Saturday, December 24, 2011

Unabashed Report: Back From St. Vincent’s Hospital & Spinal Fusion Surgery

Catheterization Fun!
Willy and I talked about my favorite line from Arlo Guthrie's song
"Last Train To Glory"
It is:
"Maybe your ticket on the last train to glory is the stranger whose sleeping on your floor."
Unabashed Report: Back From St. Vincent’s Hospital & Spinal Fusion Surgery
I returned home tonight at about 6pm, having had fusion surgery performed on my lumbar 4th and 5th vertebrae yesterday at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford. The headline is that Dr. Lantner was very delighted with the way the surgery went, and when he came today he was sporting casual attire, a high quality wool sweater, no tie and was capable of laughter. ;o) He had viewed the X-rays following his work, which involved removing a bone spur, removing the soft tissue between the two joints, and implanting a concoction which included a list of ingredients including human bone and stem cell matter, among other delightful stuff. I suppose I’ll just leave that concoction in the category of Italian sausage and hot dogs, I probably really DON’T wanna know how it’s made nor see the video.
Because of my long term medical matters, the doc opted to admit me last evening, although he frequently discharges patients the same day who undergo similar surgery. Good thing! A complication arose overnight (for the squeamish I recommend turning away because it’s gonna get a bit graphic for a while here) not directly pertaining to the success or lack therein of the surgery itself. I couldn’t pee. That’s right. You read right. Your intrepid Unabashed correspondent could not urinate. OMG! And during the three and a half hour operation they were apparently loading me up with fluids via a plastic baggie connected with a hose to a needle in my arm.
drip. drip. drip. drip.
The pain was bad when I came out of surgery, but once they began a morphine drip, it was somewhat reduced. I didn’t think sleep was likely, but I did so yearn for it, and was Unabashedly hopeful that this would happen, since a sleeping lefty feels no pain. But as I lay trying to sleep, my bladder filled. And filled. And filled. It filled so much that it became painful. Now I had excruciating back pain, coupled with excruciating pain from a distended bladder. OMG. An unhappy unabashed lefty at St. Francis was the result. Particularly since the meager selection of TV channels included only one newschannel, CNN. OMG. That was beyond excruciating. CNN threepeats the Friday before Christmas and Anderson Cooper everywhere I turned. I buzzed Nick the nurse. Nick the nurse explained that often the nerves leading from lumbar vertebrae to the bladder following spinal surgery such as my unabashed affair often causes a temporary inability to squeeze that bladder empty. In layman’s terms, I couldn’t pee.
Nick the nurse had to do an ultrasound to verify that my bladder contained vast quantities of urine. It was confirmed. 1000 milliliters in fact, or one liter if you wish to keep score. I’ve never had the privilege of undergoing a catheterization, and Nick the nurse at midnight performed what he called a ‘direct line catheterization.” OMG! In the middle of this festivity all I could think of was my strong desire for a bullet to bite on and I AM a pacifist. After emptying my bladder and removing the offending tube from parts that have never had foreign objects inserted before, Nick the nurse departed. In pain still from the surgery, and my mind shifting to prospects such as a slipping scalpel whilst I was unconscious and a possibly cut nerve and catheters for life, Christmases past, present and future, will I be home anytime this life and what-not, I got no sleep, and reverted once again to CNN. Dr. Sanjay Gupta was filling in for AC on the AC 360 Circus in the threepeat of the hour. Sanjay is also a neurosurgeon, like Dr. Lantner, btw. Sanjay cannot and more importantly never SHOULD do a hard news show, or try to analyze politics on camera. He sux at it. Not as bad as AC, but he looks like he’s really uncomfortable and doesn’t want to be doing it, he looks guilty even trying. That’s good; at least he’s humble about it. AC? Humility? We all know all about that! the size of a basketball...
a very LARGE basketball....
And my bladder grew once again. Incessantly. Groggy, tired and under the influence of a synthetic opiate, I don’t recall the name of the 3am nurse, she was kinda cute though. Ok, now we did what was becoming routine already, an ultrasound of my lower abdomen confirming that I had to pee (it measured 750ml this time so grab your scorecards). This was followed by catheterization number 2! I had the bullet thing down to a science now, since they didn’t have bullets to bite on at the nursing station I opted to squeeze the rails of the bed as tight as I could as a substitute, it placated me somewhat the first time. Catheter nurse #2 was one of your all-business types and hadn’t responded to my unabashed attempts at humor all shift. Catheterization, for those not in the know, is most painful upon the insertion and de-sertion process when the caregiver inserts and de-serts tubing all the way into and out of the urethra into the bladder so as to void said bladder. Once nurse #2 succeeded in de-serting my tube and my grimace of pain was still on my face and my legs still spread sort of eagle, I asked Nurse #2 “Is it a boy or a girl?” Nurse #2 lost it, she found this hysterical, and I found her reaction hysterical. I forgot my pain. 5 seconds later it returned.
In Desperation I Briefly Became Self-Abusive And Actually
Watched The AC 360 Circus On CNN!
Once again I shut off CNN (all I can say about CNN is yuckipoo), turned off the lights and lay back to ‘sleep.’ Right. Morphine dripped. Roommate snored. Code blues and what-not were called over an intercom sound system that sounded horrible. And my bladder grew. And grew. And grew. Once again. 7am and Nurse Judy is now on the job. Nurse Judy says that ‘protocol’ says that upon a third catheterization they’d just leave the sucker in me for the duration. Ultrasound. 800mls of urine in my distended bladder. Pain. Oodles of pain. Judy did the ultrasound, but a guest nurse (kinda like Sanjay filled in for Cooper on the AC 360 Circus on CNN earlier) did the catheterization honors this time. This time was different. It took  F O R E V E R  and force to get the tube in this time. OMG! I unabashedly teared up in the process and made caveman style sounds I do believe. When she was through I saw the reason. The semi-permanent catheter tube had a diameter 5 times that of the in-and-out job. OMG! Judy hadn’t forewarned your unabashed patient patient. So now gravity is doing the job and I’m honestly worried sick that I’ll be cruising through life so cathetered for life. OMG. No sleep at all last night.
But, as I said earlier the headline is that the surgery went well and I’m home and in a few days or weeks I will know if my chronic and sometimes acute pain is alleviated or gone.  Another headline is that the staff at St. Francis’ was uniformly nice and had great motives, laughed at my unabashed jokes and some even promised to read this wonderful journal of mine. Don’t forget, btw, for all your military affairs and comedy needs its! Another big headline is that my roommate was an awesome guy named Willy who was there since Wednesday due to spinal injuries caused by a truck accident (not his fault) when his 3 and 4 year old grandsons were in the truck with him (thank God they were not injured). Willy and I hit it off great, and his wife, Janet happens to be a Christian Chaplain who graduated earlier this year from the Chaplaincy program at Hartford Seminary, where I now work and attend graduate school! Willy and I traded numbers and talked a lot and have much I common, and I now have my first friend in Hartford who is not tied in to the state capitol or the Seminary. His whole family came for a visit, including the 3 year old grandson (the 4 year old didn’t come) and what a delight they were. I was able to win over the 3 year old from my hospital bed, despite looking scary given my plight, and when he left he waved bye- bye and smiled a smile to melt my heart big-time. This afternoon, Willy’s Pentecostal Pastor came by with his whole family, including his wife and three kids (a 2 year old, and a 13 year old daughter and an 11 year old son). I don’t get much chance these days to be around kids, and these teens were a delight. Both are in a school for scholastically accomplished kids, and while Willy and the Pastor were engaged in conversation I got to chat with the teens who are just good kids. The daughter was full of praise for the Lord, and bright and outgoing and her brother came out of a shell within a minute. She wants to pursue a career in psychology and he has interests in sports and teaching. :) The Pastor and his wife prayed with and for Willy and then did so for me as well. Their services are all in Spanish, but I had already told Willy I was interested in attending one of their Sunday morning services sometime in the near future (which delighted him). When I told this to the pastor, he was not only delighted but told me that if and when I come he would be certain to arrange for an English translator for that service. WOW! Nice. I was also blessed, as was Willy, by a visit from a Catholic Chaplain affiliated with the hospital who prayed with us and did a bit of counseling with Willy.
Arlo tells it in Amazing Grace:
"How Precious Did That Grace Appear The Hour I First Believed!"
Once it was late enough, rather than subject myself to further CNN abuse, I opted to call some friends on Christmas Eve. The first person I phoned was a dear friend who was also to have spinal surgery this month, but which has been cancelled in lieu of alternative treatment, and she was so delighted to hear of the success of my surgery and so empathetic that she wanted to be my ride home tonight from the opposite end of the state. I agreed to that eagerly, but had to keep in mind that she can’t drive past dark at this point for medical reasons. I phoned and spoke with 3 siblings and a bunch of friends, and having learned of my discharge today, and having succeeded in minimal peeing (wow does it hurt) I was in an Unabashedly Christmas spirit, and Willy also learned that he would be discharged today and was also delighted! But as it became evident that my friend Maurene would not arrive back at her home before dark if she attempted doing my transport, I told her that I would rather she not risk the venture, but that she was now committed to a visit WITH FOOD during my recuperation, so we can catch up and visit. :) I phoned my friend Vicky who lives near to Hartford, who was more than willing to adjust her Christmas Eve schedule and she and boyfriend Ken came in to Hartford, we stopped off at the pharmacy to pick up my scripts, and I arrived home to an eager greeting committee of Angel Orange and Bluebelle the Wondercat at around 6pm. My neighbor Kim had left two messages detailing her whereabouts in case I should need anything this Christmas Eve, and deserves praise indeed for being there for me as do Vicky, Maurene and the staff at St. Vincent’s, including the casually dressed Dr. Lantner who will also be in attendance at St.Fs tomorrow, Christmas Day, as well. That speaks highly of him, even if getting him to laugh at Unabashedly Uproarious humor is well-nigh impossible when he has a tie wrapped around his neck. ;o)
It is 10:20pm now. I took a nap upon returning home and will shortly retire for the evening; hopefully sleep is in the offing. Earlier this week (last Monday) I had my 55th birthday, and hundreds if not more than a thousand Facebook friends and “fans” offered greetings, and I was unbelievably touched by this outpouring of love. I have not been able to respond to all these folks, but in the days to come I’ll catch up with you. <3 But I had to give this report to my readers and especially to you non-virtual friends on Facebook, who have helped to make me the happy and joyous guy I am tonight and at this stage in my life. I respect, admire and love all faith traditions including those who chose non-faith, atheists and agnostics. I am, however, a Christian and have been from day 1. It IS a choice and the right one for me. I can disagree with our awesome incumbent president, whom I support fully for re-election. Many have killed in the name of religion, dogma, nationalism, and even atheist dogmas as well. But my reading of the Bible, especially of the New Testament which I love so much, causes me to ask WWJD. What would Jesus do? I’ve been critical of the decision to bomb Libya, for example, as a way of eliminating Qadaffi. I AM a pacifist and my understanding of God, of Jesus and the Holy Spirit with which I have been blessed is one of Unconditional Love and of Pacifism. When He was being arrested by armed Roman thugs at the time of His betrayal, Christ insisted that His friends lay down their arms and not take up violence to prevent His arrest, full well knowing the outcome would be His mockery, torture and the horrendous inhumane death that is crucifixion. He even offered healing to one of the armed Romans who was injured by the sword of one of His own friends. He uttered the memorable words in rebuking His supporters “He who lives by the sword, shall die by the sword,” thus charging true Christians, in my opinion, to the challenge of navigating life via pacifism and resistance when appropriate, yes. But as by His own awesome example, NON-VIOLENT RESISTANCE.
2000 or so years ago Mary and Joseph had to register with the government for census/tax purposes and had hit the road to comply with the law, the Jewish people enslaved in the day by their Roman masters. When Mary, due with a baby at 9 months pregnant any second, and Joseph went to a hotel operator in that day, they were denied a room because of their ethnicity and poverty. Christ was born in a stall for animals. This was His humble beginning, and What Jesus WOULD Do is choose such a humble beginning, as a lesson for the ages. You put up a pregnant woman. You help the poor. If you have resources you share. We are one family. This month we surpassed the 7 billion mark of incarnate humans. We are one family. I’m here tonight to say that what’s mine is yours. Jesus taught me this. By His word and by His example. WWJD? Love. Unconditionally. Just as Maurene did today. And Vicky. And Kim. And my sister and brothers Sallie, Alf and Gary. And the sister I haven’t reached yet, Janis.And Willy. And Willy’s pastor and his family. As the nurses who work odd hours and live difficult lifestyles for not so much pay out of love. Dr. Lantner for showing up on a Christmas Eve Saturday in a stylin’ brown sweater. Nick the Nurse and Nurses #2 and #3 who perform unsavory tasks so people can live and have relief from pain and sickness. The founders and operators of an institution like St Francis Hospital.

I’ve had major medical scares recently but those are over. This is minor by comparison. I’ll be fine, and I know you’ll be happy to hear that. That makes me happy. One value, regardless of one’s theism or choice not to engage in theism, that is the measure by which, if all human behavior were judged by that criterion before being acted upon, that would create a utopian world, is this one: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. And my Jesus, the one born to Mary in a manger all those years ago (but still only 100 generations ago) IS Unconditional Love. And WWJD was based upon that one principle and is my mission today. It’s a nice one to strive for, and I’m blessed with being surrounded by loving others. Including my Facebook pals.
I can think of nothing better to close this one out with than my favorite formal prayer in all of
Christianity, penned by the namesake of the Hospital which treated me so well and provided
Such miraculous possibilities for healing,
The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen, Praise the Lord and…
Pass them biscuits PLEASE!


Jenni said...

Hormone imbalances are the root of many chronic health problems and can increase the risk of serious disease. The impact of low levels of testosterone has been reported to cause loss of libido and potency, depression, impaired memory, nervousness, the inability to concentrate, fatigue and insomnia. Physicians use the term, Andropause, or male menopause because of the menopause-like conditions that is causes.
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Steve Alexander/Unabashed Left said...

Jenni: Profit motive is the root of many manufactured 'chronic health problems' such as the recently invented and contrived 'problem' of the natural reduction as aging naturally progresses of certain hormones; testosterone, in men for example. I note that at least one major pharmaceutical manufacturer has yet another slick Madison Avenue style campaign out marketing a pill which will 'cure' men of what they are marketing as the condition "Low T!" It would be funny if it weren't so costly and if these products (ie. unnecessary treatments and medicines) weren't so 1) Costly; 2) Damaging to the human body and 3) Causing mortality and death resulting in the United States falling further and further behind the civilized world in life expectancy, because the rest of the civilized world does NOT allow any profit motive in medicine. DISAGREE totally Jenni.