Become A Doctor, Online! Part 3
To fully appreciate this post; which is the 3rd chapter, you need to read this post first, and this post second to be up to speed. When we last left NukeDad, he was on his way home after an MRI on his knee. He was nursing a swollen, hobbled left knee and an inflamed, metal clamp filled nugget pouch. Let’s rejoin the drama…
Four days after the Microwaved Scrotum incident I’m sitting in the Doctors office watching him Ooh and Aah over my MRI results. “What is it?”, I ask. “Well, it’s your ACL.” “So, is it torn, or not?” I asked. “You could say it’s torn. You could also say it’s non-existent. I can’t find it! I mean, it’s not even there.” Great. I had obliterated my ACL. Not only had I torn it in half, I had done it in such a way that it had basically vaporized. Poof, gone. Just like Pauly Shore’s career; here one minute, gone the next. “Now what?” “Well, you obviously are going to need surgery and we have 2 options. Option 1 is to cut your knee open and cut out some of the patellar tendon that holds your kneecap in place. Option 2 is to use cadaver tissue.” Hmm. Double recovery time or the ickyness factor of someone else’s body part? I thought about it and said; “I’ll go with the dead guy.”
My surgery was going to be out patient right there in the Megalopolis. Everyone’s doing it these days. I checked in, put on my paper gown (adult size this time) and tried to relax. The Anesthesiologist (heretofore referred to as Jackass) came in and explained what he was going to do; “I’m going to give you too much anesthesia, flirt with the hot nurse, text my wife on my Blackberry and forget to use a bite block so at the end when I try and pull out your breathing tube you’ll freak out and bite down on it blocking your airway causing you to suck the blood from your heart into your lungs thereby drowning yourself in your own blood! Oh! And the best part? When we call for an ambulance to get you to the hospital because we can’t stabilize your convulsing pink sputum/bubble blowing body, they will finally get here 25 minutes later only they’ll have the wrong oxygen tank adapter, so we’ll have to call for another ambulance that will take another 30 minutes to get here! It’ll be touch and go for at least an hour, I’m so excited!” Unfortunately, I wasn’t given that pre-op speech, instead I was told that everything would be fine. That’s what W said about the economy.
The only portion that I remember seemed to be the worst nightmare I’d ever had. In it I was trapped in well, just like that girl in The Ring (shiver). It was pitch black except for a tiny sliver of light that was impossibly far away from me. I remember trying with all my might to get to the light, but something was holding me back. (Insert your own “Run for the light, Carol Ann” Poltergeist quote here) The harder I tried to make it to the light, which was getting brighter and turning from a sliver into an actual opening, the more I felt like I was being held down. Now I couldn’t move my arms either. It was at this point that I tried to breathe and realized that I wasn’t trapped in a well, I was under water. I knew this because the harder I tried to breathe, the more panicked I became. I heard a distant voice saying; “We’re trying to help you, Sir! Sir! We’re tying to help you, please hold still!” Then the light started to fade again, prompting me to fight harder than ever, to no avail. As I took my last desperate attempt at a breath, the light disappeared and everything went silent.
In the real world what was happening was exactly what I described Jackass saying above. As he tried to pull out the breathing tube, I bit down on it and tried to take a breath. When nothing happened my body freaked and my lungs sucked even harder, resulting in what is called Negative Pressure Pulmonary Edema which is fancy schmancy Doctor lingo for filling your lungs with your own blood until you basically drown. Remember in The Abyss when the Navy SEAL tells Ed Harris’ character; “Your body breathes liquid for 9 months; it will remember.”? Yeah, I’m calling bullshit on that one. My body remembered, alright; it remembered that unless you have an umbilical cord attached to you AND a placenta somewhere in the immediate vicinity, breathing liquid sucks. The voice I heard was one of the nurses trying to keep me from punching her in the skull again. They brought in some of those “Psycho-straps” and belted down my arms and legs. They almost broke my jaw prying my mouth open to get the tube out, and I’m not sure, but hopefully I bit one of them while they were doing it. Once they got the tube out they gave me massive doses of oxygen at high pressure to try and clear my lungs. What do you get when you force air into liquid? Ever blow through your straw into milk or soda? What do you get? BUBBLES! I had bubbles coming out of every orifice in my skull. Bright pink bubbles coming out of my nose, mouth and ears. I looked like Cujo in convenient human form, or some rabid frat boy doing the gator after one too many Mai Tai’s. This is right about the time NukeMom was brought into the room as they were appraising her of my “condition”. God bless her, I don’t know if I could have handled seeing her in that condition, I know she had a hard time seeing me in mine. She held on as best she could for the next hour while the comedy of errors I described above took place. 90 minutes later I was in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital.
I opened my eyes ever so slowly waiting for them to adjust to the light. But, wait; what’s this? My eyes were already adjusted. The light level in the room was very low and I could hear some soothing mellow instrumental music playing in the background. I could smell floral scents, but also some antiseptic ones as well. I felt a warm sensation on my back that I couldn’t place. It felt good, though, so I didn’t complain. Looking around I became more oriented and realized that I was on my side. Directly in front of me was some sort of table with sheets over it. My view suddenly changed as my head rolled over and I was now on my back looking at the ceiling. Only, I couldn’t see the entire ceiling because there was a beautiful woman’s face blocking my view. She had a smile on her face and a sponge in her hand. My brain put 2 and 2 together to realize that the sensation on my back was this beautiful girl giving me a sponge bath. I tried to fathom what was going on; Beautiful woman, sponge bath, low lights and soothing music. Gazing into her eyes I asked her what any male of the species would ask; “Is this Heaven? Am I dead?” She laughed heartily and said; “No, this is County General, you’re in the ICU. You had a little trouble with your operation.” Things began to clear up for me as I realized where I was, who I was and why I was here. I spent 2 days in ICU and 1 more upstairs. I came home after that and tried to learn how to breathe again without pain. It took awhile.
My family isn’t exactly known for it’s respiratory prowess. I think God got our lungs at the Dollar Store. My asthma and propensity for pneumonia must have made my lungs decide to try and end it all during knee surgery so as to make it look accidental. They failed. The thing that upsets me the most about this whole episode is the fact that it was avoidable. Months later after I was fully recovered I did a google search on “negative pressure pulmonary edema” and got over 153,000 hits. Giving Jackass the benefit of the doubt, I did another search for “negative pressure pulmonary edema during knee surgery” and got 31,300 hits. Practically acting as Jackass’s lawyer should he be sued, I googled “negative pressure pulmonary edema biting on laryngeal mask” and got over 2,900 hits. The information is out there. But for the laziness of not using a $6 dollar plastic bite block, I almost lost my life. Sure, they would have charged my insurance company $185 dollars for the bite block, but it should have been there none the less. I put my life in that guys hands. Was he absent the day they talked about bite blocks? I know NPPE isn’t at epidemic proportions, but so what? If there’s a chance of it happening, shouldn’t you do all in your power to prevent it, especially when your patient has no clue of the ramifications? If he had given me the option before the surgery to use a bite block or not, would he have expected me to say no? IDIOT! The worst part about this whole story? I was back under the knife exactly 1 year later for more cartilage damage. I’m not an idiot, though. I had a different and better surgeon, and instead of general anesthesia I had them give me an Epidural. That’s right, Mr. Lady, I was practically in stirrups! That one didn’t end so well either as it entailed an overly lengthy recovery room stay and the lack of a catheter. I think that nurse still hates me. Thanks for sticking it out to the end.