Saturday, October 6, 2007

MY KNEES (PART TWO -- SURGERY AND REHAB)

I was scheduled to have my left knee replaced on July 25, 2000. The week before, my surgeon called to say he was planned to go on vacation right afterward -- like, that afternoon -- but he'd arrange another physician to look after me post-surgery. I said okay.

I felt ready. I had a stack of books to read while I recuperated. I had three weeks off work. My friend Ginger, a gifted botanist and herbalist, consulted with me and had an array of tinctures for me to take before and after. My friend Kathy, an incredible nurse and masseuse, said she'd be there as I came out of surgery to lay on hands and ease the transition, as she'd done with me for other surgeries. And the weekend before, my best friend offered to take me to the coast, to the town where I'd been born, so I could see the ocean and recharge.

This friend, whom I'll call Loner Butch, was, to understate it, not adept at processing her emotions. She could talk about them with me all day (and did) but nothing ever shifted. In addition, I was pretty much the only person she talked over certain personal things, despite my frequent suggestions that she get and keep a therapist. I suspected that leaning on her around the surgery might be problematic. Still, there were times she had really come through for me -- like the day I had to get a cane.

What I didn't understand then was that she was good in a crisis only if she could be the hero who thinks of what to do. If she was stuck, or when given a direct request, she stalled out and got resentful. Part of the butch thing that I just didn't know how to manipulate. Or care to learn.

She also exercise extremely poor judgment with regard to sexual encounters. Mostly, she was only drawn to women who wanted to come out, women who were unstable, or women who had no expectations of her. Or all three combined.

I did not know that a few months earlier, she had gone to a national women's martial arts training conference in Massachusetts, picked up a woman there and slept with her right away. It wasn't until the next morning that they swapped information enough to find out this pick-up had in fact grown up in Austin, and was someone from my past. Not just anyone, but someone who had attacked me and whom I (at that time) perceived as an enemy. We'll call her Perceived Enemy. (I no longer think in terms of having enemies, by the way.)

When Perceived Enemy found out that Lone Butch was my best friend, she freaked out. Some sort of confrontation ensued. Lone Butch decided not to tell me about it until we were at the coast, eating dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant, two days before my surgery. She couldn't tell me what her relationship was going to be with PE, she said. She didn't know what to do, and she was only telling me because what if I died during surgery, she'd feel guilty forever.

Yep. I didn't get much recharge out of that trip.

If it was now, campers, I'd drive home, tell her she wasn't able to maintain my standards of friendship, and postpone the surgery until I'd arranged other support. But some things you learn by doing them wrong.

Still, once I got into the operating suite, I was amazingly calm. I was ready for change. There was some delay, I can't remember why, so instead of them putting me right out, I lay on the operating table as a room full of people got ready for a major surgery that would last several hours. I watched them doing things all around me, interesting things. On a cloth-covered table as big as the one I lay on, right beside me, someone with gloves and a mask was lying out sterile intruments. The tools used for orthopedic surgery are usually gleaming stainless steel and run to the horror end of things: Saws, hammers, chisels, and such. I look at this Marathon-Man collection and said to the tech nearest me, with humor in my voice, "You know, a sane person wouldn't consent to this kind of surgery if they knew about stuff like that."

All motion in the room ceased. The anesthesiologist at my head said in a stiff tone "Are you withdrawing consent?" But Patrick was in the room, and he laughed, saying "I think she's joking. Are you joking?"

I said "Oh, of course. Let's get this show on the road." That's my last memory for quite a while.

Later that afternoon, I start having scraps of memory. People talking to me, trying to get me to say something. My entire body in an agonizing frenzy of itching. My left leg not responding at all to my attempts to move it. Not knowing where I was or who some of the people in the room, my friends, were.

My memory is just scraps for the next two days. Here's what I learned later, some of it years later:

The surgery took longer than usual because of the abnormality they found when they opened me up. Apparently when the surgeon went to meet my friends afterward, he said "I don't understand how she stood up on that knee."

The itching was a reaction to the morphine drip they put me for pain. Turns out I'm intolerant. But since I wasn't completely allergic, they kept me on it for almost four days.

Because of prolonged immobility, they gave me twice daily injections in my stomach of a blood-clot preventive named Lovenox. I'm part of the 5% of the population that has an unusual reaction to Lovenox: It hammers taste buds, so everything I put in my mouth tasted exactly (I'm not exaggerating) like acid-laced feces. I vomited violently when I tried to even sip water.

My kidneys failed. I was on a catheter and intravenous line, plus other drugs to deal with the failure, but by the third day I was headed for dialysis. Then my kidney started working, sluggishly for a long time. Still, they were frantic to get me to eat and drink, and I could not without vomiting. They didn't figure out the taste bud thing for two days.

There was no single doctor scheduled to replace my surgery for after-care. Instead, a different on-call physician came in every time, twice a day. I wouldn't have recognized them in any event, but the continuity of care was extremely interrupted by this.

I could think okay, but I couldn't say what I wanted to say. There was a disconnect between my brain and my ability to communicate. So, I couldn't tell them about the painful spot in my low back until it turned into the beginning of a decubitus ulcer. I kept saying "It hurts", but I couldn't say where and they would just say "You've had all the morphine you can have for now", assuming it was my knee.

I couldn't hear bells, so I never heard the bedside phone, friends calling to check in on me. When a nurse was in the room, she'd answer for me and hand me the phone. I have no idea what I said to people. One friend said I told her I was fine, was already walking and was going home in two days. Another friend said I wept and begged her to come rescue me, that I was in agony and nobody would listen.

I couldn't read and retain more than a couple of words. I thought the characters on TV were speaking in a foreign language. I didn't know what city I was in. The only number I could recognize was 7. I could not sign my name.

And way down deep inside, I was in mortal terror. I still cannot describe how scared I was.

For several hours each day, I was put into a CPM (continuous passive motion) machine, a device attached to my left leg that slowly, gently flexed my knee, then released it, over and over. This was actually a relief and I looked forward to it. I was also, intermittently during the day and most of the night, in sequential compressive devices, stockings with a pneumatic action that compressed my feet rhythmically to keep blood flowing and prevent the formation of clots. These I hated, passionately. They came with an alarm that would beep if they weren't fitted on my feet properly, of if I managed to pull them off. The alarm was at the head of my bed, near my ear. When it went off, a nurse would come in and adjust the stockings.

I was shown, repeatedly, the call button on my bed but I could never find it on my own. I had a private room, which I'd requested. Because of the kidney failure, I'd been put into the intensive care section.

The second night, the nurse who put me into the CPM machine and the compression stockings was in a hurry. His name was Victor, he was young and impatient and had too many patients to look after. He failed to adjust the sheepskin padding on the CPM machine at the back of my thigh, so that every time the metal gear went round, it rubbed against the skin there. I tried to tell him I could feel something not right, but I couldn't find the words for it.

The stocking alarm kept going off. He would rush back in, increasingly frustrated, find an adjustment that stopped the alarm, then a few minutes later it would start beeping in my ear again. He did this four times. The fifth time, he gave a huge sigh, walked out of the room with the beeping still going, turned off the light, shut the door -- the door to my room was never shut in that section, it was against the rules.

He never came back. I lay there for four hours with the beeping in my ear as the metal gear gradually, inexorably tore a hole in the back of my thigh six inches long.

I went a little crazy. I couldn't find the call button, though I tried for over an hour. Finally -- I feel humiliated about this still -- I began pushing my finger into the air, hoping that it would magically connect with the button somehow.

At dawn, the shift changed. A new nurse came in, Francine. She exclaimed when she found the door shut and the light off. She rushed to turn off the alarm -- she didn't know it had been going for four hours, and I couldn't tell her. She removed the CPM machine and tried to get me to drink orange juice, which was the worst taste of all.

That morning, the physical therapist showed up to give me my first treatment. I refused to cooperate. I wouldn't get out of bed. I couldn't explain why, but I wasn't going to trust anybody again until something was done. Finally the doctor was called, and he came to see me at lunch, asking me why I was suddenly recalcitrant. I still couldn't say. He looked at me intently and said "I think you must have a reason." I nodded, I could do that much. He said "Is something wrong?" I nodded again.

The nurse in the room, Velda, helped me sit up and opened my gown to check me out. She's the one who found the decubitus. When she helped me scoot to the edge of the bed so she could change the sheets, she's also the one who found the wound on my thigh. The doctor had gone by that time, but she called in Francine and they dressed my wound in a cold fury. "Who was on last night?" said Velda. "Victor" said Francine between tight lips. "He's not to come near her again" said Velda.

That afternoon, yet another doctor figured out about the Lovenox and explained it to me, patiently. She said I had to eat and drink, no matter how it tasted, and keep it down or else my body would slide downhill. I nodded, and after that I forced things down, only vomiting ocasionally. That side effect lasted for six weeks.

The next afternoon, they took me off morphine. By dinnertime, I could say "Something's wrong with my brain." I couldn't explain it, but I had my friends' attention. At least, the ones who could believe it. For some of them, it was too hard to accept. One of the nurses, a white-haired Chinese-American man named William, became my guardian and explainer. He said he'd seen this kind of reaction before to morphine. I felt safer if he was on shift.

I had to stay in that part of the hospital two more days, until they were reassured about my kidney function and I was clear of the morphine. When the physical therapist returned, I willingly did the exercises she requested. But the inability to read, or hear bells, or express myself fully did not pass.

Six days after surgery, right before dinnertime, a tech came in and began packing my things. He said I was being transferred to rehab. I didn't know what that meant. The rehab unit was adjacent to the hospital and there was an underground passageway between the two, so I was taken from one building to another without going outside, which only added to my disorientation. None of my friends were there, and William wasn't around to explain what was happening. Suddenly I was in a new place, a tiny room with two beds in it, and the nurse who settled me in said they were overextended, I needed to go get my own dinner. Then he left.

I had no idea where to go, and I couldn't really get around with my walker yet, just ten feet or so. I lay on the bed, watching the light fade. After an hour, the same nurse came back and seemed frustrated at my inaction. I said "I don't know what's happening. I don't understand." He looked at my face, then, and said "All right, just for tonight, I'll go get your tray." He was around my age, Latino, and I eventually found out his name was Enrique.

When he brought me dinner, I said "I don't mean to make trouble, but could you explain where I am and what I'm supposed to do?" He did explain, very nicely. He said I could only have pain pills every four hours, no more. I told him I didn't want any pain pills, I didn't want any more pain medication. He looked startled and said everybody there lived for their pain pill, I'd change my mind. I also explained I couldn't sit up without help or go to the bathroom alone, which was not in my chart. In addition, I'd started my period and would need help with that. He blanched and said he'd help with everything but the period, he'd find someone else for that.

The next morning, an occupational therapist got me up and helped me get dressed in real clothes. She was impressed with my initiative and determination. I did it almost all by myself, though I was soaked with sweat by the end. She helped me navigate my walker to the main room, which was very close, where everybody else was eating breakfast. I was by far the youngest person in the room. But I wound up at a table with a brilliant, funny old lady who had just had her hips replaced, and we bonded.

After breakfast, a pool therapist showed up to begin fitting me for a water-proof bandage and brace to use in the pool, instead of my regular knee brace. When he left, I began regular physical therapy.

Here's the deal: In order to get at the knee, they make this huge incision but then, much worse, they cut the cruciate ligaments on the front and back of your knee. These ligaments are what gives your knee its stability and much of its ability to flex and extend. In addition, the collateral ligaments on either side are severely stretched out of place, like the worst sports injury possible. So the only muscle I had to lift or move my knee was my quadriceps.

I did whatever they asked me. I worked my ass off. That week was the Republican Convention that nominated Dubya, and my new roommate was an ardent fan of his who watched the Convention on her TV (a few feet away from my bed) all hours of the day and night. But I had earplugs, and I just stayed focused.

I had a phone by my bed, but I couldn't hear it ring or dial out, so the only break in isolation I had was when friends braved the rehab terror and came to visit. Some friends were great. Heather Burmeister, a young poet, came several days in a row and went to PT with me, ate with me and the old folks, and was completely relaxed about the horrors of that place. I'll love her forever for that.

All of the staff grew fond of me, because I did whatever they asked of me and I treated them with respect. Also, I developed a small legen because I never took a single pain pill while I was there. By the time I got back from PT, I'd been shaking hard and soaked in sweat, and all I needed was to get prone to fall asleep.

I had to have tampons inserted because I was doing pool therapy at least once a day. This led to an almost unbelievable incident in the middle of the night, with two nurses who had never even seen a tampon, much less inserted one. I wrote this story later for a performance piece in Actual Lives, exactly at it occurred, and it was grim. Our director Terry Galloway insisted I rewrite it as a piece of comedy, and it became the most popular thing I ever did. I performed it at the VSA National Arts Disability Conference in Washington, DC in 2004. That script is at the end of this post.


(Cast of Actual Lives disabled adults performance troupe as we prepare to perform in DC, June 2004 -- I'm in the middle, in tie-dye)

I was still in rehab for my birthday, of course. My little brother Bill was working six days a week, with only Sundays off. Plus, he had an absolute phobia of hospitals, wounds, doctors, anything to do with infirmity. Still, he and his wife drove five hours down from Grand Prairie on his day off to have birthday cake with me. His gift was the So You Want To Be A Millionaire game, a perfect choice for us, the board-game competitors. It was immediately apparent, however, that I couldn't pay it at the moment, though I was willing to try. He stayed for two hours, in a sheen of apprehension despite the chill of the rehab floor, then they drove back five hours so he could get up early and return to work the next day.

The Deagans came, too, bringing me Chinese food and my godson Zap, who was two then. He was charmed by my bedside toilet and wheelchair, which he compared to his potty and stroller. Their visit was a high point of the week.

(Zap and Maggie in her rehab room, August 2000)

But missing were Loner Butch and the woman I was involved with, Bea. Bea's family has a gated enclave in the Adirondacks, an inherited estate shared now by many descendants of the original robber baron founder, and the annual fees to even get past the gate are fabulously expensive. Her parents were making a visit to this land and invited her. It was her chance to wheedle more money from them to keep living in the lifestyle she was accustomed to, instead of the working class she pretended to be in the dyke community. So she left two days before my birthday, despite me weeping and begging her not to go.

And Loner Butch? Nobody knew where she was for three days, and I couldn't call her. Months later, I found out she decided to make a surprise visit to PE in Massachusetts, for another sexual encounter, while I was in rehab. Just one of the many reasons we're no longer friends.

After a week, I got released from rehab and it wasn't until I was safely at home, in my own bed, that the terror I'd been living with came to the surface. And it wasn't until Yom Kippur in 2004 that I got the last piece of the puzzle, what had happened to me during surgery.


DIGNITY AS A BRAND OF FEMININE HYGIENE PRODUCT (PERFORMANCE PIECE

(Maggie sits center stage in a chair with walker behind her. To her left a few feet is a chair with Miz Pinkney sitting in it. Behind her a few feet, flanking her on either side, backs to the audience, are Louise and Paula. In their pockets are tampons and latex gloves.)
MAGGIE: Sometimes all you have left is your dignity. Sometimes you have to redefine what that means.
After they replaced my knee, I was the youngest person in that rehab unit and for sure I was the only woman having a period. The first day I was told I’d been assigned to pool therapy but I couldn’t get in the pool unless I used a tampon. The problem was, I could not sit up without help, lots of help; I was on a catheter, could not wipe myself yet, and changing a tampon was, well, out of the question.
The attendants in a rehab unit are paid shit. The more intimate the services they provide patients, the lower their pay. Just another example of how well capitalism functions. All same, I encountered only respect from the people who worked there. Some of the male attendants simply could not face the tampon challenge. I tried to save my needs for when friendly female staff were available.
But one night I woke up bleeding onto the Chux. I buzzed for the night attendant. Two of them came –
(Louise and Paula walk up to stand on either side of Maggie; they have blank, alert expressions)

MAGGIE: Louise –
(Louise tilts her head to the right)

MAGGIE: and Paula.
(Paula tilts her head to the left)

MAGGIE: They were both from Jamaica.
(they both smile and wave at the audience)

MAGGIE: They turned on the lights, waking up my elderly right-wing Republican lady roommate, who slept just a couple of feet away from me separated by a thin curtain.
(Maggie gestures to her right. Miz Pinkney mimes waking up abruptly, blinking at sudden light.)

MAGGIE: I told Paula what kind of help I needed.

LOUISE: Why are you not wearing pads?

MAGGIE: Louise asked. I explained. She and Paula left again, abruptly –
(Louise and Paula wheel and take two steps away from Maggie to the rear)

MAGGIE: And returned slapping on latex gloves.

MAGGIE: Louise stood, grinning, beside my bed and said –

LOUISE: We, neither of us, have ever used a tampon, but I’m sure we can figure it out.
(Maggie looks in horror from Louise to Paula, who is nodding animatedly. Maggie leans forward on walker to address the audience emphatically)

MAGGIE: Silence is NOT recommended on a rehab floor. I said, “Hand me a tampon and let’s have a little demonstration, okay?”
(Louise hands Maggie a tampon; Maggie holds it up as she continues)
I showed them how the plastic applicator worked, at which point to remove it and why the string was there.
(hands tampon to Paula, who promptly pulls it apart and reacts in mild shock)
They were intrigued
(Paula hands tampon to Louise)
and each of them took a turn at pushing the cotton wad back and forth. Finally they threw away Tampon #1
(Louise flings the tampon away from her in an overhead arc so that it flies onto Miz Pinkney, who reacts with silent horror)
and set about rigging makeshift stirrups for me.
(Louise and Paula help lift Maggie’s legs up onto the lower rung of the walker so she is spread-eagled facing the audience)

MAGGIE: Paula tried first.
(Louise hands Paula a new tampon in the manner of a surgical nurse handing an instrument to a doctor; Paula moves to stand in front of Maggie, bends over so Maggie’s head is visible above Paula’s rump bent over the walker, swings her arm back like she is about to swing a bowling ball and then jams the tampon toward Maggie’s crotch; Maggie reacts with a backward motion)
She got it in okay but pulled the entire tampon back out with the paper tube. (Paula holds the tampon back up and looks at it in amazement)
We tossed Tampon #2
(again throw it in a high arc so it lands in the audience)

MAGGIE: Louise demanded a turn.
(Louise takes out a new tampon and stands in front of the walker as Louise just did; as she bends down over the walker toward Maggie’s crotch, she wiggles her ass vigorously and Maggie matches this motion in her chair)
She was focused on the applicator function but not so much on me, and within seconds I yelled, “Oh my god no, that’s not the right hole!”
(Maggie jerks backward as Louise holds up the tampon again. Louise tosses it carelessly into the audience.)

MAGGIE: There was complete silence from the bed behind the curtain next to me (Maggie motions toward Miz Pinkney, who mimes silent desperation)
but Paula and Louise were in stitches.
(Paula and Louise begin chuckling wildly)
Their language was becoming less and less comprehensible to me, and the only sane course of action was to laugh along with them.
(Maggie laughs out loud, at which point Paula and Louise instantly stare at her in consternation with serious expressions.)

MAGGIE: Paula pushed Louise aside
(Paula steps back in front of the walker and pushes Louise away by the shoulder; Louise hands Paula another tampon)
and tried again.
(Paula bends over the walker as before, but for a couple of seconds extends her hands behind her back and mimes clicking her fingernails together like a lobster claw so the audience can see; she then swings the tampon toward Maggie’s crotch as before)
She had long fingernails, and in gripping the paper tube to remove it she decided to use her nails like tweezers. My screech caused her to jerk her hand back and, once again, the tampon came out entirely.
(Paula holds up the tampon in amazement, then flings it toward audience.
Louise takes out another tampon and holds it toward Paula; they grip it together and move around to both stand in front of the walker, and swing it in unison)

MAGGIE: They took on Number Five as a joint effort, with much discussion that I could not entirely follow.
(Paula and Louise mime earnestly talking to each other)
After it was successfully inserted and the tube removed, they continued talking over something while bent down over my crotch and giggling.
(Paula and Louise remain bent over my spread legs, laughing)
Finally I said “Okay? and they straightened up
(Paula and Louise stand up abruptly)
and began gently moving my legs back onto the bed.
(Paula and Louise place Maggie’s legs back down on the floor)

MAGGIE: I thanked them earnestly
(shakes first Paula’s hand vigorously while gazing up into Paula’s face, then does the same with Louise; after shaking Louise’s hand, Maggie wipes off her own hand on her shirt with revulsion; Louise and Paula begin walking backwards.)

LOUISE: (waving her hand at Maggie) No problem, miss.

MAGGIE: The next morning my roommate called to me from behind the curtain –

MIZ PINKNEY: How are YOU today?

MAGGIE: I hollered back, “Just fine, thank you.”
(pause a beat, then speak to the audience)

MAGGIE: Sometimes all you have left is your dignity.
Sometimes you have to redefine what that means.


© 2004 Maggie Jochild

(to be continued)

32 comments:

little gator said...

about dignity.

a dear listfriend died a few years ago form aggressive chemotherapy(her choice) for brain cancer. The chemo was likely to kill her but without it she had no chance of survival at all.

She was sitting on some kind of hospital potty, doing God's work. when the doctor came in to check on her. As he opened the curtain or whatever she announced she was on the toilet and he should wait. Instead he tried to do a few simple tests right there.

One of her last acts was to bitch about it on her blog. The doc has since tried to intimidate the listfriend who now maintains the blog into deleting it.

kat said...

charming......why can doctors be such useless idiots sometimes?

Maggie, I don't know how you succeeded in maintaining dignity through that ordeal...you're stage version was pretty great, though.

Maggie Jochild said...

Actual Lives performed locally twice a year, and back when I was with them and doing "Dignity", I'd often be in a public space (grocery store, restaurant) when a stranger would come up to me, grinning, and say "You're the Tampon Lady!" My alter ego. It was especially fun during performances to watch the audience (well, men) recoiling in horror when tampon pieces were flung out into their midst. UNUSED tampons, mind you.

Terry Galloway's insistence that I do a 180 on the tone of this story (which was NOT funny at the time it happened), coming from her stance as a disabled dyke herself who knows damned well what we survive at the hands of the medical establishment, was indescribably good for me. A way to approach life, really. But then, her whole program was to name and claim disability from a non-victim stance, including rather than seeking sympathy from those temporarily able-bodied.

From Actual Lives' participants I also got the radical stance of refusing to allow disability to be the province of medicine. We're not broken.

I admire your listfriend's actions more than I can say, little gator.

I once went with a friend who had a big lump in her breast for the initial exam to determine if it was cancer. The doctor was, as usual, an old white dude. She was an African-American lesbian. I refused to leave the room during the sonogram or exam, and this guy, as soon as he was done with the sono, turns on the lights and begins talking to her about surgical options before she's even had a chance to sit up or put on a shirt. She's lying here, half naked, on a table while he's standing above her talking about the knife. I waded into him, saying "Hey -- she's not even DRESSED yet, don't you think you're being insensitive?" He glared at me, his nurse turned away to hide her smile, and my friend sat up with sudden intense dignity, put on her shirt, and faced him with a look that probably sent him right to the bathroom afterwards.

One more thing about the tampon incident -- during it all, I was very conscious of that Republican lady literally within hand's reach beyond the curtain and how much what was going on must be driving her nuts. It helped.

Jesse Wendel said...

Too funny.

Of course, I still crack up every time I think of how I was a young fairly stupid EMT (not yet a full paramedic), checking the airway of a Code Blue patient we had just started CPR on. I put my mouth right next to his as I listened for his breathing. And from the compressions we'd been doing, his body vomited barbecue and beer straight up into my mouth. *grins*

I was inhaling.

Not sure if he was truly dead when he started puking, but I guarantee he was by the time I'd finished being sick all over him.

This is why -- I taught in every CPR class I ever taught for the next 15 years -- you turn your head sideways towards the patient's tummy and look at the tummy to see if it's going up and down while you listen for breath going in and out. 'Cause otherwise, the sum-bitch will puke in your mouth.

*cracks up*

shadocat said...

Maggie; I too react very badly to morphine. The last time I had it for a surgery, I could not remember my name, had intense itching, sweating, and couldn't speak in a complete sentence. I also hallucinated, thinking my cat was in the room with me. My visitors were watching "Conan O'Brian" when I was brought to my room; apparently when I saw him on the TV, I thought he was talking to me through the window (although I have no memory of this)much to their amusement. Since then, I've always put down morphine as an allergy, and fortunately for me, each surgery since then (2)the staff has read the chart.

Although I continually work as hard as I can to improve my condition, I too, take the stance of refusing to believe I am "broken". It's good to hear that others think the same way!

Maggie Jochild said...

Shado, at least 50% of the people I've talked with who have had major surgery and been on morphine afterward had a negative reaction to it, in many cases life-threatening. Yet it remains first choice for pain relief -- it's cheap.

After my surgery, I researched this paradox, trying to figure out how I'd missed all the things that went wrong, in the course of determining what kind of "informed consent" I'd actually be able to grant. None of the things that happened to me had been listed as the possible risks they were for my particular surgery, and they are all common enough to occur in the literature. We wouldn't settle for that kind of return on appliance repair, we certainly shouldn't accept it when it comes to medical treatment.

And, let me add -- I had excellent insurance, I went to the best hospital in Austin and the surgeon I had was considered tops in his field.

The first thing I bought after I got home was a medic-alert necklace indicating I'm allergic to morphine. I wear it nonstop.

liza said...

I once had a hallucinogenic and vile response to laughing gas at the dentist when I was in my early twenties. I thought I'd gone to hell. The only thing I remember is the sound of the radio, it must have been tuned in halfway to a muzak station, and it was like the devil himself was broadcasting. I was sure I'd never return from hell.

Even now, almost forty years later, if i hear a radio station playing muzak I get flashbacks.

I couldn't function in school and it took me weeks to recover. It had happened slightly during the first appointment, which i reported to the doc. He said he'd adjust the dosage, but he still gave it to me, instead of novacain. I had trusted him, but shouldn't have.

I refused to pay him, and felt some sense of retribution. Never had the gas again though.

Blue said...

All I have time to say is, this rocks. Wasn't that the Actual Lives performance where I told you to fuck off? Ha ha! Memories.

Really, Mags, what a terrifying journey that was. Life mops us all over the f-ing floor, doesn't it. You rise, always.

Love,
Blue

Blue said...

I have another thing to say. When Rocky had heart surgery at 4 months old, they gave her morphine in the PICU. When we were finally moved upstairs and they started taking her off it, she started having "tremors" (looked more like seizures to me) and crying her poor sweet heart out. The doctors said "it's nothing". Fuckers. One nurse validated our knowledge of our own daughter - but there was nothing anybody could do, but watch her come down off it, and hold her while she screamed.

Other than that, and the sleep deprivation-induced psychosis and the PTSD that followed, and everything else about it, it was really not a bad hospital experience.

And Rocky's heart works now.

Maggie Jochild said...

Wow. Now I'm leery of laughing gas.

Blue, I don't remember you telling me to fuck off. (But I'm not at all surprised.) What did I do to prompt it? Do tell.

I'm glad Rocky's heart works, and even more, that she has two you as moms. Getting to be held by you and scream it out likely took care of all residue. She's incredible.

When I took a CPR class, I was a little zealous and broke the ribs on the model. Got the heart going again, though. I'm a sympathy hurler so I daren't comment about the vomit thang.

Jesse Wendel said...

Nothing wrong with breaking ribs.

Broken ribs heal. Brains without oxygen don't. (Just stay away from where the ribs come together at the very bottom of the breastbone. That part curls down and into the chest, and can cut the liver and the heart. Press straight down between the breasts.)

Oh -- and all of them hurl. Every damn last one of them. Just know it's going to happen and make goddamn sure your mouth ain't on there's when it happens, turn their head to the side, sweep out the vomit, and keep going.

It's okay to put a t-shirt over their mouth to blow through.

It's also okay (actually better in my view) to just pump on their chest, if you pump at 100 beats a minute. This is the new kind of CPR, called continuous chest compression CPR and tests show it's twice as effective as the old standard stuff.

It works by driving the heart/lungs to suck in air from the outside, and keep stuff going. The University of Arizona Medical Center (Tucson), one of the two base hospitals in Tucson (I worked mostly out of Kino, the one covering South Tucson, natch, but I know UAMC really well, plus I was systematically working my way through dating the med students) has been doing really fantastic work in the last 48 months on this, just dumping the Blow (breathe) part of the CPR cycle all-together.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if sometime in the next 5 years it becomes holy writ world-wide that people just do CPR by chest compressions alone, at a rate of 100 beats per minute. You know something is holy writ in CPR when it's published as a supplement to JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association.) Happens about every five years.

While this new CPR got press when it first came out, I'm going to blog about it again in the next day or so at GNB, probably stealing my own comments in this thread. (Why do extra work. When you're turning out at least three posts a day, weekdays, you learn to work fast.)

You can read a short report on continuous chest compression CPR or get more detail by reading the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center press release.

The nice thing for those of you who puke when anyone pukes, is this way even if they do, you don't need to pay much attention. Tilt their head to the side, sweep the mouth clear of vomit so they don't choke, they go right back to performing CPR at 100 beats a minute. You no longer need to put your mouth anywhere near theirs.

Of course, as the press release points out, near-drowning, drug overdose or choking, the old standard way of 15:2 compressions:respirations still applies.

Cico.

Maggie Jochild said...

Hey, I just discovered this over at Group News Blog, posted by Jesse Wendel -- it's an AMAZING piece of disabled/mainstream art fusion called Deaf Karaoke Live -- they describe it as "David Armond of The Hollow Men performs the ultimate version of Deaf Karaoke at The Secret Policeman's Ball, along with Natalie Imbruglia."

kat said...

oh god, deaf karaoke is almost as fantastic as the mom song!
I started giggling really loud, which almost woke Houseguest up (it
s 7:30 Sunday morning, so that would be mean)....
I've got a poem about Houseguest, btw, and how he's seriously fucked with my psyche.....

Blue said...

We were hanging out in the foyer, I think. I said something about how much I love my mom. You looked at me and said, deadpan, "Well, MY mother's dead." I paused for a moment, then said, "fuck you." Then we laughed our asses off, and nobody around us understood why.

Maggie Jochild said...

Oh, now I remember. That joke was a "test" joke I used to employ, on the pass/fail system. My mother's death is tragic, but I can't afford to get really close to folks who will let me get away with that kind of obvious milking for sympathy. Nor folks who are so out of touch with death and loss that they don't know how to react. When you replied the way you did, that may have been the moment I knew you were "in". Certainly working class.

I now remember trying to explain it afterward to Loner Butch. She never did get why it was okay for you to say that, much less why it was so hysterical.

During the early years of AIDS hitting San Francisco, there was a T-shirt that swept the Castro which had, in very small letters in the same spot where a Polo insignia would go: "Life is hard, then you die." I had one I wore often. You had to be there in the midst of that horror, maybe, to get it.

Then, when Mama died in 1984, a good friend had a T-shirt made for me for my birthday that was identical except instead it said "Life is hard, then your mother dies." When I opened the package, in front of other friends, there were only two folks in the room who laughed. Everyone else was absolutely horrified. Two women actually left, they were so upset. (Not close friends, obviously.) I wore that shirt until it fell apart.

Maggie Jochild said...

Kat, do you want to print your Houseguest Fucking Psyche poem here? Send it to me if so.

And, by the way, the gestation period for espresso machines actually vary. Depending on how strong you like your brew.

But breast milk comes out steamed.

liza said...

I liked the deaf kareoke but I don't think it was asl. for instance, the word "real" is signed as a fishing reel, and the word "for" is signed as the number four. these are not the same thing, they just sound alike in spoken/heard english. Not sure what it was about actually, although they were both talented performers.

If I'm wrong about this I'm sure someone will clue me in.

Maggie Jochild said...

Lize, some of it was actual ASL (like "torn" and "late", I remember), some of it was terrible puns based on spoken English homonyms (like the ones you picked up on, "reel" and "four"), and some of it was crude parodies of ASL (like for "man" and "come") which would be apparent and entertaining to deaf folks.

Moreover, while the guy was clearly a gifted signer, he was doing a send-up of the dramatization signers use for performances -- they're supposed to convey tone but not draw attention to themselves. Whereas he was Mr. Melodrama. The singer was astonishingly good with sign -- it's extremely hard to do fluidly, confidently, and expressively as she did. But her portrayal of the lyrics was much more in line with how signers are supposed to interpret songs.

At the end, his air guitar was completely over the top.

Three of the members of Actual Lives were deaf since birth, and one of them (Frankie, the woman of a married het couple) had toured with the National Theater of the Deaf. We had two signers, both of them volunteers. The main one, Lucy, was in her day job a lawyer for underprivileged folks; signing was something she did on the side. But she was relentless in her pursuit of signing excellence.

I wrote and rehearsed a piece called "Elvis Lives" (which can be found on this page under My Writings Online) which included many references to Elvis Presley. These three deaf colleagues had never seen the guy, and only Frankie had even heard his name. Pop culture can be completely different in the deaf community.

So when Lucy began trying to figure out how to sign "Elvis" for my piece and she went to them, they had trouble coming up with signs that would make sense to deaf audience members. At that rehearsal were a number of their friends (the local school for the deaf is huge), and they all had a long, animated discussion talking over what they knew about Elvis, if anything, and how to represent him.

I'd give a lot for a videotape of that conversation.

Maggie Jochild said...

Oh, and one more bit of information: The Secret Policeman's Ball is a fundraiser in England. (Monty Python members participated in a send-up of it several years called The Secret Policeman's Other Ball.) So, it appears to me that this signer is using UK sign language. Most countries have developed their own version of sign language. When Actual Lives went to perform in DC, there were deaf people there from over 60 countries, and our deafies and signers were in multilingual ectasy. You'd see people all over the hotel lobby and in the cafes, trying to find enough sign language pidgin to communicate with each other.

liza said...

Yeah, I remember the multi cultural cross cultural signing thing when I was at the International Deaf Games in LA in the eighties. I went with my Deaf friend and associate, who had designed cards in asl for my card company. We also took a hearing interpreter with us. Ann was in heaven, I was just trying to take it all in. I got to hang out with a lot of Deaf Artists from around the world. Very fun.

kat said...

so, wait, the crude gesture the guy was making to indicate "man" is a real sign? Or am I reading this wrong?
I was assuming that it was all made up signs that would be obvious and funny to hearing-folks....

The houseguest fucking my psyche poem is pretty depressing, actually. I'll have to think about whether I want it out there for the world to see......besides it being crappy writing, since I haven't written poetry in, oh, 11 years or so....

Maggie Jochild said...

No, Kat (laughing here), the sign for man was NOT correct, that crotch swipe indicating an exaggerated one-eyed trouser snake. But -- it was obvious what it was, and the kind of bawdy slang I've seen deaf people use. The usual sign for man involves tipping a hat brim, although there are, I think, more modern versions now.

The sign for woman us running your thumb along your jaw to illustrate a bonnet strap (!) But at the Michigan Women's Music Festival in the late 70s or early 80s, when Sirini Avedis had a song including the word amazon, one of the wonderful signers where (I bet Susan Freundlich) took that sign, extended the forefinger to make it an L sliding up the jaw, then the hand continuing on to pull an arrow from a quiver on her back, fitting the arrow to a bow and pulling back the string, still with her hand in the L position. All very swift and elegant. I've never forgotten it.

And -- the things I'm still learning about you, Liza. Were the International Deaf Games an athletic competition? I've never heard of it -- and I was once lovers with a signer. Plus -- a card company? Put the details in your bio file, girl. Or send 'em to me.

kat said...

ah, I see (she says, feeling a little dumb)...

to Liza, I finally checked out your site, and your art is amazing. I loved the window pieces.

liza said...

It was like the Olympics for Deaf athletes. I had a card company, White Mare, Inc. Remember the buttons, "A You're An Amazon" and "mother nature is a lesbian" and "I like Older Women" and the chai and Labrys. The buttons with graphics. Those were mine. Then I also did postcards and greeting cards.

Somewhere along the way I decided to do cards in ASL so I teamed up with a Deaf Dyke artist and we produced a series of cards with a Deaf actress, whose name I forget, but will look up. And I made a card and button of "I Love You" in ASL using a photo of my hand holding a heart. It sold well. The actress cards didn't for a number of reasons.

Anyway, our marketing outreach one summer was in LA at the Deaf Games. Must have been around 1984.They were held at Peperdine University.I met a bazillion Deaf Queer artists.

I totally suck at ASL, but I've travelled to countries where I don't speak the language and it was much the same.

Thanks for your kind words, Kat.

Maggie Jochild said...

Kat, you remind me of a younger me (or Myra), ever so conscientous and for all the right reasons. I can just imagine you trying to use the sign for "man" with someone you've met who's deaf, with your flair for language and desire to communicate....

Not dumb at all.

I myself am a crappy signer. I was always trying to learn key words and phrases to accentuate my Actual Lives performance, but I'd screw up and say something that sent my deaf colleagues into rolling hysterics.

Maggie Jochild said...

Oh, and Kat? That Liza Matisse FAKE painting on glass of the Roumanian blouse, the one she did in the Arts Express video? Myra wound up with that. Ginny bought it for her. It hangs in the study, on the glass wall leading to the deck, in direct line of sight with Myra's desk. She has the photograph of the measuring cups on a red counter in her kitchen over the breakfast bar, and the L Power photograph is in the bedroom on the wall between the bathroom and closet, where if Myra's on her side, it's the first thing she sees every morning. The Blue Rider painting they gave to Chris, one of the Cara Barer book pieces to Gillam, and Phranc's paper flipflops to Margie (after they were teenagers and old enough to appreciate them). They gave Mikie the Yeshiva Girl photo and some Mad Beads to Sima, and the Chickens in White Frame on glass to Allie (because one of her Podinqo kid's books was about her Nana's chickens). The Tara with Cherries Myra bought for herself and hung in their bedroom as well, next to the chair on the far wall. (Also on that wall is David's painting of Margie and Gillam running in the surf at Galveston.) Eventually Ginny said, only half-joking, that the number of piece of Liza art in their house were beginning to rival her own art, and after that Myra stopping hanging things by other people unless Ginny suggests it first.

Maggie Jochild said...

Oh, Liza. I absolutely remember White Mare, and how is it that I didn't know it was you? When you were so much on the radar then?

I think I have every one of those buttons. I bought buttons and wore them constantly. Big in San Francisco was Annie Buttons, too.

I remember the I Love You card, too.

Liza's site is in my links list, kids, but here it is for easier checking: Liza Cowan

kat said...

I think I'd better stay away from signing. I stick my foot in my mouth enough already with just english and french....(oh yeah, and that one time in a dyke bar in Italy, when I got really distracted by the woman behind the counter and forgot how to say "the bill, please"....)
The last thing I need is to try to sign "man" and actually sign "rude gesture referring to massive ejaculation..." That would be bad.

liza said...

Maggie, the fictional sales are worth more in many ways than sales to "real" but unknown buyers. It thrills me to imagine my real works on the walls of these characters born of your imagination, who seem so real.

Now we've got to get that book of yours on the best seller list.

little gator said...

My laughing gas story:

I've never had it myself but Mr Gator has for dental work.

The first time he asked me to go with him in case he couldn't drive home.na

They gave him a small red rubber thingy for blowing the gas into his nose and mouth, telling him to bring it to each visit. Apparently they're meant to be disposable.

So I asked the receptionist how soon he'd be safe to drive. She said, "he'll be just fine when he gets out to the desk area."

Mr Gator enters, with the most goofy stupid grin I've ever seen on him, waves the red thingy about like it was a toy bat, and announced giddily:

"Looky what I got! My own personal booger collector!"

I said "I'm driving home."

the dentist and the tech gave each other looks which Mr Gator later learned meant he got a lot less next time. And the red thing was forver after "The Booger Collector."


another friend of mine said she got nitrous as a child. They give you a blast of pure oxygen at the end to help bring you down from the nitrous high. The gas itself made her feel so good she cried every time it was over.

kat said...

thinking about Liza's paintings hanging on Myra and Ginny's walls is very cool. It gives me context for both the paintings and the imagined house.

my grandmother's best laughing gas moment involved excusing herself to a parking meter that she had walked into while getting into the car!
I've had one hallucinogenic response to pain meds, but it ended up being really fun, and is the reason I'm now an opera singer...

Maggie, you may post the poem if you like.

Blue said...

The "then you mother dies" t-shirt made me lol. And it takes a lot to make me lol, much less WRITE lol.