Remember, remember the thirteenth of December? When I wrote about my surgery and promised to follow up with further tales of recovery? And I didn't? Because I do this sort of shit all the time? Okay, here's the follow up.
Part I can be found here.
The first thing I think is: Why is it so noisy all of a sudden? Then: Does anyone else notice that the walls are a different colour? And then I realize that the surgery is over, I'm out of the anaesthetic, and I'm back in my adjustable bed, staring at a strip of fluorescent lights on the ceiling. Children are talking and yelling nearby. The echoes of their voices cheat my senses. I have no idea of the dimensions of the room, but the place seems huge. I imagine a space like a cathedral. Scenes from Flatliners mix around in my brain. A nurse sweeps by.
After a moment, I realize that I'm lying flat on my back, tucked tightly into blankets. It has been nearly eight months since I've been able to lay down like this without nauseating, bone-scraping pain. I guess that means success? I try on a feeling of relief, but it seems inadequate. All I can think is No more pain. As if someone had written the words down on a card and placed it on my stomach.
Not only do I not feel pain, I don't feel much of anything below the waist. I wiggle an arm underneath the blankets until I can poke at my leg. It feels like I'm poking through layers of canvas, or I'm poking someone else's leg and they're telling me via telegraph what it feels like.
I try to move my legs, but it doesn't feel right; muscles in my torso are hauling at the muscles in my hips, but everything's kind of numb and the blankets are pinning me in place with the weight and tenacity of a circus strongman. Then I try poking at my genitals. Numb. Well, hello, worst-case scenario! My pulse goes up, my throat constricts and panic blows into my brain.
— Nurse? Excuse me. Nurse?
The recovery ward nurse, who is actually dressed in white (or am I imagining that?), appears over the bed. — Yes?
I'm trying to keep the panic out of my voice, so I enunciate very carefully. I think it makes me sound like a crazy man. — I'm numb below the waist.
— Oh, she condescends. You feel that you're numb below the waist?
— I don't feel that I'm numb. I am numb. Now I'm trying to keep the irritation out of my voice. The anger feels better than panic.
The nurse promises to get the doctor. Someone comes and takes my temperature, and apparently it is worrisomely high. — But it's not untypical after surgery, the someone reassures me. Big deal. I can't feel my junk. Oh yeah, and my legs are numb.
My neurosurgeon pops his head over the edge of my field of vision. — The recovery nurse tells me you feel that you are numb.
Previous conversations with my surgeon have taught me to be as precise as possible. — I have extremely reduced sensation below the waist. I realize as I'm saying this that I can feel my butt. Except for my butt.
— You can feel your buttocks?
How often in your life are you going to be asked that question?
He pulls the blankets down and exposes my right side, then brushes his fingers very lightly on my hip and thigh. — Can you feel that?
He's brushing so lightly that it's hard to tell. — A little bit.
He pulls the blanket back into place and holds up his hands in a what-more-can-I-do gesture. — You are okay, then. We didn't work on any of the nerves in that area at all.
I am gobsmacked. Did my doctor just ask me a trick question?
We had to move aside a lot of nerves to get at the disc protrusion. It was very large. I'm not surprised that you're experiencing some reduced sensation.
What he is saying, I realize, is We tugged at those nerves to fix you and they're damaged now and that's too bad. Go reread your consent forms.
— I can't feel my genitals.
He nods, as if this is all expected.
Will I get the sensation back?
— Oh, possibly. Nerves regrow, but it takes some time.
— How long?
— A while. You will meet with the physiotherapists today or tomorrow, and they will help you. Do your exercises and you will be just fine.
He leaves before I can lift up one of my legs and smack him with it.
The recovery nurse, the one at whom I'd snapped earlier, looms over my head. — Let's get you back to your room now.
— He didn't do one thing to ease my mind.
— He's a very good surgeon, the nurse responds. Two porters push my bed out of its dock, and I'm off.
Is that enough for today? Yeah, let's end on that ominous note. More soon in the epic saga, which is now about my junk.