My Husband, Out-Patient Surgery and Strong Drugs

Ray had arthroscopic knee surgery this week to “clean up” some of the weird stuff going on in there like torn meniscus pieces and bone spurs. Hopefully, this will put off the inevitable knee replacement for a couple of years.

My part was to play the dutiful wife and designated driver. This involved arriving at the outpatient surgery center with him at 11 AM, joining him in the recovery room after his 45-minute surgery, and driving him home around 3:30 PM with an intermediate stop at the pharmacy for OxyContin. More about that later.

I felt sorry for him that morning since he couldn’t have anything to eat or drink from the time we got up at 7:00 AM until we left the house at 10:30 AM, so I ate very little. I knew that the center was close to restaurants, so I figured that I could slip out for a nice lunch while he was having his knee roto-rootered. When I mentioned this to the admitting clerk, she squashed that plan quickly.

We require someone to be here at all times ‘just in case’ ”, she said. Her unspoken second sentence was something like “If you were a good wife, you would not have to be told”.

I glanced guiltily into the waiting room. A vending machine. It would have to do.

 

Fifteen minutes after Ray went to the surgery “prep” room, I joined him to pick up a garbage bag stuffed with his clothes and to watch as he was wheeled away.

“The doctor’s ready, so you might want to kiss him now” said his pretty, smiling young nurse. The way he was smiling back, I thought he might like her to kiss him.

Bye, darlin’, I’ll be right here when you wake up” I said. (I didn’t add “I’m not allowed to go anywhere else.”).

Returning to the waiting room with my garbage bag, I joined other dutiful wives, husbands and mothers with their garbage bags and had my 1:00PM lunch of dry peanut butter crackers and luke-warm coffee.

At 2:00 PM, I answered the waiting room phone and was told that “my smiling husband” was waiting for me in recovery.

Sure enough, he was smiling at me as I walked in, buzzed on anesthesia.

That’s a nice scarf you have on” he said as he stared at it. “Thanks. I had it on this morning when we got here”. “You did? Well, it’s really pretty!”

The recovery nurse, Peggy, smiled and gave me a look that said …“Yes, he’s out of it.

Five minutes later, he wasn’t smiling anymore. As the anesthesia wore off, the pain began. “Let’s try some pain medication, shall we?” said Peggy brightly as she headed down the hallway.

Where the hell is she with my drugs!” Ray growled 30 seconds later. I thought it best to stay quiet.

The first hydrocodone “elixir” didn’t do the trick. The next two syringes of fentanyl weren’t enough either. One more syringe of Dilaudid finally sent him back to happy land.

Around that time, the surgeon dropped by to say “we did the best we could”, which didn’t sound as hopeful to me as Ray seemed to think it was. But then again, I wasn’t on his drugs.

In his newly happy state, Ray was ready to go around 3:30. I helped him on with his socks and shirt and pants and shoes, Peggy got him into a wheelchair, I pulled the car to the front door and we shoved him into the passenger seat. Good luck, she said. I was afraid I’d need it.

On the ride home, Ray kept telling me where to turn (even onto our street), pointed out cars turning onto the road and read speed limit signs aloud. “I’ve got it, honey” I said sweetly. Or, at least, I hope it sounded sweet.

At the pharmacy, I asked him if he wanted me to wait for the prescription. “No, you can come back for it later. I want to go home.”

After he hobbled into the house on his crutches, the fun really began.

Can I have some water? Can you get my pillow from upstairs?

Ice, cereal, milk, bedroom shoes, blankets, more water, more ice …. I sprinted around the house, up and down the stairs as our conversation progressed something like this:

Where are my pills? I have to go get them at the pharmacy. Why didn’t you wait for them? You told me not to. Oh, I forgot. When can I have one? Not until 6:30PM. Why not sooner? Because you had pain medication at 2:30. So what? So the doctor said every four hours only. I might need one sooner. We’ll see – just try to rest. I can’t get comfortable. What do you need? Another blanket. OK, anything else? Some more ice. OK, anything else? Yes, a pill. Not until 6:30. What time is it? 4 o’clock. When do I get the next pill after that one? 10:30. Will you wake me if I’m sleeping? Yes. And in the middle of the night, too? Yes, darling.

When he finally got into bed around 10:30 with his pill and I had set an alarm for the middle of the night, given him his water, ice, special pillow and other assorted requested items, I was well into my second pinot noir of the evening and heading toward my third.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Ray and would do anything for him. However, the day reminded me why I never wanted to be a nurse.

And, I’m starting to think about that possible knee replacement surgery. An in-home nursing care service maybe?

Cathy Green

Ray is doing great! He got off the strong stuff quickly, began some exercises three days after surgery and is walking pain-free and without a limp five days later. Hopefully, he won’t need more surgery for a long time!