At the risk of boring people to tears, this is a short exposition of my time in hospital after my surgery. I cannot remember much of the first few hours after the surgery which I was told only lasted about two hours. One of the first memories I have is of me having a lunch of sandwiches (I think they were tuna, lettuce and tomato). Some time later, the physiotherapist arrived with a few nurses to try to get me to stand up. It was excruciating to get my legs off the bed and without the nurses lifting them would have been impossible. When my feet were on the floor, they placed an armrest walking frame in front of me and told me to stand up. This I did, but promptly passed out for a couple of seconds and woke up being held up on buckled legs to the sounds of staff shouting ‘help’ ‘lower the bed’ and other things. They got me back on the bed and gave away the concept of physiotherapy on the day of the surgery. They measured my blood pressure and it was very low. One of the signs above my room and several others said ‘spinal morphine’ and I presume it was morphine in the epidural I received. I was told it was the likely reason my blood pressure was low. It seems it is a common occurrence in the day or so after such an epidural. My blood pressure did slowly increase, but did not return to normal for a few days.
I still had a couple of cannulas, one in the back of each hand. Only one (the left) was in use and it was for saline solution and antibiotics and I presume some serious painkillers. I was told that the other cannula was only to be used in case the other one ‘went off’ (i.e., became infected, or failed to work properly).
One of the main concerns after surgery like this, especially when so much time is spent in bed, is blood clotting, along with the buildup of fluid in the lungs and the development of pressure sores (bedsores). As a consequence, I was given a series of exercises to do every hour or less while lying around. This is to get the blood pumping around your lower body. These exercises included pointing your feet and toes away from your head and towards your head alternately in quick succession; moving the operated leg sideways away from the other; bending the knees of both legs as much as possible; straightening legs (trying to push your knees down into the bed) while clenching your buttocks; and deep breathing.
It was fortunate (in retrospect) that I had a catheter in for a few days, because, as I said, getting out of bed was excruciating because it involved moving your upper thigh muscles which had been sliced up during the surgery.
However, after the catheter was removed, I had to get up to urinate. Standing was still painful and I was still constantly tired and using an armrest walker, so I used to sit on the over-the-toilet seat. Back in 2007, my partner and I looked after my mother during her recovery from a knee replacement operation and she also used an over-the-toilet seat. We used to call it the poop-chute. Having had a hip replacement, my left leg, especially the thigh, was very swollen, and as I am fairly tall and weigh about 112kg, it was a very tight fit on the poop-chute. As a consequence, I could not spread my legs wide enough to be certain which way the pointy end of my urinary tract was aimed, so the first time, I urinated on the floor and over the leg of my pyjamas. This happened twice, until I could urinate while standing up. This largely solved the problem. However. I don’t know if you have ever tried to not urinate while sitting down to strangle one, even after having emptied your bladder first, but I find it nigh-on impossible. As a consequence, despite my best efforts in aiming by feel, I piddled a bit on the floor again.
I tried to remedy this situation by cutting the end off a biohazard plastic bag, inserting my genitalia into the bag and pulling the cut-off end of the bag down below the rim of the toilet. However, this didn’t work as my legs were pressed so tightly together by the narrow poop-chute that they effectively sealed the bag and it overflowed so that I urinated on the floor again anyway.
The problem with this poop-chute is its design. The one my mother used was much wider forward, and had a plastic screen dropping from the seat to a level down below the toilet seat, so that even if the pointy end of your urinary tract was directed the wrong way, you would be unlikely to end up with a puddle on the floor, or a wet pyjama leg.
The problem in dealing with the hospital poop-chute, was largely solved by getting a urine bottle and keeping it by the toilet. Subsequently, when I needed to go, I initially stood up to pee, and unloaded as much as I could. I then put the poop-chute seat down, turned around, jammed my genitalia into the urine bottle, sat down, make sure that the urine bottle was at a suitable angle and let go. This largely worked in that the small amount of urine remaining in my bladder went into the far end of the urine bottle rather than onto the floor or my pyjama leg. However, when I stood up to wipe my bum and removed the urine bottle, you could see the outline of the urine bottle impressed onto my inner thigh. It was a tight and uncomfortable squeeze, but prevented the floor puddles and wet pyjamas.
During the first three days, my ‘obs’ (observations) were taken every hour or so. These included pulse rate, blood pressure, temperature, and oxygen ‘saturation’. This included during the night, so for each of these I was woken up. I acknowledged that these ‘obs’ were necessary but they made getting a ‘good night’s sleep’ impossible. My pulse rate remained fairly stable during the whole adventure, as did the temperature.
The oxygen saturation was a constant theme as it was almost universally low, and I was constantly urged to have a few deep breaths as often as I could. At this, the nurse would watch the saturation level rise as I breathed deeply. One occurrence made me laugh, however. As instructed, I breathed deeply, but the oxygen level didn’t rise. The nurse seemed concerned until I pointed out that the saturation monitor on my index finger was on the same arm as the blood pressure cuff, which of course restricts the flow of blood to that arm. She uttered an ‘oh, yes’ and moved it to the other index finger and my saturation level jumped dramatically.
One other annoyance which remained for a week after I left hospital was an intensely itchy back, which quite commonly kept me from sleeping. I put it down to the fact that despite all the hospital pillow slips and sheets being of cotton, the pillows and the mattress were encased in plastic. To make this itching go away, which it did eventually, required being lathered up in moisturiser two or three times a day.
I finally got out of hospital, on crutches, four and a half days after my surgery.