Monday, June 1, 2009
Top 10 Memorable Moments From My Shoulder Surgery
After 36 hours without food, this was my breakfast. I had to laugh. And yes, I ate every crumb.
A few days ago, I had reconstructive surgery on the AC joint on my left shoulder. I spent one night in Prague's Motol hospital and am now home recuperating.
Surgery's probably never routine, and when it's your first night ever spent in a hospital, and when that hospital is in Czech Republic and you don't really speak the language, it's especially nerve-wracking.
Rather than bore you with a blow-by-blow account of my experience, here are my Top 10 Most Memorable Moments at Motol:
I don't have much experience with hospitals in the U.S., so maybe this is not all that unusual, but Motol is like a little city unto itself. There are grocery stores, cafes, a pharmacy, a clothing store, and even a table set up in a hallway that was filled with all sorts of Avon makeup. For some reason, I find this highly amusing. Maybe it's just me.
I've seen this elsewhere in the Czech Republic, and I'm sure it's common elsewhere, but it never ceases to amaze me.
I walked down a large hallway in Motol. On each side of the hallway were doors, closed doors -- may 20 or 25 in all. Along the sides of the hallway were chairs, maybe 50 or 60 chairs. Each chair was filled with someone, usually an elderly person, who was usually carrying crutches or was in a wheelchair or had a bandage wrapped around their head. They were all waiting for one of the doors to open, hoping to be called in for treatment.
I always felt so sad for these folks every time I walked through the hall.
I used a bed pan for the first time. Actually, it more like an oddly shaped Tupperware container. It did the trick, though. Makes me think about getting one for home use!
I was in a room with two other older gentlemen. I think they were both getting hip replacements. They both snored like sick bears suffering from sleep apnea. What an unbelievable racket. And they farted pretty regularly, too. It was difficult to sleep.
I was told not to eat for six hours before my surgery. I was also told I couldn't eat for about six hours after my surgery. I arrived at the hospital at 9 a.m., but my surgery didn't end up happening until 5:30 p.m. or so. Sadly, no one woke me up at midnight or 1 a.m. to feed me.
Breakfast wasn't served until 8 a.m. the next morning. I went for about 36 hours without food or water, which I'm sure is a new personal best. (I was given fluids intraveneously before my procedure, however.)
The reading lamp above my bed looked like a prop out of the original "Star Trek" TV show.
A few hours before my surgery, a guy shows up in my room with an empty chair on wheels. I hesitate to call it a wheelchair, because it was basically just an old hard-seated metal chair on wheels. I was told to sit in it, and I was wheeled down the hall, into an elevator, and down another hallway into an X-ray room. An X-ray was taken of my shoulder.
I was told to get back in the chair and was wheeled back to my room. It's funny, because I had walked into the hospital on my own just a few hours before. And when I was discharged the next day, I just walked out. Funny.
When they finally came for me for the surgery, I was made to wear one of those classic hospital gowns; you know, the ones that tie in the back. Unfortunately, because of my shoulder, I couldn't reach my arm around to tie it. No one volunteered to help me. Can't blame 'em, really.
Then they wheeled me on my hospital bed through the hallways and down a few floors in an elevator. It's a weird feeling. I couldn't help but think of all those TV shows where they shoot up at the ceiling from the perspective of a patient being wheeled into a life-or-death operation. You see the hallway lights and the ceiling tiles and you're looking up at the undersides of everyone's face. Surreal.
Again, perhaps they do this in U.S. hospitals, too, but once they wheeled me near to the operating room, I was told to transfer myself from the hospital bed to a flat, metal shelf built into a wall that reminded me of a giant dumbwaiter. It was cold on my butt. From there, I was told to move myself to another, smaller gurney on the other side of the wall.
I have been told that I was being transferred from the non-sterile hallway into the sterile environment of the operating theater. It was all just very awkward and strange.
My hospital room. My bed was on the far right. Pretty intimate quarters.
I was chatting with my surgeon just before the operation. I was probably the fifth or sixth patient he'd operated on that day, and from what I understand, he had quite a few still to do. I looked up at him while we were chatting and noticed that his eyeglasses were speckled with drops of blood.
I was so hungry when breakfast was finally delivered at 8 a.m. the next morning. It was the saddest, lamest, most hilarious "breakfast" I've ever been served. It was a blue pastric tray on which was a saucer with two slices of brown bread, a sealed plastic packet of salami slices, a tiny tub of margarine, and a cup of a lukewarm, light brown liquid that could not be described as either coffee or tea. I'm not sure sure what it was.
The surgery went well, I'm told, and I'm home now, trying to rest. It still hurts a lot, and my left arm is in a restraining sling so I can't move it around.
All in all, I can't complain. The doctors and nurses were all very nice to me, and I'm sure I got special treatment because I was a foreigner.
Except for that breakfast.
Prague's lovely Motol hospital on a chilly, wet morning.