Wednesday, it turns out, is the craziest day of the week at Kaiser Permanente’s South San Francisco surgical department. Or so I was told, by a rather nervous, green-seeming nurse who finally called me from the exceedingly packed and increasingly cranky waiting room, where the Manly Fireplug and I had been sitting for over two hours. Thirty minutes prior, I had clicked off Angry Birds in a huff, stormed up to the receptionist, and pointedly asked when she thought I might be getting my wrist cut open. She shrugged and said, “Many people today.”
“Fine,” I said. “But can I ask you a favor?”
She regarded me warily. “What is it?”
I pointed at the waiting room television. “I haven’t eaten anything in over fourteen hours, according to the surgeon’s directions, so could you please for the love of God TURN OFF THE FOOD NETWORK?!?”
Behind me the waiting room erupted in a chorus of “AMEN!”s and the receptionist scurried to the TV in order to stave off the insurrection.
I didn’t bother saying to the nurse who finally called my name the obvious, i.e. maybe they should schedule fewer surgeries on Wednesdays, for fear of losing my place in line. Instead I stripped down to the hospital gown, kissed the Fireplug good-bye, and slipped into la-la land as the anaesthesiologist injected into my IV line what she called “the good stuff.”
Three hours later I woke in the recovery room, where another very nice nurse monitored my vital signs and asked me two separate times if I wanted any apple or grape juice. Parched and groggy, I nodded and croaked “grape.” She brought me apple. Later the Fireplug returned from the pharmacy with a bottle of different good stuff and some grape juice, and took me home. That is one of the reasons why I love him.
For the surgery they had “blocked” my entire left arm, which when released from its sling flopped around with a mind of its own like something out of a horror movie. I propped it up on a pillow and was joined on the couch by the Fireplug and our three dogs for a couple episodes of our new favorite show, “Friday Night Lights,” even though lately the show makes me mourn for the recent loss of softball, now that the season’s beginning.
Of course we’d been given separate and conflicting instructions for pain management by doctor, anaesthesiologist, nurses, and take-home instructions. But as a slight tingle returned to my left arm, I downed two Percocet and figured I’d be fine.
Flash-forward an hour, when I grabbed the phone from the Fireplug, who was speaking in a tense voice to a Kaiser advice nurse, and yelled into the receiver, “THIS IS A TEN, OKAY? ON YOUR CUTE LITTLE PAIN SCALE OF ONE TO TEN THIS IS A FUCKING TEN!” I then handed the phone back to the distraught Fireplug, and went back to pacing around the house, grunting, as the dogs stared at me with wide eyes.
I am going to risk immodesty here by saying that I began to imagine how Jesus Christ must have felt, crucified, his wrists hammered onto that cross.
Flash-forward forty-five minutes, to the San Francisco Kaiser’s ER, where they very slowly unwrapped my bloody splint to check on the condition of the surgical site, and where a total surprise awaited me and the Fireplug. You see, when the surgeon told us, post-operation, that he had opted for three pins to hold my wrist together, we both imagined that these three pins were internal. But in the ER we discovered three pins sticking OUT OF MY WRIST, beside a long jagged stitched-up scar.
“Oh,” I said.
Long story short, the surgery itself was deemed successful, and a very nice Russian nurse named Vladimir or Nikolai or something injected me with Dilaudid every twenty minutes until my senses returned to something closer to normal. I really grew to love Vladimir or Nikolai, you know, as a person, and later I grew especially fond of a charmingly funny nurse named Riley who wheeled me into a private room around three a.m. Considering the last time I ended up in Kaiser’s ER, the night my lung just up and spontaneously collapsed for no good reason, I now have a soft spot in my heart for all of Kaiser’s male ER nurses.
Several hours later the surgeon said he had told both of us to give me as much Percocet as I needed that first night, (“I mean, I did re-break your wrist, you know”) but I suppose we’d had a lot of conflicting info thrown at us in a few short hours. I took a couple of days off from work and watched a lot of bad television, which I fortunately don’t remember, just like I barely remember taking the photo above, but then pictures don’t lie. For those of you who enjoy ugly photos, here’s a link to a photo of my wrist, post-sugery, unwrapped. The rest of you I’ll spare.
Back to work tomorrow, mildly dazed and perfectly agreeable.