Monthly Archives: August 2007

He's really not that frightening.

I was at the park for the morning and while Nefarious played in the pool with the neighborhood kids, I drew this quick cartoon card for her cousins since the three of them spent the weekend playing… After lunch we went for a walk in the rain and dropped it in the mailbox.

This is an in-joke

This is what happens when you take percs, see a woodchuck on TV, draw stuff for BMEshop, generally appreciate overdone in-jokes, and enjoy the cult of suspension… I really should go to bed but I feel restless so I'll probably chug away a little longer at work stuff…

I ate the tails for the glucosamine

Here's what we cooked for supper today… it's shrimp and green pepper and onion and zucchini with fresh sunflower sprouts on couscous with sort of a lightly spiced lime and garlic sauce. It turned out really nicely and only took about ten minutes to make I think.

My plan for the rest of the day includes wrapping up two interviews, watching Hell's Kitchen and pretending that I'm good enough to be on the show, drawing a picture or two, among other things. Oh, and if anyone has any good advice for recording cellphone calls (I have an old Motorola RAZR), let me know — if I can get it set up, I'm going to start doing audio interviews again because they're much more time efficient, both for eventual text use, and for the dream of running BME/Radio again.

PS. I've been enjoying this art blog lately, although WMMNA is my perennial favorite… There are so many good ones out there to choose from though… One of the good things about the internet is that it's exposed mountains of talent, both professional and unprofessional.

Hospital Stories

Hopefully these stories aren't too scrambled and I haven't misstated anything. There may be typos due to the Oxycodone… Anyway, I tried to jot down everything I remembered about the experiences in the hospital before I forgot them.

Thank yous

Some of the hospital staff (day surgery nurses, etc.) were really, really, nice and helpful. I wanted to send a thank you — if someone that works in that industry can suggest what would be most appreciated please send me a message about it.

Old Jews

Before I had my surgery, I had an early morning appointment at the eye clinic to take a quick look at the hematoma on my eye. I shared the waiting room with an older very stereotypical Jewish couple — the wife initiated the conversation by asking me what was wrong with my hand. I explained that my hands were tattooed, and she confessed it was the first time that she'd seen a tattoo in person (wow!), although she had “heard about them before”. The husband started telling me all of his woes — how he'd sold his house in Miami (“it had such beautiful furniture”), complained about what bad drivers kids these days are, and then moved into describing his various medical problems. It got kind of awkward when he told me about his hernia and how now he's “always wet down there”… aaaaawkward! Still, they were very nice and it helped pass the time as we all waited.

Check-In Girl

When I checked in at the front desk for the main surgery, the girl who handled the process was a friend of a friend who's a tattoo artist that I've known for almost fifteen years… We chatted about him for a little while and she confessed that she wanted to get a series of very large tattoos but that she also really wanted to marry a businessman-type and didn't think the two were compatible. I assured her that I knew plenty of businessmen that definitely enjoyed tattoos, but she told me that her boyfriend most certainly wouldn't allow it. That made me a little sad, because I think that when one partner tries to stifle the other one like that it's destined to fail for other reasons in the long run, independent of the tattoos. I don't bear her relationship any ill will, but I hope that she does get the tattoos she wants one day.

Blind Guy

While I was waiting for my procedure, I was sitting in the TV room a bit dismayed that the computer was blocking half the sites that wanted to visit, and another patient sat at the TV, changing the channel seemingly at random every minute or so (extremely irritating). The door opened and a blind guy with a severely deformed head and a high squeaky voice came in and the person that was with him helped him to the old upright piano that was sitting in the corner of the room. He sat down and started enthusiastically pounding the keys as an out of tune cacophony filled the room. He started with a vibrant rendition of “When I'm Sixty-Four” and moved on to “What a Wonderful World” and other classics… Sadly the piano had far less skill than he — I'd played it as well and it was not only horrendously out of tune, but several of the hammers were missing as well — but it was still a beautiful moment that made me want to donate a piano tuning to the hospital.

My Roommates

I had two roommates, both of whom were in far more dire straights than me. The first was a guy who'd come in for some sort of surgery on his leg (I think diabetes related but I'm not sure), and it had not gone well because he'd ended up with an above the knee amputation — which I don't think was entirely expected because he spent quite a few phone calls telling shocked relatives and friends about it. All in all he was in good spirits, but he had a lot of phantom pain, describing it as intense cold in his missing leg. It kept him up all night, and he continually rang the nurses for more morphine and percocets, but I don't think they helped much (and gabapentin, which does help and he'd also been given, takes a while to kick in). He listened to his television quite loud, which was a little annoying because he chose a 24-hour sports channel that seemed to play the same ten minute news loop over and over, but really, I figure if you get the unpleasant surprise of having your leg cut off, you get cut a little slack on your irritating television choices!

The other patient was an older Portuguese man (which meant he always had lots of family visiting). He'd had some sort of procedure a week before, but required a follow-up surgery. Because the surgery was unscheduled, they were waiting for an OR to become available, so every day at midnight until about nine thirty the next night he was banned from eating and drinking because of potential complications with the general anesthetic. This had happened every day for five days (not being able to eat or drink) so he was extremely irate — I don't blame him — and the fact that he barely spoke English and couldn't efficiently communicate with the staff wasn't helping at all. Definitely not a fun position to be in, falling through the cracks like that.

The Recovery Room

My procedure started a little late and I think maybe took a little longer than expected so Caitlin had been at the hospital for a couple hours — I'm sure very worried — waiting for me to come out of surgery. I was extremely happy when I came to, to see that they'd let her into the recovery room, which I don't think is really officially allowed. If I remember right, the first (non-emotional) thing I said was “they had to cut off my leg” … shocked look … “just joking!”. I was fairly sore, so they gave me a couple shots of morphine, something I'll never turn down, and really the whole thing was fairly easy because I'd already been moved into my bed by the time I was conscious. There was another woman in the room with me that wasn't doing at all as well, with tortured screams of pain and her asking the people around her “why are you doing this to me?”… I'm really glad I didn't go through that (or blacked it out if I did).

Getting a Catheter

I ended up getting general anesthesia (a spinal had been discussed), and one of the side effects of that is that it's extremely difficult to urinate. If you can't within about eight hours of your procedure, they put a catheter in and drain you. I kept drinking and eating ice, and after about five litres of water I definitely needed to go, but no matter how much I tried, I couldn't get anything to come out, because whatever internal bits make peeing happen were still frozen solid. Joe, my night nurse, checked on me every couple hours and I stalled him until about 2AM, but eventually I had to get the catheter. I was actually more worried that I'd be a little “too into it” and be terribly embarrassed, but the clinical nature of it all kept things nice and soft and nonthreatening so to speak… Still, it's an awkward experience having your bladder massaged while a guy's holding your junk and telling you to push when it's not something you've pre-arranged in an internet chat room.

I only peed about 600 mL, and by morning I'd drank a few more litres of water (as well as what I'd gotten via saline drop), and I definitely needed to go very badly. As charming as my daytime nurse was, I'd still much rather pee on my own! I tried to all morning, but I just couldn't… On the final possibility that it might actually be psychosomatic — the attempts were in a bottle while lying in bed — I had her bring me a walker and I hobbled over to the washroom. After a few minutes of increasingly desperate pushing I managed to rupture that dam, so I guess whatever toilet training experiences I had as a kid have stopped me from even willingly being a bedwetter… Either way, my nurse got a chuckle I think at the extreme look of relief on my face when I emerged! It may seem like a small achievement, but it also was the only thing stopping me from being released from the hospital, so it was definitely a good thing.

Painkiller Fiascoes

After surgery I got the occasional injection of morphine (no pump though), but primarily I got 10 mg of oxycodone every four hours, which kept the surgical pain very low. The problem was, on my release the doctor wrote me a prescription for only two days worth of painkillers, which is cruel, given that the earliest I could be seen again by a doctor would be Tuesday — a full four days later, due to the long weekend. My nurse told them I needed more, and they increased it to just under three days. After a lot of fighting on her part, eventually she managed to get it raised to four days, with the assurance that I shouldn't stress it because I had a doctor's appointment on Tuesday with my surgeon (since my family doctor has a “philosophical objection” to painkillers and won't help).

Today I called my surgeon's office to confirm the Tuesday appointment as I'd been instructed, and — surprise, surprise — I was told that I didn't have an appointment, and that I wouldn't be getting one any time soon. Seriously, one thing I've observed in all of my medical experiences over the last year is the level of miscommunication between doctors, even in the same hospital, is truly shocking. In my case it's mostly just irritating and a little painful, but I'm sure there are cases where it's fatal. Anyway, after a few more phone calls there's still no appointment in place, but they assure me that if I need more painkillers that I'll be able to get them through the hospital (which really, I don't expect to because things are going very well, but I like having the security blanket in place).

Sushi Dinner

Apparently when you come out of surgery and are on a lot of opiates you're “supposed” to be a little nauseous and they don't give you real food because of the risk of you throwing up — which is a problem when you aren't ambulatory yet! Anyway, they were willing to give me a little Jello that night (with the offer of a little more the next morning, and then solid food if I could handle that). I immediately wolved down the Jello. Sure, I did feel a little sick, but really, hunger definitely outweighed any thoughts of throwing up. There's an all you can eat sushi place just outside the hospital (it's next to Baldwin Street, so there are actually a lot of nice food options), and Caitlin headed out and returned with a container of California rolls, assorted sushi, and assorted sashimi — as well as my friends Phil and Jordan who she bumped into in the lobby. I wasn't expecting visitors so it was nice to see them both. I hungrily engulfed it all, and while I will admit that I got increasingly close to the edge of throwing up, it was just so yummy that I couldn't stop myself and I held it down… I'm also sure that the injection of protein helped my healing (and either way, it helped my mood dramatically).

Healing So Far

When I had the biopsy done in January, the healing was very difficult. It took me a long time to get back on my feet — literally weeks — and the pain level was extreme and there were a number of complications that are still causing me problems. Because this procedure is in theory more intense, with a much larger incision and a more invasive nature, I was quite worried that it was going to be difficult.

Admittedly it's still very early, but I'm feeling quite good about how I'm healing already. I'm able to walk with only minimal assistance from my cane, and have been on my feet regularly. I'm going out of my way to stretch my leg and make sure it has good mobility, and — fingers crossed that I'm not over-stressing it due to the heavy painkillers — I feel like this is going to be a speedy recovery. Before the procedure I worked hard (with thanks to my friend Daniel) to get in as good physical condition as I could, and I also tried to put on a little weight to buffer it all and give my body a bit more in the way of reserves than I had last time. So far it's looking really good.


  • I have sores all over my lips, upper and lower (no, I don't have herpes!)… Somehow in this process I managed to bite big chunks out of them and they're very sore. Ouch!
  • When I got home my cable had been cut off because Rogers billing malfunctioned and they deactivated my PVR. It's all fixed now, but it was rather annoying, because they had a massive payment on file and everything…
  • The doctor (I think the anesthesiologist) took really nice photos, and as a lucky coincidence, they owned the same camera as me so they were quite familiar with it.

21 Staples

I changed my dressing today and everything looks really good. There's no bleeding and no oozing or anything unpleasant like that, and while there is some swelling and heat, I think it's well inside reasonable limits. I've been walking, exercising a bit, went for a drive (before I took painkillers of course), and have been pushing my limits as much as I can to ensure a fast recovery. I don't want to go through a long one like last time because it was a miserable experience.

Given that over the past few weeks there's been various dramas that have distilled for me who my real friends are and who aren't, at least knowing that my physical constitution seems extremely resilient makes me feel much better. Who knows, maybe all the personal stress puts me into some sort of “fight mode” where my immune system is all amped up…

My nephew (I think he's still four but he might be five now) just fell off the trampoline we got him as a present couple years ago and broke his arm so I think I'll draw him a nice little get well card and send it his way, although he may come and visit later in the week which would be nice.