#anesthesia #oxycodone #overdose
Anesthesia for major surgery is awesome stuff. Researchers are not entirely sure how it works. Scientific American had the best article I could find. It is worth a read. One thing is sure, anesthesia for major surgery works. The stuff puts you under big time. It’s not like sleep, Hamlet. There is no “perhaps to dream.” Everything is turned off. No subconscious calling your attention to some nagging concern. Stories of patients awakening during surgery must be apocryphal. You go out completely.
Recovery from anesthesia is a battle of sorts. The patient is not aware of what is going on. Those at the bedside do, however. Recovery is a roller coaster affair that the anesthesiologist controls. Once the patient wakes up, he may remember somethings that happened during recovery and not others. My wife, for example, said that I was very feisty. That I trashed around quite a bit. The anesthesiologist was pleased. I was not aware of my struggle, however. Not the least anxious. I remember one thing very clearly.
Why are you here?
I heard my wife ask, “John, why are you here?
“To know, love, and serve God so that I will be happy with Him forever in the next,” I replied.
My response was right out of the Baltimore catechism. My wife insisted later that she did not ask me the question. What is more intriguing is my reply. I thought that I actually spoke it. Not so, according to those at bedside, although they did allow that I was mumbling all kinds of gibberish. For me, the assertion of faith was immediately gratifying. I felt a peaceful feeling come over me, a deep contentment. I was seven years old again, in first grade, and Sister Mary Micheline was smiling at me. Whatever may have been the reason for my well-being, it was my subconscious speaking. Wide awake I consider myself an agnostic.
For years, I have not been satisfied that the Church helped me achieve peace of mind. I don’t insist I don’t know, but that I want to know more – if that is possible. There is a huge difference between I don’t know and I’d like to know.I am open to learning more. The brainwashing of my early years, however, really took. Once you have the answers, why ponder the questions any more. Early programming cannot be erased. It’s powerful stuff, so powerful in fact, it might be better to wait until a child has reached an age of reason before all this theology is driven home in classroom drills.
A long-lost loved one . . .
All that aside, the patient recovering from anesthesia should not be surprised if some age old memories surface. Perhaps the name of a long-lost love. Whatever. Not to worry. Whatever the patient utters in recovery will probably come out as garbled nonsense.
I was hustled off to the intensive care unit once I regained consciousness. As it turned out, recovery from the anesthesia was probably more difficult than the surgery. I was asked almost immediately to get on my feet and walk. Coughing, of course, raised a concern among caretakers. The incision that is made all the way through the sternum to lay open the heart has, on rare occasions has come undone – a real nightmare for the surgeon. The patient is cautioned to clutch a pillow to the chest when coughing and not to use his arms to get up out of a chair. I wanted to observe these admonitions. At one point, however, I was over taken by a paroxysm that was very stronger. Clutching my pillow to me as if life itself depended it, I felt a slug of sputum moving up my throat. Blaaack! I spit out this ugly gelatinous ball the size of my fist into the urine flask. I was horrified at it and the realization that it had been in my body.
“Look!” I exclaimed to the nurse when she came in, thinking that I had captured something essential to my recovery.
“Oh, good,” The nurse said calmly. “That has to be all of it. Very good.”
Okay, I thought.
Pain ebbs and wanes during the first two or three days following surgery. Or perhaps the pain is constant but the pain-killers weaken as the hours pass after taking them. In any case. the nurses always asked, and in order to introduce some quantifying measure, they will call for the patient to give a number between 1 and 10. A chart is provided to help the patient. It’s a good system, although it depends on every nurse understanding the gradients of the scale. What is a five to one nurse may be a four to the next and a six to yet another.
“Any pain tonight,” a nurse asked as she entered the room. I had not seen her before.
“Yes,” I replied. “I’d say about a 4.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “You’re the expert.”
She dropped a tablet or two (I can’t remember) into a paper cup, handed me my water glass, and I downed it all in one big gulp. Thus began the wildest, most terrifying night of my entire life. Instead of the gentle easing into a serene feeling of well-being that usually followed after taking Oxycodone, I had the sensation that the room was beginning to spin. Shadowy figures were coming and going. Some seemed menacing. I didn’t know whether that were hospital staff or not. I didn’t know why they were in the room. Some felt like a menacing presence. But the worst was yet to happen.
I began to lose a sense of myself, lose touch with my core self. I became like one of Dante‘s characters from the Inferno being blown wildly about by the wind. I had slipped my mooring and was being tossed about in a fearful emotional storm.
A sense of the self . . .
All of my life, whether consciously or not, my perceptions of the world around me registered against the base of my essential self, as if my sensations were the wine and my essential self the goblet keeping all in order. Now the goblet was gone. Only the wine, flowing out of control was assaulting my senses. I was a beleaguered swimmer trying to escape a tsunami. The only thing that was left of the I who I knew myself to be was the fear and the panic that My mind was utterly beyond my control.
I have never taken hard drugs. I am very respecting of them and do not feel that, given everything I have been told they will add anything to the fullness of my life or the joy of living it. “Just think,” my wife observed, “there are people out there who want that experience.” I can’t imagine why.
One friend explained that most of my panic resulted because I did not know what to expect. Could be. He went on to observe that I was among strangers in a unfamiliar setting. Nobody was there to reassure me. Again, could be. Nothing, however, would prompt me to repeat the experience regardless of the conditions. I like who I am. I don’t want to abandon my sense of myself. Friends know me as uninhibited and fun-loving. If anything, one of my biggest problems is weak impulse control. I wish at times I were more uptight. If what happened to me is what others are looking for in using drugs, I am dismayed. Too bad they can’t find life itself awesome and marvelous as it is.
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