It’s been nine days since P’s surgery, and all seems to be going well. The day of his operation the poor kid was more worried about making it up the six flights of stairs to our apartment after the surgery than the surgery itself, but everything seemed to have worked out.
We arrived at the hospital around ten in the morning, two Tuesdays ago, and P changed into the required hospital garb (as seen in the pic). We kind of assumed that shortly after prepping him he would be going in for the surgery, but various medical staffers (nurses, surgeon, anesthesiologists) kept checking in and saying, “another half hour…” “perhaps another half hour…”
One of the anesthesiologists looked kind of Indian, and I tried to catch a glimpse of his name badge, but before we could say anything, he made note of P’s name on his paperwork and said, “Do you mind if I ask where you’re from?” When P said “Nepal,” the doctor said that he was originally from Punjab. His last name incorporated the popular Sikh name “Singh” and he asked, “Do you know what that means?” I think he expected P to answer and was surprised when I blurted out from the corner, “lion.”
“Yeees, that’s right!”
After waiting almost three hours the Punjabi anesthesiologist came back to wheel P away. I was told I could see him in about 2 hours—about an hour for the surgery and about an hour for him to start waking up from the anesthesia.
While P was gone I drove over to a store to buy a new thermos. P’s mother had been very adamant that in Nepal once a patient wakes up from surgery it is important that he has a cup of black tea right away. She seemed alarmed to hear that doctors in the US don’t give patients black tea right away and gave me the task of being ready with it in the hospital.
I found a nice thermos, bought it, and took it to the bathroom for a good cleaning. Then I went to a nearby café to have them fill it with black tea and to have a little lunch. I was back in the hospital waiting room with time to spare before I was called back to the recovery area.
When I saw P, his color looked a little off, a little greenish gray, so I figured he wasn’t feeling good from the anesthesia. A few years ago my mother had a surgery on her abdomen and when she woke up from the procedure she felt nauseas and vomited. He said his stomach was fine, but he still felt disoriented, and he was most worried about the stairs. He looked so fragile in the hospital bed, with a small oval thermometer sticker attached to his forehead, his leg wrapped in an ice “cryo-cuff” and brace, and his grayish coloring. I told him not to worry about the stairs yet and asked the nurse if I could give him some tea. I wanted to fulfill the duties that Mamu charged me with.
As the medicine wore off P became more coherent and more nervous about the stairs. “There is no way I’m going to make it up there!” he kept fretting. I wasn’t sure what to do, since I didn’t want to push him, but I also felt it would be better to be home and have him resting in his own space.
My mother had called me the night before arguing with me that we should either go to my sister’s apartment in Rhode Island because “at least she has an elevator!” (never mind that she lives in a studio and is a student whose schedule wouldn’t be conducive to having a surgical patient sleep over, or that it was almost an hour away so it would be impossible for me to check on him during the day or help him at lunch) or a hotel. “Don’t be stubborn!” she scolded me, “What if he is permanently damaged because you insisted he goes up those stairs, and he never walks right again!” Thanks for making me less worried mom.
We had arranged that if need be we could stay in an extra bedroom at our friend S-di’s place, and if he struggled to even get up the few stairs to her porch to get into the apartment I kept the option of a hotel open, but I still felt home would be best.
As the nurse was prepping to move P out of recovery and back to the room we were waiting in before the surgery she asked if we had many stairs at our apartment.
“Do we have stairs? Big time.”
When I told her how many I asked what her honest opinion was of what we should do. I told her about the options, and how P and I had even practiced having him slide his butt backwards up the stairs, and leaning on me and hopping, but that even in a good condition, going up all that way on one leg would be exhausting.
She agreed with me that home was probably the best option, since a patient feels most comfortable in their own space. She said that she could give him a shot of a heavy duty pain killer that might help get him up the stairs. She took me to the hospital staircase and we played with the crutches until we found the best way to make it up on one leg and I felt a little more confident. As we walked back to the recovery area she said in a hushed tone, “I shouldn’t tell you this but, just try your best to get him up, and if you can only make it half way, call the fire department, they can carry him the rest of the way.” It was nice to have a fall back “plan B” although I was afraid I’d be charged for calling the department for a non-emergency.
After about an hour and a half in recovery it was time to make the trip home. Two friends had agreed to help me and as per the nurse’s instructions our plan was to get P up the stairs one flight at a time with someone standing behind him and someone standing in front of him in case he got woozy from his meds or exhaustion and started to fall. My plan was to put a rolling desk chair at the top of each flight so that he could sit and catch his breath, and we could wheel him to the next section.
Even though P was worried, he took each step in stride. I showed him how the nurse recommended he use the crutches, and our friends stood close by to catch, although luckily it didn’t come to that. Slowly he made it up each section of the stairs. I was so relieved when we got to the top; we had him sit in the computer chair one last time and we wheeled him across the hallway down to our apartment door, then onwards to our bedroom. We got him propped up in bed, and he seemed okay. Whatever wonder drug the nurse gave him seemed to work magic wonders because he said he barely felt any pain in his leg.
The next day was a totally different story. P seemed to be in excruciating pain. His whole leg was throbbing and even the slightest movement made him grimace and writhe in pain. I thanked our lucky stars that we got him up the stairs the day before, because he never would have made it up the second day. He could barely sit up in bed, let alone get up and go to the bathroom.
Before going to work I made a thermos of tea, brought him fresh cut fruit, a large bottle of water, pain medication and ice packs. I bought a small styrofoam cooler to store ice packs in so he could manage changing the ice while I was away. I came back at lunch to make food and check on his status, refresh his ice packs, drinks, etc., and then by the time I got home from work the poor kid was sitting in the dark because he was in too much pain to get to a light switch—so I pulled a lamp over so I wouldn’t forget the following day.
The past two weeks have been busy helping him out. One day he even said, “You are really working your wedding vows aren’t you? ‘In sickness and in health…’” But he has been a pretty good patient, and he is definitely getting stronger. He has been moving around the apartment a lot more on his crutches, and the past few days I’ve even noticed he fixed himself some stuff in the kitchen before I got home for my lunch break.
It has also been nice to have good friends around. Our Nepali friend from P’s academic program offered to come over during the day that first week and work from our apartment so that he could help P when I was at work. Our friend S-di cooked Nepali comfort foods like kwanti (bean soup) and Nepali style chicken soup (meaning there were large chunks of chicken, not just chicken broth). Other friends would come for visits to check in and lift his spirits.
His first post-operation doctor’s appointment is tomorrow, so it is his first time out of the house since last Tuesday. I’m hoping the stairs feel more manageable this time around.