Where… where….am… I? What…what…is.. this? Oh my God I can’t feel my legs! I can’t wiggle my toes! What the fuck?!
Click here for Hospital Experience I
Nurses come to my side and apprise me of the current situation. I am in a recovery room and that I have just come out of surgery. How many times have they come to the aid of a bewildered patient? How many times have they had to provide comfort and calm to a startled and rattled patient?
It takes only a few seconds for my station to become clear to me. I now know where I am. I know why I am here. But there is still something very disconcerting…I can’t feel my legs. The worst scenario creeps into my head…they fucked up! I won’t be able to ride again, walk again, run… Fear, then anger builds inside of me, then it becomes fear again
I exclaim, “Nurse I can’t feel my legs I can’t wiggle my toes!”
Once again the calming voice comes to me and says, “You had an epidural for your surgery. You are awake from the general anesthesia but the epidural hasn’t worn off yet.”
I think to myself I will fight this and move my legs— but nothing. I become frustrated. I pass out. Later I awake and try again. I am frantic.
The nurse comes again and mollifies me, “relax, be patient it will wear off soon”.
I fought the nurse telling her I could beat the anesthesia. They laughed at me of course. But I came out fighting!
I remember her soothing demeanor. I began to assess what I knew for sure. I had had a bike accident, I fractured my femur, 24 hours later I checked into the hospital, I was then scheduled for emergency surgery, I was now in the recovery room. Prior to the surgery I had this one preoccupying thought— I was starving….hmm…I’m not hungry now. I have no idea what time it is but it must be late in the night or the wee hours of the next day. I’m good now I have my bearings and my locus of control.
The nurse checks on me again. I remember joking with her and calling her by the wrong name. She took it in stride. We took a picture…I can’t remember the picture being taken.
Recovery room nurse I can’t remember her name
When I got home I searched on YouTube for videos about my surgery. Isn’t YouTube amazing? You can find virtually anything on there. What is even more amazing is the body’s resilience and how it recovers from major trauma and the subsequent stress of surgery.
DISCLAIMER: THE FOLLOWING VIDEOS MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR YOUNG VIEWERS OR THE SQUEAMISH
The first 40 seconds or so pertain to my injury
Hours pass and I am transported to my room on the 7th floor. Honestly I don’t remember being conveyed through the labyrinth again. I don’t remember anything that happened that night. I assume my vitals were taken at some point throughout the night.
The following morning I met Shannon. She would be my nurse until I was discharged. First order of business was breakfast. The hospital wanted me to eat, bring my strength up, make me mobile, and begin my transition from recovery patient to discharged patient.
I let the nurse place my breakfast order for me. The menu options were the usual American style breakfast. Being a creature of habit, I love my coffee in the morning but it wasn’t appetizing at all anything after that would be inconsequential. Along with my coffee I like to eat a very light breakfast – whether it’s a 50 or 500 mile ride. As soon as I start pedaling I begin taking in calories. If I have breakfast it’s usually toast and peanut butter, or a small bowl of oatmeal, or a cup of Greek yogurt with honey and/or fresh berries or a Probar. I prefer to eat light or not at all so I can get on the bike within an hour of waking up.
Breakfast arrived and I couldn’t bear the smell of it. The night before while waiting for surgery I was ravenous. I fantasized of a big hearty meal …gluttony even. But now I couldn’t lift the dome off of the main dish. I pushed it aside. I was nauseous. My friends know me to always be hungry.
Two physical therapist came to visit. My task, their task, was to make me mobile and get me to the bathroom. I was presented with a walker. A shocking reality came to me at that moment– I must be pretty jacked up! If I needed a walker that meant I wasn’t going to be too very mobile was I? The PT’s were kind and helpful as they assisted me move my recently operated leg off the bed. They helped me up and instructed me how to take my first few steps. All was good…for a few seconds and then…vertigo. I was nauseous and spat up. I motioned to the PT that I was sick she reached for a bucket and I began to vomit. First dry heaves and then the retching became productive as I expelled a thick gooey substance. How pitiful I must have looked to that PT. Stabilized by only a walker, the rear of my hospital gown open, regurgitating into a bucket. I was quite the example of a sickly and weak man. I was embarrassed, humiliated and apologized profusely that they had to see me this way. Eventually, I reached the bathroom. I stood over the toilet and tried to urinate but nothing came out. I tried and tried was I experiencing a serious case of stage fright? Little did I know that my biggest struggle for discharge had just begun.
Hours later I had my second PT visit. The PT suggested we try a walk out into the hall. Things went well as we past the threshold of my room. The big expansive hallway was bright and inviting. I made progress, albeit slowly and carefully, with no apparent direction. My bike rides are the same. I leave my home with a goal of a certain number of hours but no dedicated route. Those first few miles I assess how I am feeling and then choose the routes to compliment how I’m feeling. If I feel flat and lacking power I take the coast, if my legs feel fresh and strong I take to the hills.
Here I was standing in the middle of the hallway to my right a long hallway, to my left a shorter walk with a massive and enticing window as a reward. I told the PT we were going to the window to take a look outside. Just about halfway, I became sick again. I held it together long enough for the PT to run back to my and fetch a catch bucket. Great… more humiliation but now in public view! I emptied out the exiguous breakfast I had had earlier and gave the PT my bucket. Was this in her job description I wondered. Again, I apologized as I tidied and steadied myself.
She said, “Let’s head back to the room that’s enough progress for today”
I countered, “No. We are going to the window. That’s was the goal and the goal hasn’t changed. You’re my wing-woman come on.”
Shortly after vomiting…again. Are those helmet tan lines on my forehead?
We had a chuckle and I continued to shuffle – me and my walker and my IV machine. As I reached the window I felt this huge sense of control again. I had held off vomiting and had transported myself a good distance less than 12 hours post surgery. While looking out to the surrounding hills the PT and I discussed my accident, my injury, my surgery, my expected recovery and so on. I came to the realization that here in the hospital it didn’t matter whether you were a great athlete or a couch potato. The staff was there to help you get well, recover and send you home to your loved ones. But I couldn’t help remember a line from a movie.
“Here you are all equally worthless”
While I was up and around I decided to make another trip to the bathroom. I still couldn’t pee. Nurse Shannon added a little more stress to my predicament if I couldn’t urinate I couldn’t go home. I focused intently but nothing would come out. I was so frustrated. How can a normal body function such as urinating take so much effort.
In the next segment the drama of not being able to void continues you won’t want to miss it…