Wow, talk about journeys. This knee replacement has been one weird road to travel. My medical history is a snooze fest. No, really, I was a preemie 60 (WTF? WHEN did THAT happen. My brain thinks I’m 30) years ago. That was the last time I spent the night in a hospital. The only surgery I’d ever had was a cervical cone biopsy back in about 1989. That was an outpatient procedure. I’m not sure about the exact year but, I know I was living on a street called Gilligan’s Way, near USF, with my boyfriend, Very Hairy Scary Gary. Those are three years that blur and I’m happy to not recall all the details. Ya’ll might have heard of Sheryl Crow’s song about Eric Clapton titled, My Favorite Mistake, or something like that. Well, my relationship with VHSG was the antithesis of that. I dumped him because he wasn’t a reader. But, I do remember having the surgery in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa during the VHSG years. My surgeon was a cantankerous old guy who probably should have retired but, hey, it was a free procedure thanks to the Judeo-Christian Clinic, which was hilarious because I was kind of transitioning from being an atheist to being a spiritual believer again. I think I dragged out the process because VHSG, being a good Pittsburgher with German and Czech genes, was a Catholic. My atheism pissed him off. Unlike my usual modus operandi of torturing adorable men (how dare they be attractive and interesting), I tortured him because he was annoying. My torture directed at him was not served with a sly smile–more like a grimace. I would have unloaded him sooner but this pending medical procedure had me a little preoccupied with getting healthy.
Thus, a dearth of medical events and my lack of hypochondria and factitious disorder imposed on self, partially led to my freak out over what was happening. I hate needles, I don’t enjoy being awakened every hour so a nurse can take, “vitals,” I hate goo, I hate knives slicing into my flesh (Yeah, I’m not a fan of Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s more like, Fifty Shades of Horrible Writing. When I learned it was set in Oregon and Washington I read a few passages and it became clear that the author had never planted a toe in the Pacific Northwest). There’s a theme here: medical school and hospitals are not for me. It’s funny, though, I still love biology.
I think it was back in September when I finally settled on a surgery date. I was focused on December because I was terrified of going paycheck-less for possibly three months and I was pretty sure my 2020 Florida Blue health insurance premiums were going to significantly increase. My surgeon, Ron Hudanich DO (with a name like that, I thought I would have heard a Pittsburgh accent. Nope, Jersey. His ARNP, Jamie, is from Boston. I stumbled upon a linguistic gold mine!), suggested December 26th. I think I blurted out, “What, are you nuts?” Silly question, almost all the surgeons I’ve met are a couple of beers shy of a full six pack in the sanity department. They have that in common with commercial airline pilots and cats. Somehow we settled on December 30th and the hospital. I almost forgot to mention my little sleep apnea problem but, I did remember and Dr. Hudanich said that the anesthesiologist could give me a spinal. Then I got ushered to the front to coordinate this procedure with the scheduler, Carrie, and it began to become real. Paperwork, Lordy, instructions, hoops I have to jump through. You may have guessed, I sometimes rebel against authority. I have an astrological excuse for that.
I picked AdventHealth in Altamonte Springs, which is about five miles from my home. It turned out to be a great choice. That’s where I went for my pre-op. But, before that I had to get a CT scan of my left knee and I had to use the facility that my doctor uses for everybody, which makes sense. It cuts down on a few variables. The scan had to be done as close to surgery date as possible, which also makes sense. I called the Maitland office of Sand Lake Imaging. It’s in between my apartment and the hospital where my surgery would happen. I’d taken a former roommate, years earlier, to the imaging center’s Orlando office and the traffic sucked; I was thrilled to not have to drive down to theme park land. I made my appointment for the CT scan and a mammogram, since one a year is free with my insurance. I went to my appointment on December’s Friday the thirteenth. The CT scan was a breeze. The mammogram was, as always, a pain in the boobs. This procedure was invented and designed by sadistic psychopathic men who never got laid and had horrible relationships with their mothers. And the techs who perform mammograms have the most bizarre job on the planet. I always wonder if they feel as though they are making bread. I was relieved a couple of weeks later that my girls came back two thumbs up. I guess that’s one thumb per boob.
The next day I called Florida Blue to renew my health insurance and it was going to be $148 a month. “Do you see who I work for, because I KNOW you have that information?,” I asked, irritated. The agent said that the higher premium was based on greater income. Damn, I should have declined that 20 cent per hour raise I got the previous January. I explained that I was about to have knee surgery and would have zero income for probably three months so my income was going to decrease. I was thinking, shit, when I left Portland in 1999, I should have moved to Vancouver BC instead of Florida. I had a Canadian roommate when I was attending USF and she loved her Canadian health care. The insurance guy said he’d talk to a supervisor, which probably meant he went to the privy, ate a sandwich and then had a smoke. He eventually came back on the line and told me I was stuck with those premiums but, he did say I might be able to renew going through the Marketplace. He connected me with the Obamacare Marketplace and I was able to get my exact same policy with exactly the same premiums. That was a huge relief.
My leave of absence from Walmart started on December 20th. It was to run till March 20th–my late mother’s birthday.
AdventHealth requires patients to attend a class given by a nurse that explains the surgery process and what patients are responsible for and what to expect before and after surgery. I did find this helpful. My class was on the 18th and was small. Most of us were getting new knees. One lady was getting a new hip. I think she had Hudanich doing her surgery, too. My pre-op was also at the hospital on the 23rd. Twenty-three is one of my lucky numbers so, I had high hopes; it was also the day I would find out how big my hospital bill would be. That was also the day I had to give up NSAID painkillers because they thin your blood. I thought that if I got one of my typical sinus headaches I would kill myself by banging my head against a wall. Plus, I was reminded of, Mr. Henderson, this goofy photo lab tech I used to work with in the USF Mass Comm photo lab. Whenever I would complain about one of my headaches, which was almost daily, he would say, “Well, Pam, it will stop hurting when the pain goes away.” “Oh, you’re funny. You and my father could be drinking buddies,” I would say while picturing sticking his head into a vat of photographic fixer or pushing him into the print dryer. Do you want a mat or glossy finish? It was a great cartoon in my head. Much of my life gets translated into cognitive cartoons. Luckily, the sinus issue did not become unbearable during that week before my surgery. We must have had low humidity in Central Florida that week. Anything below 80% is low for this peninsular chunk of land.
Pre-op was interesting. They took blood, gave me an EKG, took chest x-rays, took my temperature and tested my pee. Then I sat with a nurse named, Jennifer, who told me where to check in the day of surgery and the fun stuff I had to do before getting to the hospital. She told me what to bring: case for glasses, my CPAP machine (they would give me distilled water). No dark nail polish (no prob. I’m not a girlie girl). No jewelry or personal items. Damn, I gotta remove those nipple rings (ha! Like I would have those. I hate physical pain) and leave my porn at home. Honestly, I don’t understand the function of porn. Wouldn’t you rather be a participant of those particular behaviors rather than simply be watching it? Seriously, if there is no available man for us straight girls, we can always depend on BOB-battery operated boyfriend, for those not in the know. And, dear God, do you really need to have a visual aid? Do those consumers of porn not have any imagination? Have they not heard of the ancient Sanskrit instruction manual known as the, Kama Sutra? Maybe only horny anthropology majors know about that. India is sooo fascinating. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. I also learned that I would have to wash my sheets and wear clean PJ’s, or none (see BOB, above), and take an obnoxious number of showers before getting to the hospital. As far as my number 23 luck went, I sat with a billing agent who took my insurance information and ID and she did her magic and told me I would end up owing AdventHealth a little over $1400. I almost fell out of my chair. That was cheap; I was so relieved. But, in the end I owed more ($1700) because, apparently, I’m the Pulled Muscle Queen and I stayed an extra night in the hospital. At least it saved me from having to cook. The food, actually, was not hideous. So, I was happy.
Night before surgery instructions: no food after midnight. Of course, this is when the ice cream cravings begin, And then, those annoying showers. I love showers and baths. I love the water; it relaxes me. I take a very warm shower every night before I go to bed. Having to take showers with a soap I have instructions for is irritating and ruins the mood (see rebelling against authority, above oh, and BOB-just kidding). The first shower the night before is a normal shower. For the second shower I had to use a liquid soap containing chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) by lathering my body, except the parts that would be the focus of porn and my face and leave it on for, I think, three minutes. Might have been longer. I don’t remember but, I know I followed instructions. Yeah, I was as shocked as you might be. This soap is anti-germ but, I guess it’s not anti-coronavirus, or we all would have seen it on the news.
I think I may have slept for about an hour. Paranoia struck: what if I lose too much blood, which is to say, coffee, because, I’m sure a good percentage of my blood is Sumtra Velvet, with some cheap stuff mixed in? What if I wake up on the surgery table thingee? What if my surgeon turns out to owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling debts and shows up drunk? Just kidding! Of course none, of those things happened. Dr. Hudanich is a good guy and a great surgeon but, since learning his favorite band is Motley Crue, I think a tad muy loco. Certainly not Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) loco just… (See comment about surgeons and airline pilots, above). It would have been cool about the coffee, though. Did anyone say, “Espresso?” I could have made lattes but, hey, I was asleep.
I arrived at the hospital at the horrendous hour of 4:30 am. Via Uber. One of my work buddies, Patrick (fellow psych degree-holder so, I gotta love him. He actually, DOES need to be in grad school), bought me an Uber gift card which paid for my ride. I went up to the second floor and attempted to take a nap because I had the place to myself. Then an older couple joined me. The husband was having his knee replaced (I think, maybe it was a hip) too. We whined about the ridiculous number of showers and having to get up so bloody early. And, of course, the avoidance of food. But, I guess it was better to get it over with early.
After being taken to the surgery prep area, I was given one of those stylish gowns they force upon you. I think it was the brother of the mammogram machine inventor who designed those hideous gowns. But, before I put that on, I had to lather up with some foamy germ-killing stuff and rub it into my skin also avoiding the aforementioned anatomical real estate I avoided with the CHG soap. At least it was a nice shade of pink. I got into the bed (Gurney??) and the nurse shaved my knee. The anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself. He seemed nice. He explained what he was going to do. Then I was given a sedative, I think, cause I conked out and had my Robert Plant make-out dream interrupted by, Dr. Hudanich. Oh damn, it’s only you? Can, I get back to the sexy English guy who looks like King Arthur? I really have no idea what I was dreaming about. I was probably snoring. He told me was going to uncover my left leg (ooh, baby, wait, he’s not Robert P. Ok, I’m going to snooze again) so, he could write, “Yes,” on my leg with his little black Sharpie. Is NOTHING safe from graffiti artists? He wrote on my leg and then I’m not sure if this was delirium but, I swear, he snapped me awake for a minute, gave me a goofy grin and added an exclamation point. I do recall thinking, oh great, my surgeon is a lunatic; his poor wife and kids–if he has a wife and kids. Who knows?
Next thing I remember is getting wheeled into one of those huge elevators that’s larger than a typical $2000 a month studio apartment in San Francisco and taken into an operating room that seemed to have as many computers as the room at the Cape where launches are monitored. I’ve been in that room, in 1970 and 2002. Anyone who goes to Kennedy Space Center can see it. It’s, actually, pretty cool.
Then I was being wheeled into my room on the seventh floor. I must have conked out again but, I was awake long enough to be happy it was over.
One of the burning questions I have is: Good God, was Dr. H. listening to Motley Crue while he poked around in my left knee? And if so, please tell me it was NOT, “Girls, Girls, Girls.”