Monday, 15 September 2014

A new record for complaining, even for me

This Wolverine had nothing on me when it came to being hungry.
I did a post on Facebook recently, which some of you may have seen, following my surgery, the declawing of my left hand.
The surgery went well, but afterward I received a couple of shocks that set me back a bit.
So I'll go back there to the approximate beginning.
To have surgery, you have to "fast" - eat nothing for a certain amount of hours before hand.
In my case my admission time was 11.30 am, and so my last food was at 9pm the night before.
I think it's hugely ironic that the process is called "fasting", as there's nothing fast about it - never do the hours drag as slowly when you can't have any food.
As many of you who may have been through the process yourself will know, if you give up smoking, your appetite increases.
Partly because nicotine is an appetite suppressant, and partly because once you stop smoking, you are fidgetty and need something to do with your hands, eating snacks is thus a common way of getting through the quitting smoking period.
I quit smoking four odd years ago now, and one of the things I have since come to enjoy is getting my sense of taste back, and enjoying good food.
So fasting was a strain.
Then, one the morning of the op, you can't drink much.
I was allowed to have a cup of black coffee, but that was it, no water even after 7am.
Plus, and compounding the sense of strain, turns out I wasn't even allowed to chew my nicotine gum.
I'm still addicted to the gum, even four years later, it's not a good thing, as it disturbs your digestion, but I still find it comforting to be able to chew it.
And thus clearly, this morning of the op, already starving, and stressed out, I couldn't chew my gum.
The reason, by the way, is that chewing gum is like drinking fluids, it puts lots of saliva into your stomach.
This is bad because if you vomit while under anaesthetic the fluid can go into your lungs, and you can come out with pneumonia.
So, foodless, drinkless, and gum-chewing-less, I was finally ready to go.
My friend Ivan had volunteered to drive me up the coast to the hospital at Murwillumbah.
He arrived on time and off we went.
So eventually under I went, and the skilled surgical team cut open my left paw and removed the fibrous tissue that was occluding my tendons.
I came out from under at about 6pm in the evening, after a period of grogginess, I began to recirculate normality.
When I began once more to take an interest in things around me I noticed that there was a tray of food next to my bed. 
I fell upon it like a Wolverine of the tundra.
When I say it was food, it barely answered that description, the laughably-titled 'edibles' consisted of a single sandwich, white bread with cheese and two small pots, one of fruit and another of yoghurt.
From this remove, I seriously doubt the above-mentioned Wolverine would have eaten the stuff as quick as I did.
BTW: The wolverine's scientific name is 'gulo', from the latin for glutton.
So I'd nailed my first food in 20 hours, and was still gapingly hungry.
What's more, I'd had the same operation on my righthand some years ago, and when I came out of that surgery, I was offered a similar sandwich as a snack.
And this time, I had thought that this miniscule tray of food was afternoon tea - oh yeah, there were a couple of biscuits on the tray, helping with the misconception.
So eight seconds later when I looked down at my now empty tray, it suddenly occurred to me, in conjunction with noting the time, now seven pm, that I may have been mistaken, and this wasn't afternoon tea, but dinner.
I sought clarification from a passing nurse.
I pointed at the tray, and said, "Er, excuse me, but was that dinner?"
She replied: "Yes."
My heart sank, and the nurse doesn't know how lucky she was that I didn't take a chomp out of her, so hungry was I.
I went on: "Oh, um, is there any other food in the hospital, a coffee shop or anything?"
She shook her head, "No, sorry, there's a vending machine in the lobby."
I nodded lugubriously, we all know what sort of food, and the quality thereof, is in vending machines.
Thankfully my wallet had a ten dollar note in it, a rather uncommon occurrence due to my recurringly parlous financial state, and so I got off the bed and made my way shakily down to the lobby.
There I discovered the vending machine containing, as expected, chips, and chocolate, and cookies in plastic.
Just looking at it was giving me indigestion, however I had no alternative, so I got my ten spot, and inserted it in the machine.
The name of the machine was 'Surevend', and as soon as I saw it, I was brought to mind of the monorail episode of The Simpsons.
Homer is driving it and the thing comes to grief due to a faulty and old fan belt, the brand name of the fan belt is 'Seld-m-break', which it then goes on to do.
And likewise for me here in the lobby, as soon as I saw the words 'Surevend' on the note slot, I knew I was in trouble.
Surevend enough, it wouldn't take my bill.
I tried repeatedly, but it soon became clear that paper money was out.
So stomach rumbling to levels that would contravene local noise regulations, I got back in the lift and went back upstairs to my ward, and down to the nurses station.
I asked if the assembled staff could change my ten for some coins, this they helpfully did and I went back down to the vending machine.
Thankfully it took my coins and I picked the least worst food I could, a packet of chips.
Then munching on my crisps, I went back up stairs.
It was now about eight pm, and since I'd been asleep, under anaesthetic all afternoon, I was now wide awake.
I watched my usual show on the TV, Rules of Engagement, and then went back to my bed and began a sort of fidgety read of my book.
However it was hard for me to concentrate, as I usually only read to put me to sleep, and since that wasn't going to happen, I found it hard to concentrate.
Thankfully though, the bike race from Spain, the Vuelta a Espana, was on TV later, and so I had that to look forward to.
Time passed in a sort of stasis-like haze, and then at midnight the bike race came on and I went down to the TV lounge to watch it.
I enjoyed that and every half hour went back down to the vending machine to get some more food.
This is how I reacted to being woken after only two hours sleep.
However, even as I ate it, I knew I was setting myself up for severe digestive problems, and that did happen.
I think my complaint is that I know hospitals suffer terribly from funding cuts, but I would have thought that with people coming out of surgery, who have been fasting for hours beforehand, a decent amount of reasonably healthy food should be available for them to eat.
Apparently not.
So with the bike race over, and my money gone, I went back to my bed, and read my book again.
Eventually, at long, long, last, I was sleepy, and fell asleep around four am.
I had been hoping for something of a lie-in, but was about to be severely disappointed.
Due to the nurses shift schedule, I was awoken just two hours later at six am, to take my observations, blood pressure, pulse, temperature and the like.
If the above mentioned nurse nearly had a Lachlan's-mouth-sized chunk out of her arm, this nurse nearly got a backhander.
This is not really a complaint against the nurse, she was only doing the right thing, by checking on my health, it was simply that I'd only fallen asleep two hours before, and no one likes being awoken after only two hours sleep.
If I was Wolverine-like above, this time I was more like a bear, snarling with lack of sleep I watched as she put the blood pressure cuff on my arm and inserted the thermometer (In my ear please note, if she has tried it at the other end, murder would have been done).
That done she packed up her equipment and made to leave.
I noted the clock on the wall said six a.m, and so asked the nurse: "Er, what time is breakfast?"
"Eight o'clock," she threw over her shoulder as she left.
"Oh, f%^-ing great," I said under my breath.
Tired as I was, I couldn't get back to sleep, and so then had to sit on my bed for the next two hours.
Breakfast, when it finally came was, to put it mildly, another disappointment.
I had ticked the vegetarian box when asked about food, and rarely have I wanted to rethink this lifestyle choice as then.
I'm a vego who doesn't eat eggs, and so my breakfast consisted of a bowl of cornflakes and a piece of raisin toast, untoasted, and a cup of International Roast instant coffee.
I'm not particularly a coffee snob, but enjoy mid-range, plunger coffee at home.
So to say this strange brown liquid was an assault on the taste buds barely hints at the scale of the desecration that occurred inside my mouth.
Go out and lick the road if you want to recreate the experience.
Anyway, 'breakfast' over inside thirty seconds - indeed it took longer to open the little corn flakes box with my left hand in a cast, than it did to eat it - it was now time to go home.
I was being taken back to Byron by Community Health transport.
I'd already put my friends through enough, so was happy to use this great service.
However, when I called them they said they couldn't be there till 11am, thus I had another three hour sitting on my bed session.
Then I had another shock, after my right hand surgery, I was in a cast for only a week.
This time, as I was now solemnly informed, the stitches and cast had to stay on for two.
Not a long time, but as many of you - Jane and Gloria I know for sure - know, being in a cast is no fun.
Not less fun, but none.
So much of my mighty achievements of giving up the drink, smoking, and the like have relied on being able to undertake physical activities, surfing, cycling, gardening among them, and so now I was in a cast for not one week, but two, and it really made me badly depressed.
Things haven't got better, and I'm kind of avoiding people at the moment so I don't have to have the conversation again.
Eventually the transport volunteer arrived, and he was a great guy, right into renewable power, drove me in a hybrid, hated Tony Abbott, everything I could have asked for.
That hour long drive was the first thing I'd enjoyed since Ivan dropped me off.
Home again, and now it was Friday, so that meant doing my sport column for Independent Australia.
To say typing was difficult is an understatement, however I churned my thousand words and then,..., well my normal reward for doing some writing was of course to surf or cycle, but that was now out, and so I made my sad way home, via the dvd store, and began the process of watching the empty hours pass.
Saturday I did some research for an article I was writing, and then back to empty hour filling.
Sunday came and thankfully I had been invited up to Clunes to have coffee with gardening client Eric, his wife Shelagh and his son Michael.
This was my first time behind the wheel, and I was a little nervous, but found that I was able to drive approximately well.
However, I was just becoming sort of relaxed when I went over a pot hole near Bangalow, and a new noise was added to the hum of the engine.
It was a sort of a tick- and a tacking kind of noise, rather as if someone was playing half a castanet in my spare tyre bay.
I waited and hoped it would go away but it didn't, and so I pulled over nearer Bangalow, and went around to find out what was wrong.
Turns out the electric relay for the trailer had come loose, and was bouncing around all over the road.
Well, one thing I am an expert on these days is pulling my car back together on the side of the road, using whatever I can find in the back of the car.
So I found some string, tied it up and went onward, trying not to think of what this was gonna cost to repair.
However, I got to Eric's, and spent some time with his family, and that did help.
Then homeward, and more DVDs.
Monday and went to work, more half-a-hand typing.
I am thankful for the surgery, already I can feel that it's gone well, but now this is my fourth time in stasis due to a cast and/or stitches in the last four years - hand surgery, two broken bones and a cut across my penis from my surfboard fins - and my tolerance has genuinely run out.
I've already impersonated a wolverine and a bear, I think the next person who tries my patience is going to get the full Velociraptor treatment.


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