Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Still Recovering...

Apparently recovery isn't as simple as I planned it would be. "It's a quick surgery and you'll be home the next day," the surgeon said. "You should rest for a week."

Such a simple game plan, it sounded reasonable. I've been under house-arrest (where else would I go?) during the Christmas break and itching to become a productive member of society again.

Well, here's what really happened. Checked in at the hospital last Tuesday, feeling a bit scared mostly due to the IV (I've never had IV's stuck inside me).

Come Wednesday morning, the IV was attached and it's off to surgery. I remember meeting my anaesthetist a few seconds before falling unconscious and all I could think of is that she was pretty...

And then I wake up, not with unbearable pain, but in an unfamiliar environment. Back in the 80's, it was said that Michael Jackson had a personal oxygen chamber to help preserve his youth and as someone who was constantly choking on polluted air, pure oxygen seemed like a drug I could become addicted to. Well, here was pure oxygen, a breathing cup attached to my mouth. Which was also full of bloody phlegm. First thing I had to learn was how to breathe. Then talk. In that order. A few minutes later, I would learn to breathe, talk, then spit.

There were other patients beside me and I felt like Jesus Christ. One was moaning, suffering from some ailment I could not perceive from my position. To my other side was a calm patient, someone who had yet to undergo surgery and was surrounded by such serenity.

Strangely enough, my most immediate concern then and there was to pee. Through some machinations of body language and hand waving, I managed to indicate that I needed to go to the bathroom. They gave me this sort of jar but the difficulty came in peering while lying down (I can't do it). All eyes were on me and nothing would come out of my member. Talk about performance issues. "It's all right, we can try again later," the nurse said.

Eventually managed to pee sideways and once I had stopped breathing through my oxygen mask, it was taken away from me and I was carted off to my room. From there, it was mostly sleep and boredom. Communicated through my mom via text messaging and when I was annoyed enough, managed to get in a word or two. Reading wasn't really an option for me. For one, there was the strip of gauze that blocked a part of my vision and I was still in shock at my predicament.

I finally went home on Thursday morning. It was liberating to be free from the bed. At home, I had more flexibility, which mainly involved either reading a book or staring at my computer. The latter isn't as productive as it sounds. I couldn't really type for long periods because it took conscious effort to either breathe or think up of words. My brain was also addled to do some long-term reading although I did manage to finish a book or two during this time. The worst I think were the meds, which caused various side-effects that would plague me for the rest of the week.

Here's what happened: the bone of my left nostril was cut and the flesh was re-attached. They then plugged in a long, spongy tube in each nostril and had the ends attached to a string that were taped to each of my cheek. During this entire time, blood (in the left) and snot (in the right) would try to squeeze its way out. When it couldn't, well, you can figure out all the personal pain and complications that happen there.

When I managed to master breathing through my mouth, the next trick was swallowing. Now the problem with swallowing is that it's not only connected to my stomach, it's connected to my nose and ears. Because my nose was congested, everything I ate or drank would pass through my ear like some strange reverberation. I've experienced it before so it's no big deal but the fact that it happens every time you swallow (such as saliva) can be quite distressing. The bigger complication with swallowing is that it's also connected to my nose. Every time I drink a glass of water, there's a good chance that a good bulk of it would drain in my right nostril and push off whatever snot that accumulated.

Eating, of course, is another problem. True, there weren't really any foods that were barred from me, but again, time spent chewing is time not spent breathing. I opted for a diet of congee and pork floss, a common Chinese meal here, which I rigorously followed for seven days. Not that people didn't offer me other foods but I don't really have the time to sort out the bones in seafood or deal with the hardness of meat. So imagine a bland diet compounded by the fact that my meds were draining much-need resources from my body (i.e. calcium).

The biggest hurdle was sleep. I didn't get more than 8 hours of sleep during that entire week. Through some combination of the meds and involuntary triggers (such as snorting) from my body (throw in some hallucinations in there as well), I couldn't sleep, at least not without causing some complication in my body. It might be a jolt of pain or a sudden spasm from God knows where.

Then there are the luxuries you give up. Hadn't had an actual bath for one whole week. Brushing my teeth was a chore (while I can't smell the bad breath, I can definitely taste it). Any illusion of independence was thrown out the window. Even hearing my own voice was quite alien.

Now some days were better than others. The messy thing here is that each day, it was a different sort of problem. Maybe you had your throat-ear equilibrium in balance but your nose was congested and giving you had headache. On other days, everything's clear as far as breathing is concerned but your lips are getting scraped due to lack of water.

Anyway, went to the doctor today in what I thought would be my last visit. Suffice to say, it's not.

I'm now breathing through my nose and it's a weird experience. Again, I need to be easy on my nostril as it's still bleeding (and will be bleeding for the next few days). There's some prescription inhalers which I need to be taking regularly. Oh, and I'll be having bloody phlegm for the next few weeks. I have to remember to cough it out every few minutes or so.

Right now, one of my biggest problem is the rest of my body. I could barely stand up straight. Oh, and I'm bed-ridden again for the next few days as I recover. Main goal right now is to recover all the nutrients I lost during the initial recovery period. Currently, as much as I want to leave the house and venture to either the office or the mall, I can't.

Again, not much updates in the coming weeks but hopefully I'll have fully recovered by the end of the month.


Pipe said...

That sounds horrible Charles. I think I have a deviated septum too, but certainly not one as bad as yours. I remember when my mom had a major operation - in some ways the recovery was harder than the actual surgery. In the end, it was worth it for her though, and I hope it will be the same for you.

Dominique said...

I'm just glad that the operation went well. You'll be good as new; or better.

Now about that anesthesiologist... :-D

pgenrestories said...

Gak. Long recovery, looks like. As Pipe said, the recovery can be harder than the operation. Therapy for my knee surgery some years ago was more painful than the time in the operating room. Gut it out, and get well soon!