Friday, June 4, 2010

Surgical History: Part 2

On with the fun...

8: The "adjustment" - When I had the double hernia as a toddler, they took care of something else that had come back to haunt me at age 30. I won't go into detail, but I was pretty scared. My father was, too, and he flew from NY to AZ to be with me during this one.

It was here that Dad was treated to "Rob on drugs." They gave me something to relax me before the surgery. Robin and my father sat with me, apparently talking to me while I waited to be brought in. For reasons beyond my ability to explain, I chose that moment to recite "Rubber Ducky" from Sesame Street...a la Shakespeare.

Forsooth, Rubber Ducky,
Thou art the one!
Thou dost maketh bath time
Lots of fun.
Rubber Ducky, I am awfully fond of thee!

According to Robin, it was complete with dramatic hand gestures. My Dad sought refuge in fantasy, and claimed I was adopted.

9: Arthroscopy of the right shoulder - Someone spilled something on the floor, I slipped, and as I traveled about three yards on the tiled floor, I threw my arms out to maintain my balance. My arm didn't dislocate, per se, but did become unhinged briefly, causing a bone to rake across one of the tendons in my rotator cuff. So, at age 31, I was being operated on again.

This occurred during my six-month stint in Las Vegas. Stu literally lived around the corner from me. And the things that occurred between us...It's a wonder I thought he would truly take me in last fall. I guess I just have a little too much hope that people will change.

Because he worked two jobs at the time, I told him that I only needed him to pick me up. I took the bus to my surgery that day. But when I got to the surgical center, (I didn't rate a hospital), they were able to get me in early, and thus finished early. They called Stu to come get me. Upon his arrival, he didn't say hello. He didn't ask how I was doing. No, the very first words out of his mouth were, "You know they woke me up for this?"

It gets even better. Because they had cleaned up a shredded tendon AND shaved the head of my humerus where it meets the shoulder, my arm was completely immobilized. I was suffering the after effects of the anesthesia, which left me with a case of cotton mouth. I was about to ask Stu if we could pull over to get me something to drink, when he asked if we could stop at the nearest shopping mall. I was sitting in the passenger seat, looking and feeling like a disaster victim, and he felt the urge to go shopping.

But wait! It gets even BETTER! I paused after his question, stunned, and foolishly asked WHY he wanted to go to the mall. "I'm waiting for a video game to be released, and I want to see if it's out yet." Well, who could possibly argue against this. I mean, I'd only had reconstructive surgery to the shoulder of my primary arm. Surely a video game was more important than getting me home so I could rest.

I told him it was okay, and that I'd use the opportunity to grab a drink at the food court. But Fate was on my side! Oh yes, it showed Stu! The game wasn't there yet. So...Ha! (Really, that's all I got.)

During all of my time recovering, Stu, who lived five minutes on foot, and one minute by car from me, never came by to check on me. In fact, when he dropped me off, he didn't see me into my apartment. Heck, he didn't wait to see if I even got into the apartment. He was pulling away as I climbed the stairs.

What can I say? He's his mother's son.

10: Laser lithotripsy - Oh, this was a lot of fun. And I already blogged about it, way back on 27 June 2008! It was when I met my little Lizzy, she of the stunning eyes. In fact, I was able to speak to her on Becky's computer, as Becky has AIM and I don't. (I'm too inept to get it set up.) Becky took one look at Lizzy and exclaimed, "Oh my G-d, she's gorgeous! Especially her eyes!"

As a followup, I would like to announce that Lizzy is CURED! That's right, boys and girls. She was cured of the same disease that killed my elder brother, Micheal. And it was thanks to a bone marrow donor. (If you haven't already, make sure there's some way of knowing if you're an organ donor. If you're not going to be needing them, you might as well alter the course of someone's life.) To be considered cured, one must go five years without any sign of the leukemia. Lizzy has made it. =D

12: Insertion of a Hickman catheter - It's just about six years ago that I had that bone infection. I was hanging around the hospital, receiving IV antibiotics twice a day, and that was it. To get me out, but still have me receive the meds I needed, a mainline was set up in my jugular vein. Oh, they tried to do something simpler, and that involved a line that went into my forearm and up into my chest, but I had an odd reaction to that one. The vein it passed through was one that went over the bicep. It was there that my skin became red and tender, with no reasonable explanation. They tried it on the other arm, and I had the same reaction. The chest catheter was the only option left, aside from keeping me in the hospital.

Once again, I was under twilight anesthesia, as they needed me to perform certain actions while they inserted the tubing. For my part, I just had to take deep breaths and hold them. And, once again, I found myself crying...but after the surgery. I was in recovery, weeping like a child afraid he'd be caught crying over something foolish. A nurse came over and asked what was wrong, and I told her that it hurt. For being a brave, big boy, I was given IV morphine through my brand spankin' new mainline.

13: Removal of a Hickman catheter - What? You think I kept it in me all these years? =P

14: Bunionectomy with a hammertoe correction - About four years ago, I was running into a problem. I had a bunion that was rubbing along the inside of my shoes. It would blister, break, and inevitably become infected. It needed to be fixed, because if I didn't have it taken care of, it could easily lead to the loss of my foot.

Alas, insurance wouldn't cover that procedure. Not unless I was already out while the doc was fixing something else. And there, right next to my big toe, was a hammertoe. So the doc was able to take care of my REAL problem while handling the one that wasn't a concern...but would cause me trouble later when the second toe became utterly useless. (It doesn't bend, gets caught on things. It's...great. Yeah.)

What makes this particular surgical procedure a lot of fun is the removal of a wedge of bone. The doc cuts out the wedge, then screws the remaining pieces in place. I would undo all the work done on that bunion a year and a half later, when I tripped over a curb, traumatizing the entire joint and splitting a bone in my great toe...lengthwise.

15: Emergency...ummm..."screwectomy" - The surgical site for the bunion was showing signs of infection. My podiatrist took an x-ray and said it looked like I was developing osteomyelitis again. Since the screw was a likely place where the bacteria was growing, he wanted to get it out right away. While he was there, he would biopsy the bone.

Luckily, I came up negative for the bone infection. However, to play it safe, I would be put on a broad spectrum IV antibiotic, and that meant...

16: Insertion of a Groshong catheter - I wasn't going to spend 20 days in the hospital receiving a dose of IV medication ONCE a day.

17: Removal of a Groshong catheter - The catheters are convenient to receive meds, but a pain when trying to shower.

18: Multiple nerve decompression of the left leg - This was about three years ago. I was debating whether or not to have this controversial surgery when it was featured on the news. There was a diabetic, preaching to the choir about neuropathy pain, and stating that the surgery helped him. I decided to go through with it, despite the fact that some doctors claimed, and still claim, the surgery does nothing.

Not quite true. A few weeks later, on a Sunday, I awoke with a high blood sugar. My entire body was racked with pain. My clothing hurt when it made contact with my skin. Si I laid in bed, praying for death, when I realized that it hurt everywhere EXCEPT the leg that was operated on. I was so excited that I wanted to call my doctor's emergency line to tell him that the surgery had worked! I had pain relief.

My excitement had me scheduling the other leg a bit too quickly. I wanted to get the other leg done in about one month after the first, and I was still on the mend. The doc told me to slow down a bit.

19: Multiple nerve decompression of the right leg - Almost the same drill as before, with the exception that my podiatrist chose to leave the staples in my ankle in for an extra week. This surgery involved three incisions. One on my upper, outer calf. Another on the top of my foot. A final, rather involved one at my ankle. The ankle was where the most complex work of the procedure was done, with a nice, deep incision to make it more...fun. Because I'd been a bit slow to heal the last time, the doc wanted to cover his bets.

Despite his best efforts, it didn't work. The staples were in for FOUR weeks. When he removed them, he told me to wait 24 hours, and then I could FINALLY shower. (You try living in the desert without a shower for four weeks. See how many of your friends drop by to visit.) I did as instructed, giving it a few extra hours beyond 24 to seal itself up...only to have the incision open up wide as I got out of the shower. Blood was dripping everywhere, and I could see...things...moving through the hole. (I can't tell you how close I came to vomiting on my wounded foot as I tried to patch it up.)

My doctor wasn't in that day, but one of his associates saw me. There wasn't much to be done. The wound was now too old to stitch, so I would just have to tend to it and pray for healing. Said prayers actually worked, leaving a larger scar than the others from the same procedure. (That includes the left leg.)

Oh...Ummm...Oops. Number 18 is missing one "little" event. When general anesthesia is used, they sometimes intubate the patient to control breathing. When the tube was removed after that surgery, the anesthesiologist scratched my throat with the tube. This left me with a tiny trickle of blood going down into my lungs. My blood oxygen saturation was down from 100% to 79% (at its lowest), and the hospital wasn't comfortable with sending me home. I spent a night in the hospital, being woken up every few hours for breathing treatments and exercises to prevent my from developing pneumonia. Now THAT was a good time.

And that's it. There have been 19 events in which I was placed under anesthesia. Compared to open heart surgery or a joint replacement, all are minor. Except that being knocked out by medications that aren't 100% understood is kind of terrifying. (That friend of mine, Mush, told me while in medical school, "Doctor's don't know HOW anesthesia works. They just know it works, so they use it." Truly comforting.) In the next few months, my total will be up to 22, as both elbows and at least one knee are repaired.

Y'know, I thought going on about these procedures would help calm me. Instead, reliving some of the events has me more concerned than before. There's nothing like these kinds of "fond" memories to help unnerve you further.

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