Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thanks! I 'kneeded' that


Had I not been so averse to the ruthlessly competitive nature of organic chemistry classes, I might have become a doctor.

I love the world of medicine and I feel like I've had a caffeine transfusion whenever I walk into any kind of healthcare setting. Medical textbooks, especially the illustrations and photos, just fascinate me. The gorier, the better. And surgery holds me spellbound.

So of course I wanted to be able to witness my own surgery last week; I just wasn't quite sure I'd be up to the task.

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Warning: If you tend to get light-headed or squeamish when hearing or reading about needles and such, this would be a good time to stop reading.
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Owing to my particular build, lots of running, jumping, and twisting during my more active days, both knees need some work. But the left one got top billing. And the mother tiger who is my primary care physician only allows one surgeon to do the the prescribed procedure. He happens to work on the knees of professional football, baseball, hockey, and basketball players. I was lucky enough to score a surgical date during Vikings preseason training.

Apparently, the surgical gowns are made to fit these athletes. They swamped me and even had a few nurses chuckling. They also come fitted with a little hook up that allows a hose attached to a pump to inflate the gown with warm air. Very cozy but I think I must have looked like a lilac Michelin man. 

Dr. Painkiller stopped by to talk about my anesthesia options, which were basically two: 1) get knocked out and risk saying stupid things when you come to and maybe even lose your lunch from 24 hours ago or 2) have a little sedative, then get poked in the back and be temporarily paralyzed from the waist down.

I really don't like to say stupid things and I really did want to be able to watch the monitor and hear the narration, so I grilled Dr. Painkiller about spinals. He told me he had done at least 8,000 in his career and had not had a bad outcome, that spinals had a bad rep from the days when the ampules were stored in formaldehyde and the bad stuff had leaked in, and that if I faithfully laid flat out for a couple days, I could prevent getting a spinal headache, which apparently is a very nasty thing. I opted for the spinal.

My turn rolled around, and I was rolled into the operating room. As promised, a nice little cocktail of calming drugs was slipped into my bloodstream, and suddenly all -- and I mean ALL -- was very very right with the world. (There must be a legal way to achieve that state!)

Dr. Painkiller asked me to lean forward, which I was more than happy to do.

Poke. Some conversation that seemed to take a little too long. A feeling of sparks shooting down my left leg, and then sensation began to leave my southern hemisphere.

Sweet Nurse Anesthetist tilted the monitor to my left so I could have the perfect view. A blue drape blocked my view of Dr. Top-Flight Knee Surgeon and crew, though I could hear him educating a surgical resident standing by.

"I can still feel a little bit of pressure," I worriedly told Sweet Nurse Anesthetist.

Don't you worry one bit. I'm here to make sure you don't feel any pain whatsoever. I'll make sure you're fast asleep if I think there's any chance you'll feel something.

And she patted me on the shoulder and head.

I closed my eyes and asked her to tell me when he was "in." 

He's in!

"Wait. That fast? I can't feel anything." (First stupid thing I said.)

And thus began the Incredible Journey Inside Kathleen's Knee.  I could see everything and feel absolutely nothing. I watched as Dr. Top-Flight Knee Surgeon buffed some rough spots, pointed out a troublesome patch the size of a quarter under my kneecap, and "released" a stubborn little band that has been causing me trouble for years. And that was it.
 
Well, almost. My knee was wrapped and a cooling contraption attached to an ice-and-water-filled thermos thing was strapped on top, and then the team lifted something that looked a lot like a log with a foot attached to it. 

"WHOA! Is that my leg?"

(Second stupid thing I said. But sheesh that's a weird sensation to see a part of your body be moved and not feel a thing!)

They politely laughed, said yes, counted to 3, and shifted me back to my rolling bed. And off I went to recovery.

At some point, Dr. Painkiller came in to check on me and see how I was doing, which I thought was a little odd since he's done 8000 of these spinals. As it turns out, I have some tough little ligaments in my back that bent his needle, but he managed to deaden half my body anyway. I've got to give that guy a lot of credit. He certainly kept his cool! I usually let slip a swear word when I bend a needle and that's just during beading.

In the recovery room, I didn't say one stupid thing (at least that I know of) and the nurse told me she hadn't had such a fun conversation in a long time. Two diet cokes and a granola bar later, it was time to go. 

Despite the real and imagined caffeine "infusion," my energy level plummeted the minute I left the clinic. I've been sleeping a lot since then, doing my exercises, and trying to catch up with blog friends.

And the "training" I was doing before surgery? Blew it the day before with a big fat piece of tripple chocolate cake some dear friends at work gave me and which, I'm happy to say, was worth every loving calorie.

So I'm on the mend and hoping to return to adventure grrrl condition before long. 

Now, one question remains: Should I go with option 1 or option 2 for anesthesia for the second knee? It appears I'm likely to say stupid things no matter what!

Image by healthinmotion 
Image by sexybloomers.com
Image by isabel bloedwater


17 comments:

Rudee said...

I'm interested to know what your recovery is like. I know everyone is different, but my colleague has milked it for 13 weeks now. The wench.

I hope you're feeling fabulous very soon And for # 2--go with the spinal. You won't have a surgical story to blog about if you're asleep.

And really Kathleen, by next time, I expect you to at least be able to pass instruments.

Gaston Studio said...

Sounds like you had a very successful surgery experience and I'm so glad! I went for the spinal thingie too and didn't regret it.

Am intriqued by what Rudee said about recovery time... 13 weeks? I was on crutches after 3 days and didn't need them a couple of weeks later.

ellen abbott said...

I don't know if I could let someone stick a needle in my spine though I don't care for the little sleep either.

Hope you are up and moving soon.

Rudee said...

See? GS was better in now time! Now I know I've just been hoodwinked.

carpoolqueen said...

I was petrified of the spinal until I had one. It wasn't at all as bad as I had imagined it.

It did freak me out a little to hear the doctor say, "Can you feel anything sharp?"

Uh, no, but just in case, please juice me a little more.

Susan B. at warmchocmilk said...

I had a spinal with both my c-sections. Inteseting experience. I can relate though...however...I seem to stay stupid things with no anethesia at all (except sleep deprivation! -does that count??)
:)

Pyzahn said...

I sat at my computer with this empty non-blogging sadness and decided to take a minute to visit my MN friend.

Yikes. Knew surgery. Can't believe you watched. I got nerve surges just hearing about it.

I thought you were going to be in Northern Lights country this week.

Hope you mend quickly. I swear I'm going to call you when I come up for air. Gotta run cause I'm losing light and I need to do some edging on the lawn.

Be well.

Kathleen said...

Rudee: I'll bone up on my surg tech skills asap!

Ellen: Nope you never need to, but I'm a serious needle phobic type, and it didn't really phase me.

Jane: Yep, I think Rudee may be right

CarpoolQueen: awesome stuff, that happy juice!

Susan: I think there's no way to avoid saying stupid things when you're in the position of patient. sigh.

Pyzahn: So great to see you here! Up North on Wed. Be well and give yourself a break!

Poetikat said...

This, we do NOT have in common; I have a pronounced aversion to hospitals or anything remotely medical in nature.

I hope the op went okay for you.

Kat

Sarah Farnsworth said...

i am going to send this to another blogger i'm following. he is a runner and is having knee troubles as well. perhaps it'll be useful to him, or perhaps just a sigh or relief that he's not alone!


also, your interest in the medical stuff makes me laugh. i'm horrible with it. for some reason, i can watch a gore-fest horror movie with no problem (though i definitely don't do that often), but READING about Sickle Cell Anemia in my Human Biology course threw me over the edge!!


-Sarah
http://cameradeluge.blogspot.com/

Janie said...

Option 2 sounds better to me. I like to know what's going on, even if it makes no sense to me. And, yeah, stupid things will be said, but I'm sure the hospital staff is used to it. They probably even think saying stupid stuff is normal!

Derrick said...

Hi Kathleen,

This was fun to read even though you didn't really say anything stupid! You are a brave person! Hope you're skipping around in no time.

Gaston Studio said...

Congrats on POTD mention!

Brian Miller said...

whew...just got up off the floor...i could not watch...fascinated or not. hope recovery goes well. congrats on the POTD mention.

Alix said...

Hi Kathleen...

I just swung over from Casa Hice to congratulate you on your Post Of The Day mention on David McMahon's blog. I found myself in your extraordinary company today and, quite frankly, am baffled by it.

You are a blogging rock star and had me glued to every gory detail of your knee surgery. But next time, could you be a little gorier? I do love me some gore.

Oh, and I love the names you give your cast of characters. So funny.

So, three cheers to you. I'm glad to make your acquaintance and am rushing to subscribe to your lovely blog.

Thanks for the great read!

Cheffie-Mom said...

Congrats on the Post of the Day mention!

Mimi said...

Brave, brave, brave!
Great story, and I love the pic of the smiley and non-smiley knee.
Go with no. 2- want the sequel!

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