You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Somebody Cut Me On Purpose!

...It's all right though.  I paid them to do it.

Before you start to suspect this is all part of some bizarre mystery movie idea, allow me to clarify the situation: I had surgery.

As regular readers of this blog know, Wednesday I had outpatient surgery to repair a double hernia (or as I like to refer to it, a "double turn and cough blowout.") The official description for the surgery is bilateral laproscopic hernia repair. The "bilateral" refers to the fact that they had to repair hernias on both sides. Feel free to grimace. However, when I do something, I go all out. None of this, single-hernia-on-one-side-of-the-crotch-wimp-crap.

The "laproscopy" refers to the fact that it was a hernia repair. At least I assumed that's what it meant. A "lap" scope for a hernia seems very appropriate.

Actually though, it's just the type of scope, as opposed to an arthoscopic repair.  I actually have no idea what the difference is. You can always look it up on Wikipedia if it's bugging you.

Now, most people might be a little reluctant to blog about their hernia repair, but as one of my Twitter pals reminded me (bless you @sunjana1) , I don't have much of a filter. And that was before the anesthesia (rim-shot!)

Have no fear, I'll keep it clean.  This isn't that kind of a blog.  Plus, you may want a little warning well in advance in case you have a similar procedure one day.

The admissions was the usual waiting, punctuated by answering questions, handing off insurance information, and then taking a large vaccuum to the wallet. Actually, it wasn't so bad, and technically I was getting a 2 for 1 special.

We then walked up to the "ambulatory surgery center." Ironically, this is the wing where they do surgeries for people who don't need to be transported by ambulance. I discovered that ambulatory refers to the fact that these patients, including yours truly, can walk, dance a bit, and generally transport themselves before, and to a limited extent after, the surgery. Apparently, it does not mean there would be a little siren on the wheelchair when they took me out. It wasn't even an option.

After some waiting in the appropriately named "waiting room," they called me back to one of the pre-op cubicles.  This is a little area with a few chairs, a bed/gurney, and one very flimsy curtain. My wife accompanied me and we sat down for a health screening by the pre-op nurse. 400 questions later, they concluded there were no unforseen risks and the nurse handed me a robe and socks and instructed me to "get naked." Yes, that's a quote.

She then pulled out a camera.

No, just kidding, she then very professionally left me to the business of changing into the traditional hospital surgical robe. This garment is designed to be the most humiliating piece of clothing you'll ever wear.  It ties in two places, at the neck and at the waist, both in the back. Of course, they tell you only to tie the neck part as the other part needs to be open. Well, what is the point of the second tie then, people?

I changed into the robe, realizing just as I finished that the whole time I was changing there was a gap in the curtain large enough to drive a steadycam through. Fortunately, there was no steadycam.

At least I also had the lovely socks with the rubber bottoms to add to the ensemble. Also, I got to lay in the gurney/bed thingy, so there was minimal exposure, curtains or no.

That lasts until you have to go to the restroom. You're supposed to fast from food and liquid from midnight before, and I did that, but the human body is notoriously uncooperative in situations accompanied by stress, and what's more stressful than knowing someone's going to cut you open in an hour or so?

So, I had to get up and visit the john. Luckily, I was able to wrap the gown around me in such a way that no one got mooned. I do admit to being a bit disappointed that no one walked by eating a Hot Pocket, so I could reenact the "free-eaters" commercial.

After I returned to the waiting cubicle we waited awhile and the nurse soon returned with the dreaded IV. My daughter has had all kinds of problems with these in the past. However, my nurse quickly and painlessly applied the needle and IV to my left hand and informed me that I could move my hand freely with the IV in it.

"Can I make a fist?" I asked.

"Yes," she politely replied.

"Move my wrist?"


"Macrame? Juggling? Kung Fu? Interpretive hand shadows?"

Unfortunately, she had left before I could get a definitive answer about those.

She returned a few moments later with a syringe and pleasantly announced that it was for my stomach.* My first thought was about the old rabies shots. My second was "Oh, crap!"  Actually, as Willy Wonka might say, "Reverse that."

When I regained consciousness (metaphorically speaking) the nurse administered the shot about as painlessly as could be imagined. The actual drug itself though, designed to relax me, stung like rabid wasp venom.

This quickly passed though and soon I was very, very relaxed.  So, of course I had to urinate again.

The IV complicated this greatly, as the hand I previously used to hold the robe shut was now occupied with a large bag full of saliene solution.  Fortunately, Mrs. Fando was able to accompany me down the hall and help keep the robe closed. It's a good woman who will hold your hospital gown closed for you. Some women would surreptiously flip it open as you walked.

My wife's assistance with the robe was a great relief to me, as there were several kids in the area with their families. My biggest fear at this point wasn't a scalpel; it was a sudden, unfortunate wardrobe malfunction, accompanied by panicked squeals of "Stranger danger!"
One nerve-wracking trip to the toilet later I was back in the bed and feeling nicely medicated.

This was about the precise moment a male nurse arrived with an electric razor.

I'm not going to go into much detail here. (No, really) Suffice to say, body hair gets in the way of a surgeon properly doing his or her job, so it has to be removed. Completely. Given that this was hernia surgery... let's just say that I was no longer in a state of complete relaxation.

However, I now completely understand why they give you the relaxation shot first.

My surgeon stopped by to visit and offer a bit of news. The surgery was delayed a bit, as the patient ahead of me in the OR (or "Operating Room" for those of you who've never watched ER) had a few unforseen minor problems, so we got to wait a little while longer. The surgeon though was the kind of fellow who inspires confidence and so I felt a bit better, knowing he was very expereinced with this kind of surgery.  There was utterly no chance of any "Michael Palin-barber-cutting-cutting-CUTTING!" The gentleman is a pro.

It's about at this point that things start to get a little more fuzzy, as the combination of medication and time started to make my mental processes fuzzy.**

I do remember my wife kissing me and being wheeled off into the OR. Wait a sec...dangling modifier there; I was the one wheeled into the OR.

I remember the OR lights and one of the nurses having to climb on the operating table to push down the railing of the gurney I was riding on. She struck me as a very agile young woman. After that I had to slide over to the operating table and the next thing I remember is waking up with a sore abdomen and a foul case of anesthesia-induced nausea.

I vaguely remember dressing. I have no idea whether there were spectators or not. They would have been welcome to help hold me steady.

I remember the wheelchair ride to the front door, mostly because, to my nauseated brain it resembled something akin to a roller coaster with really big back wheels. Disney, Universal, etc. you can skip Wheelchair of Nausea as an upcoming attraction.

I remember my wife driving our SUV through the yard to our front door so I could walk the shortest possible distance to our recliner, where I resided for most of the following 24 hours. After I reclined though, I was out for at least four hours.

I remember little else, which is the beauty of modern surgery. I don't remember being intubated or the cutting or any of the other things done as part of the process. I have three neat little incisions that I don't remember the surgeon making. I don't really remember much of the post-operative instructions we were given in recovery.

I don't even remember why I'm writing this, but I'm assuming it has something to do with finding the lighter side of things, and letting people know that surgery isn't as awful or frightening as one might think. It's not hilariously amusing, but the one thing I can guarantee is that it will leave you in stitches.***

No, I'm not posting photos of them.

*My wife explained later that the nurse told her about the stomach injection while I was in the restroom the first time. Mrs. Fando wisely decided not to mention it to me until the actual moment arrived.  Had she done so, I'm sure I would have been fine, but I also would have envisioned a needle about 10 times the size of the one the nurse used.
** For those of you who are regular readers, "fuzzier than usual."
***After three incisions, I felt entitled to that line.

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