Hello, world . . . I’m back!
Here are bits and pieces of my days as a patient after my left knee replacement on April 30.
Definitely a longer stay than expected.
Bad reaction to the anesthetic, and then rather obvious confusion from the pain medication — all on the first and second days.
On the second night after the surgery, I apparently pass out, prompting a “rapid response” code by a terrified nursing assistant. I regain consciousness to find 5 heads and 5 pairs of eyes hovering over me and anxiously peering at me. After they decide that I am okay, I finally get back to bed and “recover” a smidgen of my dignity and sense of self.
The third night my vital signs are erratic. This leads to concerns about a possible blood clot, which leads to wheeling me to the lower levels for an ultrasound and an attempt (unsuccessful) to do a CT scan — all in the middle of the night. I remember some of this, especially hearing the sounds of the blood rushing through my veins, very much like the whale sounds on that CD many of us have heard.
The next morning (4th day), a new nurse bursts into my room and loudly announces that it is time for me to get going because I have an appointment with “PT”. I start to whine about having been up most of the night, but there is no dissuading this Brunhilda from her mission. Suddenly I realize she is saying “CT”, not PT. I calm down, decide this I could handle, and go submissively back down to the CT scan section of the hospital. When I come back up to my room, Brunhilda confronts me again — this time about getting myself going for the day: “Order some breakfast. Raise up the window shade, let in some light. It’s like a cave in here!” And you know what?? She was absolutely right. Come on, Betty — get going!
Ten Days in a Rehab Facility
On the sixth day after surgery, I am discharged from the hospital and transferred by van to a nearby rehabilitation facility, primarily to get physical and occupational therapy. This move is my choice, the alternative to going directly home and getting in-home therapy. So I’m taken to the second floor — the Plaza floor — where I have my own room (and a scenic view of the roof).
I gradually get used to the routines of the day — the meds, the meals, the therapy, the staff, the other patients, the days, the nights. Frankly, every one of the patients looks pretty much like a wreck — including me. But it dawns on me that looking like a wreck is in its own way rather “freeing.” So what if we all look like a wreck — what does it matter? The beginnings of some camaraderie develop.
Almost immediately, I spot a piano in the common area. I feel the yearning for something to call my own. I telephone my piano partner in town, and she comes out one evening and we play duets — mostly for our own pleasure but also for the enjoyment of others. The man in the room next to mine gets out his concertina and plays hymns.
I discover that there is a hair salon in the building, with open hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Maybe I don’t have to look like such a wreck after all! I make an appointment to have my hair washed on the next Thursday. Then, a new acquaintance at supper, one who is rapidly losing all her hair from her chemo treatments, looks across the table at me and tells me how much she likes my hair. Even unwashed and untidy can be wonderful to behold. It just depends.
The head nurses change from day to day, and for a couple days we have “Edith.” Edith is jovial, friendly, and a bit brassy. Subtle — not so much. I hear her out in the hall one day having conversations and making comments as she moves along the hallway with the med cart. When she gets close to my room, she suddenly calls out, “Miss Betty?” I respond from my bed, “Yes?” And then she hollers out for all to hear, “You don’t need the stool softeners, right?” I respond again, “That’s right.” Uh huh. Yup.
Getting a good night’s sleep is difficult — not because of noise or disruption, but because of pain, awkward positioning, sliding sheets and pillows, difficulty moving myself in the bed, being awakened regularly for “vitals” and meds. I distinctly remember one night, lying awake and hearing at some distance the hoot of a train going through Madison. I suddenly feel very much separated from the rest of the world by that train whistle. I am here and the rest of the world is out there. Like I am no longer part of the real world.
But now I am home! That is another story for next time. Meanwhile, hello world! I’m so glad to be back where I belong.