from the Korean Army to being published

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

Random #67: Hospital Update – Fourth Surgery

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I’m hoping this is my last post from the hospital. The surgery was a week ago and the reason for the delay was mostly a lack of confidence that this surgery was really the last surgery, a bit of superstition—I don’t want to jinx it—and a bit of laziness as well. I’ve decided to post today because it has been a week since the surgery and this morning the head doctor came by on rounds and had his underlings staple up the drains for my wounds.

The doctor is in the process of stapling my skin, pinching the two sides together with tweezers

The surgery was shorter than the others and all the surgeons did was cut a hole in my side, scrape out some bone from my hip, open up a new hole in my leg, and stick the hip bone material into the gap in my tibia. I didn’t have any new metal installed in my leg—no intermedullary rod after all—and the plate from the third surgery will have to suffice in keeping my leg together while the hip bone stuffing cements the two pieces together.

The real problem is my hip

When I was a sophomore in high school, I started a game as fullback (I was a halfback) for our sophomore football team. Most people scoff when I mention the fact now because I’m not even five and a half feet tall—I peaked in the ninth grade—and the fifteen pounds I’ve gained since then are all in my belly. I was small, but I had strong, fast sprinter’s legs, and heart. I was a Rudy story that never got anywhere.

The first week of the pre-season was Guts Week, where the coaches sacrifice the sophomores as fodder for the varsity team, to beat up and deride and punish as the juniors and seniors saw fit. It was during that week that Sasha something-or-other, the starting fullback for the varsity, obliterated my side during a drill where I was supposed to run with the ball slowly and let the upperclassman hit me as hard as possible. He gave a boyish laugh at the applause from the other backs and trotted off, leaving me to pick up my tattered body on my own. I had pain in my side for the rest of practice and the nurse announced the bad news as I sat in her office while everyone else was washing up: “You have a hip pointer. The bone is bruised.”

hip pointer
Not actually me, but it kind of reminds me of that time

“It’s going to hurt a lot,” the nurse added. “And it’s going to hurt whenever you do almost anything.” She made a motion like putting on a seatbelt. “All of these muscles are attached here so if you cough or laugh or sneeze, you’re going to be in a lot of pain.”

“When can I play football again?” I asked.

“It’s going to be a couple months,” she said, matching up crutches to my armpits.

I was miserable, watching the team play without me, watching players from other positions taking over my position as halfback. And the nurse was right, every cough, laugh, and sneeze caused me immense, debilitating pain, like someone hitting me in the hip with a steel pipe.

Last night, I was lying in the darkness, waiting for sleep to come when I felt the damning urge to sneeze. I was stricken with fear, the fear of a man standing in front of the firing squad, hoping that a call will come to stay the riflemen’s triggers. Instead the pressure builds with deep breaths inhaled through my nostrils. Ah, ah…. No, please no. Ah…. Damn it!

The intensity of the explosion in my sinuses is matched by the intensity of an explosion of pain in my side. I have a healthy, powerful sneeze, like the backfire of an old car. My back is contorted in pain, an immobilizing pain which reverberates throughout my body for the next five minutes. In this moment, I envy an ex-girlfriend who described her dainty sneezes in writing as “etio.” Once the pain subsided, I propped myself up and checked my hip bandage for blood. I must have popped at least one stitch. Thankfully, there is no seepage. I lie back down and wait for the nurse to bring the painkillers.

The problems that come with having general anesthesia three times are hard enough without hip pain

General anesthesia fucks with the brain’s signals to the nether regions, leading to the problems I’ve written about previously—urinary retention and constipation—but the real tricky part is that the problems are like the cold virus, they mutate and what once worked will no longer work. After my first surgery, I could piss when a little bit of hand disinfectant inadvertently made its way into my peehole after four hours of effort. After my second surgery, intentional application of the sanitizer only caused immense, burning pain in my urethra, and I managed to piss only after middle-school pranking myself by dipping my hand in water after four hours of frustration. I was emptying my bowels but didn’t have true release until after I had a cup of coffee.

This time, nothing that had worked would work. Disinfectant still burned my urethra and dipping my hand in water did nothing. Listening to YouTube videos of waterfalls and running water and other people pissing did nothing and after seven hours of exertion, I felt the impending doom of having a tube stuck into my peehole and many, many inches of tubing snaked through my urethra and into my bladder hanging over me. There’s no way I’m getting a catheter stuck in my dick while I’m conscious, I pledged to myself yet again.

In the end, I managed to piss in a way that I thought was a problem in itself last time—by sitting down on the toilet to pee. I don’t know why it worked. I’ve been pissing in my pisspot in bed throughout the past eight weeks and I spent the seven torturous hours sitting up in my hospital bed and trying to pee. Was it the change in scenery? The cold temperature of the handicapped bathroom? Am I really losing my ability to pee like a man?

The next day I woke up to tackle the issue of bowel movements. I had skipped breakfast the previous day to focus all my attention on handling my urinary retention, but rewarded myself afterward by eating big meals for lunch and dinner and felt bloated in the morning. I wheeled myself out to the bathroom and nothing. I had breakfast and filled my already full stomach even further and still nothing. Not only was I constipated, but I was also so full of shit that it felt like my bowels were going to explode. Shit, they’re going to give me an enema. I guess it ain’t so bad, at least not as bad as a catheter. But no, I don’t want to have anyone sticking anything in my butt.

I knew what I really needed so I waited until Mom was getting sleepy and told her I was going out for a walk with my older brother, both of whom came to watch over me during the day. I rolled myself out to the elevator and took it down to the first floor and rolled straight through the lobby out into the fresh air. Once outside, I rounded the corner and to a stop near a pair of vending machines. I took a deep breath of fresh air and then I took out my pack of cigarettes and lit up. I’ve been lighting up once a day since before the surgery. I smoked that cigarette down to my fingers and flicked it into the ash tray and rolled back inside.

Once inside, I could already feel the gases in my stomach looking for release. I let out a timid burp and then one with a little more gusto. I don’t know if anyone would agree with me, but I truly believe that cigarettes help settle my stomach. I’ve had stomach problems since I was in elementary school and smoking was one thing that I feel helps. By the time the elevator hit the 13th floor, I bypassed my room and headed straight to the toilet.

I’ve noticed one thing about my difficulties with bodily functions and it’s that my hip is an issue. The muscles I use to pump urine from my bladder and the muscles I use to clench are connected to my hip. There was a day I didn’t have a bowel movement since then and I realized that I had to force myself to use muscles that would cause me pain in order to evacuate my bowels. I even need to consciously use those muscles to flatulate.

Now that I can walk, I can’t

I’ve been given crutches. After eight weeks of being bed-ridden and only being able to get around in a wheelchair, I can finally get around upright like a human being. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem. The day I received them, I decided to take the crutches out for a spin. It was tougher than I thought possible. I’ve never had to do legs when I hit the gym and I’m not one of those freaks that look like those popsicles that you split apart.

popsicleleg day

Again, not my pictures, “Friends don’t let friends skip leg day.”

Now I know for myself how much bullshit all of those “wake up from a coma and start walking around” stories and movies and TV shows are. It’s only been two months since I last walked and my leg was shaking and I was sweating as I tried to make my way down the hall. When I could finally make a full lap down and back the fifty-yard hall, I had those chills you get after a particularly hard workout.

It’s not only my good leg that is struggling. I also have to keep my bad leg from dragging across the floor and my bad leg is dangling right below my bad hip. Bad hip? Damn, I sound old. It’s going to be a long road to recovery.

The verdict

The head doctor stopped by on rounds the other morning. He usually listens to the report, nods, and walks away as fast as possible. That morning, he decided to impart some knowledge on me.

“Your hip hurts, right?”

I nod.

“It’s going to hurt for another two or three months.”

And he walked away.


2 Responses

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  1. Wait—so how much longer are you in hospital?


    February 20, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    • I still have no idea. I thought I could get out at the end of next week but my work told me it’s too late to start teaching again in March and so I might stay here for a little while longer.


      February 23, 2014 at 11:56 am

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