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It's hairy being younger than people think

By Minx McCloud

Well, the surgery is over, I've survived, and the slow process of recovery has begun. During the first few days after the surgery, I fluctuated between intense pain and euphoric giddiness. I counted the minutes until I could take another pain reliever, but on the third day of recovery, I thought long and hard about my addictive personality and began limiting the "heavy" drug to nighttime use. I depended on Advil the remainder of the day.

My surgeon assured me that the 20 Percocet she prescribed for me would hardly turn me into a raving dope fiend, but I am a person who has, during my lifetime, become addicted to everything from video games to Tootsie Rolls, so I recognize my limitations.

I found out very quickly that if you don't look at a hysterectomy with a sense of humor, you're in deep trouble, so I tried to see the funny aspects of the whole thing, from the time I walked in through the front door of the medical center until they released me four days later. I knew I had my work cut out for me when I got a gander at the first needle -- the intravenous.

... It turns out I'm what the nurses call a "bad stick." This means they had to try to get the intravenous in four times before it took. And yet, amazingly, I did not rip anyone's head off their shoulders.

I'm the world's most "needlephobic" person. I haven't had a tetanus shot in more than 30 years, despite the fact that I spent a lot of time around horse manure and rusty nails. (I've never feared "lockjaw," which my husband and most of my friends insist is a medical impossibility in my case.)

Flu shots? Forget it. Never had one, never will, unless they discover a way to do it like they do on "Star Trek" -- through the sleeve and the needle doesn't even pierce the skin. For some reason, blood tests (from the arm) don't bother me -- only injections and "finger sticks."

As for the intravenous, which everyone told me would be no worse than a blood test, it turns out I'm what the nurses call a "bad stick." This means they had to try to get the intravenous in four times before it took. And yet, amazingly, I did not rip anyone's head off their shoulders. Remember that last scene in "Psycho" where crazy Norman Bates says he's going stay perfectly still so everyone sees that he wouldn't hurt a fly? That was me, lying there, quietly suffering.

Actually, every time I turned around, someone was sticking a needle in me. The worst were the finger sticks for the diabetes tests. Those really hurt.

"Are you in this much pain when you test yourself at home?" The nurse asked me.

"I don't test for sugar," I replied.

"You don't test? You're diabetic!" she said, shocked.

"If I eat something I shouldn't and my leg gets numb, I know my sugar is out of balance," I shrugged.

My doctor has long given up in despair over my attitude. It's interesting to note, though, that after the surgery, I was in severe pain and they gave me some kind of an injection in my posterior to ease the pain. After that, my attitude changed.

"Is it time for another shot?" I asked hopefully every time a nurse walked through the door. They sensed a problem and switched me to oral medication.

The doctor kept me in the hospital an extra day because I was unable to expel the gas they had filled me with. Did you know they pump gas into you when they operate? Some people expel it fairly easily; others have problems. Naturally I almost died of terminal gas.

I kept saying, "How much more bloated can I get before the stitches burst?" I thought I was joking, but the nurses looked very solemn as they gave me anti-gas medication through the intravenous and fed me tons of Pepcid. (I'm waiting for the hospital bill -- I figure each Pepcid was probably about $25.) I was bigger than a Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon. I got so bloated I could only lie there in bed like a great beached whale with my abdomen so rock hard that Bart Simpson could have gone Rollerblading on it.

Naturally, two of my friends chose that day to sneak into the room and visit me. It was very embarrassing when my body finally decided to react to the anti-gas meds. If you heard a sound like a gigantic whoopee cushion deflating on Nov. 16, that was me. Well, I said "no visitors," so they got what they deserved.

The second night, after they removed my catheter, I sat on a bedpan because it was difficult to make it to the bathroom. The bedpan was next to my bed on a chair. I heaved myself up off the bed, staggered to the chair, and plopped myself down. When I finished, I was faced with a dilemma. The great bulk of my butt had created such suction that I was stuck to the bedpan. No, I mean really stuck.

Mortified, I called an aide, who, after quite a struggle, was able to extricate me from the bedpan. I tried to shrug off the incident by rationalizing that surely they had had fat ladies stuck in bedpans before, but I kept hearing suspicious bursts of giggling coming from the nurses' station for the rest of the night, and I can't say I blame them. I must have looked pretty funny, hopping around trying to pry a bedpan off my butt.

However, in spite of the awfulness of the whole situation, I have nothing but the highest praise for my surgeon, my family doctor, and the staff at Somerset Medical Center, who belie all the bad things we hear about the medical profession nowadays. They took a very frightened woman who was afraid she would die, and got her through the worst experience of her life. They kept me laughing, and they treated me as if I were a family member. I would, without hesitation, put my life in their hands. Oh, that's right -- I already have.

You may rest assured that further reports on my ordeal will not be as detailed or as sickening, but I figure, hey, if you can't nauseate people with the details of your surgery, what's the use of going through all that misery?

Minx McCloud is a free-lance journalist who writes about life in New Jersey. She can be reached at To see her most recent column, click here.

This article is copyright 2001 by Minx McCloud and appears here with both her permission and the permission of The Princeton Packet.

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