My husband is having surgery on his foot next Friday (yes, Friday the 13th). A podiatrist initially diagnosed him as having sinus tarsitis (inflammation of a fleshy area in the middle of the foot), but when her treatments failed to bring any improvement, I took my husband to an orthopedist, who promptly ordered an MRI, which revealed a broken fibula and an extensively torn tendon. The broken bone, ironically enough, is the least of our worries, because it, apparently, is healing fine. But the orthopedist said that tendon tears don’t grow back together on their own. Sometimes a torn tendon “heals” in the sense that it quits hurting and functionality is acceptably restored, but the separated fibers don’t grow back together. And sometimes the tear just gets worse and worse. That is, the doctor says, the case with my husband’s foot.
It’s a very routine procedure with little risk, but it will be very painful for him, and the doctor said that “full recovery” will take about four months. My husband has already been severely hobbled for about six weeks, with no improvement, and even though having this surgery will likely make him hurt a lot worse for a while, at least there will be an end in sight.
Today I went with him to have a pre-surgery consultation, where a nurse asked him about previous reactions he might have had to anesthesia and asked scary questions, such as, “Do you have a living will?” and “Do you have a religious preference?” (just in case, for last rites, I assume). My husband took it all in stride, but I grew increasingly anxious. I know he’s going to be okay (um, almost for sure), but it’s really, really hard on me to see him in so much pain. And I feel so guilty for being the one who is stressed out, when he is the one in pain, incapacitated, and facing surgery and more pain.
There is something very scary about seeing such a big, strong, healthy, fearless, and pain-tolerant man in so much pain that he can barely stand up and is almost brought to tears. It’s like when I watched the Twin Towers fall. I just couldn’t believe that anything so big, solid, and iconical could be brought down before my eyes. It messed with my sense of the stability of life.
My larger-than-life father, of whom my husband very much reminds me, bravely endured two years of fighting colon cancer. After his final, unsuccessful, surgery, I watched the hospital staff move my father from the gurney onto the bed. He didn’t make a sound, but his eyes flew open wide, and I knew he was in horrible, excruciating pain. I had never felt so helpless in all my life.
Watching my father die had been the worst day of my life until the day I had to hold down my daughter when she had to have a tube inserted through her ribcage and into her lung in an emergency room. She was only six years old, and she was on the brink of death, but five people had to help me hold her down. As she screamed for me, pleading me to make them stop, I had to just hold her down and keep whispering to her that it was almost over. A part of me died during that procedure. No parent can see her child in that much pain and not be forever changed by the experience. The doctor told me that they had given her a drug called Versed, so she wouldn’t remember the procedure. I thank God that he was right. My daughter remembers none of it. But I do.
So when the nurse at the consultation today said that my husband would probably be given Versed at some point, I experienced a bit of a flashback. I didn’t ask, but now I wish I had . . . why will he be given Versed? Do they anticipate that he will be, at some point, in so much pain that he, too, will need to forget it? Surely not. My husband is probably going to have the procedure done with only a local anesthetic (the final decision won’t be made until that day), and the Versed will be used to just kind of zonk him out a bit. The nurse said that the nerve block they use will probably totally numb his leg for about 24 hours, so he shouldn’t be in any pain even when he unzonks sufficiently for me to take him home.
But eventually the nerve block will wear off (why can’t they just keep administering it??), and he won’t be on Versed, so he’ll remember everything. And then I’ll be faced with the responsibility (and emotional trauma) of managing his pain.
They better send us home with some strong narcotics, that’s all I gotta say!