Post surgical adventures

I don’t have biopsy results. The surgeon said she would replace the bone while I was on the table if the lab could tell right away that it was malignant, but the lab couldn’ tell right away. No news is good news, I suppose—or at least it’s not bad news (I’m too tired and drugged to know which). I am to learn if I have cancer at 3:00 Thursday.

I feel much better than expected, but that could be because of the Percocet. I observed after past surgeries that I would feel good enough that I would think I didn’t need painkillers, only to have the pain return with a vengeance when I stopped them. It’s definitely harder to beat pain back down than it is to keep it down in the first place. Still, I will replace my next Percocet with a Vicodin and see what happens.

I was in excruciating and ever worsening pain yesterday after being intubated, and I got no relief even after being given the highest dosages allowed of at least a half dozen painkillers. One of the funny things about painkillers is that they can knock-you-on-your-ass if your pain level is within their ability to handle, but if it’s beyond what they can handle, you can’t even tell you’ve taken anything.

The nurses were at a loss to understand my pain since it was well beyond what most people experience. They just knew that my oxygen level was below ninety, and that I was reporting intolerable pain even after having taken everything they had to give. They wouldn’t discharge me, yet they couldn’t help me, and they wouldn’t let me use the one device with which I thought I could help myself—my CPAP. They didn’t appear to know much about the machine, but their main objection was that they would have to call the hospital electrician to inspect it, and that this was too much of a bother for something they had no confidence in anyway. When I degenerated to the point of no longer being able to speak (due to the pain and lack of oxygen), they called the electrician.

He arrived in five minutes; picked up the unplugged CPAP; examined it for five seconds; said, “Looks okay to me;” and put an orange sticker on it. Ah, the security that comes from a professional safety inspection. With my first breath, I felt significant relief, and my oxygen saturation soon jumped from eighty-eight to ninety-nine. My theory is that a swollen trachea caused the pain. By opening my trachea with positive air pressure, the CPAP both relieved the pain and allowed the passage of air. Since a CPAP’s normal use is for sleep apnea, I can understand why the nurses didn’t believe it would help a patient who was awake, yet they could have spared me hours of misery if only they had called the electrician sooner.