Our Bell satellite TV is playing up, this evening in fact I can’t even boot the damn receiver any more. Lightning, our cat, has been sick the last few weeks and we finally decided to take him to the vet to find out what is wrong. We are still waiting for those results. Add my wife being sick in the one country in the world where you don’t want to get sick, ‘merica and you have what is turning out to be a rich tapestry of my life. I am sitting on the recliner, having been told that it’s the best place for me by my physio, down to 1 Percocet at a time and marvelling at what a massive contrast my last surgery was to this one.
Yesterday we left the house at 515am, tired child requesting timbits and the two of us bleary eyed trying to get to the Preop lounge at St. Mikes by 6am. And when I say lounge, this place looks like the setting for the opening scene of a Hitchcock movie which at that time of the day is a little bizarre. I had been dropped off, since there was really no use in having the whole family present while I waited around to be prepped for surgery, and after a relatively short stay in the boudoir of Madame Surgerypants I was whisked off to have my gown strategically placed across parts of my body as I tried in vain to play twister with my bodyparts and a handkerchief. It wasn’t long before I was in the OR ready to go, I was told to take deep breaths and as I commented on the fact it was raining on my face in Chile I was out.
I awoke to an all too familiar feeling of what can only be described as a clothes iron being rolled slowly up and down my spine, pointy end first. To be honest, I was immediately aware of how much better I felt than I had that New Year’s Day in 2003. I was groggy, my back and leg hurt like hell but I was acutely aware of exactly what was hurting and why. I was also able to move gently from side to side, almost like I did when my back used to go out and I would be trying to avoid the electrocution of my spine that came with making the wrong move. It was around 1130 when I woke in the PACU next to a guy who I remembered was in a wheelchair that morning in the Bunny Lounge. After a few minutes we struck up a conversation about our circumstances, our history and actually ended up having a very lengthy and interesting discussion about our lives. Now, anyone who knows me would agree that I am not that guy, I am not the one for friendly conversation and small talk but Jessie, the guy in the bed next to me, had such a similar story to mine and such an interesting history that talking to him was not only a great distraction but was also genuinely pleasant. After about an hour of entertaining the PACU with our war stories and our sporting endeavours we parted ways, I went to the 9th floor to the Neuro ICU and he went to the 4th floor. I had meant to try and check in with him as I left but unfortunately time and circumstances did not allow it. So if you know a Jessie who is a teacher in Ajax, had back surgery on April 24th 2013 and was once a pretty good volleyball player, say hi for me!
Once in the room, it was up to me to try and distinguish the pain from the medication and to figure out a way to plot my next move. It’s still pretty foggy to me, but I had a nice nurse, Joanne who was happy to encourage me to try and stand and get myself to the washroom. In fact, after the first time she assisted me (truth be told she was never going to catch me, but rather just be a soft landing for me) she left me to my own devices to get to the washroom and back which I did only a couple of hours later. As I drifted in and out of my Percocet dreams I strove to move as much as I could, to try and stand when I was able and to gauge just how capable I was. unfortunately there was a wrench in the works. My blood pressure had been dropping steadily since the surgery and hit an all time low of 96/53 at which point they sent in the butcher of Bakersfield to put another IV into my hand. It literally felt like she was ripping at my veins like Edward Scissorhands doing sutures and that pain was to stay with me until the IV came out as I left. Happily the BP started to rise and after just one bag I was fine again.
The most interesting part of the night was still to come as my roommate, who had been hit by a car on the sidewalk only a few days before, fracturing his neck, clavicle and upper back and was now part rod and screws, decided it would be cool to go and have a cigarette in the washroom. Now, I get it if you are an addict, it can be hard, but let’s remember he was harbouring an open flame in a room containing several under pressure gasses not least of all was the oxygen HE WAS ON! Thankfully we didn’t all die in a massive explosion, and I have to admin the nurses took a lot more notice of us after that!
I do have to say that although Joanne did a great job and had a wonderful bedside manner, the quality of the nursing left a great deal to be desired. I think it was mostly a timing thing, and that itself may also be a product of the lack of technology in use. If you can believe it, the nurses were recording medications and vitals on scraps of paper in their pockets and then transferring them into the computer system on computers located at several locations along the hallways. This could have explained why it took over an hour to get medication, or why after requesting washroom assistance for my second trip nobody ever came which is why I took it upon myself to go it alone. The quality of the surgery and the obvious skill of the surgical staff is undeniable, and the reputation of the organization is impressive however at the nursing level I am afraid there seems to be quite a way to go. Maybe I am spoiled but it would certainly serve some of our nursing staff well to come over to St Mike’s for a couple of days to make them realize just how lucky they are to work at an organization that supports them with such impressive technological advances.
I drifted off to sleep, however like clockwork after 3 hours I would awake, immediately aware that it was getting close to my medication time…