I dribbled water over the front third, gently touched a couple drops of shampoo and rinsed. Pat, pat, pat with a towel. But I felt human!
I needed to keep Vaseline on my hairline and Bacitracin on my eyelids, so I looked like a grungy greaser an hour later. But both salves stopped the pinching and tightness. Only bruising was about 2 inches below each eye, kinda swollen too. I’m astounded at how little pain I had. Hubs cut a pain pill (mild opioid) in half for me 3 times during the first 3 days. That was it. I had 2 ‘spots’ on my head that bothered me a lot but we’ll get to that during my post op visit.
Day 8 after surgery for post op visit to have stitches removed (hopefully staples too). Nurse led me to an exam room and asked permission if a resident tagged along with Dr. Ambani to see patients today? Sure. Sigh. They walk in and Doc stops in her tracks. “Oh Denise, I love your eyebrows!” Me: “I know, me too! Noticed them a couple days ago and thought, well that’s where you guys were 10 years ago!” Doc wants more pictures (if she ever loses that work phone or gets ticked at me, she’s got a lot of ammunition). “We gotta have before and after pictures.” To make her point, she shows me (and the resident) a couple before’s. “Look at your eyelids. They were starting to cover your IRISES! Now look.” Sure enough, there’s a lot more of my eye showing, even with the swelling and stitches intact. The next before picture’s even worse. She had gently pulled the mass-of-too-much-pouchy-skin out towards my ears. Not sure if I looked more like a flying squirrel or a bat. This was a humbling experience. And embarrassing. There’s a strong possibility I’ve never looked worse.
She leans me back and starts removing the stitches and staples. Every tug stings because she catches a hair or 2 at the same time. She and the resident are having a teaching moment which is distracting but ok. “What kind of thread is that?” “Some of it has dissolved already. I use that type on kids more often so there’s less stitch removal.” “Why did you use that type of stitch there?” “Are you married? Do you have kids? Where ‘ya from?”
Finished that small ordeal and she asked about any issues I have. “Well there’s a spot on my right forehead that’s mighty painful.” “Yes, there’s a clip under your skin (oh I can’t even). It’s gonna be very sensitive but will dissolve in about a year.” (I vaguely remember her explaining that). After I find I can still speak, I move on, “there’s a baseball size tender spot on the top of my head, upper left. Hurts even when I yawn.” “Hmm, remember when I told you had a receding hairline on one side?” “Oh bloody hell, I do not.” “Well, I wanted to match both sides, so I hitched your left side up a bit. Probably why that spot’s a little tender.” (Ok, there’s nothing more I want to be inquisitive about. So done).
I’m amazed at how well I see, especially when I’m concentrating on an object, then see how much my peripheral vision can take in at the same time without moving my eyes. Eyes are still sensitive to light but getting better. If I were wearing ear muffs, everything in front of the muffs is numb to my forehead. Think that’s going to take awhile to get feeling back. Never realized until now how appropriate it was when someone says, “Neese, you’re such a numb skull.”…