It’s time again for me to write and I’m sure I am expected to write about the final events of the season, a wrap up of our eventing year and how wondrous all our horses were and how fabulous our sport is and yes, I will do all that next time. But right now it is Thanksgiving (in America anyways) and for that reason, on what is almost the 10-year anniversary of the first time I wrote about my own surgical experience, I’m choosing instead to write about Leslie’s knee surgery that he had on Tuesday. Leslie’s knee, to speak in frank terms if not medical, was a total train wreck and has been for a very long time. This year, he finally broke down and decided it was time to change something, so after consulting my past surgeon it was decided that as soon as the last event finished up off he would go into surgery.
At 7:00 a.m. we were in the hospital ready to go. Of course what do you do first? PAY. So off we went to pay the hospital as step one of our day, and it was freezing in there. I think we are so accustomed to working outside, Leslie and I just don’t do air-conditioning as well as the rest of the world. We were frigid signing those papers. I told Leslie, “Well. I’m sure they have it this cold so everyone stays alert. I mean, they aren’t going to fall asleep in this temperature are they? Unless they get hypothermia, I guess. I think if you get hypothermia you fall asleep.”
After we paid our bill we went off into a room where two male nurses were ready to get Leslie prepped for surgery. Well, I wouldn’t be me would I if I were politically correct, but you know, I like to relay the truth, so here goes. I thought the nurses were perfection as one was just like an activities cruise director. Putting the gay in gay, I’ve never seen jazz hands done before in gloves that had come out of an autoclave, diamond earrings and all, he was an absolute delight and really made one happy and at ease. The other nurse looked like a supporting cast member of ER. Very handsome and buff, much more serious and quiet, made you feel like he was lining up to be the next McDreamy, so surely he knew what was going on. They were a perfect set and did a great job explaining everything and getting Leslie trussed up to look like a prison cook.
Then in came the anesthesiologist. The grand pooh-bah one. Ok, here I’m going to give all of you lucky, healthy, non-broken people an education in the hierarchy of medical people. I have learnt that when dealing with surgeries one doesn’t simply just deal with the doc and a nurse as one may of thought. Oh no. First you have the grand pooh-bah. The head doc. Who, like Pig Pen from Peanuts, is more often than not surrounded by a cloud. But instead of a cloud of dirt, they have a cloud of faceless, silent, emotionless, youth with clipboards. I assume these people are students, but you know, they could be paid actors meant to make the general Joe Blow feel like they are getting their money’s worth because it reminds them of the show House. The cloud never smiles, never talks, and very much seem that they have been instructed, “Look, just walk around me and make sure your glasses are on and you are holding your clipboard where everyone can see and for the love of god, never let them see you smile.”
Ok, then under the grand pooh-bah you usually get to meet their PA and then you get to the head nurse, who never seems to do much other than make sure you are happy with her minions.
Anyhoo, back to the anesthesiologist. This was a great guy. He had the perfectly status quo graying hair and black/charcoal/titanium framed glasses that you would want of a good doctor. He was funny and kind; the type of guy that could afford to be those things because his intelligence clearly radiated out of him. He early on explained to us the two choices we had for doing the surgery. I’m not going to get this lingo right I’m sure (I forgot my clipboard), but basically we had the choice between some really good Micheal Jackson/put you to sleep but not REALLY out drugs, OR, he could put Leslie right out. Like breathing tubes out. He told us he highly recommended the first option, as it was the much better option for recovery, but that the choice is ours and what choice would we like.
Now. This is what gets me with society. WHY is this clearly competent, very smart, gray haired titanium glassed medical genius asking ME to choose between his first choice and some other choice? Because our society probably dictates choice, I guess. In case you are the idiot that wants to argue with some guy who’s made his life specializing in this one thing, but you are going to argue against him. It’s like those fools that come in and ask us for a lesson, but then proceed to tell us what they are doing and why for an hour. Anyhoo, naturally I told the doc that we were all good with going with what he thought best and Jackson drugs it was. I was kinda jealous that Leslie was going to get to try the famed Michael Jackson drugs, but you know, kinda happy I wasn’t, as you all know me, I’m such an addictive person, like a dog with a bone when I like something so drugs scare me. I’d probably have it once and then within two weeks be down at the Ocala Piggly Wiggly hooking for $5.
No bother, I liked the anesthesiologist. Then in came the maestro, the main man, Doc Cole. He trit trots in every time before surgery to say hello. Again, I think he does this so the patient can be at ease that he too has grey hair and titanium glasses. Check and check. Many of you will have read my story on my own leg debacle, so you will be familiar with the Doc that is Cole, but for those of you that haven’t (what is wrong with you?), he is somewhat of a savant, a genius, in the world of broken things. He’s engineered a bunch of stuff himself, I believe, and in his waiting room hangs many prints of alien like medical devises that he has put into people, kinda reminiscent of Jeremy Irons/Dead Ringers type stuff, of which I proudly sport some such stuff in my right leg that has done me just fine the past 10 years. Yes, almost 10 years ago we first met said Doc when I did a capital job of messing up my leg whist pregnant (I don’t do anything half-assed) and he was the only one south of New York that seemed to want to touch me. I’ve made sure to keep in touch with the Doc ever since my big accident, as I am fond of him namely for letting me walk again, but also because one has to be in awe of anyone that is so good at what they do and it is a real honour, quite honestly, to know anyone like that, and lastly, well, I’m not stupid, am I? And in the line of work we are in, knowing a good surgeon can make all the difference.
The Doc strode in assured us that he had his best game face on, had studied hard what he was about to do, and threw down his initials in black ink on Leslie’s left knee. I will interject here that as much as people joke about surgeons operating on the wrong limbs, I can assure you this must be a very real concern, as I tell you true that if he was asked once, Leslie was asked about 20 times that morning by various people what knee it was that they were to operate on; 20 times at least. I told them that the good news for them was that both of his knees are pretty crap, the left worse that the right, but both pretty bad. So although there may of been a better option in doing the correct knee, there really wasn’t a bad option. Anyway, the Doc asked if we had any further questions to which I asked how long he predicted it to take. Two and a half to three hours was the answer. Although I assured them that I was in no rush and that they were to take their time.
Then off went Les, down the halls away from me, and off I went in search for a good cup of coffee finally, as yes, I am that good a wife. I had forsaken my morning Joe in order to not abuse poor Leslie who could not eat/drink anything that morning. I won’t lie. I was a bit scared. I know that knee stuff is pretty average work for mega-surgeons like these guys are, but still. I’m sure the chance of one dying during knee surgery is like one in a million, however, you are talking to the mother of a child with a mesiodens after all. (Look it up. Basically equates to thousands in dental bills and orthodontics). Although I’ve never won the lotto, I do seem to be the lucky bearer of other rare wins that are usually unfavorable. Beyond the fear of perishing, I also feared that Leslie’s knee had to come back fine and hopefully better than ever. I am sure if I didn’t have all the faith in the Doc being one of the very best of the best I would have been very nervous. However, I knew he was top class so I felt fairly good. That plus the fact that the amazing hospital he was in seems to be owned mostly by some religious based group and they had a very big mural of Jesus hanging out with the surgeons so I felt that if they had Jesus scrubbing in, between the savant and the Christ we should be all good. (No wonder the bill was so big).
Sure enough, there I was about three hours later, stuck in a little windowless room, pacing like a cat in a cage, when the Doc came in bearing good news that all had gone as well as could be expected. That with any luck the surgery should have a successful outcome and that I was free to go see him in an hour. What a relief. After a second cup of Joe, I was allowed back to go see Leslie who had been released from the Docs and into the care of the nurses. It was at this point that the only chink in the otherwise flawless armor of the hospital came to light as god bless her, we had a first timer in charge of transporting Leslie from the recovery area to his bedroom.
This poor girl was about ten pounds soaking wet and had to try to get this massive unwieldy bed from one floor and section of the hospital to another. Well, watching her try to turn Leslie’s bed around a corner reminded me of when I was 16 and first had to back a horse trailer into a parking spot. No three-point turn; this was turning into a 65-point turn. Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer watching the poor thing sweat and offered to grab the front of the bed. Luckily, we got into a straight corridor and then she seemed a bit stressed as she kept looking at her phone, which I assume was giving her directions on where to take us. She got to one elevator and pressed the button. As it opened I stared in disbelief as the door opened to just a standard issue regular person elevator, but yet I watched as she tried to pull Leslie’s massive bed into it. It was kinda like watching a two-year-old keep trying to ram a square piece into the circle hole on a toy over and over again. I just kinda stood their silent for a bit as no one likes the bitch that tells you you’re wrong, but finally praise be another ‘bed mover’ came by and looking a bit panicked offered to help her find the correct elevator. The girl apologized about a million times to us and I felt terrible for her but god, it was super funny.
Leslie had a lovely little private room and then came the onslaught of angel nurses. I had forgotten how amazing these people are. In and out all of the time, they are everything from mini-doctors, to housekeepers to waitresses to educators. I have no idea how they do it. They make me feel terrible about myself really, as I can’t help but watch them and think, I need more of that in me. More of that goodness, more of that patience, more of that kindness. They are exceptional people really. Then there are the PT guys. They too were very kind in their own way and exceptionally tolerant of Leslie, who in trying to do everything perfect and fast and brilliant, kept exasperating them. No matter how many times they would tell him to get up slowly so as not to pass out Leslie would jump out of bed as quick as he could like there was a ribbon at the end of it. I told them that they best hammer that rule into him as if he did that at home and passed out his ass would remain on the floor as there was no way I could pick him up like they could! It was amazing that on the very first night they had him out of bed and on the march around the floor, holding his gown from the back for him they marched him slowly down the hall. I followed them the first night and asked if they would let go of the gown for a moment, as it would make first class Facebook material, but Leslie told them no, as he was afraid I would be too jealous at how many likes he would receive.
That night was a long one. Not loving spending so much time in small rooms all day, I went for a walk throughout the hospital around 10 and found that not one of the restaurants there served wine. I’m surprised, as it seems just the place to serve alcohol. They could probably put up a new wing with booze sales if they chose to go that route. Anyhoo, we were very happy to bust out of there the next day.
We made it home with enough drugs to sink a ship, an ice machine that is like a poor man’s Game Ready, some white stockings that he will probably make me wear one night later on, and a walker that Leslie quickly chucked to the side in favour of crutches. It will be a bit of a road ahead of us for a few weeks I am sure but Doc assured me that if we did all right for eight weeks, he would be back to whatever he wanted after that.
I hate hospitals. As riders we are warriors of the outdoors. We exist in the open, we gallop in big fields, we jump big jumps, we breathe big air and feel the sun on our faces and the wind in our hair, we fight, we run, we live in nature. Hospitals are small spaces, still air, windowless rooms, tight spaces, beeping incessantly, technology at every turn, lights flashing, people wearing masks, sterile. I’m a fish out of water in these places. But the people. They are just incredible. They are the sun and the wind and the magic within those windowless walls.
So on this Thanksgiving break we are thankful for all those people, Leslie and I. We can do what we do because we have those people skilled and ready to help us when need be. I hope it’s at least another 10 years before we have to return there again. I’d rather keep my friendship with those people from afar and not through my Florida Blue, but there we go. I am so thankful they are all there when we need them.