Knowing you need to be out of bed at 4 am for an early morning trip to the hospital is not conducive to a night of sound sleep. We both tossed and turned for most of our short night; it was rather a relief to get out of bed and get our long day started.
While Odel took the last shower he will be allowed until 24 hours after his staples are removed (which will be a week to 10 days), I had a quick breakfast. Nothing for Odel – his last food and drink was prior to midnight. At 4:45, we stepped outside into darkness and drove the short distance to Sutter General hospital (usually a 10-15 minute drive) on roads eerily empty of commuters.
5 am: Check in time. After a brief wait in the main lobby, we were escorted upstairs to the joint surgery unit, to join another half dozen patients and their caregivers in a smaller lounge. One by one, the patients were called, and soon it was Odel’s turn. After he was prepped for surgery, I joined Odel where he waited on his gurney.
Between 6 and 7 am, Odel was questioned, wired to machines, and outfitted with a thicket of needles and tubes. The big toe on his left foot was marked with a big black dot that meant “work on this side”. Nurses came and went; the entire suite of ten curtained cubicles was a beehive of pre-dawn activity.
Around 6:30, Dr. Mystery (that IS his name, but I think it might be spelled differently), the anesthesiologist, arrived. He confirmed information gathered about Odel over the past two weeks of medical tests and consultations, and explained which anesthetics he planned to use: a spinal block to eliminate all feeling in the lower extremities and a light sedation that would allow Odel to respond without being totally conscious.
6:50 am: Dr. Bargar arrived to visit with us, mark Odel’s left knee with a special pen, and give us the chance to ask any last minute questions. We both were feeling as confident as possible, and Odel was ready to get the surgery behind him. At 7 am, the nurse rolled Odel down the hall on his gurney, and I went in search of the surgery waiting room, where I would learn the news once Odel’s surgery was finished.
Once I knew where the waiting room was, I headed back to the car and home for breakfast and a shower. Two hours later, back in the waiting room, Dr. Bargar arrived with fresh X-rays and the EXCELLENT news that he did a partial (medial) replacement, along with the removal of a bone spur and a “kissing lesion” under Odel’s kneecap. As he has done each time we have met with him, Dr. Bargar consulted as though he had no other place to be, as if Odel was his only patient and he had all the time in the world to answer questions. After he had answered all of mine, he advised me to take advantage of Odel’s recovery time to take a walk outside to enjoy Sacramento’s beautiful spring day – good advice that I promptly took.
As I stopped in the parking garage to pick up Odel’s hospital bag after my walk, my phone rang: Odel was in his (private!) room* and wondered when I’d show up! Ten minutes later, there he was, groggy but smiling, in no pain. Let the healing begin!
The remainder of the day crept slowly by. I met Odel’s nurse and nursing assistant, both in and out of the room constantly, adjusting machinery, making sure he was comfortable and doing his jobs: “paddling” his feet frequently as feeling returned (to keep the blood moving) and deep breathing into a plastic doo-dad that measures his lung capacity (to keep fluid out of his lungs). Before long, Odel made me breath into it, too – so he could glory in his ability to take a deeper breath than I can. That guy is SO COMPETITIVE! I can see that keeping him from overdoing his walking during recovery will be a challenge.
In mid-afternoon, I went home for a much needed nap. While I was away, the physical therapist arrived for the first workout: sitting up on the side of the bed, standing in the safety of the walker, and taking two steps in each direction. Odel’s first visitor, our good friend Ron Ulm, stopped by with magazines for Odel, and I returned in time for Odel’s first solid food, a dinner of soup, a pathetic looking hamburger, and a piece of cake. He gobbled it down while the nurses worried that he might throw up… I can see they don’t know Odel. :)
I left at 6, when the final matchup of March Madness came on. Odel looked happy and drowsy in his bed, in full control of his TV remote. It couldn’t have gone better. As of 7:30 pm, when we talked on the phone, he had experienced NO pain, even as the spinal block dwindled away.
Now the real work begins!
* When I asked Michelle, Odel’s nurse, how he happened to score a private room, she said that Monday is the best day to schedule your surgery – most of the rooms empty out over the weekend, so those who have early surgery on Monday morning has a good chance of a private room assignment. Good to know.