Just when I think I’ve got this “new normal” in stride — plenty of face masks, double-downing on the distancing when among or approaching strangers, rising in the dark to be the first one at the supermarket — a new wrinkle rears its head.
I had been waiting for several months to secure a date for minor surgery, then abruptly I was notified to be ready in four days. Also, I immediately had to come to the surgical center for a pre-op visit, then join the line at the Covid-19 testing at the local hospital, then get an EKG there — all booked within a two-hour schedule. Luckily, there was a short line for testing and the friendly young girl said the results would be available in time for my surgery.
Then came the surprises. I began reading the dozen pieces of paper I had been given. It was expected that I would need a ride home following surgery since anesthesia was involved and my sister was taking the day off to drive me, sit out in the waiting room, then drive me home. Instead, the stern instructions decreed that no one except the patient could come inside and my ride would be summoned to pick me up. That meant my sister had to amuse herself elsewhere for three hours. And worse: The stern instructions decreed I had to be in the company of a responsible person for 24 hours post-surgery. My sister invited me for a sleep-over since she works from home and couldn’t take another day off to stay in my apartment. I also booked my cat-sitter.
During the surgical prep, one of the nurses inserted a nerve block on my right hand, so effortlessly that I barely felt it. She was called away and another nurse appeared to do the IV insertion on my left arm, jamming a needle in several different sites, clearly having difficulty getting the right vein. I joked that I always donated blood in my right arm. She didn’t find that amusing but finally found her target. My arm was stinging by then.
The surgery was a blur, as always, and I quickly came out of the anesthesia and sat up in the hospital bed. A nurse immediately came to my side and told me there was a 30-minute wait before I could stand up. I spotted a nearby restroom and insisted I was OK to walk those few steps. Just then, I was surprised to see my sister approach, carrying a bouquet of Fall flowers. As the nurse let me stand up to greet my sister, she pulled out paraphernalia attached to me. When she yanked out the IV, blood spurted all over the floor and me. My sister’s face went pale and she sank into a nearby chair. After she recovered, they let us both leave.
Climbing into her SUV that’s so high it has a running board was the first challenge. My right hand was layered with thick bandaging, making me look like a pugilist that lost the fight. Once I was in public, I played on that by saying “You should see the other guy!”
I quickly learned how to do everything with my left hand and no longer needed the arm sling, which was more hindrance than help. There were some missteps, of course. Drinking cranberry juice in one of the large glasses while watching television ended badly. One of my dozen pages of instructions noted that the bandaging must not get wet, and while showering I should “put a bag on the right hand and duct tape it.” I tried that but it almost ended in a disaster of imbalance so I’ve been doing the bird bath routine for sanitation. Luckily my brother offered to send me a shower sleeve that goes above the elbow and has a silicone sealing ring.
I only have 12 more days before I return to the doctor to dissemble all this. In the meantime, I am grateful for friends and family for rides, support, prayers, cookies, meals, flowers and shower sleeves.