The Official Post-Surgery Post

General anesthesia bothers me on a spiritual level: the missing time, the nothingness that exists prior to waking up. It runs counter to everything I believe about life and death.  And, after the 8th or 10th time going under, the sensation of emerging from nothingness becomes a little more familiar. And it bothers me a little more.

For me, there is this second after waking, when there’s this surge of relief because everything is still here, as I left it. And I cry. These are huge, hiccuping sobs that won’t stop, even when a nurse rushes forward to place an oxygen mask over my face. Apparently, surviving a spiritual crisis looks exactly like someone struggling to breathe.

That’s what usually happens.

* * *

“Stacy,” someone said quietly.

Waking slightly, I began to feel the relief. Thank God, I’m – “AAUUUGH!”

It felt like someone had punched me in the stomach… with cinder blocks. Other than the realization I was alive and awake, I really didn’t understand anything else that was going on. Where I was, why I was there, even the position of my body in space – completely unknown.

I was awake and my stomach hurt but, hey, screaming again might be productive.

“AU—“ There was a rustling sound and two nurses materialized at my sides. Well, I think there were two nurses, my eyes were shut. I think I had managed to pull myself up to a sitting position, because they each had one hand on my back. They also grabbed my arms and pinned my hands so I couldn’t…well, I’m not sure exactly.

“We’re coming with a shot, Stacy. You need to relax. Breathe.”

I panted through gritted teeth.

“No. Slow breaths. In through the nose; out through the mouth.”

What the fucking difference would that make, I wondered. But I followed their directions, taking exaggerated breaths. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried it, but it’s REALLY hard to breathe sarcastically.

“That’s a good girl. There we go. There’s your shot.”

“Gah!” I tried to snarl at them, but it wasn’t very successful. It sounded more like a phlegmy belch.

The pain started to recede. The nurses eased me onto my back.

“Someone really needs to fucking warn a bitch!”

“Girl, you just had abdominal surgery. You didn’t think that shit was going to hurt?”

I really love the nurses in my town. Seriously.

And, in my defense, I did know on an intellectual level that the surgery would hurt. I meant, when they woke me up, she should have said, “Stacy,” pause, “hold on, girl. This is going to suck.”

I started to relax and let my eyes flutter shut. Then, I heard my urologists’ voice, “Hey, there, kiddo. How you feeling?”

I extended my middle finger in his direction and fell asleep.

* * *

My second day at the hospital, I discovered the morphine button lights up when you can have another dose. The nurses explained I could hit the button whenever I wanted, but the machine would only allow me a maximum of 3 doses an hour. Once I discovered the button lit up, the next eight hours were an exercise in peripheral vision and hand-eye coordination.

“Well you must be doing better,” said a nurse reading the machine. “When you first came in, you pushed the button 72 times in an hour. Now, you’re down to three.”

* * *

Recovery is an exercise in delusion. I underestimated EVERYTHING: how long it would take me to get back on my feet, how much energy it would consume, and how little I would accomplish during my “little vacation.” (At work, that’s how we refer to my medical leave – complete with air quotes.)

I’m not sure if it’s because my medical leave didn’t go according to plan or if it’s an anesthesia side effect, but I spent a good part of that six weeks in a fetal position, sobbing quietly. OK, that’s an exaggeration. Most of the time, I couldn’t lie on my side. But I did have a raging case of post-surgery depression. (It’s a thing.)

So, I did what any recovering fat girl would do, I self-medicated. My enabler, aka the husband, kept me well-stocked with ice cream. BFF Teri called this phase, “the five flavors of grief.” (I wish you could have seen her when she said it — all sympathetic expression and nodding sagely.)

I’ve resumed teaching and taking class. I’ve just adding a “run” or two a week…right about a mile sometimes a trifle more or less. And a lot of the time, I walk as much as I run. Prior to the health melt down, was actually running a mile in the morning just as a warm-up for practice. I ran longer on cross training days.

This week, I’ve resumed waking up at 4:30 a.m. again, with the plans to start working out in that time slot next week. So, that’s what’s been going on with me. And, I’ve already decided that if I ever need surgery again, I’m going to line up some guest bloggers.

What have you been up to the past 8 weeks?






  • Sandy

    Well, after that, who can compare? I’ve just been dealing with arthritic knees: water aerobics, physical therapy, stretching and strengthening my left leg so I don’t screw it up again. Also trying to adapt my self defense to go easy on the knees. It was kind of funny when my PT asked what I wanted to be able to accomplish and I replied “I want to be able to take someone down to the ground without my knees hurting.”

    Glad to hear you’re on the road to recovery!

    • Stacy

      When you’ve figured all the adjustments/ adaptations you need to make, I’d love to hear about it. Knee issues are a huge deal for us older martial artists.

  • Nicola

    Congratulations on the recovery (sarcastic breathing – love it)