“On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate your pain?”
If you ever get surgery, or are in the hospital for any type of procedure, that’s a question they’ll ask you a lot.
By the end of the week, I had given them every number on the ratings scale. I was told there was no right or wrong answer, but I couldn’t help but believe that was a lie. If the number I gave them was too low, would they cut back on my pain medication? I didn’t want that. But if the number I gave them was too high, would it cause them to delay my release?
And that’s the thing — more than anything else, I wanted out of there. When you’re in the hospital, it’s never the place you want to be.
Hospitals aren’t peaceful or restful. There are always alarms going off, someone is always waking you up for tests or meds or to draw blood or take your blood pressure. The rooms are hot and claustrophobic, the beds are medieval torture devices and everyone in there is just as sick as you are.
The hand-held, dual-purpose communication device to call your nurse and/or change the TV channels hasn’t been technologically updated since the 1980s.
Attempts to call a nurse to turn off the piercing sound of an empty-IV alarm sometimes resulted in the television switching to “Bonanza,” then “Andy Griffith.” This was on the rare occasion that the device was actually within reach. Typically, the device fell to the floor and the patient was unable to obtain it for hours.
After three days, then four, then five — the word “home” never sounded so good.
There was always an excuse, it seemed. Always a reason to keep me one more day. “We’d like to send you home today, but …”
Every day, there was another doctor with a big “but.”
And every day, my wife was there, sitting next to me in that claustrophobic room, keeping me calm, soothing me, making me smile. If you ever have to experience a lengthy hospital stay, I would recommend bringing a wife with you. Ideally, it would be your own wife — you can’t have mine.
She was there to ask the questions I was too stoned to ask, and remember the answers I was too stoned to remember.
Each day she posted updates on my condition for family members and friends on social media. They were mostly true. For example, “James is in good spirits today” actually meant “James didn’t threaten to kill anyone today.” My wife has a way with words.
Finally, by the seventh day, an unusual agreement was reached with the medical staff. I would be allowed to go home, on the condition that I would pee more than a certain amount by noon. I had to prove my morning peeing abilities. The game was on.
I was more than up to the challenge. My peeing skills under pressure are legendary. I hummed the music to “Jaws” and told them, “You’re gonna need a bigger urinal.” They didn’t get the joke.
I peed more than enough, and before I knew it, my wonderful wife was buzzing through Arby’s on our way home and buying me a roast beef sandwich on one of those sweet Hawaiian buns.
So now I’m home. And no, I’m not better, but I’m getting there. I can do everything I could do before, I just can’t do it for very long, and I can’t do anything without needing a nap afterwards.
And although a week in a hospital seems like an eternity in Hades, don’t think for a second that I’m not grateful for the care I receive. I’m very fortunate to have access to that care, very fortunate to have an employer who supports me through that care.
Friends, family, my wife, my kids — I can’t imagine surviving something like this without them, or wanting to.
I go back to the hospital in a few days, to get surgery staples ripped out, and to hopefully find out what the next steps are in my war with cancer. I can’t imagine it will be a pleasant visit, but it is necessary.
We move forward together, and I feel good about it. At this point, on a scale of one to 10, my pain is less than zero.
On a scale of one to 10, love and kindness share the 10.