Friday, July 23, 2010

The Pain Scale

Throughout the recovery process, I’m constantly being asked to rate my pain on a 0 – 10 scale. But they always ask me to define “10” as “the worst pain you’ve ever felt.” It seems too subjective to me, because a “10” for a guy who has never given birth might seem like a “4” to a woman who has.

By the second day after surgery, the anesthesia had mostly worn off. The nurse gave me a gizmo that looked like a bong and told me to suck on it, trying to keep a floating yellow bead between two markers. Supposedly, this would open my lungs and expel the remainder of the anesthesia. “Do that ten times an hour,” she said, and left. Ten times? Every hour? Maybe this thing is a bong.

Later that day, the physical therapists returned to get me up on the walker again. I gritted my teeth for the effort, and was extremely displeased to discover that without the benefit of lingering anesthesia, the pain was easily double that of the previous attempt. One of the therapists kept insisting that I “breathe” and “keep my eyes open” as I gasped and moaned, shuffling over to the chair beside the bed.

Sweating and shuddering from the pain, I waited for the inevitable trip back, the physical therapists constantly asking me to rate my pain. “That was a nine,” I sobbed, believing that a ten would be so intolerable, I’d never live to describe it.

Within a few minutes, the physical therapists hoisted me to my feet again. My head swam from the searing pain. My eyes clouded with floating multicolored spots, and off in the distance, I could hear one of the therapists insisting that I breathe. I was able to blurt out the words, “I’m going to pass out.”

I came to on the bed, one of the therapists waving something under my nose that looked like a paint chip, but which had no discernable odor. After that episode, the physical therapists still visited me every day, but took a far less aggressive approach to getting me up on the walker.

The next day, I was visited by a nurse who told me they were going to remove the “drains” from my incisions. These are small tubes designed to divert any body fluids to collection bags outside the body, preventing them from pooling up inside the incision. “This is going to hurt,” she told me. And it sure did. Maybe a 7. Piece of cake.

“Let me dispose of these,” she said, coiling up the tubes, “and I’ll come back and remove your catheter.”

My what? I groped beneath the blankets and discovered the tube coming out of my penis. How could I not know it was there? How did it get in there?

The nurse returned, and started handling my private parts with practiced professionalism. “Ready?” she asked. On a pain scale, it was about a 4. I’ll spare you the grotesque imagery of the procedure, but I will say that I wish to God I hadn't watched.

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