from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Random #63: Painkillers, Dreams, and Updates

with 6 comments

It has been two weeks since I was admitted to this hospital. While I don’t notice an improvement day to day, I’m in much better condition than I was last week. Last week, I was in excruciating pain which the painkillers did very little to alleviate. “They just take the edge off the pain,” people told me. I guess the edge doesn’t amount to much when you’re almost at a point you wished they’d just cut the damn leg off, or perhaps they were holding back and not giving me the good stuff, the stuff in the movies that transforms the guy screaming in agony into a docile, shallow-breathing vegetable with a smile on his face.

As it is, I’m not on painkillers anymore. I don’t know if I’m still supposed to be on painkillers because the doctors and nurses seemed reluctant to give them to me even when I obviously needed them. Not that I wouldn’t mind some right now. I’m still in pain, but it’s a dull, throbbing pain that I can deal with but makes me very unhappy. I can only hope that next week will bring another drastic change in pain levels.

Being on painkillers and sleeping at all hours of the day was trippy. I was constantly walking the line between sleeping and waking. It got to a point where there were moments I wasn’t sure were real or dreams. I would live out the same scenario twice but with completely different outcomes, and the only way to determine which was real was to wait and see which one lasted.

In these half-dreams, I often found myself living out my desires. For example, I haven’t had a smoke or drink for the past two weeks, the longest I’ve gone without either probably for the last seven and a half years. As a result, last week there were many times when I’d be smoking and realize that I was dreaming, and I’d wake and the fingers of my left hand would be curled around an imaginary cigarette. In another dream, I was taking slugs from my flask and when I woke, I was holding my cell phone up to my mouth.

The strange thing is that I haven’t physically felt any urge to smoke or drink since I’ve been here. (I don’t think I’ll be quitting either for good, but at least I’m on hiatus until my leg is healed.) I think the urges are completely subconscious right now although I don’t know why. Another desire that my subconscious has been yearning for is the desire to walk. You might think it would be a very conscious desire, considering my situation, but walking is like drinking water for me*. There is no inherent value in it and there are so many better alternatives.

My dreams of walking often include the aspect of climbing stairs but I’ll realize that I can’t be walking because my leg is broken and then I’ll start to fall. I’ll snap out of the dream state and find my arms and legs flailing, which is very painful when a leg is broken.

Anyway, to summarize my progress so far, I’m off painkillers and also off antibiotics. The doctors were worried that the flesh where the bone broke through would die and they’d have to replace the flesh with skin grafts, but I’m above average when it comes to healing and the flesh is healing nicely. I had to get two series of blood infusions last week, I think because the levels of something in my blood were low**. I’ve also realized how serious my ankle/heel injury is. The steel rod in my leg obstructed my view of my ankle but I was able to see the wound, and it looks like the guy in the movie Hostel whose heels get sliced so he can’t escape. If what happened what I think happened, the heel of my left foot must have been hanging off halfway. I’ve also learned that Achilles heel injuries usually take a year to recover.

On a positive note, I’m now self-sufficient and no longer need anyone to empty my piss pot or bed pan. I can maneuver around in a wheelchair and take my morning deuce on my own with just a little bit of difficulty. It might not seem like much, but I really don’t like having to depend on other people. Even if it’s just to fill my water bottle, I’d rather drag myself into the wheelchair and go get it myself.

I’m also more lucid and, although I’m still sleeping most of the day, I am managing to stay awake for longer periods of time. This means that I’ll soon be in a condition where I can start writing again. The previous blog entry was very difficult for me to write and I fell asleep several times while writing it. I haven’t fallen asleep during this one yet.

The doctor says I should be ready for my second surgery in about two weeks, so sometime around the middle of January. I’m hoping that after that surgery and a little recovery, I’ll be able to get around using crutches like everyone else in my room. 2014 is here and it’s a long road ahead for recovery, but things are only going to get better. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but I think this year’s resolution is simple: To be able to walk again.

* I really don’t like drinking water. The fact that it has no flavor means that there’s no incentive to drink it. The problem is that the things I like to drink are diuretics—coffee and alcohol. My normal condition is one of dehydration.

** I was curious about blood infusion and DNA. It turns out that the blood donor’s DNA exists in the bloodstream for about a week. So I possibly had three different sets of DNA (mine and my two donors’) swimming around in my blood until yesterday.

—–

[Update within an update] The doctors just found out that the blood in my leg is not circulating and they starting squeezing out almost black chunks of congealed blood from my leg wound. It looked like blackberry jam. I’ll be going into surgery sometime today to fix it. One nice thing is that they’ll be putting me back on painkillers. Awesome.

[Update #2] It turns out local anesthesia doesn’t render you completely impervious to pain. They opened up my wound and started digging out the festering blood, and I could feel the sharp jabs and scoops and squeezes. They also apparently forgot that my ankle is broken and my Achilles had to be re-attached because they were rough with my foot and picked up my leg by pinching my heel. Hopefully, I won’t have to go through that again. Knowing what I know now, I don’t know if I could deal with it.

One bonus is that they made a new plastic brace for me, one that stops beneath my knee instead of up my thigh. This means that I can bend my left knee again. It’s not much, but it makes a big difference. The old brace dug into the back of my knee, making it vastly more uncomfortable and painful. It also provides me with a little more mobility, and I’ll take what I can get.

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6 Responses

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  1. Good to hear you’re doing better. Good luck!

    tonyakerrigan

    January 3, 2014 at 10:37 am

    • Thanks, Tonya. I still got a way to go but at least I feel like I’m making progress.

      holdenbeck

      January 3, 2014 at 1:09 pm

  2. Good luck with surgery! Enjoy the trippiness while it lasts.

    bighominid

    January 3, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    • The surgery was painful. I’m beginning to re-think all my beliefs about painkillers and anesthesia. It was local anesthesia and I felt plenty. General anesthesia is definitely the way to go.

      holdenbeck

      January 3, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      • Oy gevalt. Do you have a choice in the matter? Can you grab the doc’s wrist and be like, “Doc—gimme the good stuff this time, you hear? The good stuff!”

        bighominid

        January 3, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      • I wish. I don’t know exactly what they’re giving me because I’m not hearing familiar terms like “morphine.” I have heard the expression “narcotic,” but those painkillers are not covered by insurance and are a bit pricy.

        holdenbeck

        January 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm


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