Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How Phoenix Tried to Kill Me - Part 9

If “all” that had been wrong with me was the infection in my lungs, I probably would have gone home a couple days after my surgery and this would be the end of the story. Unfortunately, I had some side issues.

(I'm going to try to be as delicate as I can here, because this stuff isn't the kind of thing you discuss at tea parties. And frankly, it's all a little embarrassing. In the interest of full disclosure, though, I'll soldier on. Bear with me.)

I had been getting pumped full of pain meds for over a week by this point, most of them narcotics. One side effect of taking lots of narcotics is what the pilots in my Air Force days used to call “GI distress”. GI in this case stands for “gastro-intestinal”, so you can probably guess where I'm going with this (or not going, as the case may be). Folks, I didn't do a two-sie for almost a week. My stomach got hard as a rock and I didn't want to eat anything because it literally felt like there was no room left in my belly. Good time for a liquid diet, right? Somebody also brought up the idea of laxatives, but I nixed that right away. Even though I was pretty mobile only a couple of days after my surgery, getting up to go to the bathroom was still a multi-step process, involving coordinated movement of my drainage tube, my IV cart, and my unbalanced body. An urgent call to the bathroom would have ended in disaster.

I got so uncomfortable that one of my doctors finally suggested a nasogastric (NG) tube. This is a small flexible plastic tube that is inserted up a nostril and down through the esophagus and into the stomach. I think the idea was that the tube would suction some of the stuff out of my belly, relieving some of the pressure and maybe even getting things moving again.

An NG tube is not a good time. In fact, I feel pretty comfortable ranking it as one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life. It hurt going in and it continued to hurt the entire time it was in. I mean, I was sort of getting used to hurt by this time, but this was persistent and not dulled by the pain meds. Talking and swallowing were possible, but the throat moving around that segmented tube hurt like the devil - and it was in for 18 hours, at which point I demanded it be removed. The doc who originally suggested it asked me to leave it in for a couple more hours so he could come take a look at it after a surgery, but I vetoed the hell out of that idea. In the end, it barely pulled anything out of my stomach anyway.

Eventually these problems worked themselves out, as these things often do. It wasn't the only post-surgery problem I had, though.

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