- I’m no good at this.
I was quite euphoric the day after the spine surgery. I even told you all about it. Ideally, that post would have been just an intro to some future videos of me deciding to take up some new physical activity like ballet, or something.
In more retrospective awareness, the wonder of this sort of modern medicine—where they literally cut a 3″ incision into your spine, literally down to the bone, and you’re literally home eating mom’s home cookin’ a few hours later—is a bit double-edged-scalpel. I now think that perhaps the value of all of that is more in being in familiar places, surroundings, and circumstances—because you can be—than it’s any particular magic. Or: in the brutal dice roll that was surgery—a remarkable cost-benefit deal that would never get FDA approval if it were to be conceived of today—they just figured out a few things that have less to do with the actual incisions, scraping, general mechanical aspects…and more to do with microbes, like infections. Whereas, perhaps in the mind of patients, it was always ‘gotta spend a lot of time in hospital, I have incision(s),’ it was more always really: they can get infected and that’s what’ll kill me.
It’s interesting I got bit by the Fitbit Bug just 4 days before the surgery happened. In addition to calculating resting calorie burn based on BMI, it uses various other directly measured data as you wear it to calculate a total in real time. I had data. Guess what I learned? I learned that I was averaging 2,800 – 3,000 daily calories out pre-op, 2,100 – 2,200 out, post-op. Now, that probably makes sense to you, intuitively. Intuitively, one would expect someone who just underwent a minor-ish surgery to be less active. 600 – 700 calories—basically an average meal—per day less expended seems reasonable. And, correct. If I drill into the data, it’s mostly about minutes of activity and fewer steps taken (from 10k-ish steps per day down to 4-5K).
But what didn’t make sense to me was that I had this sense that the day of surgery and day after were low points; at which point, I’m supposed to be seeing a relatively daily increase, reaching normal levels of activity—or near so—by now; and failing that in total terms, at least progress enough to see a trend.
But I see nothing of the sort. Yesterday was my least active day since the day of surgery itself. I watched three movies (The Gambler; The Devil’s Double; Black Sea) and felt exhausted and hypothermic enough to go to bed at 7:15 p.m. (no fever). Whereas before, exhaustion had to do with the man-up aspect of dealing with chronic pain, it now seems more subtile and in fact, mentally nefarious. Yesterday, I didn’t give a fuck of a hoot about a thing in the world—didn’t even call my mom on Mother’s Day, after she’d doted over me for 4 (actually, I wasn’t even aware it was Mother’s day), not even the upcoming life-changing move to Mexico.
Is there such a thing as post-operative stress disorder, where you miss the daily battle you’d grown to love and hate? ‘Sorry, everything’s back to normal. You now have to re-learn how to deal with a boring life of not having to deal with an active life of daly pain anymore?’
Am I just pissed because I lost a badge of honor?
Those movies I saw yesterday…. The Gambler, while just so-so in terms of Wahlberg, offered up a pretty cool monologue from John Goodman.
Anyway, some practicalities rose to a head yesterday. Foremost, constipation. Look, I read about it all the time in my comments but it’s a rather foreign concept to me. I think I took note of the experience like 3 times in 54 years of life. Temporary discomfort. Yesterday, I suddenly realize I feel fat. How can this be? I’m averaging 2,100 calories out, 1,800 calories in (Fitbits are cool if you log intake), daily, since surgery. Ah-so: no waste disposal.
I was literally full of shit. I attributed it to the antibiotics. Yep, fucked gut. I doubt it. Turns out, constipation is a typical post-op side effect. I did do some fibers, but kicked it up a notch. That helped within hours, but not in the urgency sort of way I’m accustomed to. So I tried something else. I had this wild idea: how come I’m naturally expending energy on such a low level? Perhaps I need some high-octane fuel.
Yep: sugar water. Virgil’s craft Root Beer, Dr. Better, and some local unfiltered ginger ale. Not tons, and not bolus dose. More like an IV drip: 2-4 ounces every couple of hours. I even did “shots” during the night when I’d wake up every 2 hours over my 11 hour soak from 19:15 – 06:15.
And finally, finally: I wake up with a woody (1st since the morning of surgery) and a galloping desire to shit someplace.
…Just as there’s a fine line between love and hate, there also must be one between poison and medicine.