Scene 2: "Do you know why you're still here, Mr. B?"

I am now apparently  allergic to all pain meds no matter how they’re delivered. IV or pill, even the patch so beloved by many, every last one of them makes me puke. Lovely!. Not. Some people regurgitate like cats: casually, out of boredom, with no consequences. Not me: even thinking about it is a misery. So you can see how happy I was to spend my first conscious post-surgery hours desperately trying not to throw up and failing. 

The weird thing was, I had no pain. Nada. Just the usual post-op stiffness that comes from being artificially dead for a few hours. It wasn’t a difficult op and all the nerves in the area had been killed off during previous ops, so my body didn’t take too much of a hit. And I’d been training for this. No, really, I trained for surgery: at the gym, hiking with the dog, yoga, even hypnotherapy. Anything to get my body and mind in as strong a state as I could so I’d make it through this. After my last time getting chopped, I left no option that might aid survuval unexplored. And it worked. Something did, anyway.

There must be something in my Britannica-sized medical chart that says “listen to this guy, he knows his body.” Or, more likely: “don’t waste your time arguing with him, he’s nuts.” Whichever, when I asked to have all pain meds stopped so I might someday eat again, the reply was, “Sure!” Within a few hours I was ingesting the gushy stuff hospitals call “bland” was staying in.

By morning I was ravenous. For once the cafeteria’s inefficiency worked in my favor. Two trays showed up, both regular  breakfasts, albeit hospital-style. I wolfed them down before anybody noticed the mistake. Then I took to the halls. 

Fourteen laps around the floor at Moffitt Long Hospital equals a mile. When you have a transplant the staff gives you a goal: walk a mile before you go home, however long it takes. This time, with no pain, ok energy, and still dizzy enough from the anesthesia I couldn’t yet read, I barely stopped walking. I did yoga stretches in the hall. I got in everybody’s way. Eventually the nurses unplugged the IV drip so I didn’t have to drag R2D2 the drip monitor along with me, easing the congestion a bit. 

By mid-morning someone said I was to go home. Nothing happens quickly in a hospital though so I kept doing laps. I hit a mile and then some. And ate every mis-delivered meal I could get my hands on. 

About 5 in the afternoon, on lap number 18 or 22 or something, an elegantly dressed young woman stopped me in the hall.

“Are you avoiding me, Mr. B.?” she asked.

I am perplexed. Who? How?

“My name is A____. I’m the charge nurse.” 

I look at her beautiful clothes. “You don’t look like…” Beat. A wee bit of propriety surfaces. “Avoiding you?” 

She gave me a grin with a bit of scold to it. “Do you know why you’re still here?”

“Uh, no?” Now I’m confused. 

“Because you’re too healthy!” She laughed. “Nobody’s paying any attention to you!” 

“Ok…” 

Actually, I get that. I learned a half-dozen hospitalizations ago if you don’t complain much and mostly take care of yourself, they leave you be – not counting the weigh-ins, blood pressure checks and fluid output counts, of course. After all, it’s not like all their guests are similarly undemanding.

“So… do I get to go home now?”

“Absolutely. Your surgeon is still busy in the OR…” (TEN hours! HOW do they do it?) “…but he sent a message to send you home. He’ll call tomorrow.”

We went to my room and she took the dormant IV line out of my arm, always a sign that they’re serious about kicking you out.

“All we have to do is get your meds set and you can go.” That of course took another couple of hours, but I didn’t complain. 

The next few days I waited for the post-surgical apocalypse but it never came. Far from needing care from my anxious and weary friends, I was cooking and reading and doing just about everything I always do but hiking and driving. THIS was a surgery? HOW could it be so different from the last time?

Rules, please. Will somebody tell me the rules?  

What? Oh… Really? Ok…  This is life: there are no rules.

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