My surgery was largely uneventful. This was a good thing. I waited as expected for four hours in the day procedure area of the Epworth Eastern hospital, ready to eat my arm off after fasting since the night before, and as luck would have it was only called in once I had successfully hobbled my way to the disabled loos and back.
Standard issue hospital gown, mootboot finally off even if only for a moment. Nurse painted my leg red with a cleaner and antiseptic, and also to highlight in surgery which leg it was that needed attention. My assistant surgeon introduced himself and gave me a few pointers on what they were doing and how. The anesthetist came to explain the post op pain killers he would prescribe, made some bad jokes and left. Dr Hau popped in long enough to draw an arrow in black marker on my leg and a smiley face on my right big toe and then I was wheeled into the surgery area.
No gas, just an injection or two, the methodical count down and before I knew it I was asleep in la la land.
I was told during the surgery I was turned over, face down and Bonds undies on display while they worked on my leg. Incision at the back of my ankle, about seven centimeters which would leave the scar Joel was so worried about. My mop ends were successfully attached with no major issues or surprises. I was sawn up and the entire thing took about 30 minutes.
I woke to find my moonboot back on and groggy from the remains of the anesthetic.
No real pain – that would come later. Nurses fussing over me. I remember asking if they had called Joel yet to tell him I was ok, since his mum had died not 10 months earlier during a routine biopsy, he had a fear of anyone going under anesthetic.
For the next few hours nurses came and went administering me with antibiotics through the intravenous needle in my left hand and providing various pills for me to swallow that were designed to prevent the onslaught of pain I knew was coming.
I felt largely, ok. Thirsty, and a little hungry once the harder drugs were flushed out of my system. I managed to keep down water so the drip in my arm was taken out, the bung left only for the antibiotics I would need to prevent infection, one of the most common risks associated with an achilles surgery.
When I felt strong enough to eat the Nurse, Juile, bought me my gluten free lunch option. Sandwiches.
She left the still cold from the fridge white bread ham and salad triangles on my hospital tray table along with two more blue pills and a glass of water. I eyed off the sandwiches with disgust. Even before my gluten free days I hated premade sandwiches, and had an intense phobia of them which started when I was a child and used to hide standard school lunch of vegemite sandwiches in the bottom of my schoolbag instead of eating them. Where they remained until my Mum eventually smelt them out.
I popped the pills with another swig of water and tried to work up enough courage to tackle the ‘food’ in front of me. I was pretty hungry. I still hadn’t eaten since dinner last night and it was well past lunch time. Ok so they weren’t paleo. I knew the substitute flour would be corn based or something and the ham would be mass purchased and produced, not free range, and I spied what I thought was margarine not butter, which I have never eaten, but really, my options were limited. Very limited. As in, I had nothing else.
The only food place in the hospital was a Hudsons coffee, which would also serve premade sandwiches, and while I had a smoothie or two in waiting I had made the night before the operation and were in the nurses refrigerator, I first needed something I could chew.
I took a bite and like a catholic girl on her wedding night tried to think of something else.
Half way through the first non paleo triangle, the blue pills kicked in and I had trouble thinking at all. My vision went blurry, my hand seemed to move a tad slower than I wanted it to and my sandwich had no taste at all. When I moved my head it took a while for my vision to catch up, and a warm feeling was creeping all down my body.
When Julie returned I slowly, deliberately, as by this time I was quite dizzy asked her about the pills.
Are they meant to space you out?
Yes they are morphine based, so they might have a strange effect.
Ok, good, so it wasn’t just the sandwich that was sending me into a fog of delusion.
In my field of hazy fog I finished the sandwich and when it eventually lifted, I finished my hide the greens smoothie too.
Much later, when the blue pills had almost warn off, I had been administered a second round of antibiotics, my smoothie was gone and a jug of water had also been put away, I needed to use the bathroom.
It was my first pee post surgery – almost five hours ago.
I buzzed nurse Juile. I hadn’t been out of bed since my surgery either so wasn’t sure if I was even allowed, but knew either way I would need some help.
I was humiliated when she returned with the bed pan.
In addition to my premade sandwich phobia is my dislike for use of public toilets and my inability to squat to pee. Ever.
Now at the risk of providing too much information, let me offer some background to my unusual toilet behaviors.
If a toilet door does not have a lock, I request a friend or sister to wait out the front for fear of someone walking in. The first toilet I use in a block at work, is the toilet that becomes, when possible, my one toilet for the rest of the day. I won’t go camping unless there are public loos and when travelling around Asia and Europe I managed to bypass all drop holes to find a toilet with a seat and functioning flush button, even if it meant I was in the end running for one. Literally running for one.
So when Julie returned with the bed pan and instructions that I was not yet to get out of bed, I almost thought about holding on.
But I was still hazy on drugs, full of medications, antibiotics, smoothie and water, and only had one foot I could jig or tap my bladder pressure away, so really had no choice.
My first problem was stage fright.
For 33 years I had managed to never be put in such a position where this method of peeing was required, and now, dispute the intense pressure on my bladder which was calling out for a release, my mind was having trouble letting go.
Julie came back to see how I was doing, but I shook my head so she disappeared again.
Like with the sandwich, I shut my eyes and thought of something else, and a few minutes later, perhaps because by this stage my bladder was bursting and I had no other choice, my release came.
This isn’t so bad. I remember thinking, almost settling into it.
Just like a loo, only portable.
The relief on my bladder as the pressure began to ease was instantaneous, and I relaxed into the bed pan. Maybe I relaxed a little too much, or maybe it was just the amount of fluids I had consumed during the day, but I had trouble shutting off.
A memory from a drunken night out when I had held my bladder from one pub to the next, before running into the loo and peeing so much the person in the cubical next to me called out to congratulate me on my long stream came back to me, and as it did a sudden moment of panic and fear.
What if the bedpan was not deep enough.
Now if you are not a fan of toilet humor, toilet stories or other low brow attempts at making a funny, or if you have an angelic image of yours truly you would like to preserve, stop reading now.
Things do get worse.
I thought about not posting this, not writing it to begin with but life is often messy, and I figure I am only embarrassing myself, and life writing is about writing about life – good bad or otherwise.
So here goes.
By the time Julie came back I was sitting in a bed pan of my own pee.
I had well and truly outdone myself this time round.
Stomach muscles engaged I was resting lightly on the brown paper bowl in fear I would fall too deeply into the pool of my own urine and tip it everywhere.
I need not have feared, that happened anyway.
For when poor Julie came to take away the pan and empty it, it was so full she couldn’t prevent it from tipping and sloshing and spilling drops – well more than drops – of urine onto my hospital gown and sheets. And yes, I had been sitting in it.
I was mortified.
Julie drew the curtains around my bed, blocking out the family visiting the only other patient in the six bed ward, but they had seen enough anyway. They had seen Julie come in with the bed pan, only for her to return later with a bucket of hot water, soap and a set of new bed sheets.
Like a child once again in nappies I was stripped, bathed, and changed into my own pajamas. The bed was stripped and new sheets put on me. Julie remained professional the entire time, as I lay there red faced, dignity gone as she washed my back and butt, and wondered if this is how the elderly felt when they too were unable to bath themselves.
This is why I only use toilets. I thought as Julie finished up, smile on her face and told me not to worry, it happens all the time.
As the curtains were opened and the family opposite glanced my way, I wished for two more of the blue pills that would space me out so I could forget this moment ever happened.
An hour or so later, when I needed to relieve myself again, Julie returned smile on face, wheelchair in front of her, and said she had checked with the orthopedic surgeon, I could get out of bed.