Christy Brown and Others.
Monday, 24 May 2021
Thursday, 6 May 2021
Cabbage Pt 3. The Nortel Pillow.
Cabbage 3 -Post Surgery.
Much of my discomfort came later and was due to a hyperesthesia (super-sensitivity) of the scar. So much so that even touching the area was painful.. The touch of clothes brushing over the hypersensitive scar tissue was more painful that some of the really big stuff that seemed relatively painless. How is it no one has ever thought of a little plastic cradle one could tape over the scar to prevent clothes from brushing against the hypersensitive skin? Maybe I need to invent such a gizmo? It would be relatively easy. I thought maybe I'd do it when I was better! Needless to say, I never did. Somehow, that night crept by, a nanosecond at a time, it is true, but a least I could see that the morning would come eventually.
Morning at last! Moved out of the ICU and to the step-down unit. I had been in the ICU for two days instead of one, not because I needed to be there, but because they had nowhere else to put me. Another day there and I’d really have been crazy, but now I had windows and daylight and could see the sky. Oh happy day!
My surgeon, the guy who was holding my heart in his hands just hours ago, was standing at the bottom of the bed, relaxed and easy.
“Everything went well; you’re good for another thirty years!”
I was glad to hear that.
Soon my family were sitting by the bed and had obviously seen a good deal more of me in the past 48 hours, than I had of them. They reassured me of how good I looked, and in fact I wasn’t feeling too bad as long as I was lying fairly still in the bed. But I knew that the therapists wouldn't let me lie in bed for too long and, after adequate numbing with narcotics, they had me walking a few steps later the same day.
The following day my surgeon came around to see how I was doing.
“You are good for another twenty years,” he smiled.
“Not so fast,” I threw at him, “yesterday you said thirty, so that’s thirty percent deterioration in one day.”
He laughed indulgently..
My main complaint, until now, had been nausea, and had been controlled mainly by living on juices and apple sauce and processed fruit, and sending my set meals back without even looking at them. Now I was ready to tackle something a little heartier. Normally, I am not a fussy eater. The meals came, as I found out later, from some central depot. Before taking the lid off, they looked like Air Canada meals (economy), which when I used to fly a lot were not too bad. I remember the choices – “fillet, chicken or fish?” Any resemblance finished on lifting the outer plastic cover. What took place under the cover defied description. Once the lids were whipped off these dishes any inclination to eat was gone. Irene took one look and vowed that my food would be coming from home! Subsequently it did.
The Nortel Pillow.
Nortel was a Canadian communications company in the days when Canada was a successful country. After an outstanding performance it went into a nosedive and a lot of people lost a lot of money. China (Huawei) denied that it had reverse engineered the product and destroyed Nortel. Most of us knew better. On post op day two I was moved to the step-down unit. Because post op breathing and coughing is important the physiotherapist gave us a pillow to clutch to take the tension off the scar when we coughed. Having taken a beating on my Nortel stock when that company went bankrupt I was more than a little surprised to see beautifully embroidered on the pillow 'with the compliments of Nortel Networks'. Nortel had cost me a lot of money and the irony of the situation left me uncertain of whether to laugh or to cry. I decided to laugh even though it hurt! (After all, I had my pillow to hug!) The guy in the bed next to me heard me laughing. We chatted a little. A healthy looking fifty -five year old, he had found his way into the cardiac unit as a result of forcefully pulling open his car door and hitting his subcutaneously implanted cardiac pacemaker so hard with the edge of the door that it was totally wrecked and needed immediate replacement.
"What's the joke?" he asked. I told him.
He examined his pillow. He laughed. "I guess I have the same twenty grand pillow!"
We laughed so much that the nurse came over to see what was wrong.
Thereafter we referred to the pillows as our twenty thousand dollar pillows, because that's about what they cost us. There are no free lunches!
On day three my surgeon popped in to make sure I was doing okay and my scar was okay.
"I have two important questions to ask you today. "
"Okay, fire away."
"One, when can I get out of here?" I asked.
"A couple of days."
"Maybe tomorrow?" I bargained. "If you look out of the window you can see my condo. I could be in emergency quicker from there than you can get me down from here." I was on a higher floor in the hospital so that statement was probably true.
"We'll see how you are tomorrow. The other question?"
"When can I have a martini?"
"As soon as you can get some to bring you one." he intoned, his Scottish accept a little more prominent than usual.
I love the Scots!
The next day he arrived after his operating list and I was ready for him.
"I think I'm ready to go home today," I said cheerily. I could see I was starting to wear him down.
He countered with, "You can go as soon as you have had a bowel movement." Sometimes the bowels are a little slow to start functioning after major surgery,
" I've just been," said I triumphantly.
And that's how I managed to go home on the fourth day after my quintuple bypass!
Some post surgery thoughts:
A bath! Oh, what a pleasure, oh what a joy! And, oh, how much muscle power it takes to get in, wash yourself and to get out! Amazing how much leverage, torsion and other forces involved in just sitting up, pushing yourself on to your feet, while praying that your feet don't slip away from under you, cracking your cracked thorax on the side of the tub, and ending back at the hospital. And where does all that disgusting dirt in the water come from anyway, when you haven't been out of your house and barely out of your bed since the last bath? Anyway, it confirms that the simple joys are great!
Note to Friend on Dec 2. (while still under the influence of medication!)
Apropos of nothing, but in the light of some of our recent discussions, I thought you might be interested in this paragraph I just read in the NY Times Review of Books, from the review of the book by Harold Bloom entitled " Where Shall Wisdom be Found?"
"It reminds me of the experience of a friend years ago,” he wrote, “when, awakening from major surgery, she heard in the recovery room a faint voice reciting the Easter soliloquy in which Goethe's Faust comes back from the brink of suicide to the joy of life. Through her anesthetic haze, she wondered to whom the voice belonged until she recognized it as her own; speaking a poem she had known by heart since childhood and somehow retrieved from deep memory during induced sleep."
Oh, what strange things we store in that three pounds of jelly in our skull!
Finally, A colleague phoned and was pressing me for information about the pain and pinning me down for some descriptors. My bottom line and I knew him well enough to know he would understand the simile, “ - like coming home hungover, getting into a fight and having your chest and ribs kicked in!” Not very eloquent, but I think more accurate than described in any medical text!