Wednesday, so-called “hump day” — the middle of the workweek. At the time, it seemed like I might be making it over the hump. The day started off a bit better than the two previous days. I wasn’t in as much pain as I was Tuesday, and for once my interaction with the hospital staff wasn’t limited to me complaining.
“What are those things on my legs called?” I asked the nurse, Monica. “They really help and actually feel kind of nice, like they’re massaging my calves.”
“They’re called SCDs — sequential compression devices,” she answered.
“Hmm… I’d rather just call them ‘those leg things.'”
For the first time, I felt well enough to have an actual conversation. Of course, it helped that Monica was more thoughtful and considerate of my needs than the various random nurses who surrounded me after surgery. She was also easy to talk to, which is another trait all nurses should possess but was seemingly shared by only half of those I dealt with.
And what do you know? I learned some valuable information from talking to Monica, most immediate — the pain I felt was caused by gas, and once I got rid of it, I’d feel better. Ah, but of course it wasn’t that simple. The only way to get rid of it was to move around — to walk. To conquer one form of pain, I had to invite another, and somehow manage to carry myself. Ordinarily, it wouldn’t seem like such an insurmountable task, given my slight build. However, that slight build was hidden beneath loads of heavy fluid.
After two days of having fluids pumped into my body and problems expelling it, I was swollen all over. My arms and hands, legs and feet, and even my private parts had ballooned, but unlike a balloon, they were very heavy and made moving around that much more of a challenge. My legs were especially difficult, and I needed help lifting them up to move across the bed.
To make matters even worse, my recurring “tennis elbow” — which stems from my days as a little league baseball pitcher — decided to return, leaving me with only one functioning arm to lift my increasingly bloated body into an upright position. Still, I managed to sit up enough so Monica could change the dressing on my back, which wasn’t possible on Tuesday.
Monica then held up the catheter tube to help drain some of the urine into the large measuring container. She was disappointed. “This is pretty low, and we need to get that fluid out of you, so we’re putting you on a diuretic called Lasix,” she said before proceeding to clean the catheter at the entrance point.
It didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t very comfortable. But I was glad I didn’t have to use a urinal, which probably wasn’t possible at that point. I really didn’t mind the catheter. It was strange not ever having the urge to urinate, and not feeling it leaving my body, but it sure was convenient. Well, that is until I had to get up and move. It only added to the many obstacles to navigate around.
Just as I was starting to relax, sometime around 3 or 4 p.m., my peace was interrupted and my comfort short-lived. “OK, I think it’s time you move to the chair,” Monica said. “It’s a really important part of your recovery.”
Screw it. I didn’t feel like arguing, and I realized it was as good a time as any. I was already sitting up, so I used my good arm to push my waterlogged carcass over to the edge of the bed. Monica got some help from one of the male nurses, and together they helped me stand up. Ver-y slow-ly. They guided me over to the chair, only about two feet or so from the bed, helping me back up to it. I placed my hands on the armrests and gradually sat down.
“Ow! I sat on my balls — help me up!” I blurted out reflexively; sometimes being tactful was not possible and I couldn’t control what came out of my mouth.
They lifted me enough to where I could adjust myself and ensure all was clear to sit down. This would be a problem for the remainder of my hospital stay and even a couple of days afterward. Ah, but the important thing was I did it! I managed to get off my ass and on my feet, something I thought impossible just a day before. It was a baby step, no doubt (quite literally, if you ask some of the nurses, who probably thought I was being a baby), but I felt like I had finally accomplished something.
As I started to show signs of recovery, I thought about that word and realized something: Why was I still in the recovery area? Various nurses had promised me I’d be moving to ICU “soon,” but the hours turned to days, and I hadn’t moved. Finally, late Wednesday night, I was transferred. I had no idea what to expect, but just assumed it would somehow be worse. It was my third day, and I was already completely cynical. Fortunately, I was wrong.