Sunday, March 4, 2012

Recovery: Colostomy&ReSection

August 2009
I had just traded Cancer for a Colostomy.
After 6 hours of surgery resulting in a permanent Colostomy and a Resection, I was moved into the intensive care unit (ICU).  I had 17 inches of stitches and staples – from my belly-button around to the top of my butt-crack.  Every few hours a nurse would run an ice-cube the length of my body, to test which parts were anesthetized.  They adjusted the morphine drip until I had no feeling from belly-button to mid-thighs, yet full feeling everywhere else.   Within a day I was given a thumb-plunger to self-administer the morphine drip.  The anesthetist explained how it worked “… you click the plunger whenever you want a morphine hit, the computer records every click so we know when you want more, but the machine will only release at half-hour intervals.  Some people, feeling the pain, will click hundreds of times as the half-hour approaches.”  I felt the pain and irritation grow as the anesthetic waned, and I watched the clock, but I would never click before the half-hour expired.  I would not acknowledge enough pain to require relief. 
Time moved slowly.
I lost the ability to judge time.  I would guess how long I had slept, then open my eyes and check the clock.  I guessed an hour – but the clock said 6 minutes.  I guessed 8 hours – but the clock said 1 hour. 
Stand and Shuffle
There were 4 of us in ICU.  One was an obnoxious woman who whined incessantly.  I asked the nurses what I had to do get out of ICU and into a room.  Just stand and shuffle-walk.  How hard could that be?  Two nurses helped me sit up with my feet on the floor.  Each faced me, and each planted a leg and knee around one of my knees.  They hoisted me to a standing position.  With the local anesthetic, few nerves were functioning so muscles didn’t trigger, knees wobbled uncontrollably, and I crumpled.  I was exhausted by the exertion, and disappointed with my lack of ability, and the prospects of another day rooming with the old woman.  Next day I passed the stand-and-shuffle test and was moved to a private room. 
Sprints and Marathons
I set my sights on completing what I named a sprint, a half-marathon, and a full-marathon (actually … a shuffle to the doorway, to the nursing station, then a full loop around the ward).  I made the 10-foot shuffle to the door, but the pain told me I had pushed way beyond my abilities.  I was fading fast, and stranded too far from the bed. I bent over to protect my stitches with both forearms, but it felt like the stitches would rip through.  I honestly believed I would actually spill my guts on the floor.  [as a hunter, I have the practical experience and all the visuals on splitting abdominal muscles and watching the body cavity empty as pastel-colored organs slip to a pile on the ground].  My entire bottom end was about to blow out.  My abdomen felt like a huge pot-belly on an old man … but made of lead.  The lead pot-belly was rapidly and uncontrollably increasing in weight, and I felt the panic of being unable to carry it.  The pressure and pain was excruciating, and the fear of literally ripping through and unloading my guts on the floor was terrifying.  The abdominal pain was escalating fast.  Then the lead pot-belly seemed to burst into flames.  My eyes shut and my mind went black and blank. I kept shuffling.  The silence was broken with a voice saying ‘can I help?’  I said ‘no, I have to do this myself’.  She took the pole with all the tubes.  I said nothing but was thankful for that help.  I reached the bed, turned my back to it, then slumped backward onto the bed as she skillfully lifted my feet and swiveled my full body onto the bed.  She said ‘I thought we lost you, you were unconscious but still on your feet.’  I have done lots of damage to my body over the years, but that pain was beyond anything before.  I was exhausted, but the pain subsided as I lay on my back with no pressure on the stitches, and was proud of completing ‘the sprint’.

Going Home
Over the next few days, I did my version of the half-marathon and the full-marathon.  To be released from the hospital, I had to climb a flight of steps.  
So I did, and 5 days after surgery I went home. 

Read the full story of  my 
Comeback to Hockey

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