Oh man, y’all.
I had NO idea it would be this rough.
I had surgery on my hand a few years ago: anesthesia, scalpels, the whole works. Immediately after leaving the hospital, Matt and I spent the next several hours rolling on Swedish ecstasy. (We went to Ikea.) When we got home, I followed some confusing-as-fuck cartoon directions and put together our newly purchased dish rack with one hand. ONE HAND.
Does that not sound like SuperPatient to you?
Not only that, despite getting prescribed an insane amount, I took only one Vicodin throughout my entire recovery, favoring Ibuprofen the majority of the time. The nearly full bottle of Vicodin is still in my medicine cabinet, collecting dust, its yellowed label chastising me for not accumulating the five (now outdated) refills. Yeah, that’s right, I could easily have had hundreds of Everyone’s Favorite Painkillers/ Party Fun Time Pills, but I opted not to take them. Because I’m not a pussy.
The implant surgery, like my hand surgery, was outpatient, meaning I’d go home the same day. The surgeon, whom I met weeks earlier, described the procedure as simple and easy. Naturally, I expected my recovery to be a breeze. After all, I was SuperPatient, a pro at this surgery-having thing. There was a Gino’s East Pizzeria across the street from the hospital, so I told Matt that we’d be going for spinach deep dish pizza right after the surgery. Also, I’d be driving to Ikea (hand surgery shout-out!) the day after to get some new curtains. And I’d paint the baseboards! And I’d write a lot! And I’d dance around the house in my underwear and tank top, catching up on tv shows and eating gallons of ice while I “recovered!”
When I woke up from surgery, I quickly realized my kick-ass recovery wouldn’t be going as planned. The simple acts of eating two saltines and walking ten feet made me vomit with enough force to flush the toilet without pressing the handle. When the nurse asked me which number face I was feeling (you know the chart: the one with ten faces listed one through ten. The ‘One’ Face looks like it’s saying, “Gosh darn it, I feel fantastic!” and the ‘Ten’ face looks like it’s saying, “Pull the Plug. Now.”) I whimpered and said, “I don’t know that I’ve ever felt a ten before. This might be a ten but I’m going to say …… seven? Eight?”
Suffice it to say, I didn’t go to Gino’s that afternoon.
I don’t remember much of the first few days, other than feeling miserable and out of it. My head, ear, and teeth pulsated with white-hot heat. My throat was so raw I could barely swallow. I could hardly stand without the room spinning and my stomach somersaulting. After a couple days of constantly sleeping on my right side (my left ear was implanted, so that side of my head was stitched and stapled and sore), my neck stiffened with so much pain that it refused to move from side to side.
Around day four, my neck and chest began to turn yellow and blue. Matt called the hospital to ask what could cause that sort of coloring and they replied that though it was unusual, it could mean that my blood was pooling downwards from my ear. Excuse-a-what did you say? Pooling? Downwards? Where’s it going? Does it have a mind of its own, like The Blob?
When Matt came home from work on Friday and asked how I was feeling, I wept. I wasn’t recovering with my expected gusto, I felt dismayed that I had to depend on drugs (tramadol) to get through the day, and I was angry that it was taking me so g.d. long to feel any semblance of normalcy.
He sat down next to me, squeezed my hand, and said, “I’m so sorry. I know what you’re going through, believe me, and it sucks. This week feels endless and you’re frustrated and tired and you’re hurting. This will be over soon, I promise. I’m so sorry I’ve had to be at work most of the week, but now it’s the weekend and I’m here for you, 100%. I love you so much. Would you like me to make you some pizza?”
Those were the EXACT words I needed to hear to get through the rest of that evening. The man makes damn good pizza.
I made Matt call the hospital again on Saturday to see if they could prescribe me muscle relaxers: I was barely getting any sleep due to the agonizing state of my neck. When Matt said that my neck was stiff, they responded that it could be a sign of meningitis, one of the risks of getting a cochlear implant. Cue the panic and googling.
After much research, I decided that I probably didn’t have meningitis (I didn’t have a fever and it didn’t hurt to touch my chin to my neck, two major signs). Because of the meningitis mention, the muscle relaxer request had been forgotten, and it was too late to call back the hospital. There was no way I could sleep another night with my neck whispering to “eeeend iiiit, eeeeeend iiiit aaaaall, Liiiiindsaaaay Jeeeeaaaan, theeeere’s sooo maaany kniiiives iiiin theee kiiiitcheeeen.” So I researched neck pain remedies.
I came across a description of a traditional Chinese method called Gua Sha, which involves repeatedly scraping lubricated skin with a blunt edge. Intrigued, I smeared jojoba oil on my neck and forced poor Matt to scrape it with the edge of a spoon until my skin turned purple (the purple marks are caused by stagnant blood rising to the surface. Google pictures at your own risk).
Guess what? I shit–pardon my French–you not, it worked. I immediately felt 1000x better and was able to move my neck in all directions with ease. I slept like a baby that night and when I woke up the next morning, I felt like a new woman. That’s when I knew that the worst was over. Each day, I’ve felt increasingly better and stronger.
A big thank you to my friends and family for their support and outreach, the kind words and flowers, the love and sympathy. And a special, dear thank you to Mattie, my loving husband, for helping me get through a rough week.
P.S. One more week before my implant gets–ahem–turned on! (Ugh. I hate that phrase so much.)