Friday, January 27, 2012
Simple Pleasures of Recuperation
Probably the best medical decision I’ve ever made was to schedule a hernia surgery on the first Friday in January. If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing that “procedure,” which results in some “discomfort,” allow me to explain.
A hernia surgery — if non-laparoscopic, as mine was that January of 2007 — involves making an incision a few inches long in the lower abdomen to fix the problem. The post-surgical effect is that you learn how much you use those muscles without consciously realizing it. In other words: It hurts when you stand up; it hurts when you sit down; it hurts when you bend over; it hurts when you laugh; it hurts when you cry; it hurts when you cough; it hurts when you sneeze. And if, while making some seemingly nonchalant and innocuous motion, you strain the incision, you can achieve a level of excruciating pain that is truly transcendent.
By the way, the medical profession refers to this as minor surgery. That means it’s done on an outpatient basis, after which you’re sent home with your painkillers to remain as immobile as possible for a few days while the wound heals itself.
If you believe, as I do, that a positive attitude is beneficial to medical recovery, prolonged immobility and boredom are the enemies of wellness. That’s why it was a great decision to have the surgery done the first Friday of January, because we all know what that means: Seven hours of football playoffs on Saturday and seven more on Sunday.
The weekend after that surgery, it was just what the doctor ordered. I kicked back in front of the TV and watched all four Wild Card games all the way through. There was no rooting interest in any of them, so it was fine to doze off from time to time. I was pleasantly occupied and interested without having to exert myself and was already feeling a lot better by the time Monday rolled around.
Having been through several operations in this life, I appreciate and remember the various diversions that have helped me through those first tough days afterward.
In one instance I had to stay in the hospital overnight and came out of the anesthesia about 7 p.m., getting progressively more awake as the night wore on. I started channel surfing and came across a five-hour Law & Order marathon on TNT. Business was slow at the hospital that day, and I had a double room to myself, so I watched all five hours all the way to midnight and still associate Law & Order with helping me get through those nasty few hours right after the operation.
Extended convalescence after a surgery is also a great time to read a long book you’ve been holding back on for lack of time. It was in such a period that I read George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which became one of my favorite novels. With its fully imagined and realized world, vivid characters, and just happy enough ending, it was a great tonic. If there’s no football after the next surgery (and at my age, there’s likely to be a next one), I’ll be looking for another long-postponed book to read — just not Dostoyevsky.
(The Wild Card football games the first weekend of January 2007 turned out as follows: Indianapolis 23, Kansas City 8; Seattle 21, Dallas 20; New England 37, New York Jets 16; and Philadelphia 23, New York Giants 20. I didn’t remember any of them and had to look up the scores.)