“Ok, see you in a bit, babe. I love you! Good luck!”
That’s my wife standing right at the doorway that separates the area she’s allowed to be in from the one she isn’t allowed to be in.
“Whoa, hey! C’mere and give me a kiss, bay-bay!”
There’s no fucking way I’m heading off to general anesthesia with an over-the-shoulder goodbye from my wife when I can’t even see her. Fuck that noise.
It wasn’t her fault, rather the hastiness of my nurse and my anesthesiologist that forced her into that awkward sendoff. As the one they’re cutting into momentarily, I called a timeout and got myself a proper goodbye. After all, I did write in this space just over a week ago how part of me was convinced this was how I was going to die, and I’ll be damned if that’s my last memory of my wife. So I looked her in the face, gave her a kiss, and then they wheeled me down a hallway like the ugliest Lady Godiva ever (I mean, I was naked under that stupid gown) that got increasingly chilly until I went through some big double doors into the freezing science fiction room of horrors.
I probably should have led with this, but I didn’t die. I mean, obviously. I’m not writing this stupid thing from beyond the grave, but the whole thrust of my missive from two weeks ago could basically be summarized as “Jon has always thought about death plenty, but he finally had to consider it in a real way, and from a variety of angles.”
Truthfully, I had been feeling like shit mentally for the two weeks leading up to the surgery, and it wasn’t until I read all of your lovely messages, stories of prior experiences, and words of encouragement the day before I was supposed to go in that I finally felt ok with everything. You people are beautiful. And you’ve rewarded my vulnerability by showing me the depth of your gorgeous humanity. I am infinitely grateful for that.
So, to say I was surprised by how calm and at-peace I was while they wheeled me down this hallway would be a gross understatement. I was confident. I was cool. I was as mentally ready as I could have ever possibly hoped.
Now then, back to the freezing science fiction room of horrors.
The anesthesiologist was a charming woman who seemed to be about my age who I think was named Chelsey. She and the nurse made chit-chat with me about my job, and they were both fascinated that I was a professional podcaster. As I described my own show and the 8 others I produce, she said, “That sounds so cool! I’m a bit jealous.”
“You’re a fucking anesthesiologist. I think that’s pretty damn cool.”
At that point, the nurse called her own timeout and made sure we were all in the right place for the right reason. She asked me to explain, in my own words, what we were all doing in this icy, brightly lit, nightmare fuel room filled with all the most sterile, efficient, bloodless murder knick-knacks the darkest parts of your subconscious could ever dream up. So I looked up at the giant light above me that resembled the spaceship from the end of Cocoon, and said more or less the following:
“Ok, you’re doing a septoplasty on my nose. You’re doing some other shit to my sinuses that I can’t remember. And then you’re doing an endoscopy to see where the obstruction in my throat is when I sleep. How’s that?”
She cleaned up my version with some more medical-y descriptions. Then someone asked me if I could feel the anesthesia kicking in at all, and I said, “I’ve smoked enough pot in my life to know when shit is kicking in, and my feet are telling me this is starting to work.” And then it could have been 10 seconds or 3 minutes later, but my consciousness left me. It didn’t fade out. I didn’t get tunnel vision. I didn’t drift off.
It was just that one moment I was looking up at the spaceship light, and the next moment I woke up in the recovery room with a nurse telling me the surgery was over, it went well, and here, would you like some chocolate pudding?
Fuck yeah I’d like some chocolate pudding.
She spooned some into my mouth, and that pudding cup might have leapfrogged a lot of food into one of the top 5 meals of my entire life. I’m zonked on lingering anesthesia, my throat is raw as hell, I haven’t eaten or drank anything in roughly 18 hours, and here comes the rich, soft, tasty chocolate goodness fed to me in bed like I’m Hedonism Bot from Futurama.
“Your wife and your mom are out there and we’re going to wheel you into your room here shortly. Is there anything I can tell them for you?”
Yeah, tell them: What a day. What a time to be alive!
She even messed it up when delivering the line, but my wife could only laugh and roll her eyes because that’s some shit I say all the time. On this particular day, it was extremely true. I was grateful the experience was over, that I survived, and that apparently everything was a success.
I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of descriptions of how slow, boring, at times frustrating, at times deeply painful, and ultimately all-encompassing recovering from surgery is. But recovery put me on my ass. I took my pain meds 4 times a day and spent the time I was awake either lying on my bed, or lying on the couch. A handful of times I tried to get up and help my wife with either the kids or dinner or whatever, and she’d just bark at me, “Go sit your ass down and keep recovering.”
She was right. Having never been through this before, that really helped. I started to turn a corner on Day 6 because I knew that was the day I’d get the splints out of my nose. And buddy, when he grabbed onto it, and pulled it through my nostril, it was both an incredible relief and so deeply unsettling. *shudder* Yuck. Feeling that thing pass through my nasal cavity still gives me the chills if I think about it too long. Day 7 was the best day yet, and by Day 8, I weaned myself off Tramadol completely. My nose is still a bit tender, but good overall.
The craziest part is that as soon as those splints were gone, I could breathe again. Again? What the hell am I talking about? I’ve never breathed like this before! One of my friends told me it was like I was breathing in Standard Definition my whole life, and now I’ll be breathing in HD. She was right. The superhighway of air now passing through my sinuses was INTENSE. Sometimes it almost hurts. But I’m immediately happy I went through this process and would recommend it heartily. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up! Fine holiday fun!
The most interesting byproduct of this has been talking to the people in my life about what prompted me to get this done and the process of it all. I cannot tell you how many wives have told me about how much their husbands snore or how their husbands don’t go to the doctor. A small handful of dudes themselves have said something similar, but it’s mostly wives.
This, of course, isn’t surprising. Dudes don’t go to the doctor, and that choice makes us fucking stupid. Women, in particular any woman who’s had a child, has been to a zillion doctors, been put in insanely degrading positions, and basically had their body placed in the public domain for a bit when their children are babies. Men just sort of are babies, by comparison.
When I worked in corporate, I joked with my boss that frequently our PR strategy was just “hope and luck.” I think that’s the general strategy of many men dealing with their health. I could have continued not going to the doctor and then danced myself right into an early grave because the sleep apnea was doing a number on my heart.
Since that doctor visit in January, I’ve lost 20 pounds and counting, can now breathe like you two-nostrilled freaks, and feel great about the trajectory my life is on. I’m 42 years old, and I’d like to at least double that number. If I had stayed on the path I was on previously, who knows when my number would have been up?
My mentor at Boot Camp for New Dads, a great guy named Schuyler, said on my show that he has “the gift of confession.” He’s willing to flagellate his past self in order to encourage new dads not to do what he did in his early days of fatherhood.
I suppose this little blog series is my own hope of inspiring by confessing. I treated my own health with the toxic combination of “hope and luck.” I hope you’ll learn from me and not do the same.
Get yourself checked out. Whatever you’re afraid of is almost certainly not as bad as you think. And the people in your life want you around. If you’re not going to do it for yourself, get the fuck over yourself, and do it for them.