Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Surgery Hangover

**Note: If you are squeamish, overly sensitive to the pain/suffering of others and/or are eating a lime-green popsicle, you should skip this post**

There's a reason I'm not a big drinker. (Well, ok, there are two. The first reason is that I'm a completely obnoxious drunk and spend most of my time reporting on my level of intoxication with various exclamations of "I'm so drunk! I'm SO drunk! I'm so DRUNK!"). The most important, reason, however, is that drinking makes me really, really sick. The last time I got wasted was on my 25th birthday, when I decided that the best way to celebrate my quarter century (and simutaneously mourn the fact that my hip had recently started subluxing, I was recently single, and I was staring head-first into the end of my elite basketball career) was to follow four shots with a big slice of double-chocolate cake with mocha fudge icing that my friend had kindly spent hours making for me. Cut to me, 15 minutes later, puking in the bathroom of The Esquire and trying to arrange my hip-flexion-less body around the toilet while J. held up my hair. Cut to me, two days later, still laying on my couch nibbling on saltines, getting dizzy at the frenetic camera work on "Iron Chef America" and generally hating the world. Despite my Irish heritage and the fact that I am not exactly waif-like, I am a drinking lightweight, embarrassingly so.

Point is: I hate getting sick. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. I hate it so much that I will spend an evening nursing a beer and making excuses about how early I have to get up the next morning/ how much work I have to do/ how I can't walk far enough to get home without a taxi and I'm broke and I don't want to leave my car parked downtown because how will I get it in the morning; (does this sound familiar, Aussies?) I did not realize, however, that I'm also a painkiller lightweight.

After the surgery, I found myself in the recovery room swaddled in warm blankets (bliss!), slowly drifting down from the sedative cloud, and finding myself the proud owner of a handy little button that would give me as much morphine as I wanted. And, believe me, I wanted it, since as the spinal anesthetic wore off, my hip began to feel, well, like someone had sawed off my hip ball and pounded a large metal stake into my femur. The personal-narcotics-administration device (it has a name, but I'm too lazy to look it up) looks like the buzz-in button on Jeopardy! and I felt like I was on the worst game show ever. Instead of questions, it was unrelenting pain and nausea, and instead of money, it was morphine. I'll take "Things that make you want to saw your leg off and beat yourself into sweet, sweet unconsciousness with it" for $200, Alex!

The next 24 hours went like this: morphine. Puke. Anti-nausea medication. Dry heave, then puke. Various cocktails of narcotic painkillers. Projectile-vomit luridly green bile, the level of disgustingness of which had not been seen since I threw up a fluorescent-green lime popsicle in front of the grandparents of a guy I was dating on a trip to Yosemite because I was carsick, which really made a fantastic first impression. More anti-nausea medication. Dry heave. Grunt hello at visitors, unable to open more than one eye. Sleep. Sleep. Puke. Sleep.

In fact, the ability to cover the front of my hospital gown in stomach acid was pretty much the only thing that the narcotics gave me. I didn't actually get much pain relief. The lowest point came two days after the surgery when my back seized up, my hip was massively bruised and swollen, I couldn't walk, a bad reaction to the surgery tape had left oozing blisters on the back of my leg that caused my thigh to stick to the sheets, nothing was working, I wanted my old hip back, it was 3 a.m. and I showed no signs of falling asleep, I couldn't get out of bed without a team of nurses, nothing was working, nothing would ever work, and I was supposed to be discharged the next day. The nurse who came in to find me sobbing gave me the old "they don't pay me enough to pretend to feel sorry for you" eye roll, put a pillow behind my back and offered me a sedative. I declined and spent the night trying not to wake up the lady in the next bed with my crying.

Before the surgery, the doctor had predicted a recovery course of sunshine, rainbows and butterflies. Reassurances of "you're so young!" and "they get you up and walking the next day!" abounded. I wish that someone would have sat me down and said, "Look, Arles. Let me give this to you straight. Getting your hip replacement is going to suck in ways that your life has never sucked before. You will want to reattach your hip yourself using the bush surgery techniques you've learned from Cormac McCarthy novels. Having a spinal instead of a general anesthetic will not make the levels of suckery any less. You will spend the next two months as a raging, seething ball of frustration and misery." Then, I would have steeled my loins, mustered my courage and marched bravely into battle knowing that I was in for a dogfight. Instead, I felt like a WWI calvary soldier charging confidently into battle with my sword drawn and running head-on into machine-gun fire.

So, those of you who are planning a hip replacement, have a seat. Getting your hip replacement is going to suck in ways that your life has never sucked before. You will want to reattach your hip yourself using the bush surgery techniques you've learned from Cormac McCarthy novels. Having a spinal instead of a general anesthetic will not make the levels of suckery any less. You will spend the next two months as a raging, seething ball of frustration and misery.

You're welcome.

1 comment:

  1. thank you for this.
    this is what i've been screaming at the doctors and the therapists since they wanted me to get this surgery. I'm 12 days away and i'm scared to death.

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