Health & Wellness, Humor

Never, Ever, Ask

4 Jan , 2018  

Never, ever ask a writer, “How much worse could it be?” Because we can always imagine something…

2018 got off to a happy, auspicious start, for me, personally – I got to spend the holidays with family in Dallas. Even frigid temps were mostly cause for mirth; how often can you say it’s colder in Dallas than it is in Anchorage, Alaska? My sister-in-law has a warm kitchen, fun board games and jigsaw puzzles, furry pets, a whole three seasons of Outlander, and for a few days, we all converged in her living room and drank up all her Sumatra coffee (okay, fine, I drank all the Sumatra). We saw the new Star Wars movie, had a “white elephant” gift exchange, and  celebrated my niece’s birthday. We rang in the new year with champagne and caviar, followed by brunch at Blue Mesa before we had to head back to Houston.

Three days into the new year, though, we have “world leaders” engaged in measuring contests on Twitter, with nukes as the high-stakes proxy for smaller, softer things. Like their brains and our bodies. Speaking of our bodies…

Squeamish, much? Stop reading. You’ve been warned.

Okay, the rest of you? Carry on!

Remember why I stopped writing #NaNoWriMo2017? I wrote, back at the beginning of November:

Live-blogging a novel is sort of the equivalent of karaoke for writers. Only the courageous, drunk, or daring ever try it. I’m not drunk.

I’m off to a late start, due to some intense shoulder pain – and yes, I’m getting it checked out this week. I was tempted not to mention it at all – part of my “no excuses” policy when it comes to NaNoWriMo, but I’m worried, and if it comes down to a choice between working or NaNoNoveling, work wins. If it comes down to a choice between rest or losing mobility, rest wins. I can’t type fast enough to out-type this one, and that scares me a little.

But my other motto is “Suck it up, Buttercup!” so here we go!

Well, I got it checked out with an orthopedic surgeon, and apparently, this warranted surgery two years ago. To be fair, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease about 15-16 years ago, or so. Live long enough and well enough, you probably will be, too – it really shouldn’t be called a “disease” since it’s neither contagious nor a “disease,” but just a function of wear and tear and time. But so much for me feeling like I was just being a whiny butt about it – I’m tentatively scheduled for a fusion and a disc replacement at the end of the month. Meanwhile, what doesn’t kill us…doesn’t kill us. Much as I’d like to believe writing was at least good exercise for the fingers, I’m not sure it counts, but it’s not likely to make anything worse.

I’m really not looking forward to two months in the cone of shame – I’m planning to tell everyone I have rabies and it’s all that’s keeping me from biting people who annoy me – I am looking forward to having feeling back in my left hand. How else will I feel my own typos?

At least it’s removable; I can shower. And I can sit around with it off for short periods, if I don’t mind, as the surgeon said, “feeling a bit like a bobble head.” It’s not all bad news, either – I did manage to out-wait the usefulness of spinal injections. When you’re needlephobic, you have weird life goals.

Now that I’m competing with Jackie Chan for bionic bits, there’s no reason not to take up mixed martial arts as part of my recovery, but the surgeon says I have to play the femme fatale a while, and let the menfolk carry anything over ten pounds, till he says otherwise. Oh, damn. Oh! Damn… <weighs backpack with pens, notebooks, laptop PC, smartphone> Um… damn.

I watched this procedure on YouTube. We won’t go into “why that’s a bad idea” (because it isn’t, unless you’re squeamish, and I refuse to go to any doctor who suggests otherwise), but the surgeon did smirk a little when I told him which video I’d watched. Apparently, they don’t use a chisel and hammer anymore, but rather “a delicate burr to gently grind out the damaged disc material” – I suggested that that might be convenient, he could just take care of my corneal dystrophy with his little diamond burr while he’s at it. He chuckled, pretended to take note, and said he’d consult my ophthalmologist. I asked where he gets the bone graft for the fusion. “It’s cadaveric bone.” So matter of fact. I like the way he just assumed I wouldn’t freak out about that. Unlike the breast surgeon in 2011 who tried to pass skin grafts off as some fancy shit called “kataVERic” (carefully saying it in a way to make it sound exotic and not at all synonymous with “dead body”) skin. I cracked up. “Oh, good. I was afraid I’d wake up with a sore hip to add insult to injury.” That’s the other option, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Note this, amateur House-wannabes: make sure you’re watching the latest videos on YouTube, not the ones from last year – or last decade.

Long-time readers of this blog may remember my obsession over surgeons’ bathroom procedures during a twelve-hour surgery. Do they catheterize themselves? Do they wear adult diapers? (No, they just scrub out, take a break, come back…) This is practically outpatient surgery, these days, so no worries on that score. Today’s weird obsession is: Where does the trachea go? It doesn’t seem like it would be all that flexible – but you never actually see it in those YouTube videos. I mean, they push it right out of the video frame. Where do they put it? How do they hold it out of the way? No wonder the worst thing most people mention is a sore throat and neck. “We gently push it to one side…” Sure you do. “Gently,” my ass. I mean, the esophagus, I picture that like half squid, half rubber-band, and attached to about 6 feet of colon – in theory, you could just pull that up and out and lay it on the table net to me. Wake up in Recovery, they push the morphine, you talk out your ass… But the trachea – that feels, kind of, cartilaginous. I’m confused… where do they put it? At least there’s no chisel and hammer involved, eh?

And this is the real reason they put patients to sleep during surgery. I’m sure it’s for the OR team’s comfort, as well as ours.

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10 Responses

  1. If you, too, were just dying to know “where does the trachea go?” This illustration’s the best I’ve found, yet. Most just look like the damned thing’s packed up and gone to Boston, or something.

  2. Where ignorance is bliss ’tis folly to be wise. So enjoy the sleep and wake up repaired.

  3. Yikes! I think you’ve had enough of this kind of stuff in your life, Holly. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a speedy recovery and no more surgeries needed, ever. As for the trachea, I had the same concerns about arteries and stuff during knee surgery. I decided a “don’t ask” policy was best.

  4. drtaher says:

    Good post. As one of the commenters said, you don’t need to know all the gory details. I am sure the surgery to your cervical spine will be a cinch. I will certainly pray for your full recovery. Unlike the other commenter, I will not say may you not have more surgeries … you will have them if you need them. But for readers like us, you provide us with so much entertainment when you write about your health – I wouldn’t want to miss that.

    • You know better than to tell me not to worry my pretty little head over details! I’m really not worried, either. I’ve known this day could come for 16 years or so. But once I start wondering about a thing, I NEED answers. People say, “curiosity killed the cat” but forget: “satisfaction brought it back.”

      In other news, I like a surgeon brave enough to actively solicit patient reviews, with clear instructions how to get there, but not suggesting what to write or how to rate them. Reminds me of the oral surgeon who pulled my wisdom teeth. He didn’t have me fill out the standard waiver giving him consent to kill, maim, or leave me impaired. He was smart enough and confident enough to know it wasn’t worth spit if he was negligent, and pointless to scare patients like that if he wasn’t – since we wouldn’t win.

    • See the latest update. When have you ever known me to do things the easy way?

  5. […] how I said, “Never, ever, ask“? Well, I swear I wasn’t asking! But Karma has a wicked sense of […]

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