Monday, April 11, 2011

The Long-Winded Surgery Recap

This was the sequence of events, just in case you missed the last week.

On April 1, walking back to the car carrying Eli's player hockey bag, I took a step, planted my right foot, and my knee blew up. I can't think of any other way to describe it.

My birthday was on April 4. My knee was killing me. The Best Sports Massage Therapist In The World ™ checked out my knee and told me that she thought I had a torn meniscus and quite possibly a torn MCL. Great birthday otherwise, though.

On April 6 (Wednesday), I went to see an orthopedist she recommended (who was named Austin-area something or other of the year by some organization of some kind—a ringing endorsement).

My appointment was at 9 a.m. By 9:30, x-rays had been taken, he'd done a functional exam, and he said he was certain that my meniscus was torn. He asked if I had time to go to another office and have an MRI done.

Well, my meniscus was torn. It's not like I had anything better to do.

I drove over to the other office, which was about 30 minutes away, and I barely had time to sit down in the waiting room before they came to get me.

The last time I had an MRI, it was for the broken bone in my wrist, and I was very uncomfortable. I've had MRIs before, but this one was far worse, for some reason. It was incredibly loud, which somehow amplified the inherent claustrophobia of the whole process, and I had to focus on my breathing for the last twenty-five minutes just to make it through.

This time, though, was different. For one, my upper body wasn't enclosed. More importantly, though, is that this MRI machine, incredibly, was almost quiet.

You know what MRI machines sound like: jackhammers. It's a ferocious kind of noise. With this machine, though, there was no sound that could be described as “pounding.” No, it wasn't the gentle sound of waves washing over the beach, but it was quiet enough that they didn't even offer me headphones, and I didn't need them. It was relatively awesome, overall, and it only took a little over half an hour.

So by 11:30, I was out of the office. The MRI was done, and oh-by-the-way, surgery was scheduled for two days later—Friday at 2.

This was the surgical equivalent of going through the drive-through at Wendy's.

I would have been a bit nervous about the hyperspeed treatment, but this doctor was impeccably organized and totally detailed in his approach.

When I had my left knee done (torn meniscus, not surprisingly) in 2001, my surgeon was highly recommended, but he was a slob. Seriously, if he had emptied his pockets, I wouldn't have been surprised if bits of food tumbled out. I should have run out of that office, except I couldn't, because my meniscus was torn. In retrospect, though, I should have kept looking around for another surgeon.

This doctor, though, was a good match for me. Exceptionally organized, probably borderline compulsive, and he was mildly funny. Win.

Knee surgery has advanced to an incomprehensible degree in the last two decades. It's getting to the point, though, where it's so efficient that's almost comical. I reported to the day-surgery place (which was literally a thirty-second walk from Eli's school, which somehow made me feel much more comfortable) at 12:00 p.m. After paperwork, funny socks and gown being put on, I.V.s and such, they wheeled me into the operating room at 1:30. Administering anesthetic AND surgery took less than 90 minutes.

I spent about an hour in post-op recovery. Eli had gone to the after-school program, but by 4:30, we were in the parking lot of his school.

The most difficult part of having surgery is that I have to have “the conversation” with Gloria each time. Even though I would probably have been the first person in history to die from meniscus surgery, I still needed to tell her a few things, just in case.

In this case, I told her:
--the financial advisor I wanted her to use
--that I really wanted her to go through all my Gone Gold and DQ columns and pull out the Eli stories into a single document that she could give to him someday, when he was about to become a father himself. I've been meaning to do that for years (and when I do, I'll make it available to you guys as a download), but just hadn't gotten around to it yet.
--that she should find a nice man to settle down with who enjoys festivals and going out to “events” more than I do (not "more", really--"at all" would be an improvement).

I can't explain the feeling I get when I think of not being around for him because something happened to me. Adults can find another spouse—hell, it's an upgrade opportunity—and they're far better equipped to deal with grief. Not having had a father myself, though, it's overwhelming to think of Eli without me walking beside him. It's a kind of grief that I can't even explain, because I've never anything else even remotely like it. It's funny, but I think Eli knows who I really am more than any other person I've ever known. Or maybe he just knows who I really want to be, because I'm always my best self around him.

There's your grief-related tangent for the year—or decade, hopefully.

The first few hours after surgery—actually the first twenty-four hours—were almost entirely delightful. The anesthesia hadn't completely worn off, additional pain medication was pleasantly working, and I somehow felt mentally sharp while being physically hazy. I slept better on Friday night than I do normally, which was another nice surprise.

I was on crutches (still am), because my doctor (quite surprisingly) wants me on crutches until I see him Wednesday morning. He described the tear as “significant”, and said that the number one priority was controlling inflammation.

No problem.

I went to Eli's soccer game on Saturday (he had 2 goals and 1 assist in a 6-2 win), hung out, and felt fine.

So on Saturday around 6 p.m., when I started to feel pain, it was all good. It was time to take a lower-grade pain pill, my usual two Benadryl (sleep magic), and I'd be fine.

The pain got worse, though. For the first time, I was feeling it, which was about when the anesthesiologist told me everything from the surgery would be out of my system. I managed to sleep decently well, but the pain was increasing pretty quickly.

Sunday morning, I drove for the first time, which was a bit challenging. It was actually harder getting in and out of the car than it was to drive, because I still can't bend my leg very far (post surgical-dressings were on for 48 hours, so bending my knee beyond a small degree was impossible).

It was all beginning to get a bit discouraging, and I was glad when I got back home so that I could take something for the pain. I put the pills in my pocket so that I could take them when I sat down (I had a drink on a table by the couch). When I reached into my pocket, though, I found all the medication I was supposed to have taken last night.


That's where the pain was coming from. I was “going naked” a day after surgery because I forgot to take anything.

Well done.

Much better now, thanks.

The doctor gave me a sheet of pictures (to clarify, of my knee) and I'll scan them and put them up later.

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