Life after Surgery

I thought I’d share some of the ups and downs of my experiences after surgery.

I had stomach surgery three months ago, July 13, around 7:30 in the morning. I don’t recall much after waking up that first day—I was groggy and confused, but I do remember how happy I was to see my wife. I couldn’t turn or sit up in bed—the pain from moving kept me immobile, so I stared at the ceiling a lot and prayed I wouldn’t cough or sneeze.

My stomach was stapled and bandaged with thick white gauze and lots of tape, and I was hooked up to an NG (nasogastric) tube, which was a long, thin, flexible tube inserted through my nose and down into my stomach, which kept me fed and medicated by IVs of various sizes and colors. I couldn’t eat or drink anything, so I listened to my belly rumble for nourishment of the old-fashioned kind. Another tube, a JP (Jackson-Pratt) drain from the right side of my stomach, collected bodily fluids from the surgical site and collected them in a bulb that had been squeezed like an old tennis ball. It slowly expanded and sucked the fluids out of my stomach.

On day 2, the pain lessened enough that I was able to get out of bed and walk a little, despite the medical contraptions connected to me. I did better when the unit nurses moved me—bed and all—to a room on the other side of the hospital later that day. One of the nurses had lowered the bed during the transport, so I found it easier to get my feet to the floor. It was a slow and still painful procedure getting out of bed and walking, but I was determined to get healthy again. This attitude pleased my physical therapy nurse, so she added a few things to my To Do list.

When I wasn’t walking or doing chores on my list, I spent the time in bed and bored, so I read Kindle books and WordPress blogs, and hung out at Facebook on my phone and tablet when my wife wasn’t at my bedside. I never felt as lonesome as I did when my wife wasn’t with me.

My room nurses removed the NG tube and wicks (small, absorbent gauze between my staples) on day 4 (July 16). Then I had my first taste of water; it was delicious. Food came in liquids and gels—my favorite was lime gelatin. The physical therapy nurse visited me and added more exercises to my To Do list. I did them fine with hardly any pain.

On day 5, my room nurses awaited my first bowel movement. It didn’t happen, so I spent another day in the hospital, eating real food—soft and bland—and strolling around the hallways to fight boredom. I’m not much of a TV watcher, so I read a few more books.

The awaited BM arrived on the night of day 5, so my surgeons (I had two) came to see me the morning of day 6 and released me to go home. When I got home, I took to my recliner and slept for several hours.

I started Home Health therapy the next day, stuck to my exercises, and felt good during the rest of July. I had my first shower on the 29th; it was heavenly.

Two days later, my face and hands swelled. To this day, my doctors don’t know why, but the consensus is it’s my thyroid. I take thyroid medicine (have been for almost twenty year) and I was off my medicine during my hospital stay. Apparently, it knocked my thyroid levels out of whack, so I’m under a stronger dosage and awaiting more lab work and another consultation next month. Meanwhile, I have bouts with swollen lips, nose, eyelids, and hands. I’m writing this today (October 25) with a swollen left hand. The swelling isn’t life threatening (as far as the doctors say), though my throat swelled one time in August and had me worried.

I went back to work full-time August 24 and came home exhausted. I didn’t realize how much I charged through life until I couldn’t. Stomach surgery will do that to you.

Coming home weak, shaky and exhausted happened every day until September 17 when I had another bout with facial swelling and called off. My family doctor put me on a leave of absence. I’m still on it until November 2.

I still get weak and shaky. I wake up feeling tired. So, frankly, I’m uncertain whether I’m ready to go back to work at the old 9-to-5. Sure, I could use the paycheck, but how many times will I end up calling off because portions of my face are swelled to where I can’t see or talk and my hands can’t grip anything?

Thursday, I have an endoscopy scheduled. Next month, I have blood tests, probably another CT scan of my thyroid, and a few other tests on the books going into December. That means more days missed at work from calling off.

So, I’m seriously looking into retiring. I’m 63 years old and fifteen weeks away from turning 64. I planned to work until my full retirement age. That’s three years away and looking impossible to achieve. I could work part time. But I’d lose my health benefits if I did—not that my job’s health benefits are very good to begin with.

Retiring is a big decision. Can I afford to live on Social Security? I don’t know. But the biggest quest, I think, is: Where do I see myself in five years and how do I see my path of getting there?

With all the time I’ve had in recuperation mode, I’ve come to an insightful realization. I’m not the person I was before my surgery. And given my current status, I like being home with my wife. I like being able to go outdoors and be in touch with nature again. I love watching the leaves change color, the animals that scamper in my yard, and the way the trees and grass sway in breezes. October is a great time to change gears, relax, enjoy the out-of-doors, and embrace each moment as it arrives. My job took that away from me. It consumed much of my time and deadened me to the things I truly find beautiful in life.

I want to continue embracing each moment of that kind of life with joy, glad to think that my previous busy 9-to-5 life can be a closed chapter in my history.

My surgery saved my life. My sincerest hope is that I’ll continue living several years more. And with that life, I want to appreciate the beauty around me without dreading the thought of shutting the window on that part of my soul for the pittance of a paycheck from a 9-to-5 job I don’t particularly care about anymore.

Life Spent Recuperating

Let’s be silly for a moment or two.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

And I quote to the best of my knowledge, “While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping.”

Now I intensely quote, “His eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming.”

The following is a bulleted paragraph list of three popular and very blind mice:

  • Rufus, the oldest and wisest, makes cheese sculptures at the Mouse Louvre
  • Dufus, who prefers to spell his name d-o-o-f-u-s and refers to himself as Doof, calls himself a “doof machine” and prefers to be in a constant state of “Doof” because “Doof is Life, baby … yeah!”

And

  • Gufus, whom most everyone calls Goofy (but we all know Goofy is a dog … right?), writes love poems in the sand at Myrtle Beach (which does not, as far as I know, grow myrtle beech trees)

The above silliness was brought to you by boredom.

I’m bored because I’m inactive. I’m inactive because I’m recuperating from an illness.

Recuperating may be boring, but it’s also nice.

Sometimes we need to recuperate from all the ills life throws at us. Sometimes we need to call “Time out” and go sit it out before we can go back into the game … if we can still play.

The past week I had to take a time out and recuperate from a complication while wearing the Covid-19 mask (and other facemasks) at my 9-to-5, 40-hour-week job. I have been breathing in too much of my exhale, which contains mostly carbon dioxide, along with methanol, isoprene, acetone, ethanol, ketones, and other alcohols and hydrocarbons. Rebreathing our exhale is not healthy, and doing so has left me in a near asthmatic state. I recuperate (able to breathe regularly again) after I punch out for the day and remove my mask. But due to my age (63), I recuperate at a slower rate than if I were younger.

When anyone rebreathes air, they are at risk for carbon dioxide intoxication or, in extreme cases, carbon dioxide poisoning. Hypercapnia or hypercarbia are names for a condition when a person has an excess of carbon dioxide concentration in the blood. Symptoms of carbon dioxide toxicity include high blood pressure, flushed skin, headache, and twitching muscles, all of which I have experienced while wearing the mask for periods lasting longer than two hours. I have also experienced irregular heartbeat.

So now, after Day #5, I’m off work until (hopefully) Monday, sucking down various medicines, and spending too much time on the Internet.

Will wearing the mask knock me down again? Probably. But I plan to take better care of my health by often removing my mask in safer environments and breathing properly to clear my lungs. It’s my health, after all.

Happy Birthday, Me

Today is my birthday. Part of my celebration is having the day off and being alone. I intended to categorize old artwork, work on my next novel, and catch up on my reading—blogs included. That didn’t happen, though I did read a few blogs and hit the LIKE button a couple of times after I awoke from a lengthy nap.

Perhaps it’s age, but I nap more often than ever when I have a day off. I’m lethargic in winter, especially when February comes. But sleep—the kind uninterrupted during the night—has been lacking. I spent last month nursing myself from the flu and an old stomach ailment that includes a hiatal hernia and bouts with GERD, seemingly caused by a hyperactive thyroid that I’m taking medicine for. The whole affair left me awake and in pain at night, and feeling more tired than usual during the day. Azithromycin took care of the flu and maximum strength Zantac has alleviated most of my stomach ailment.

So with my stomach better maintained, I slept a few hours today, then checked my blog reader and ate a lunch guaranteed not to upset my stomach. I missed phone calls from my brother and dad while I slept, but I’ll call them tonight after my wife serves me a promised slice of birthday cake. I’m hoping for cake à la mode, but we’ll see.

The novel on my To Do list begs me to write it, so I’m hoping to tackle it during a coveted quiet day tomorrow. I promise to keep my readers and fans posted.

Meanwhile, speaking of readers, over one hundred have downloaded my last novel. But no one has reviewed it, which is perplexing. (The reviews are about the book when it was a short story.) Someone somewhere must have something to say about my novel—good or bad.

Nevertheless, I appreciate everyone who reads my books, especially the ones who have gambled on a relatively unknown author and bought my books. I hope someday more of you will send a few words my way.

Since I’m handing out gratitude, I’d like to acknowledge and thank everyone who follows me here, and to the few loyal stalwarts who like and comment on my posts, even when I’ve neglected to return the favor. Many of you were here when I started this blog four years ago, which makes me feel like we’ll be here four years from now, still reading, liking, and commenting on one another’s blogs.

Now, please excuse me. I have birthday gifts to open.