I don’t often go ten days without posting a fresh blog, but I don’t often have surgery, either.
At the risk of prompting an OMG TMI! response, I’ll tell the story in brief and see if we can find something to make it worth the reading.
I was scheduled for outpatient arthroscopic surgery on my left shoulder, which I managed to wear out by throwing a lot of balls, chopping a lot of wood, shoveling a lot of dirt or snow, doing lots of pushups, and generally being very left-handed for 63 years.
The surgery included several procedures with fancy names like “distal clavicle excision,” “subacromial decompression,” “labral debridement,” “extensive chondroplasty,” and “biceps tenodesis.” My rotator cuff was also torn, but less than the 50 percent that warrants a redo. In layman’s terms, the surgeon used a tiny roto-rooter with a vacuum attached to shave off a corner of my shoulder blade as well as to trim up two other bones that had begun to ossify and grind against each other. The same tool was used to clear and smooth lots of torn and ragged pieces of frayed tendon, cartilage, and other tissues. To top it off, the surgeon snipped off the worn end of my biceps tendon, punched a hole into a nearby bone, and anchored it in a new spot — all with miniature tools poked through five small openings cut into my shoulder.
Afterward, I did a mental inventory of all the various chemicals employed to make such a inside job possible. There was a bit of lidocaine prior to insertion of the IV line in my hand, then enough versed and fentanyl to keep me loopy while the anaesthesiologist used an ultrasound probe to locate the bundle of nerves serving my shoulder and shoot it full of ropivocaine, which effectively deadened the entire shoulder and arm for next 12-13 hours. The main drug of choice for keeping folks out of it during surgery is propofol, the same stuff that did Michael Jackson in, but in more judicious doses.
The surgery itself was uneventful, though it took place rather late in the day and lasted about twice as long as expected. Afterward, I was allowed to go home and add some hydrocodone, acetominophen, and naproxen sodium to the chemical cocktail swimming around in my bloodstream.
After a decent night and a good start to the next morning with a physical therapy appointment already on the calendar, everything seemed peachy (if sore) until I was hit with a wave of dizziness while walking down the hall and passed out (fortunately, Susan was sticking close and was able to let me down easy). That began a series of seizure-like episodes that left me in and out of a trance-like state for the better part of an hour, riding with an EMS driver whose partner had to tell him how to find WakeMed Cary, and spending the next 36 hours in the hospital.
A couple of bags of fluid, lots of blankets, and a shot or two of zofran calmed things down in the ER, and a whole slew of cardio- and neurological scans and tests found nothing out of the ordinary. The best guess is that I was really dehydrated by mid-afternoon when surgery commenced, and I apparently didn’t drink enough afterward to clear the raft of anesthetic chemicals by morning (a Google search pointed to possible connections between propofol and seizure-like activity). My typically low blood pressure bottomed out, leading to some sort of vagal syncope that spiraled downhill from there, lowered my temperature to 94-something, and made the next two days way too exciting.
Spending Thursday being poked in an observation ward rather than working with my students was a real bummer, and a sharp reminder that things don’t always turn out as expected.
The Old Testament prophets were often inspired through divinely-induced trance-like states. I’ve commented several times that it was frustrating to get the trance but not a word from the Lord — unless it was a divine reminder of the old adage that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.