Doctor’s Orders

Said, ” Doctor, ain’t there nothing’ I can take?”
I said, “Doctor, to relieve this belly ache”
I said, “Doctor, ain’t there nothin’ I can take?’
I said, “Doctor, to relieve this belly ache,”

Put a lime in the coconut and drink ’em bot’ together
Put the lime in the coconut, then you’ll feel better
Put the lime in the coconut, drink ’em both down
Put the lime in your coconut and call me in the morning

Coconut, Harry Nilsson

Bone structure of a human arm.

Bone structure of a human arm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

February 19 was a Tuesday. The date of my surgery. Work on my left hand, my non-dominant hand. Implants inserted to fix my MCP joints and thumb fused to create a more functional position for my hand.

The week before, I had completed Week 6 in my 15 week workout program. I have temporarily suspended Week 7 until further notice.

I was supposed to be at the hospital at six a.m. and my surgery scheduled to start at eight. My liquid fast to start five hours before, which meant three in the morning. That was not a problem, I was asleep at that time.

My mother and my sister convinced me to leave my iPhone at home instead of taking it with me to the hospital. I eventually agreed, thinking it would feel strange not having it with me. I gave up the idea that I would be snapping photos (with one hand) during the surgery and posting live updates to Facebook and Twitter.

By 6:25 I had arrived and checked in at the hospital and learned that the surgery had been rescheduled from 8 to 10. I was okay about the delay; it’s not like I had anywhere else to be that day.

I changed into the blue hospital outfit. The nurse that brought it to me described it as “one size fits none”. She instructed me to remove my regular clothes and put on the hospital outfit. “If you weren’t born with it, take it off.”

A conversation with the anesthesiologist. We discussed the options and agreed to a plan. Our preferred option, to use a regional anesthetic to freeze my left arm from the shoulder down. I would be sedated and drowsy and able to respond if they say my name. The terminology they used to describe this process was “apply a block”. Plan B was to use a general anesthetic which would completely knock me out. The anesthesiologist would monitor me throughout the process; we would go to Plan B only if necessary.

Several hours later I was lying on the operating table, an IV attached to my right arm. Various members of the surgical team introduced themselves to me.

One of the aids placed my right arm with my hand resting on my belly. My hand touched something else there – it was a hand and an arm. Logically I knew it had to be my left hand, but it couldn’t be – my left arm was still in the upraised position I had it in before they applied the block. Wasn’t it? It felt like it was. Obviously the block has already taken effect. I felt nothing in my entire left arm and had zero control of it. I had heard that the muscles have a memory, that they remember the position they were in before they were frozen. To my right hand it felt like I was touching a severed arm lying on my body. With my right hand I felt the other hand and the other arm, both warm, but it was like the other arm was not attached to my body.

When I had a wisdom tooth pulled out a couple of years ago I had no awareness of the passing of time. One moment they told me I was going to feel drowsy and I was looking forward to a snooze, and then suddenly they were telling me to sit up. “Why?” I asked. “We’re finished.”

Doctor Who and the Temporal Paradox: Episode 4...

Doctor Who (Photo credit: >Rooners)

In this case, I was aware of passing of time; I felt like I was drifting in and out of sleep. I got to enjoy my snooze this time, and was barely aware of the surgical team as they worked on me. My mother, who was waiting in the visitors room, had a different experience of the passing of time. For her it was a long four hour wait during which she couldn’t do anything else.

Eventually the team finished up with me and prepared me for my discharge. My left arm was heavily bandaged and was in a sling. I have to be protective of my arm, I was told. Until the anesthetic wears off, I could get my arm caught in a car door or touch a hot stove and not realize it. Indeed, before I left the hospital, I made a visit to the washroom. While I was conducting my business, my left arm slipped out of its sling and flopped down. It just hung there like a complete deadweight. After I completed my, ahem, transaction, I needed help from a nurse to get my arm back into the sling. I was amused to see this thing, sticking out of my shoulder and flopping about.

RX Lime in the CoconutAfter I got home, I had some lunch, sent some emails, and rested. Later, the anesthetic wore off and I was starting to regain control of my arm. I was also regaining feeling, and that included a burning sensation on the back of my hand and on my thumb. Where they had cut me open.

Doctor’s orders were to take one or two of the prescribed painkiller pills every four hours as required. My prognosis was that it was now required.

My surgery was two weeks ago now. I am two weeks into the rehab process. The surgical incisions are healing and the stitches were removed today. I still have the Frankenstein marks on my hand and on my thumb; I hope they too will eventually heal. Having the wounds heal is nice, but what’s important is that after all this trauma I have a more functional hand. We already see that the alignment of my fingers is better than compared to what it was before; correcting the ulnar deviation is the ultimate objective. I have another four weeks to go before I’ll stop using the working splint to stretch my fingers into the proper position and retrain my hand.

The journey continues.

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7 Responses to Doctor’s Orders

  1. Hope you have a speedy recovery, but curse you, that song will replay all day and all night in my head. Thanks for dropping by “Honey” again.

    • orestgtd says:

      Thanks for the kind wishes.

      As for having that song playing in your head all day… There is some evil satisfaction I take in knowing that by writing a few words I can implant a song in the mind of someone I haven’t even met!

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