I hope if the last part left you a little nauseous, you are feeling better.
Following my little incident with the low heart rate (reported in Part Three), I was resting comfortably just waiting to get moved to a room for my overnight stay at BAMC. At this point, I still had not seen Eva, though she had received a full report from Dr V. and his team. Apparently, there was some sort of back-up in the recovery ward they were sending me to.
When I finally made it to my room, I was hooked up to the usual lines and given a quick introduction to the nurse and tech. The tech brought in a spiffy ice chest with tubes leading to a wrap around bag to put my knee on ice. This is used to reduce the massive swelling. In fact, the last time my body experienced this much swelling was when I got my vasectomy. TMI? Probably so.
Someone handed me a menu card with vague instructions on ordering food and my daughter quickly called in a sandwich from the dining facility. At this point, I just wanted to sleep so the fact that the nursing staff was going through a shift change didn't really register with me. The result was, the outgoing staff didn't really give a good turnover to the incoming staff, and the incoming staff did not realize I had not had any pain meds since leaving post-op. It also meant that since I got into my room after normal duty hours, I had not seen the people from Physical Therapy. Their goal is to get you up, show you how to use the walker and safely get to the restroom when needed.
If it sounds like I'm about to complain, please know I'm just trying to give some information to any readers who may find themselves in a similar situation.
While we were in pre-op waiting, one of Eva's friends from school who happens to be a nurse at BAMC, stopped in to say hello. She told me that during recovery, when they asked me what my pain level was (they use a zero to ten scale), to always say at least five or six. This way, they are always ready to administer my next dosage of drugs. She told me that for the first 24 hours, just stay as medicated as possible so I could sleep through the pain. I think this was fantastic advice.
I got my last dosage of pain meds right before I left the post-op ward at around 5:30 in the afternoon and in spite of the fact that I was reporting my pain level as six or seven or eight, I didn't get my next real pain meds until close to midnight. This was a result of shift change and the fact that I was too polite to complain.
I honestly thought she was kidding, but sure enough, she came back a minute later with a large plastic pee bottle. She handed that to me, then put the ice pack back on my knee and finally fixed my blanket situation. Did I mention that pretty much everyone in BAMC had seen my man-parts hanging out in the breeze?
I will tell you that the overnight nurse I had was good. She recognized that I was in pain and started loading me up in order to try to minimize the discomfort. She would explain what each medication was and give me the option of jumping right to the Morphine drip. Though the idea sounds comforting, I decided that I was not going to go the morphine route unless the pain was simply unbearable.
Overnight, sleep was sporadic at best and downright uncomfortable. When morning finally came my main focus was just getting discharged and taking my chances at being home. If you have to be miserable, be miserable in your own king size bed.
They brought me in a recliner type chair so I wouldn't have to lay in bed all day. My first move, getting from the bed to the recliner was actually not that eventful. I thought that the smart thing to do would be to put my weight on my good leg and simply scoot myself over to the chair. In reality, with all the wires and stuff, I ended up just standing and placing weight gingerly on my new knee. There was no excruciating pain like I expected and once seated, I was pretty happy.
Next up, a man from the medical supply company came in to provide me with a walker and a potty seat. The potty seat is what they call a three-in-one. You can either place it over the toilet and sit on it o you don't have to squat down as far, or you can use the handy bucket and just poop right into there, then have some able-bodied person (think: your wife) empty your poop for you (not likely). And the third thing it was for was to act as a seat for in the shower.
I can report that I did use it the first time I took a shower, just because Eva insisted, but I never once used it for the other two purposes. I'm sure these things are useful, but, no thanks.
After breakfast the guys from Physical Therapy came around. The first attempt at getting me to stand up and use the walker came to a sudden halt when I nearly passed out due to nausea and dizziness. A nurse gave me some Zofran to calm my stomach and in about twenty minutes I was up on the walker and making first trip around the ward. I also took a quick detour to the bathroom where I was able to demonstrate that I could pee without dribbling all over a plastic cup.
The goal was to have me do several laps around the ward using the walker and show that I could get in and out of bed, in and out of a chair and get into the car that would take me home. I also need to get cleared by the surgeon and get all my meds squared away. I don't remember when I actually was released but the long wait was getting the meds ordered and getting someone from the ward to go down and get them for me. Once again, a shift change was involved and I think the oncoming shift finally got tired of me asking for a status.
I know a lot of this sounds whiny and it is. The truth is, this was major surgery but it was an optional surgery. When you are at BAMC, it is really hard to complain about how bad you think you have it when you need only look in any direction and see wounded warriors of every description. Young guys with missing ears, gals with missing limbs. I'm sure they'd be amused that my knees hurt from running too much. In the grand scheme of things, I had to pee in a bottle, wait for some meds, and watch a little TV connected to my bed. We should all be so lucky.
Next time I'll tell you about my home therapy and my amazingly fast recovery.