before drugs

after drugs

I’m slightly more coherent today because I’m weening off the pain meds and all. (The song I linked there is more appropriate for what I’m talking about, but I want to share my favorite Ween song as well. Gets me every time.)

Let’s talk about surgery, shall we? Hmm? I’ve never been put under and with the exception of a a few (eight, to be exact) pieces of my cervix being removed when I was in my early 30s, I’ve never had any major procedures done.

Right now, I feel like I’ve been in a car accident. Actually, I feel the way I did after I was showing off with some friends and skiing at mach 10 (which is like, mach 1 for people like Lindsey Vonn). Three of us were racing down the hill, cutting each other off, and jumping into muck on the sides of the trails. I don’t generally do that. I’m a huge fan of Safety First–just ask anyone who hung out with me from 1998 to 2003. My “Safety First!” alter ego’s name was Pat Sanderson. If you ask me to dust that character off sometime, I promise I will. All I need are some fake teeth and a closely-cropped wig, preferably dirty blonde in color.

I digress. I jumped into some muck behind my friend Caroline, a carefree and daring skier (in the top picture). While she bailed immediately because the snow was super cruddy, I carried on like a champ and went ass over teakettle. I never dumped any speed, so I did a tumble/cartwheel at the same rate as the person skiing next to me. (The DeVivo I mention in this post here and above in the lower picture.) Other than a little smack to the ego, I was fine, but I couldn’t walk for days. That’s what I feel like now.

If you’re headed into surgery soon and you’re looking for some advice about how to act and what to expect, you may or may not have come to the right place.

Here are some tips I got from other people:

  • Drink plenty of water. (I failed.)
  • Don’t drink any water, and I mean NONE, for at least eight hours before going under the knife. (Success! But then the anesthesiologist nurse couldn’t find a vein for my IV and I now have a bruise the size of a sand dollar on my left hand.)
  • Don’t drink alcohol for a few days prior to the procedure. (I failed miserably and instead got so stinking drunk with some friends that I think I may have tried to make out with Little Miss Bounce a Quarter. Not entirely sure.)
  • Eat plenty of fiber prior to the surgery and after the surgery. (Success!) Seriously. Just do it. An apple, raspberry, banana, flaxseed smoothie with a side of dried figs may not appeal to you, but trust me when I tell you it is far more appealing than what will happen if you don’t eat a lot of fiber. I heard a horrific story involving a baby spoon–in the interest of privacy, I won’t reveal who told me that story, but I am related to that person. I have not had those issues.
  • Explain to the anesthesiologist that you suffer from motion sickness if, in fact, you do suffer from motion sickness. There is no room for stoicism in the operating room. (Fail! And I suffered the consequences, as did the nurses, PAs, medical associates, and my fellow patients in the recovery room. It’s the only moment I was aware of my surroundings while still dosed and it was very unpleasant.)
  • Try not to tell your doctor you think he’s dreamy while under medication. (I have no idea what my success rate is. I do recall him standing over me after I vomited and I seem to recall he grabbed my shin and gave it a little shake, which could mean “Oh, you’re so drugged up, aren’t you cute,” or it could mean “Oh my god stop talking you lunatic.” I fear it was the latter.)

That’s it, really. Once they put the mask over your face, you just have to let go and let surgeon (because surgeon totally thinks he’s god). I’m kidding. I don’t think my surgeon had a god complex, but I do know he was distractingly dreamy, and he’s nice, which makes it worse. He’s a nice guy. I hate that.

His PA showed up after the surgery and I nearly fell out of the bed though. This PA, whose name was Dr. Valentine (Really? REALLY?!), was suuuuuper dreamy. He did a few tests to make sure my neurons or whatever were firing correctly. He ran his fingers down my arms and asked, “Do you feel any pain?” I enthusiastically shouted “No! I don’t! No! No pain!!” He ran his fingers along my jaw. He tested the strength in my hands and wrists. And then he ran his finger down my inner thigh. “Can you feel that?”

Here’s where it gets dicey. I squeaked out a tiny little…yes. My friend Liana asked me, “Did you tell him where you felt it?”

And that’s why I want her to be around for the rest of my life.

I instructed Groom to hand me back my wedding ring at that very moment. A little reminder for us all that looky is fine, but no touching.

Next came the patient navigator whose sole purpose is to make sure you’re comfortable. She will answer any questions you might have and make you feel special–something I already had going for me after Dr.
Valentine (seriously) stopped by. The PN went over my chart and asked me some general questions, including “Have you ever taken Oxycodone?”

I paused. I looked at my brother who sort of smirked at me. I looked at my hands. I finally told her, “I don’t know how to answer that question.” Of course I’ve had Oxycodone. I’m a member of the pill generation. Christ, I was drinking beer when I was 10 and taking speed at the age of 12. I forget what we called those speed pills. I wanna say we called them Valentines, but that might be my drugged brain looking for a sweet little connection.

To the PN’s credit, she shrugged it off and told me since I hadn’t had any trouble with Oxycodone in the past (other than giggling myself into a puddle on my brother’s couch one night), I probably wouldn’t have any trouble with it now.

Finally, the surgeon with the dreamy eyes came in and checked on me as well. After a quick review, he got a sweet and slightly mischievous look in his eye. I’m thinking…what? I looked down to make sure I had my wedding ring on. What?

“Wanna go home?”

F*CK YEAH! So, I didn’t have to spend the night at the hospital. Bonus. I felt like I passed some really hard test.

And then it all hit me. If you’ve never had surgery, this will be news to you. You’re going to feel fine for a few days. I was ready to run a marathon. That’s because you are so hopped up on pain meds and numbing agents, you don’t know. You just don’t know. I had the surgery on Tuesday. By Saturday, I was outside taking a walk. By Saturday night, I thought I was going to die. Just keep that in mind. It’s all livable and I do not for one second regret having this procedure done, but the recovery is long, a little painful, and very boring. Part of me thinks they prescribe so many drugs in order to keep you docile and incapable of doing any damage with your bored self.

This is like a short acknowledgements section here, I suppose. I told everyone to stay away from me when I was headed into this surgery. I thought I was doing everyone a favor–making it so they don’t have to deal with me and my weird back situation and grumpy nerves. I purposefully (purposely?) chose my surgery for this week, Thanksgiving week. I knew people would be busy, and that was my way of letting them off the hook.

My brother, of course, bamboozled me and showed up anyway. He’s just that guy. I was slightly irritated at first (and I know you’ll read this, brother, so keep reading). In the end, I was extremely glad to see him. He was very helpful, especially since Groom was hiding a head cold and some serious tooth pain from me and probably needed the help. I think brother was in cahoots with my friend Liana who hosted everyone the night before the surgery since she lives about 30 minutes from Maine Med and her house is extremely dog friendly so we could keep our Mr Magoo shell of a dog there (Thanks Don!).

Even though I mentioned to anyone who asked that I didn’t want people around me, I also mentioned that I wanted flowers. I love being surrounded by flowers, which is in direct contrast to the person I was when I was a teenager. I hated vases of flowers back then. These days? Bring it.

I was so pleased and tickled to see an orchid (with a clever note) from Joan, an edible arrangement of fruit and kale (which was all turned into smoothies) from the Brunos, giant flowers that I can never remember what they’re called from Hollander, a crazy pretty arrangement in a bamboo vase from Liana, and a pile of tulips from the Coens in San Francisco.

When Groom and I returned to the condo, we found vegan broccoli soup, hot & sour soup, and tomato soup courtesy of Shelley–who remains in my mind as that little bowl of chocolates everyone loves to see on a stressful day. Whiton and Galen had already pulled together a collection of Deadwood DVDs and a pile of graphic novels, but she had the fortitude to come see me the day after Thanksgiving as well. Shelley spent an afternoon listening to me ramble on about I don’t know what. And, Callie arrived with a handful of gossip magazines, which were perfect because I can’t concentrate on anything more complicated than the back page puzzle in Highlights magazine. I can’t even watch the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary episode, which aired last week, because my brain can’t follow the wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff at all.

recovery room with daniel craig. hello.

Groom is upstairs pulling dinner together for me and he periodically checks in on me in my recovery room, which is super cozy and inviting.

I’m uncomfortable, but all I can think is…there are people who really do go through this alone. I requested that I be left alone and that’s an entirely different experience. I knew I wouldn’t be alone. There are people in this world who have nobody to offend by telling them to stay away. My version of “I want to be alone” is nothing like the people who take a cab to the hospital and somehow make it back to their apartment where they themselves have stocked the pantry and when they go back to work six weeks later, nobody even notices they were gone. Maybe those people want to be alone, but they don’t have the choice. I have the choice and just maybe I told people to stay away because I have such a robust support system, I knew I had to put up some parameters. I don’t know. That was a weird way of expressing gratitude and appreciation toward the lovely people in my world.

Oops. Getting sentimental. Stop.

Sarah Devlin

About Sarah Devlin

Sarah Devlin has been writing about the recreational industry since the late ’90s but ironically can’t run, swim, or bike a mile.