|By: Paul S. Cilwa||Viewed: 4/20/2019
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|An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal|
Wednesday, July 2, 2003
Michael left early to take his final exam in Physics, a grueling subject that we both spent hours last night studying for. This morning, I was allowed to eat breakfast as long as I was done by 10 o'clock. Michael returned unexpectedly early from having taken his test ("How did you do?" "I don't have any idea.") and was able to join my ex-wife, Mary, daughter Karen, and my mother shortly before one as we set out for the hospital to have my double hernia "repaired".
That's what they call it. "Repaired." As if I'd blown a tire.
And, in fact, my newly outed navel actually looked like a weak spot on a tire.The whole lot of us trouped into the admitting office at the hospital. Well, we didn't all fit into the tiny room; some had to wait outside by the door. At least I, as the patient, was able to get a chair. I signed the various papers, and made sure they knew Michael was my husband and would be able to see me in the recovery room. Then Michael and I said goodbye to the ladies and went into the surgical preparation area.
The way they have it set up is kind of cool. There is a preparation area; it looks like an emergency room with a number of beds with curtains around them, some drawn, most not. There were a couple of other patients there besides me. In this area people are disinfected, shaved, and anesthetized prior to their operations. The far doors in this area led to the various operating rooms. And, once surgery is completed, the patient is wheeled into a recovery room on the other side of the operating rooms. This way, patients about to undergo surgery do not have to hear the moans of people who have undergone surgery.
I remember my sister, Mary Joan, recounting an experience when she was having her first baby. It was a small hospital where operating rooms doubles as delivery rooms, and all were busy. Mary Joan was made to wait outside the operating room door, where she could clearly hear the conversations inside. She recalls hearing, "God! Who'd have thought it would spurt like that?" just before passing out.
But this situation was quite different. It was quite and homey, almost like having an operating room as an addition to your house. Michael and I passed the time trying to guess which of the orderlies and doctors passing through the room were gay. Then a nurse came in and asked some questions, most of which were repeats of questions that had been asked in the admitting office. They seemed to be very concerned over whether I had any foreign objects hidden in my body that might surprise the surgeon when she cut me open. "What, you mean like a jack-in-the-box?" I asked.
The nurse added something to the intravenous fluid dripping into the back of my hand. "It's to relax you," she said. It relaxed me, all right. I began to explain to her about alien abductions, and how many friends of mine who were abductees, had gone into surgery only to find there were foreign objects in their bodies: small slivers of a glass-like material, usually.
"If you find one," I slurred, "I want it back. Please."
Then the anesthetist, a great bear of a man, came by. After we chatted a few moments, he told me to say goodnight to Michael and added some medication to my IV. That was it; I was out.
As I rose through the darkness, the first thing I heard was a woman's voice saying, "I wish I had someone do that when I was coming out of surgery. He's a very lucky man."
The next thing I realized was that someone was massaging my feet. My eyes were still closed and I felt no urgency to open them.
I've had a general anesthesia before, and usually coming out of it has been unpleasant. But, this time, it was like waking up on a lazy day, like the first full day of vacation. When I did open my eyes, I found that it was Michael who was massaging my feet. I'm certain that's what made waking from the anesthesia such a relatively pleasant experience.
I do not have a clear memory of the rest of this day. Obviously, we left the hospital and went home, but I don't remember actually doing that. I had anticipated tossing, turning, and/or moaning when I got back and suggested we open the sofa bed for me so I wouldn't disturb Michael's sleep. However, Michael slept with me in it. He told me later I had sweats and chills during the night, but I don't remember any of it.
Thursday, July 3, 2003
I woke today, sore, sometime in the early afternoon. I went to the bathroom—something I'd worried about, but the function didn't cause any discomfort (although the walk from the bed did).
I had three small incisions on my belly. One was at my navel, of course. Another was located about two inches below my navel, and a third an inch or so below that. The hair on my belly had been shaved to accommodate whatever it is they had done.
I had heard from various people that this was probably a laparoscope operation, since the incisions were so small and I was able to go home the same day. That means, the small incisions were made and tubes were inserted into my abdominal cavity. The tubes carried fiber optics and snake-like mechanics to steer with. Then a mesh had been inserted between my intestines, which were like the inner tube trying to escape the tire, and the muscles, which were like the outer tire wall.
I say I heard this from people, because Dr. Timbadia never actually told me what she was going to do. She always told me she was going to tell me; but she never actually did.
Now, there were little teeny pieces of tape holding each of the incisions together. I took a Percoset, went back to bed, and returned to sleep.
Friday, July 4, 2003
I spent the rest of yesterday blissed out on Percoset, and most of today, too. I had my appetite, but everything I tried to eat tasted really bad, like it was takeout from Denny's. Seriously, food tasted like cardboard. It seemed as if my tongue were still anesthetized. Too late, I read the instructions they had apparently given me on the way home. I was supposed to wear a special jock strap they were also to have given me, but they hadn't. And I was supposed to have taken ten really deep breaths each hour I was awake. Well, I wasn't awake so that never happened. Now I had to wonder if that was why I had no sense of taste.
Some friends and family came over to watch the Fourth of July fireworks in the evening. We live on a lake and the nearest show is just across from us, so we have a great view. Michael carried out a chair for me and someone held my elbow to guide me. It was just as well; I might have walked right into the water.
I saw the fireworks but felt as if I were dreaming. And, afterwards, I was led back home and into my own bed.
Sunday, July 6, 2003
I decided to not take any Percoset today, but in mid-afternoon relented as my abdominal regions felt as if Horton the Elephant were trying to hatch an egg in there. My taste has improved slightly but things still taste like cardboard. I've lost about ten pounds since the operation, which I view as a good thing. At last, a justification for my being overweight: I can lose tens of pounds due to sickness or recovery and still be in no danger of losing too much.
Michael decided it was time for me to recover, already, and set me to work making dinner while he studied. I was still too groggy to do anything too complicated, so I through together some stir-fried shrimp and vegetables mixed with linguini in an Alfredo sauce. (Hey, I may be recovering from surgery but I'm still gay!) Michael said it was good but it still tasted like cardboard to me.
Friday, July 11, 2003
By now my taste buds had pretty well recovered, though not entirely. I had read about people who go in for surgery and lose some seemingly normal faculty, like the ability to smell or remember all of Elizabeth Taylor's husbands. I hoped this wasn't happening to me.
I tried to find out if this was normal by calling Dr. Timbadia and asking. But I got her receptionist, who told me she would get the doctor to call me back; and, so far, I haven't heard a thing.
Our boarder and friend, Celeste, asked if I would build her a new computer. That meant making my first trip out of our community since the surgery. Michael drove us to Fry's Electronics, this huge computer and electronics center that is, for me, what Bed Bath and Beyond is to Michael. We selected a case, motherboard, CPU, memory, hard drive and so on. There were just a few pieces from Celeste's old computer that could be used in the new one. By the time we were done, she would have a pretty powerful computer for under $400.
I was looking forward to putting it together; but by the time I got home I was sore and exhausted, so I went to bed. Still, we had accomplished, I thought, a lot.
Saturday, July 12, 2003
I woke early, completely alert. I got out of bed quietly, not disturbing Michael, and began work on Celeste's new computer. I had it assembled, software loaded, updates applied, by two in the afternoon. The loading of the software took the most time. The other bottleneck was waiting for someone else to move the case for me, since I wasn't supposed to lift more than ten pounds.
Then I answered two weeks' back email. Then I wrote a chapter for the book my friend and I are co-authoring. By then it was time for supper, so I cooked (baked fish with Jasmine rice and a vegetable medley in a garlic butter sauce). My ex-wife brought over her computer, which had gone on the fritz.
Bedtime came, but I wasn't at all tired. I figured, it's because of all the sleep I'd gotten earlier in the week. So I reloaded the operating system and all the software on her computer, then wrote a couple of journal entries.
Sunday, July 13, 2003
By now it was past midnight, but I was on a roll. I composed some music, digitally re-recorded a few LPs and cleaned them up to CD-quality sound. Wrote another journal entry, and decided to install Windows XP on my computer. I'd had the disk for over a year, but hadn't had the time (or nerve) to actually install it. I did it now.
When morning came, I was still wide awake; so I made French toast for everyone's breakfast, then made them get up to eat it. Afterward, Celeste decided on a couple of enhancements she wanted for her computer (a new scanner, a CD-writer) so Michael drove us back to Fry's to get them. Then I installed them.
By now I was getting a little worried. I had been up for about 30 hours, but still wasn't tired. I had not taken a Percoset since yesterday, just Motrin. And I didn't feel jittery, as I would if I were on some kind of speed.
Finally, about 8 pm, I decided to read a little in bed. When Michael came in, he found me lying there, book still open and in my hands, sound asleep.
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Today was my first meeting with Dr. Timbadia since the surgery. She examined me and asked how I felt. I told her pretty good.
"Does it hurt when you lift a heavy weight, like, say, 50 pounds?" she asked.
"I don't know," I replied. "You told me not to lift anything heavier than 10."
She looked surprised, as if she either didn't remember telling me that, or didn't remember anyone ever following her directions before. "Oh!" she exclaimed, recovering. "That question was a test!"
My stitches looked good, she said. "You are ready for light duty," she announced.
"Maybe," I agreed. "But I don't think there's such a thing as light duty truck driving."
"That is for your company to decide," she said. "I will tell them that you are ready for light duty this coming Monday."
The vacation, it seemed, was over.