The calm before the storm.
The following, is not exactly what I had envisioned for my first blog of 2018.
When 2016 ended, I was profoundly happy. The end of a godawful and shitty year, filled with the deaths of heroes and legends, culminating in the election (selection?) of one of the most vile, contemptuous and totally incompetent fools to ever sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.
Not exactly a promising way to ring in 2017. And yet, it seems from they get-go, 2017 was going out of its way to prove it could outdo its predecessor. Enough shit tossed about from day one, to make one long for those more pleasant, innocent and nostalgic, days of 2016.
Which brings us to January, 2018 (I’ve often found, glossing over the specifics of miserable times can often be an excellent way of dealing with them… by not dealing with them).
And, as a family, we did end 2017 on one positive note — we accidentally stumbled upon a new medical practice and primary care physician we liked. In this area, one takes successes where one can find them The fact we found this new practice and doctor by my contracting the flu, was not exactly how I would have chosen to achieve this “win,” but, hey, what the hell, take ‘em where you can get ‘em! So, being long overdue for a physical, I set one up for the beginning of the new year.
One week later, as my new primary care physician was going down the physical checklist of what’s working right in my body, and no so much, she looks up at me and, pointing to my crotch, says, “are you aware you have a hernia?” “Uh, no,” was my pathetically surprised and lame response, followed by a hopeful, “but it’s nothing I need to take care of right now…is it?” She looked at me with one of those, “Oh, you poor schmuck,” looks, and said, “I tell you what, let’s send you to a surgeon and see what they think.”
So, several days later, I’m being examined by a surgeon, who, while handling my lower extremities with doctorly detachment, looks up at me, and without missing a beat, says, “are you aware you have two hernias?”
So now, I’m sitting here in front of doctor number two – my second opinion – and he’s telling me I’ve not only got a a hernia, I’ve got fucking spare. But not a good spare, like “Hey! Great news! You may have lost a tire, but we just discovered you have a spare, so this won’t cost you shit.”
And, of course, I just had to ask, “So,ummm — is this something I need to take care of, like, now, or do I have some time to think about this?” So this surgeon, the man who’s going to be slicing and dicing around my groin in the near future, says nonchalantly, “No, there’s no rush. Not as long as you take care of it in the next three months or so.”
Now for anyone reading this who isn’t a member of my family, you’re probably wondering, WTF is he talking about, and what’s the big deal over a little surgical procedure that thousands of people have gone through and survived?
Well, here it is — I was born with a congenital heart defect that kept me in and out of hospitals throughout NYC, between the ages of one and a half, and four and a half. As it happens, my specific case was written up in medical journals, because I am the only case in recorded medical history to “spontaneously” recover from the condition I was born with (which, in layman’s terms means, the doctors can’t explain it. It also made my father something of a psychic for not only telling my mother, all along, I’d be fine, but that, because of the history on my medical record, the military would never be able to lay their hands on me, which proved quite accurate when it came to the 1973 draft).
So the surgery was scheduled for Monday, February 12th. And while I was given a fairly detailed list of pre-op and post-operative needs, there always seem to be differences between what the surgeons (and their staffs) expect, and how these things actually play out in the real world. Everything I was given talked about what you do for a single hernia — no one seemed to be mentioning the twofer deal.
So now, a little cheat to move the story along. After the surgery, while I remained in la la land (the fun kind, as opposed to the interminable movie version, thank the IS), my wife sent an email out to our family and friends, detailing the post-op realities. I therefore continue this first blog of the new year, by stealing the more coherent words of my beloved bride:
I’m very sorry it’s taken me so long to get this out to all of you. But Yoni and I have been going all day. I’m sure I’ll write some amazing blog about the events of today, later on, but right now, I’m just exhausted.
Jonathan woke up before me, at 5-ish (assuming he slept at all)
I got up around 6:00am. Jonathan, as per his pre-op instructions, had to take a really good shower with this antibacterial soap they given him (he’d also take one the night before, as well – again, according to instructions).
The surgery was at the Thomas Johnson Surgical Center in Frederick, which is rather ironic since, had we not sold the last house we owned there, would’ve been a two-minute walk from our former front door. Yoni’s surgeon, Dr. Mark Artusio, told us the double hernia surgery would take approximately 75 minutes. In reality, it took closer to an hour. Doctor Artusio has performed thousands of these surgeries so, scared as Yoni was, he had faith in Dr. Artusio. It also didn’t hurt that Dr. Artusio and his partner, were not only around Yoni’s age, but had grown up in Pelham and New Rochelle, the two towns next to Larchmont, where Jonathan grew up. When they began to sedate Jonathan, I stayed with him a little while, before going back out to the waiting room where I hung out with my Mom, who was spending the day with us, to lend her support.
According to Dr. Artusio, Yoni’s surgery went very well. And when we went back to the post-op recovery area, Jonathan was still whacked out on Demerol & Oxycodone. Even so, it was obvious he was still in a great deal of pain. The attending nurse gave him two more Oxycodones, during which time she also told us everything that could possibly go wrong over the net few days, what to do about it, and when. She also had a handout she went over in extreme detail, marking it up as she talked, because the directions were created for people having only one hernia worked on, not two.
What we learned broke down to, ‘he’s going to be in some form of pain/discomfort for pretty much the next six to eight weeks. The Oxycodone (mixed with anti-nausea meds, 800 ibuprofens and stool softeners) is to make Yoni’s pain more tolerable. The nurse was a really nice person, and you could tell she cared — but the words coming out of her mouth, scared the shit out of me.
A short time later, the nurse wheeled Yoni out of the surgery center, and helped me get him in our car. When we got home I was somehow able to help him stagger to the futon in our family room (on the first floor of the house). Later that afternoon, our friend and dog walker, Doug, had a friend of his — a guy who was kind of built like a mountain — came over. Together, they placed Yoni on one of our wooden dining room seats, and, together, managed to haul him up to our bedroom (on the third floor), and into bed. We’d also bought one of those big wedge pillows that allowed Yoni to sleep in a semi-sitting position. Doug and his wife, Leilani, who have become indispensable friends, also gave us a college dorm-room fridge, which we’ve placed within reaching distance from the bed. The surgical center also sent Jonathan home with these cool bioinic boots, that squeeze his legs all the time, to prevent blood clots.
The upshot of all this, is:
Yoni’s supposed to remain a couch potato (or bed bound) for at least the first week. I’m taking off most of this week (note: “most of the week” turned into the entire week) — without pay — because he’s not supposed to be left alone during the first 72 hours. They do want him to get up, and go to the bathroom. No showers until Thursday, at the earliest. I get to do yee olde sponge baths – which will be the most ‘fun’ we’ll be able to have for the better part of the next two months.
In the mean time, he may be allowed to drive short distances in two weeks, with the caveat he must be off all narcotics and be able to push down hard on the brakes, quickly.
He hasn’t been allowed to even attempt stairs yet (a prohibition we can begin to test, tomorrow). However, even if he seems able to climb, up or down, steps, he is only allowed to do a few at a time, VERY slowly, and with lots of rest in between (I don’t even get this – does that mean he’s supposed to sit on the stairs between each attempt? Sitting is one of the things that REALLY seems to hurt him.)
Also, for the next six-eight weeks he is forbidden from:
Lifting anything heavier than a water bottle (16-18oz).
I’ll spare you the long list of things we need to watch out for and the parts of his body that will be swollen for three months, or so. He goes back to see Dr. Artusio again, next week — putting him in the car is going to be great fun. We knew there was going to be work involved in his recovery, but it would’ve been nice if someone had given us a bit broader perspective. But then, no matter how many thousands of hernia surgeries doctors perform, it also seems they don’t do double hernias very often.
Welcome to 2018!
Since Tanya wrote that, we seem to have developed a few unexpected complications. We had to make an early, unscheduled return to Dr. Artusios office yesterday morning, because, while my scar seems to be healing appropriately, my pain level remains higher than it was expected to be. Also, I have developed an infection on my tongue called “thrush,” which, ironically seems to stem from — what else — anti-biotics. So the things meant to cure my infections have given me one — makes sense.
Naturally, we also got hit with a few bills we hadn’t been expecting, but such is life in a country that seems to believe medical care is a privilege, not a basic human right. Add to that the constipation (or just the opposite), pain when moving in the wrong direction (I have yet to find the right one), and the fact that every time my wife looks at me, I see the fear in her eyes, this has just been going swell.
Beyond that, I just want to thank the numerous members of my family (and extended family) who came out of the woodwork to offer their love, care and support. Those words meant more than you will ever know. And to my other friends, those going through physical ailments of your own, with scary surgeries of your own coming up please know you’re not alone, and your friends will be here for you, as you have been for us.