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6 Days In: Thoughts and Recollections of my Post-Surgery Experience Thus Far.

Now that six days have passed and I’ve lost 13 pounds, I thought I’d post for you all to give you a little update of what has been happening since my surgery Friday. I know you’ve all been dying to read about my ultimately trivial trials and tribulations, so I’ll try to hit on every tiny bit of minutiae and detail that has run through my mind since Friday morning. Deal?!

Surely you’ve all read my quick and dirty post from Friday afternoon where I posted a sample of my delightful post-surgery voice. Well, I didn’t get into the niity gritty of it all with you.

After surgery I woke up nice and cleanly, ready to put on my clothes and walk out the door. Frustratingly, they made me wait until Jesse arrived as I guess it is against hospital policy or whatever to allow just-post-anesthesia patients to get up and walk out by themselves. Silly policy. What, they don’t want drugged up patients wandering into traffic on Fifth Avenue? Honestly, I felt fine. A little ti-ti, a little woozy, but not bad in any capacity. Truthfully, I’ve gotten myself home from further in MUCH worse states. I was good. I put on my clothes, stood up, paced a little bit, and then they put me back into a chair to wait. Within 10 minutes or so, Jesse arrived and the female nurse told me I would have to be rolled out in a wheelchair. I protested but she told me I must use the chair. Once we were all set and ready to exit, she told another male nurse to lead me and Jesse to the street. He asked if I wanted to sit, I said no, and he was cool with me walking. Rad. The lady nurse said I needed to use the chair, but he just pshawed her off and let me walk. Awesome.

A painless cab ride to my house in Greenpoint followed. Jesse dropped me off, making sure I was good, and I began my regimen of drugs.

The first and least pleasant of the medications I had to take were 4mg hits of methylprednisolone, a steroid used to fight inflammation. Luckily these guys are tiny little baby pills. Unluckily, I had to take 6 of them my first day, 5 the second, 4 the third, 3 the fourth, 2, the fifth, and just 1 on the sixth day today. They also taste like shit, particularly when you’re burping steroid fumes because the only thing you’ve eaten in days is half a pint of ice cream and four quarts of water. But the worst is swallowing pills with a pained throat. Not nice.

The next drug I’ve been on is Amoxicillin, a penicillin-based antibiotic. If you were ever a kid, you’ve probably taken this stuff before. I know that as the son of a doctor and a nurse with a bazillion siblings, we never lacked a bottle of the sickly sweet, bright pink, bubblegum flavored chew tablets in the medicine cabinet. I don’t have the tablets, but the liquid they gave me is bright pink and bubblegum flavored just like I remember from my childhood. I take two teaspoons from a delightful little dropper provided by Duane Reade in the morning and at night. It’s chalky, a little gross, but not all together unpleasant. If my throat hurt more, it would be a bear.

The final playmate in my drug trifecta is Hycet, which is really just liquid vicodin. Party time, right? This stuff also tastes like miserable hell, but it’s much better than trying to swallow those damned huge vicodin tablets and, because it’s a liquid, it gets to work right quick and allows me to eat. I am trying to be sparing with the stuff since A) opiates can be a real bitch, B) it’s a highly controlled substance and therefore difficult to obtain, C) I’d like to only use it when I absolutely need it. Call me stubborn, but I typically avoid pharmaceuticals unless I can see no way around them. Two spoonfuls of this shit and I can swallow broken glass.

Drugs taken and brain exhausted, I laid down on my sofa to watch a movie (I have no idea what) and passed out. I woke up later and spoke to my doctor. He commented that I didn’t sound like I was in all that much pain to which I replied that I was not. He told me that the worst was yet to come and to be sure to drink ample water and get some rest. Two spoonfuls deep into a hydrocodone daze, I successfully ate half a pint of ice cream but then became grossed out when my mouth got super phlegmy and I couldn’t do anything about it for fear of making my throat bleed. That right there was pretty much it for me and ice cream during this throat business, though I’ve been ordered only to eat soft, cool things.

I’ve come to recognize something about dessert too. Eating dessert alone is fucking depressing. I heard a lot of “Oh, you get to eat all sorts of ice cream! Fun!” and “I’m jealous you get to live on ice cream!” and whatever. But, you know what? It’s all nonsense. Who wants to live on this shit? I do not have a sweet tooth. I bought a pint of sorbet at some point when I first moved into this apartment in April and it’s MAYBE 1/3 gone. Most of that was eaten by Mike. Look, I like ice cream…when I’m sharing it with someone I like. But ice cream all by yourself because that’s all you can eat? Depressing. I have no problem eating dinner by myself. It is a nice time to chill and reflect and just sit quietly. And, no doubt, I will drink by myself until I can’t feel my face and every bad decision seems like the right one. But dessert is meant to be shared and nothing has hammered that home quite like sitting in the dark, alone, trying to force ice cream down my wounded throat with only the sweet, foul-tasting hydrocodone juice providing me respite. Oh how I yearn for something savory.

After a night of fitful sleep caused by my newly VERY loud snoring due to an incredibly swollen uvula and painful swallowing leading me to drool all over myself, I awoke early Saturday morning strangely full of energy and ready to go out into the world. I was inflicted with an acute case of cabin fever literally 24 hours after my surgery. I had no idea what to do with myself. Last week when thinking about what the weekend would entail, I had thought it would be raining since we were supposed to be hit by hurricane Earl on Friday night. But that never happened and we were blessed instead with perfect New York City autumn weather. How frustrating to be stuck inside, feeling fine, trying to be diligent about this whole healing process! But later in the evening, when Jesse called me to come out with them, I just didn’t feel up to it. I couldn’t place it, exactly, but something was off. Then I realized it was that I hadn’t eaten anything substantial since Thursday afternoon and it was Saturday night. I was not supposed to eat solid foods of any sort until Monday, but I couldn’t stomach the thought of more apple sauce or dissatisfying ice cream. I scoured my pantry to see what I might make that would be soft and treat my throat nicely.

Oh Lord, thank you for the pasta gift you gave me. Willfully breaking the rules, I made the half-pound of pasta telling myself that if it hurt even a little bit that I would stop and put it away. Well, it didn’t hurt and I wolfed down the whole batch without issue. Stupid boring pasta with stupid boring premade sauce was the best thing I’ve eaten in ages, no hyperbole. As I told Nina, I crossed the pasta barrier and never looked back.

On Sunday I met up with Charles and spent the day just hanging out with him. We wandered through the neighborhood and got some ice coffee, which was magnificent, and went to The Meat Hook so he could buy fancy hot dogs and sausages for Labor Day. I nearly died. The Meat Hook, if you’ve never been, makes their own stuffed-casing meat things. The hot dogs are homemade and so good that you don’t even need to apply mustard. The only thing they have in common with your standard-issue, grocery store, pink liquid meat and entrails tubes is their name. These things are light years beyond a standard hot dog. You might go so far as to consider them real food. I know. I know. You never thought anyone would describe a hot dog as real food, but I totally just did and I stand behind it.

To see these wonderful things there and unable to even think about eating them made my heart sink. I would have killed for the adorable girl in the red bandana behind the counter to grill one of those things up for me. Alas, there was no way I’d get it down my throat without doing something bad. So back to Charles’ place to walk his dog Sebastian and kick it. It was nice to be out of the house for the first time in days. I don’t really do well as a homebody when I feel good. If I feel sick, yeah, sure I’ll stay home and just hide out. But if I feel fine except for some mechanical pain, I want to be out. Being at Charles’ was a nice compromise between being out going nuts and staying home. I felt safe. Secure. And he was going to cook some ribs later which sounded just fine by me.

Matt and Amanda came over for dinner with a bunch root-beer baked beans, so we had a feast of slow-cooked ribs with homemade barbecue sauce, dill and mustard heavy potato salad, and those sweet yet savory baked beans studded with bacon. All while I was so high on my drugs that I could barely talk. It was awesome. No, I’m exaggerating. I wasn’t THAT high, but I had accidentally taken one too many spoonfuls in preparation for dinner, so I was not my typical conversational self. All in all, it was great. It’s nice to have friends that can cook.

Monday morning I woke up bright and early, 8ish, a stupid time to be awake on a holiday. Michael called me around quarter to nine asking how I was and what I was up to. He was at his ladyfriend’s house in Williamsburg, so I invited him up to chit chat and try this new coffee joint, Milk and Roses, that opened up on Manhattan and Clay. If you live in the neighborhood, check them out. A damned good iced coffee prepared just how I like it, basically just a double americano on ice, for 2 stupid dollars. And they have a quiet, lovely backyard. So comfortable, so easy. Shit, I might just go up there tomorrow and sit by myself with my book. Who knows?! I’m crazy like that!

After our usual stitch & bitch session, Mike and I went back to my house where he made himself some eggs and I ate some tomato soup trying to be a good patient. Soft stuff, liquids only, I drank my water, good good good. We hung out listening to some minimal space house for a little while before meeting up with Charles again to head down to McCarren Park to meet with Matt and Amanda and a couple friends of theirs. The day was stupidly perfect again, not a cloud in the sky, 78°, light breeze, comfortable in pants or in shorts. The kind of day you want to spend outside. And we did. It was an ideal day to sit in the shade on the grass and no do a whole lot of too much.

After a couple hours and the arrival of Jesse and Manja, I started to get hungry again. For some strange reason, a bowl of tomato soup was not keeping me full the entire day. First Caitlin, Charles, and I split one of the last Meat Hook hot dogs and, god damn, even room temperature with no bun or anything was it good. Of course, the hot dog was a gateway drug. I set my sights on one of the last two bratwursts we had. I wrapped it in a paper towel and started taking little hamster nibbles off it. About 2/3s of the way through the brat I noticed that it was tasting too salty. And when it was nearly gone and I put it down and I still tasted salt, I decided to investigate by spitting.

Unfortunately, I do not have a photo, but what came out of my mouth was the brightest red blood I’ve ever spit. And when I could continue to spit it, I thought perhaps it prudent to call my doctor, holiday be damned. I called and left him a voicemail at the office and then another on his answering service as the message instructed. I heard back from him within a few minutes, by which point the blood had stopped. He told me not to eat sausage (sadness) and that I should stay on soft, liquidy stuff for a few extra days now because of the bleeding.

THE HORROR!!!!! A few extra days?! Didn’t he know I was going to make adobo later that night? That I’d purchased everything for it and was super excited to make that wonderful, salty, tangy stew of meat, garlic, and love? Were not chicken and rice technically soft foods? Was not sausage technically a soft food?! Woe! Another five days on fucking not real food?! I thought I might have died. But better soft food than spitting blood into the grass at McCarren Park.

On the way home from the park, we stopped at one of Manhattan Avenue’s myriad appliance stores and I purchased my very first blender. It’s a tool I don’t use or even think to use often, so I’ve never owned one of my own. Juli had one when we lived together, but I can count the number of times I used it for myself on one hand. One Black&Decker blender richer and 50 dollars poorer, I went to the grocery to buy smoothie fixings: orange juice, milk, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, whatever the hell else might go in those things. How disappointing to be buying fruit to blend into a frothy paste when you had planned to make a comforting bowl of steaming chicken adobo. Utter heart break.

My sleep was really bad that night. I don’t know if it was the psychic disturbance of seeing so much blood come out of my mouth (meh) or that my uvula was still swollen and my throat was actually starting to hurt. Maybe a little bit of both. I tossed and turned and woke up and spun around and drooled and sweated and felt like I barely slept even ten minutes. It is no surprise then when at about 11am on Tuesday I started nodding off and felt compelled to lay down. I didn’t wake up again until 7:30 that night.

What the hell? I guess I needed it. I slept fine that night too. So weird and dumb.

Here we are on Wednesday. I’m going a little crazy and even have found myself wishing to be back at work. I know I shouldn’t be working, but damn I really really want to be doing something. It was nice to have time off this summer when I was unrestricted, but this whole staying home and doing nothing shit is driving me up a wall. Even my trip into the Upper East Side to re-up on my vicodin juice seemed pleasant when normally it would have been a miserable chore. I enjoyed waiting in line at the bank and the pharmacy. How miserable of an existence. And my throat is hurting worse than it has so far, which I suppose means that it’s finally getting to the job of healing. It’s no where near unbearable, which I am thankful for. If I had to rate my absolute worst strep incident ever a 10, I think this is maybe a 5. Uncomfortable, sure, but not coupled with the horrible fever, shaking, and pain that comes with strep. Even if this gets up to a 7 or 8, I’ll be riding fine, no sweat. I’ve got my juice and know how to use it. Bring it on.

The worst part of the whole thing is sitting by myself in my house. I want to run around and do things, but I can’t and that makes me unhappy. I’ve caught up on my movie watching and sleep and alone time. I want to drink a beer and eat a taco. I want to say yes to Chad and work Fashion Week. I want to be out of the house. But I know I shouldn’t and that it really is best if I just lay low for the next week and a half.

To sum it all up for those of you not inclined to read my 2900 word ramble about the last six days, I thought I would feel like this:

But really, I feel like this:

Take from that what you will.

Post-surgery posting.

Hi everyone! DID YOU MISS ME!? I missed you!

The operation went swimmingly as far as I can tell. I’m not going to post a photo of the back of my throat. Feel secure in the knowledge that it is NOT PRETTY right now. Luckily, the pain is mild. Maybe that’s just the lingering anesthesia, but I prefer to think that I am just super awesome. You know. Narcissism.

On request from Carol, I did record my super sweet post-surgery voice. Between the tube they shoved down my throat, the drugs, the surgical excision of my tonsils, and the burning of my adenoids, my voice sounds really great right now. I think I will sing an opera to Richie, my 82 year old super intendant.

Listen!

[audio:https://www.theblacklaser.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/surgery-voice.mp3]

Don’t you want to listen to an entire book-on-tape version of Crime & Punishment read by me in that voice? I know you do!!!

Here’s to hoping my recovery is as easy for the rest of the two weeks I took off for it. The doctor’s doom and gloom about the utter misery I’d be suffering through seems, at this point, to have been hyperbole, but there is time for things to get bad and painful. Thank The Flying Spaghetti Monster for the bottle of hydrocodone syrup I’ve got.

One minor complaint though. I’d kill for a taco. Like, murder and watch the life drain out of someone’s eyes as I choked them to death kind of kill. Someone want to bring me a taco shake? Sausage smoothie? Lamb sorbet?

Bye bye, tonsils! Bye bye!

This is the inside of my mouth:

These are my tonsils:

Not sure what you’re looking for? How about a visual aid:

Delicious!

Those pock-marked balls of vestigial tissue are the bastards that have caused so much drama in my life over the past few months and tomorrow they will be excised from my face forever. So take a good look at them because the next time I post a photo of my gaping maw, they won’t be there. They’ll hopefully be in a jar in my closet.

Also consider this posting a notice that things might be slow here at The Black Laser for a little bit while I recover. My doctor has really been hammering it in that I am going to be in some considerable pain while my throat heals meaning I might not be up for posting amazing things for all of you to enjoy. For this I apologize. In the case that he is being overly dramatic and my throat does not hurt quite so badly as he makes out it will, then you can expect me back in a few days. We shall see.

Wish me luck. I have to be at the hospital at 7:30 tomorrow morning.

A Letter to the Hospital Where I Was Supposed to Have Surgery This Friday but Am Not and To My Doctor’s Office For Not Letting Me Know Until I Called This Morning.

Dear you all,

Seriously, I am annoyed.

Regular readers of this site know of my troubles with strep throat not just this year but over most of my life. I’ve mentioned the issue here before. Luckily, I’ve not gotten sick in a few months which I associate with…uh…pretty much pure luck. Such things are a mystery to me.

Earlier this summer, the whole ordeal reached a point where taking my tonsils out made sense. We went through all the motions, remember?, of setting up a date and dealing with insurance and all sorts of crap. I originally wanted them yanked before I went to California for June, but that didn’t fit into the doctor’s schedule, so I went with August 13th. The astute of you out there will realize that August 13th is the coming Friday. Very soon, I know!

When I hadn’t heard from the doctor’s office last Thursday, I started to get worried. Why hadn’t they called me? Had they forgotten? Where was I supposed to go? Did I have prescriptions to fill out? When should I be there? With these fairly important questions in mind, I called this morning. This is how it went, if you don’t remember.

Me: Hi! I’m having surgery this Friday and I was just, you know, wondering where I should go and all.
Them: Oh, let me check….what was your name again?
Me: Joseph Dillingham.
Them: Oh. Uh, I need to call you back.
Me: Of course.

I do some work, drink some coffee, and then my phone rings.

Me: Hello?
Them: Hi Joseph, this is your doctor’s office calling.
Me: Hi! What’s up?
Them: So there’s been a mix up at the hospital and the room we were trying to get for you has been taken by another doctor.
Me: And what, exactly, does that mean?
Them: It means there’s no slot for you this Friday.
Me: Well, that’s bullshit.
Them: Yes, I’m sorry, but the doctor doesn’t get a preferred slot there and if some other doctor who does wants to come in and operate, we get bumped.
Me: That’s complete and utter bullshit.
Them: The best we can do is offer you September 3rd.
Me: But I’ve already been put on hold for September…fuck. Ok, put me in for the 3rd and, you know what, I don’t even know if I’m going to take it then, but put me down and fuck the hospital. We’ll treat them like they’ve treated me.

It wasn’t until I was off the phone—l’esprit de l’escalier strikes again!—that I realized that THOSE MOTHERFUCKERS IN THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS BEFORE NOW. What the fucking fuck?! Fucking hell guys. I know you’re human, but if I dropped the ball like this for something my client was expecting my ass would be grass. And that’s just commercials! We’re talking about my throat here. God damn!

Go health care!

The reality is though that Sept 3rd is fine. It makes my finances a little more stressful than they needed to be, but I have some projects on the horizon which will hopefully turn into money. And, shit, I can cut when my throat hurts and I am recovering, so whatever. But still. I’ve been planning this all summer and it’s drag to have the proverbial rug pulled out from under me at the eleventh hour. How many more idioms can I pack into that last sentence?

Sincerely,

The Black Laser.

PS – Fuck you.

COBRA, a bittersweet victory

No, not snakes. And not the nefarious terrorist organization from G.I. Joe, either.

I’m talking about the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (hell of a name, eh?), which has allowed me to have health insurance after losing my job back in June. And, with the shithole the economy’s in right now, the government has enacted a subsidy on COBRA payments. That is, my former employer, Ascent Media, pays 65% of my COBRA charges, about 310 bucks, every month. Sweet deal. It means that my health, dental, and eye insurance only cost me about 163 dollars every month, much better than the 475 I’d be paying without the subsidy, or, worse, not having health insurance at all.

My subsidy was supposed to end in March, which was perfect, because my former employer changed their health insurance for the third time since I was initially hired by them in 2005 and the doctor I’ve built a relationship with over the last few years is no longer covered. I figured, ok, I’ll pay for the next three months and then figure out how to get some health insurance that covers her so I don’t have to go through the nightmare of trying to find a new doctor that I like.

But then the government extended the subsidy until September 2010. Fucking hell. That means I’ll need to find myself a doctor between now and then which is a huge pain in the ass. I suppose I should be happy that I will continue to have inexpensive health insurance (I wonder if these payments are a tax write off?), but I wish I could keep going to the doctor I’ve been seeing for a couple years.

Actually, what I really wish is that health insurance wasn’t such a fucking scam and that I could just plain old afford to go to any doctor I like because their prices wouldn’t be so inflated because of the racket the insurance companies have going on. What a bunch of horrible thieves. A man can dream.