There’s so much to say about surgery #2 and my hospital stay. So much! So, I’m not going to pack it into one blog post. That’s no fun! I’ll be writing a few over the next few days/weeks. I mean, I was there for FIVE days! That’s a lot of hospital fun, right?
I was in private room, with my own bathroom. They showed us how to unhook my monitors and IV, so I could use the restroom, anytime I needed to. This seems great. However, I was on so many painkillers that both posed a problem. Opiates mess with muscle control for urination, for some people, so no matter how badly you have to go, sometimes, it takes forever to remember how to get everything to work, once you are sitting there. And, the other thing? Not happening. No matter how many stool softeners they gave me. They might as well have been trying to soften an actual stool.
Couple these problems with the stage fright of sitting in the bathroom, knowing that at any second, a nurse/physical therapist/orderly/doctor/delivery person/rabbi/superhero/vitals check/homeless person/fry cook/wandering minstrel was going to come in. It seems like, every twenty seconds someone does, in the hospital. So, bathroom things just don’t “happen,” the way they should, while you are there.
My toilet was also about six inches too tall for me. It was obviously handicap accessible; I’m not. So, my short-person feet dangled well above the ground, which made “going,” surprisingly difficult. I was shocked at how big of a role physics actually plays in “going,” and I remembered this ridiculous ad that I saw a while ago.
So, I improvised and put a basin on the ground, upside down, for my feet. Voila, a poor man’s (or woman’s) squatty potty! I’m a genius. It actually helped. And yes, I have now ordered a squatty potty. I’m sold on its effectiveness. Since I’ve been home from the hospital, I’ve been putting random objects in front of the toilet to “assist,” because of the challenges in “going,” presented by massive amounts of post-op painkillers.
Laugh if you must, but I challenge you to huge doses of morphine coupled with Percocet, muscle relaxers, and nerve meds. Throw a stool on the floor in front of your toilet, and suddenly, it’s nirvana, instead of a cramp. Whatever works, right? I’m just really excited to see if, when it arrives, my poop will look like rainbow soft serve. Because right now, with my imitation squatty potties, it most certainly does NOT.
The Sponge Bath
I have a massive incision on the back of my head. This happens when surgeons insert a titanium plate in your skull. Because they leave a huge incision in your head, they prefer that you not get it wet. Persnickety surgeons, and their preference to avoid life-threatening infections. Of course, they can go overboard, I think. My surgeon, for example, made me wash, for five days, before surgery with this soap, to avoid surgical infection.
I felt like I was taking Sybil showers. The stuff smells terrible. There are no words. Also, I felt like he must think his patients are filth-balls. I couldn’t imagine what kind of squalor he thinks we must live in, especially in comparison to where he must live. What does he think my normal bathing habits are like? I know that it’s just standard practice, and he probably doesn’t imagine that any of his patients are filthy. But, it makes me imagine that there must have been someone rolling in the mud pit, outside their double-wide, with the litter of topless dancers they just had bred, before they came in for their cranioplasty. You know the idea: there’s always a reason for the sign, or the procedure; someone always did something crazy, otherwise there wouldn’t be the rule/practice/standard, in the first place.
His post-op instructions were a lot more lenient. I am allowed to shower with whatever I want, just so long as I didn’t get my incision wet. I am even allowed, once I leave the hospital, to wash my hair, without getting the incision wet. That meant, in the hospital: sponge baths. I know some people (men) get excited by the prospect of a sponge bath. Nurse plus woman, plus sudsy moisture, equals hooray! Let me disabuse you of that fantasy with the following terrifying tale.
Each room at UCLA is assigned a nurse and an orderly. The orderly does the vitals, the errand running and things like sponge baths. This clears up the nurse to do the patient care. It was a beautiful system, and one that, I’m sure, is not exclusive to UCLA. With two exceptions during my stay, my orderlies were awesome. My sponge bath orderly was a woman, otherwise, I’d not have accepted the offer to clean up. The problem: she was about 300 pounds. Her weight being an issue didn’t cross my mind as a challenge. It should’ve.
No one wants to get naked in front of a stranger, and allow them to suds them up. Or, maybe they do. I’m sure there’s a Craigslist group for it; I don’t know. Anyway, to agree to do it, for me, is a big deal. It means two things happened: I felt absolutely filthy, and the person offering was tolerably comforting, and seemed competent at her job. I generally don’t think it’s okay to pick on people for their weight; however, I also don’t think it’s okay to pretend that your weight is not a problem, if it interferes with your ability to do your job properly; or, if your doctor has told you that you either have to lose a hundred pounds, or your foot.
As I was being sponge bathed, my orderly became so sweaty that she soiled through her scrubs, and not just in typical sweat spots, the entire outfit. Her hair was so saturated with sweat, that her fluffy ponytail became a single, moist, noodley strand of hair that stuck to her neck. She kept wiping her forearm on her face, to wipe sweat off of her forehead, and out of her eyes. That she was wearing gloves, seemed pointless when there was so much sweat involved. She was so out of breath, I thought she might faint. It was a typical sponge bath on my end, one where I gave her chase down the hall, and made her retrieve me, after I’d climbed up the draperies. I’m not sure why she was so exhausted. Kidding. I sat in a chair and barely moved, except when she instructed me to lift my arms.
I wasn’t sure what to do. Do I stop her? Tell her that I felt clean enough now? I felt terrible that she was in such discomfort; but, I was pretty uncomfortable too. I was freezing, soaking wet, naked and half-filthy, half-clean. I was also, you know, two-days post-op from brain surgery. It was a terrible situation. I am, generally, a sweaty person when I exercise, so I felt badly for her. I really did. But, this was something else. Was she going to have to go into her next patient’s room like this? Could she change scrubs? This was humiliating for both of us. A sponge bath is always awkward, but this was something else altogether.
When she finally finished and left, Bryon and I just looked at each other and had nothing to say. He finally said, “well, that was terrible.” I think that said it all. I added, “So, I take it that was not what you had in mind for a sponge bath fantasy then?”
My next orderly was a 6’5” man. I was far too uncomfortable to ask Captain Handsome to suds me up (Bryon outranks him as Lt Col Handsome…aww). So, I had to wait another shift. The next one was the orderly that we called “the sidler.” I couldn’t wait for her shift to be over. You never heard her come in. She didn’t actually do anything when she did come in, but she did manage to make the whole room very uncomfortable. Again, I had to wait for the next shift.
When I felt comfortable again, it had been several shifts, and I felt filthy. This orderly gave us tons of supplies and said that Bryon could do it from now on. Hooray! Finally, someone I knew I felt okay seeing my bits and bobs. And, I think he’s pretty happy with that sponge bath scenario too. But, that brings us back to the hospital bathroom problem. Every time you go into the bathroom, and start the routine, you know you are going to get interrupted. Now, it wasn’t just trying to “go” in the bathroom to be worried about, it was being naked and scrubbed down, by my husband, no less. Oh God, the pressure!