WARNING: Playing volleyball may have one or more of the following side effects: dehydration, runny nose, post-nasal drip, coughing, fever, bacterial infection, fainting, oozing sores, diarrhea, sore throat, unpleasant tasting phlegm, hemorrhoids, and an unsightly rash.
Part I - Playing Volleyball
I played volleyball one time this year.
Before you panic, this is not a story about a gruesome sports injury like those repeated ad nauseum on football game replays. I had been working out at the gym and I ran into a friend that I used to play friendly games of volleyball with. He mentioned that a local church now had pick-up games on Sunday afternoons. You didn't have to be a member of the church and the people were nice (as opposed to the cliquey ball-killers that played at the university), so he invited me to come out and join them.
On this one particular February weekend in Florida, it had managed to get into the 80s. I decided it was finally time to go out to the church and play an afternoon of volleyball. I was pretty rusty, but the people were nice and I had a good time. I did manage to wear myself out, though. Tall guys with big legs jumping in the Florida heat tend to produce lots of sweat, something that's not good when they don't drink enough water.
To make a long short story short, I managed to wear myself down a little bit – enough that I managed to catch whatever cold or flu had been going around at the time. It was one of those annoying bugs that wasn't bad enough to make you stay home from work, but was just enough to make you and everyone around you miserable. It amounted to lots of fluids and bed rest without the small joy you can take out of flipping through all 75 channels and turning off the TV in disgust with the thought that there's nothing but soap operas on.
Of course, I eventually got better… but that's when my troubles began.
Part II - Nurse Karen
I'd had a small lump in my shoulder since early in college. Every few years, I'd mention it to whatever doctor I was seeing at the time and they indicated it was just a fatty growth called a cyst. If it wasn't bothering me, it wasn't worth worrying about. It had grown slowly over the years and was now the size of a partially smushed grape, although much more firm.
Soon after getting well from the aforementioned cold, I noticed the area around my cyst started to get red and a little tender - a little more each day. After a few days, I figured a doctor's visit was in order and eventually got an appointment to see "Nurse Karen".
I'm afraid I honestly don't know what to call nurses. With doctors, it's much more clear-cut - the people at the office tell you that you have an appointment with Dr. Kildaire. You address the man who looks like Richard Chamberlain as "Dr. Kildaire". And, even when you tell your friends you anything more than "I saw the doctor," you tell them you saw Dr. Kildaire.
Nurses are something different all together. ARNP-style nurses can do almost anything a doctor can do. They can make you say "ah", tell you to turn your head and cough, and even write prescriptions. They just don't seem to get much respect. When I called to make an appointment at the doctor's office, I was told that it would be two weeks before I could see my doctor (a.k.a. "Primary Care Physician"); however, I could have an appointment with "Karen" the next day. That's fine - I just wanted my shoulder to be looked at. However, she will have to forgive me for not knowing how to properly refer to her since nurses evidently don't generate enough respect for people to refer to them by their last names.
Part III - Antibiotics 101
My visit to Nurse Karen confirmed my suspicions - my cyst had become infected. It was tender, pink, and slightly swollen. She prescribed a mild antibiotic called Keflex and indicated that she wanted to see me in about a week to make sure it was doing ok. She also told me to put a warm washcloth on it a few times a day to help with the process. She said something about maybe having it removed if it continued to give me trouble.
Unfortunately, I suspect "Keflex" may be Latin for "sugar pill". While it is a drug that is covered by my insurance and it probably does all sorts of wonderful things to my body, killing this particular infection was not one of them. In fact, after a few days, my shoulder was getting more painful and swollen, so I scheduled another visit.
At this point, I would just like to mention that is amazing how people are drawn to abnormalities in other peoples' bodies. I cannot even begin to tell you the number of friends and strangers who patted me on the back or even outright rubbed my shoulders where I had what I thought was an obviously swollen lump there. One evening, I even showed the infection in my shoulder to a close friend whom I later hugged goodbye. As soon as she had me in her arms, she started patting me directly on the shoulder, only to be reminded of my condition by me repeating "ow" like a mantra after her fourth or fifth reflex o'caring. Maybe it's a chi thing.
As I mentioned, the Keflex did not do the desired job, so Nurse Karen had to bring out the big guns. She prescribed Tequin. "Tequin" is probably not a Latin word because my insurance company doesn't cover it. Of course, I found this out after returning to my pharmacy in a rush to pick up my prescription, only to be told that it had not been filled. In fact, if I did want it filled, it would be around $80. I decided to pass.
Nurse Karen was very certain that Tequin was the drug for me so she did what she could to help out. She was able to gather most of my prescription together from office samples - at least enough to figure out that it was going to have the desired effect. The swelling began to go down and the net result was only paying around $50 to pick up an extended dosage - a price I was glad to pay after all of this annoyance. (Not to mention having to pay a $10 insurance co-payment for each of the office visits to sort this mess out.)
Part IV - The Pimple from Hell
As I mentioned, Nurse Karen had recommended putting a warm washcloth on the area a few times a day to help with the process. I foolishly assumed that this meant that it would help the swelling go down, similar to the way icing a knee or putting a heating pad on an aching back works. And it does, in fact, help the swelling to go down… just not in the way I had imagined.
The constant heat was causing a pimple to form on my shoulder and I didn't really put two and two together until the day after this particular pimple opened and all hell broke loose.
It turns out that the warm washcloth encourages blood and a variety of other bodily fluids to flow into the area to help with the healing process. That is to say that these bodily fluids help the healing process by forcing the infection out of the body. Of course, rather than using a more conventional route like the urinary tract or a bowel movement, they simply head straight for the nearest pore to deliver their payload.
For the next seven days, I spent my mornings and evenings painfully squeezing every color fluid I'd ever seen on the Lifetime channel out of this little opening. There were brilliant reds, motley grays, shiny pinks, and every shade in between. Mixed in with this was white cyst material the consistency of library paste, sometimes in pieces as large as teeth. This truly was the everlasting gobstopper edition of the pimple from hell.
At this juncture, I would just like to mention there is what seems to be an uncanny female fascination with pimples. If there are pimples being found on the men of the world, the women of the world have this innate biological desire to pop them. Lest you think this is something I'm making up, I would like to point out that not only did more than one female friend offer to help me drain my shoulder, but a co-worker elaborated on his wife's desire to do similar things to him when he had a similar infection. On top of all this, I was told that Eric McCormack of "Will & Grace" even mentioned female pimple-popping while he was a guest on the "Tonight Show" at this time.
Part V - I'm a Fainter
The one other piece of background information you may need to know before going into the meat of this story is that I'm a fainter. Ever since puberty I've been a fainter. I was around 13, just leaving the doctor's office after having some blood drawn. My mom was paying for the visit and I collapsed. Maybe I hit the doorknob on the way down. Maybe having less blood in my system left me weak, only to set off a chain of events that would affect the rest of my life. In any event, since that time, I've been a fainter.
Technically, I guess it's a phobia. Present me with a situation where I may be stuck with a needle or see someone getting stuck with a needle and I'll faint. This process even extended to a fear of razor blades. This doesn't mean I've never shaved - I've just never shaved with anything other than an electric razor. Although, come to think of it, I've never fainted at the thought or sight of a razor blade. I just avoid them. Needles, however, are a different story.
The most public display of this was sitting in a 720-seat University of Florida auditorium attending a lecture in what must have been biology. The topic of the day was the discovery of a small pox vaccine. At some point during the lecture, I think I may have been paying more attention to the professor than to my newspaper because I found myself slowly waking up on the floor of the auditorium, facing the ceiling. Students were gathered around me, arguing about whether to raise my head or my feet - simultaneously raising, then dropping them. The professor was standing over them with his voice booming through a mobile microphone, "Is he ok? Raise his head... no, his feet."
Numerous other examples throughout my colorful past are littered with needle stories. One girlfriend physically stapled a big sign saying "FAINTS AT THE SIGHT OF NEEDLES" to my medical records at the student infirmary after a few memorable incidents. I've regretfully never given blood out of knowing I'll feel sick from fainting for the rest of the day. I've even fainted at the movies when people receiving needles are on the screen. My friends have advised me never to see the movie Trainspotting. I assume that those of you who have seen this movie know why.
Part VI - Maybe I Should Lie Down First
This fear of needles must also extend to other invasive procedures. Before the pimple from hell first burst, Nurse Karen indicated that she would like to try to drain my shoulder. At this point, it looked like the Tequin was working, so I wasn't sure I understood why. But, being a good patient, I agreed. I did, however, indicate that it might be a good idea if I was lying down.
Doctors and nurses are not exactly known for moving quickly in non-emergency situations. I suspect it may be more appropriate to say that they take their time. I assume this is because they want to make sure they are doing the right thing. However, I can't say that this plays real well with fainters. Fainting is all a big mind game and having lots of time to think about what's going to happen is probably the least favorable situation. The simple fact is, if doctors and nurses would just tackle me, pin me to the ground, and have their way with me, I suspect this would all go much more smoothly, at least until I thought about what had happened.
It was at this point that I discovered that Nurse Karen also had a sense of humor. She started off the process by telling me she was leaving to go locate the "biggest, sharpest knife she could find"… which, I actually found rather funny. After I laid down, she went to get another nurse, who was evidently going to join in the female pimple-popping ritual. After about five minutes of rearranging tables, lights, and nurses, everything seemed ready to go and they swabbed the area with the modern equivalent of iodine. Then… they waited.
This was, of course, their mistake. They waited. It might have been 30 seconds. It might have been five minutes. The fact is, if they had jabbed me with the biggest, sharpest knife in the office right away, I probably would have been fine. But, they waited. I never even saw a knife… something inside of me just started shutting down. I started turning white. The room started to get fuzzy - the visual equivalent of an FM broadcast fading to static while driving into a tunnel. I've never really figured out how to adequately describe the sensation of slowly fainting. I suspect it's something like dieing - a thought I don't find all that pleasant.
Never-the-less, realizing that I was about to pass out, the nurses decided it would be better not to drain my shoulder at this particular time. I never did pass completely out. Five to ten minutes later, I was feeling better and told them they could try again. They declined. I guess that was a close enough call. Nurse Karen simply said to keep up with the antibiotics and warm washcloths - the reasons for which revealed themselves on said washcloth a few days later.
The part that people don't understand is that my own handling of the pimple from hell really didn't phase me. No needles or knives were necessary, just lots of squeezing and wiping and drainage. I think this is partially because I was in control of the situation… but mostly, I think the biggest difference was that stuff was coming out rather than going in.
Part VII - Dr. W
Although the pimple from hell provided an ample opportunity for the cyst material to exit my body, it was highly unlikely that all of it was going to leave in this manner. What was left behind felt like a lump with a big pit in the middle of it. Nurse Karen indicated that it would be a good idea to have the remaining cyst removed since there was a good chance it could eventually get infected again. Around this time, I even had the privilege of seeing my actual doctor (a.k.a. "Primary Care Physician") before getting referred to a surgeon for the removal.
Unlike nurses, doctors are addressed by their last names. Unfortunately, many non-TV doctors often have complicated last names with many syllables that are difficult to pronounce. I suspect this is why doctors signatures are traditionally so hard to read - rather than write out fourteen individual letters fifty times a day, they gloss over the process by emulating an electro-cardiogram with a pen, making a few squiggles and calling it a signature.
The surgeon I was referred to was no exception. His name is so long that I will simply refer to him as "Dr. W". Dr. W is a very nice man with good bed-side manner. According to the certificates on the wall, he finished medical school around the time I was born. I also suspect he stays rather busy. The average office visit took about an hour - fifty minutes to read magazines, five minutes to wait in front of a freezing cold air conditioning duct with my shirt off, and five minutes for actual consultation.
I like doctors who don't recommend any unnecessary action. The first time I saw Dr. W, he decided it was too soon after the infection to make any decisions, so he asked me to come back in a few weeks. When I did return, he took a quick look at it, noted it was the first time it had ever been infected, and recommended we not do anything about it. He just said to let him know if it became a problem again. I went back to work and told a co-worker I wasn't going to need surgery after all. It seems I neglected to knock on any nearby wood.
Part VIII - Antibiotics 102
The human body tends to know when it is no longer in danger. It lets down its guard. The visit to Dr. W was on a Friday several weeks after the antibiotics and draining and other nastiness. That weekend, I did my usual exercising - I didn't make it over to play any volleyball because I was working overtime at work. But somehow, I managed to wear myself down again. Allergy season was starting and I suspect that had something to do with it. In any event, by Monday evening, the infection was back.
Dr. W was good enough to see me the next day and immediately started me on new antibiotics. He was very accommodating, going so far as to write prescriptions for two different antibiotics, saying if my insurance didn't cover one, they should cover the other. As it turned out, the first prescription was fine.
The problem with antibiotics, especially those that say "Take With Food", is that they can interfere with your digestion. This has something to do with them killing all bacteria, good or bad, in your body. Since your body needs e. coli bacteria to digest certain things, killing that bacteria can affect your digestive processes.
For some reason, neither Keflex nor Tequin had any undesirable effect on me (another reason why I suspect "Keflex" is Latin for "sugar pill"). Augmentin, on the other hand, did have an undesirable effect on my digestive system. As it turns out, I have now come to believe that "Augmentin" is the Latin word for "Drain-O". Thankfully, this effect lasted only a few days and the antibiotic portion of the medicine did appear to stop the infection.
The pimple from hell in my shoulder also re-appeared and did its messy job. Once again, I was back to the washcloths and squeezing to remove more blood and toxic waste from my shoulder. In fact, by the time I got back to see Dr. W at the end of the antibiotic pills, it was pretty much completely drained.
Of course, this was just my opinion. Dr. W took one look at my shoulder and said "I think what we should do is drain it." He immediately thought better of this idea.
Part IX - Men Having Babies
As soon as Dr. W said something about "draining", I immediately turned very white. It was apparent I was quite well on the road to passing out again. So, he and his nurse laid me down on the table and started talking about "Plan B."
This is not to say that Dr. W didn't know I was a fainter. I tell all medical personnel this as soon as possible, usually within the first minute of meeting them. Something along the lines of answering "are you allergic to any medications?" with "no, but I'm allergic to needles." In fact, in response to this, Dr. W took a little time to tell me about the vagus nerve during my first or second visit. The vagus nerve is the part of the body that slows down the heart rate and makes people faint in response to certain stimuli. He's probably encountered plenty of fainters in his time. Of course, now, he had another. But, since it didn't look like I was in any danger, he left to consult with other patients while I recovered.
Dr. W has several nurses. One of them is like a stereotypical grandma - someone you half expect to bring you milk and cookies while you visit. Another one or two of his nurses are in their mid-twenties and would fit right in playing "Nurse #1" and "Nurse #2" in TV and movies. But one nurse was more interesting than the others. After my near fainting and Dr. W left the room to attend to the other patients, the first words out of her mouth were "I'm sure glad that men don't have babies." I'm assumed at the time I was just too light-headed to follow her particular logical reasoning.
This particular nurse was actually fountain of knowledge. Since we would not be able to drain my cyst at the office, she proceeded to tell me to keep a white warm washcloth on my shoulder. It was important that I use a white washcloth on my shoulder for the same reason you wear white socks when you have a foot infection - because whites are usually washed in bleach. Note that she said "usually". I'm not really sure whether she was aware that I may, in fact, do my own laundry or that maybe she should ask whether I personally use bleach.
For the record, as soon as my shoulder opened the first time, I was microwaving damp paper towels and using those to avoid getting yucky gunk all over my perfectly good washcloths.
Part X - Plan B
Since this was my second infection, Dr. W indicated it would probably be a good idea to remove the cyst surgically. Normally, this is a procedure he could do in his office with just local anesthetic. However, in my case, he decided it would be a better idea to put me out completely - a procedure that required us to do it in the hospital.
One oddity about this whole visit that I'm not sure I ever understood was why he needed to drain my shoulder if he was going to slice it open to operate on it. Nurse Karen expressed similar reasoning in her desire to drain it after already suggesting I have it removed. Evidently, the standard order of events is to completely get rid of the infection, THEN remove the cyst. Of course, the question that everyone then asks me is "if they're going to slice you open, why not just drain it then". I'm sure there's a valid reason for it, like keeping the site clean or working in a non-swollen area, but it was one of the more bizarre parts of this whole process.
In the end, Dr. W was satisfied with just watching my progress over the next few days rather than insisting on draining it manually beforehand. After a few more visits, he scheduled the surgery for the following Monday.
Part XI - Paging: Someone Who Knows What They're Talking About
I have never had surgery before. I've had oral surgery for things like removing wisdom teeth and taking out a gap so I didn't grow up looking like David Letterman, but nothing invasive has been done to any other part of my body that I know of. In fact, one of the amazing things about dentists is that they can give me injections without me fainting. Considering that most dentist visits involve being poked and prodded in your mouth with a variety of sharp, shiny metal tools, I guess the sensation of a needle has no additional relevance. It's too bad doctors can't employ dentists to administer their injections.
Prior to surgery in a hospital, patients are required to stop by the hospital to fill out paperwork and receive instructions regarding what they can and cannot do beforehand. The hospital also needs to draw blood to make sure the patients' blood counts are in good enough shape for them to be operated on. Wanting to avoid as many days with needles as possible, I verified with Dr. W's office that this had to be done before the day of the surgery. Their response was that operating room time was very expensive - if the blood test revealed I would not be able to have the surgery, the hospital needed time to reschedule the room for someone else.
I called the hospital on Wednesday to find out when they were open for this pre-surgery visit. The person I spoke to indicated I could have it done any time. I made sure to specify this was specifically for a pre-surgery visit with blood work and they said it could, indeed, be done any time. This sounded reasonable to me since I knew hospitals were open 24 hours for emergencies. I decided I would arrange for a nurse friend to drive me over Thursday night after work. If that didn't work, I'd get over there over the weekend.
Unfortunately, when I told my friend this on Thursday, she said that this didn't sound right at all. I gave her the number I called at the hospital for her to ask for herself. Contrary to what I was told, she was told that the hours were from 6 to 6:30, Monday through Friday. I have no idea what on earth the person I talked to on the telephone thought I wanted, but what I was told definitely wasn't right.
Because of this, my only remaining option was to go to the hospital on Friday. Rather than make any friends take off from work to drive me there, I decided to drive myself. I'm a big boy, I thought - I can handle having my blood drawn. The last few times I've had my blood drawn, I even made it through without passing out completely. And, in the worst case, I'd just sit in the hospital for a little while until my head cleared before driving myself home.
Part XII - HELLO, I'm… a Fainter
I got to the hospital around 3:30pm and filled out the various required paperwork. I jokingly asked the nurse if she had any stickers that said "He's a Fainter" or "HELLO, I'm... a Fainter." Unfortunately, she didn't have any available. It did manage to generate a polite laugh, though.
I was then escorted down to the pre-surgery center for instructions on what I should do before the surgery. No food or drink after 8am, no driving for 24 hours afterwards, wash with anti-bacterial soap the morning before, don't take any vitamin E from strangers, and so on.
I honestly remember Dr. W told me he was going to have me given an oral sedative to reduce the chance of me fainting on the day of the surgery. And yet, while the nurse was describing everything that was going to happen to me that day, she didn't mention any sedatives. When I asked her about it, she said looked again at my pre-op orders and gave a nervous laugh. Dr. W had ordered Atropine IM. The nurse informed me that IM means "intra-muscular". In other words, it would be injected in my hip. She was nice enough to call over to Dr. W's office to verify the order, but at this point it was after 5pm and they had already gone home.
Regardless of how the day of the surgery was going to unfold, a more immediate moment of truth was at hand. This nurse needed to draw some of my blood with a needle. When the moment arrived, I started to feel faint at first, so the nurse waved some ammonia under my nose. WOW, that'll wake you up - a definite sensory overload for your nose. After that, I started a conversation with her about her kids and grandkids as she went about getting the needle.
Part XIII - The Fields of Wisconsin
I remember standing in a field of green grass somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin. It was a beautiful place. The wind was slowly blowing the grass around. The air was very tranquil. The sky was hazy blue... and then, it all started to change. The sky was slowly changing into white fluorescence… the white fluorescence of lights.
I had had this feeling before, but I wasn't sure where. What was it? Was it a hospital? Yes, I must be waking up
in a hospital. There must have been an accident when I was driving somewhere. The last thing I remember was fields of green grass.
Someone was talking. It wasn't an urgent tone, more like a phone call where someone wasn't sure if the line had been disconnected. They said something like "Hello? Hello? Are you with me?"
One minute… I'm supposed to be in a hospital. I went to the hospital to have my blood drawn. I must have passed out… I mean completely passed out. Come to think of it, I've never even been to Wisconsin.
I assured the nurse that I was ok and tried to backtrack to what we were talking about - the kids, the grandkids. She was nice enough to get me some orange juice and let me lie on the bed for a while. Every ten minutes or so, she checked my blood pressure, but it never really improved. Eventually, she parked me in front of a TV in a spare room and went home.
About an hour later, I still wasn't getting any better and decided I'd just get myself home where I could recover in comfort. The parking garage was just outside the door of the surgery center and I lived only a few miles away. If I felt faint, I could just pull over to the side of the road.
Of course, when I say that the parking garage was just outside the door, I mean a parking garage was just outside the door. It turns out that the parking garage I parked at was on the other side of the hospital. Still, it was nice to get out in the April sunshine and move around a little, albeit a little slowly. The drive home was also uneventful - I felt a little nauseous, especially waiting at the world's longest stop lights, but I made it home without incident. I continued to feel a little nauseous for the rest of the night. Fainting will do that to you. I don't recommend it if you can avoid it.
Part XIV - The Breakfast of Champions
The night before the surgery, the anxiety was starting to catch up with me. My girlfriend had come into town to drive me to the hospital. We rented a movie Friday evening, but still hadn't watched it. This being the night before the surgery, it seemed like a great time to pop in a nice relaxing tape and take our minds off of everything. Fortunately or unfortunately, we had chosen O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Based on Homer's Odyssey, I'm not sure whether this was necessarily the best choice for someone anxious enough to be wondering if he was going to die in surgery the next day. It was filled with lots of symbolism of life changes, the underworld, and cheating death. I walked around the house getting ready for bed looking at everything as some type of sign. A roach was dieing on the floor on the way to my bedroom. Before I even scooped it up to throw it in the toilet, I found myself thinking "what does this mean?"
Since I wasn't allowed to eat anything after 8am the day of the surgery, the plan was to get up around 7:30 to eat, then sleep most of the day until the surgery. This plan was modified slightly when I realized I wanted to make some stock trades in the morning and I needed to call Dr. W to verify the order to have the Atropine administered with a needle. This was the plan, anyway.
I did manage to get up at 7:30 and have English muffins and yogurt for breakfast, washing it down with Gatorade. That sounds rather disgusting, but the orange juice I buy has 100% of the daily allowance of vitamin E and I was told vitamin E promotes bleeding. I also figured the nutrients in Gatorade would help my body make it through the day without weighing down my stomach. All of this might have been good thinking except the yogurt… it only dawned on me a few hours later that one of the nurses said something about not having any dairy on the day of the surgery.
Prior to this morning, I'm not sure I'd ever tried to eat a breakfast and jump straight back into bed. It's one of those things that sounds good on paper, but eating things you don't normally eat for breakfast when you're anxious is not necessarily the most conducive thing to good digestion. As soon as I laid down, I felt like I had one of those kinetic wave displays you buy at Spencer's Gifts moving back and forth in my stomach. Lying flat was probably not the best idea at this point. I ended up reading magazines on the john for an hour instead.
After getting my stock trades out of the way, I called Dr. W's office to confirm the order for Atropine IM. I spoke to a nurse who said that Dr. W was in surgery, but that she'd call me back in a few minutes as soon as she had an answer. I laid down on the couch and put the cordless phone on a nearby table. I guess I fell asleep.
Part XV - It's a Very Small Needle
The phone was ringing. I grabbed it from the table and tried to answer, but I didn't hear anything. I pushed the on button; but still, no answer. In fact, the phone continued to ring… from the table. A few seconds went by before I realized I was actually trying to answer the TV remote control. As much as I would probably rather talk to Rich Eisen on SportsCenter, he probably couldn't help me much with my question about Atropine. I quickly put down the remote and changed to the phone.
The nurse on the other end of the line was a different one from the one I spoke to earlier. She asked me if it would be ok to move up my surgery to 3pm, requiring me to be at the hospital at 1pm. This was perfectly fine with me - less waiting, I thought. My only real concern was my "late" breakfast and the contents thereof. But, I agreed.
After confirming that the new surgery time was ok, I discovered that the nurse on the phone was probably the interesting nurse from my previous visit. In response to my question about Atropine IM, she proceeded to tell me through a series of non-stop factoids that Atropine could only be administered through a needle and that the needle was very small and that the needle wouldn't hurt wouldn't hurt a bit and that the needle was smaller than a cat's claw and and and and and. I never got in a "yes, but...".
Actually, I do think that at some point I was able to mention that the Atropine injection was for my fear of needles. Based on her responses, I think she may have thought this had something to do with pain. This may explain the "men having babies" comment from my previous visit. Honestly, I think needles are the one of the least painful things you can have done in a doctor's office. Or, I should say, the needles that I've been awake for haven't been painful at all.
Part XVI - The Waiting Room
Waiting. Doctors and hospitals involve waiting. I was told to be at the hospital two hours before the procedure. That seemed like a long time, but I was happy to get it underway rather than sit at home and worry about it. Unfortunately, I suspect that this "two hours ahead of time" rule is similar to the rules-of-thumb that they give airline passengers. Arrive at the airport two hours before your flight - that way, if every possible thing goes wrong on your way to and through the airport, you'll still have time to buy a magazine and read half of it prior to boarding your plane.
In this case, a little extra time actually was warranted. I arrived at the hospital on time and followed the directions that I thought I had been given. This lead to waiting ten minutes in a place that I didn't need to be. Then, the next room that I was sent to had no medical personnel in it, just people waiting and a TV with a soap opera. I eventually knocked on a door and asked if this was the right place to be. It was, so I sat down and waited... and waited... and waited.
To their credit, the hospital personnel were all very nice. When my name was finally called, the entire process was as smooth as silk. Here's a bed, please change into this gown, sign these consent forms, verify this information. The nurse also asked if I would like a valium. I gladly accepted. I honestly don't know if it did any good. I didn't feel any different, but when the anesthesiologist came to put in the IV, it was the easiest medical procedure I'd ever been through. After a while, he came back and added a new bag to the IV to prepare me for the surgery.
Part XVII - The Surgery
I woke up in another room. I don't remember falling asleep. I don't remember the surgery. I didn't even visit that special place in Wisconsin. It was all sort of anti-climactic. They gave me some time for the drugs to wear off, removed the IV and took me in a wheelchair down to the car. I think this was the first time I've ever been in a wheelchair, too.
That's it. No big deal. Go to sleep and wake up a new man. I had been anxious about THIS?
I visited Dr. W the next day so he could check the incision and give me instructions on what I was supposed to do. He told me that he had me stitched up and had placed a drainage tube in there to relieve any pressure. He also said that the incision looked like it was healing nicely. He prescribed some antibiotics "just in case" and some Percocet "just in case". He would see me back in his office in one week to remove to drainage tube and one week later to remove the stitches. That's it.
The next morning, I made my first attempt at changing the dressing. Since they didn't have a mirror readily available in the doctor's office, this was also my first chance to look my new shoulder, or as I've come to refer to it, my "Frankenshoulder". The incision was about four inches long with seven stitches, five staples, and a bizarre inch-long tube-like thing the projected directly out of one end. I took pictures. No one wants to look at them.
Over the three months since I had played that game of volleyball, I had been on no less than five different antibiotics. Keflex, Tequin, Augmentin, an antibiotic administered through my IV, and Ceftin. It's tough to say whether the Ceftin actually did anything since it was being taken as a preventive measure. At least it did not come accompanied with the Augmentin Drain-O effect. Maybe it's Latin for "insurance".
My body, sensing it was no longer in danger, proceeded to have a variety of problems. I left the hospital with a sore throat that came and went over the course of the next week. I developed some uncomfortable problems down there that were far more unpleasant than applying dressings to my wound. Not that I had much idea how to properly dress a surgical incision. Despite some hastily rattled-off instructions from one of Dr. W's nurses, I still felt like McGyver each morning trying to cover up this large slice in my shoulder with whatever bandages, tape, and ointments I had available.
I guess all this left me looking a little stressed out. Every once in a while, a friend would instinctively try to rub my shoulders to relieve whatever stress I seemed to be under. It really was uncanny.
©2002 James (Gary) Geniesse