Dave’s ACL Diary: Doing it Solo [Part 2]

Pre-op Thursday 2/3/2000 (remembered)

My friend Richard conveys me to the outpatient facility at 7 AM on surgery day. I’m suffering from a great deal of low-back pain, and can’t wait ’till they get some meds in me (since I can’t take the proper meds for the back due to the upcoming general anesthesia). The outpatient facility is staffed with some really great folks who do all they can to make you comfy and help you have a great experience. I’d been once before, and fondly remembered being put in a super comfy chair and having warmed blankets wrapped around me.

(Update: I’ve been to the same facility’s ER once since then, for a “live bug in the ear” (a largish roach). All alone once more, the experience was um…not as good as the ACL experience. I’d best not say more about that).

like this, but prettier

The anesthesiologist allows me to have 2 mg of morphine, which took a little edge off the low back pain, but didn’t really fix it completely. As the morphine rushed into my IV, I felt the muscles in my shoulders and neck tense (something I didn’t expect at all). I relaxed in the warm blankets. I could close my eyes and see ultra-vivid colors. I made a promise to myself that I’d remember what they looked like, and construct something with them later.

The staff wheels my reclining chair right into the OR, and I notice that I’m getting a little woozy. “Did you just put me out? OK, good night…”

Recovery room, seconds later (it seems…)

Fmmr. Fmmr hrts. Femur hrts. Femur hurts. My femur hurts. I’m in and out of consciousness, and am keenly aware of pain in my femur. At this point, the doc (I think…) shoots my knee up with Marcaine and I’m fine.

They take me into recovery (or am I already there?) where I loll around in my chair and probably talk total nonsense to the staff for a while. They’re used to it, and kind about it. They take me to the 23-hour unit – basically a very few very tiny private rooms that insurance will cover for outpatient surgery, provided you’re out in 23 hours or less. (I guess they figure you have to recover someplace, and once they get some Joe or Jane in the room for a few minutes, it’s shot for the day, what with cleaning and all…). If you’re doing this solo, I HIGHLY recommend you try and get a 23 hour stay – it’s like having a buddy come over and take care of you, except that he brings a pulse oximeter, an automatic blood pressure cuff, fills your ice, and sets up an adjustable bed for you just so, brings you sodas and meds all night, etc. The outpatient folks are, once again, first rate, and very patient with me. Not a bad attitude in the bunch.

I drift in and out of consciousness for some hours, have the final Morphine album “The Night” on the Walkman, and for all I know, maybe the remnants of morphine coursing through my veins. I can close my eyes and INSTANTLY drift into vivid, unusually colorful dreams (color is not a usual feature of my dreams, and it’s having an impressive impact on me). I dream for what seems like an hour, open an eye to note that 5 minutes have elapsed. That clock HAS to be broken. It’s not. I make some ill-advised phone calls, for which I’ll later profusely apologize, and read and forget the first chapter of “A Walk In The Woods” (a great book and an easy read which I’ll devour over the next couple-three days). I have a phone conversation with my buddy Richard which I won’t recall or be able to reconstruct later.

I realize slowly that my slightly sore throat was due to being intubated during surgery.

I eventually see the Doc on his way out, who says it went about as well as it can, and asks me to reschedule my follow-up so I can get into rehab faster. Awright!

I will drift in and out through the night, which suits me fine. I have chicken soup, and eventually a microwave dinner. I don’t need any pain meds until 8 PM when the Marcaine starts to wear off. I’m offered 2 Lortab 7.5 mg/500mg tablets, but only take one. I’m feeling more discomfort from a full bladder than the knee – and begin to practice getting into/out of bed (which will turn out to be easier in the hospital bed than my low bed at home). I practice sitting down on the john. If you’re gonna do this solo, I highly recommend you practice these maneuvers while you have a nurse handy for moral support.

I am to lift my straight-and-braced leg to exercise it, but it’s very hard to do. It’s about all I can do to get into bed. I’m comfy at the hospital, will have a real hard time getting comfy at home, due to not having the hospital’s nice foam knee stand. The doctor’s ordered me to do non-weight-bearing walking with the crutches. Don’t know how long this phase lasts.

Janice, my exceedingly cool night nurse reassures me that I’m doing great and that I’m going to recover well. She’s patient and kind. And concerned that I’ll be alone at home. She says I’ll be amazed at how much better I’ll be in 3 days. I’m sure hoping!

Discharge (from the hospital, that is…) Friday 2/4/2000

My buddy Roger comes to get me – right on time, and we begin an hour long journey to find a toilet seat extension, and then he takes me to my place, and does a number of kind things to help get me settled in. I think I had the knee non-elevated in the car for a little too long – it’s uncomfortable. It’ll be difficult all day (and into the night) to get comfortable with the knee propped on pillows. The pain meds aren’t doing the same great job (the propped comfort thing is crucial) and I can’t reach my feet to put on a sock or check circulation. Or pick up anything I need to get to. I answer email, take and make some calls, and begin this diary before bedtime.