Dave’s ACL Diary: Doing it Solo [Part 5]

Several flavors of trouble: Sunday 2/6/2000 6 PM

Hard to describe this delicately, but I’ll try. Lortab, in addition to doing its wonderful job of suppressing pain, also can suppress appetite, and some of the…uh…more prosaic functions of the digestive tract. Seriously. It’s number one on the list of possible side effects.

Mark "Rent-Boy" Renton (Ewan McGregor)
Rent-boy's been swimming

The hydrocodone component of Lortab is in the same pharmaceutical family tree as heroin (a drug I’m glad I NEVER have experienced), and anyone who’s watched the first 12 or so minutes of Trainspotting will probably understand the situation. Feeling much better now, in case you wondered. Thank God I didn’t have to go swimming afterward a la Trainspotting’s Mark “Rent-boy” Renton…

So anyway, I decided to skip the morning’s Lortab and see if I couldn’t get things happening, so to speak. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel too much of an increase in pain – I think I’ll be off this stuff pretty soon. Still, there are some dodgy moments, times when I threaten to whack the knee on something, and I’d like a little cushion, at least ’till I’ve done the first follow-up appointment (tomorrow AM – fingers crossed!)

Held off for two full cycles where I’d normally take a Lortab, trying to gauge my pain (there in fits and starts, but surprisingly less than I’d expected at this juncture!). However, the Acetaminophen in the Lortab was (apparently) also helping to keep my temperature down. Now I’m concerned that maybe I’ve got a fever. Between bouts of activity and laying there elevated and iced, my body temp is all over the place. Shivering now…get up to turn the heat up and come back dripping sweat.

Q: What’s the difference between an Oral and a Rectal thermometer?
A: The taste…

I’m dissatisfied (as I am with so many things) with the quality of my mercury thermometer. I slide the thing between the coozie around my Diet Coke and the can, I shake it for minutes on end, and it’s all that I can do to make the mercury go down below 99 degrees. I’m really frustrated. I’m lying in bed shaking, shaking, shaking it, and…bust the bulb on the edge of the bed. Glass and little balls of mercury go all over the bed, the rug, the fleece blanket, maybe even in my prized Aerostich fleece jacket – a gift from my late Mom (as it turns out, the jacket’s OK – a good thing!).

Great. In the ’90s I was the first on my block to have my own web site, now in Y2K I’m the first on the block to have my own Superfund site.

I stifle the primal urge to vacuum – probably not the best tactic with mercury. Amazingly enough, I find that gaff tape (NOT duct tape – ask the nearest staging/music/film road dog with a Maglite, a Leatherman tool and a Clear-Com about the difference. If (s)he can’t tell you, (s)he should be fired…) will pick up not only the tiny bits of glass, but even tiny bits of mercury! (just the tiny ones – I brush the rest into the trash can).

I’m cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cussing, cussing, cussing. “Damned stinking cheap mercury thermometer. Why don’t I have a digital thermometer? It’s more accurate, safer, easier to read, no shaking, faster. Geez, everything else I have is high tech. Damn that piece of crap. Last mercury thermometer I ever buy. Dammit. Couldn’t even take my temperature. Now I’m getting all exerted and hot. Think I might have a fever or something. DAMMIT. I’ll never buy another mercury thermometer. That’s the last one I own. That’s it. I’ve had it. I’ve just had enough.”

“Hey! I think I have another mercury thermometer in my first aid kit in my backpack!”

So I go get it!

And I bring it back to the bed! And start shaking it again!

At this point, Reason and Lucidity, infrequent visitors to my house this morning, start to address me… Reason goes first, saying “Y’know, you really ought to shake that thing over the sink instead so that next time you break it, instead of nailing your bedroom…you pollute the downstream water supply for Macon and the rest of Georgia. Then Lucidity chimes in: “Dude, they give you the little plastic tube for the thermometer because you’re supposed to have the thing IN the tube while you shake it like that so when you screw up you can drop the whole thing in the trash…” Good ideas, both. Wonder if the Hazmat team will laugh at me when I tell them I’ve broken a thermometer.

Well, for a mercury thermometer, I guess the one from the backpack works about as well as it can. It’s in a nicely designed case, suitable for shaking. The mercury actually will descend below 98 degrees, which is a plus, considering where I started two hours ago. Trouble is…well…it’s got that fat little bulb on the end, instead of the long skinny one. I wipe it off. Twice. Look closely and double check. I don’t think I’VE used it before. Don’t know if the manufacturer did an operational test on it before they sent it to these shores. I wipe it off again. Look closely again. Then take the plunge.

It tastes….unused. *sigh*

I wait and wait and wait and my furnace of a body can get the temperature no higher than 99.8. A little high to be sure, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have anything major going on down in the dressing. Nothing I can’t leave ’till the doc’s in the morning. I decide to have a Lortab next cycle to bring back the pain cushion and let the acetaminophen help with temperature control (it has).

Moral of the story: you’re going to need to have a thermometer handy. Buy a digital one. If you’ve got a mercury thermometer, make sure you’ve got two. Shake it in the tube only.