19 hours hernia post-op

Surgery went well, as far as I know. The doctor was running 2 1/2 hours late, and I spent the last hour, as usual, in a line of ten gurneys in the pre-op holding area. These gurneys face a bank of windows opposite which stands a two-story cross (the sole evidence of Sacred Heart’s Christian ideals is that cross and a crucifix in every room).

Just before I was rolled to pre-op, Peggy read on my chart that I am 6’10”, so I passed the wait pondering the implications. As a young man, I would have thought it great to be a foot taller, but now I can see the downsides, things like beds being too short, chairs being too low, airline seats being too close, and so forth.

The surgeon wanted me to stay awake during surgery so he could have me cough when he was done. He apparently decided against this, because while I was still on the table trying to ask questions, he was calling a friend to make dinner arrangements. It was by now 5:30 p.m., and he had put in a full day, so I naturally accepted the priority of his dinner plans over my health issues (in all fairness, the tranquilizing agent might have caused me to forget being told to cough).

He did say that the lymph note he removed didn’t look ominous. I went home shit-faced on Percocet, but optimistic that I had dodged the cancer bullet. Bright and early this morning—7:30 in fact—a nurse from my internist’s office called to say that I needed to come in for blood work and a full-chest CAT scan. This was more than a bit of a surprise since the surgeon had said nothing to me about my x-rays being abnormal. The nurse had no explanation, so I asked if she might please find out and call back (or, better yet, have the doctor call). She called (no surprise there) with a confirmed diagnosis of chronic atelectasis (a word she couldn’t pronounce, but that Peggy could upon hearing the first four letters). Chronic atelectasis is a lung blockage that can be caused by any number of ominous diseases, one of which is asbestosis (I used to work around asbestos, and have long worried about it).

Other than the kind of shabby treatment that I have learned to expect from doctors, and the fact that my anesthesiologist was pitifully sick with a cold, everyone else who was involved in my care were terrific. From the young man who shaved my groin to my many nurses, I have only praise. As for the doctors, I can but reflect on the irony of the fact that they make far and away the most money, yet act as if they are doing me a favor by treating me at all.

The surgeon said I would hurt and swell more than most people (I don’t remember why), and I suspect he was right, but the pain meds are keeping the hurt down to a dull roar, and ice applied thirty minutes every hour is keeping the swelling manageable. My bandage is bloody, so even as I write Peggy is out getting a new dressing.

With this, as with my last surgery, the post-surgical pain is minor compared to the aggravation of trying to get information from nurses who don’t know and doctors who won’t talk to me.

That’s where things stand at 11:00 a.m., nineteen hours post-op.