CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: A Report from Hell & Back

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By W.T. Wimpy Hiroto
(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on July 14, 2010.)

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Mothers of all sorts I get along with famously (except maybe “in-law” and a bad “f” word) especially Teresa, Hubbard and Nature. The latter was in an awfully playful mood last Wednesday. That was the day CR2S came home after 19 days of temporary residence at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.  She celebrated my homecoming with a special gift: A 5.4 earthquake, my favorite [fear.] Too bad I wasn’t in an MRI contraption at the time. That would have been hilarious.
Whether the facts of my situation are of any import or not, there should be material and commentary worth a column (or two, or three.)  Go ahead and conduct a poll.  I will continue while the votes are being counted . . .

On Friday, June 18, 8:25 a.m., I was wheeled into ER (Emergency Room) at Cedars-Sinai unable to walk with a pain level of eight. After admission I spent five hours supine in a crowded corridor while everyone (I’m sure) scurried around looking for an open bed for moi. I told several important looking staff people that I would be comfortable in Liz’s (Taylor) private quarters. To no avail.
The weekend popped up at a lousy time for it meant the launching of extensive examinations and tests to determine what ailed me would have to wait until Monday. An untimely iodine allergy caused much consternation but thankfully it is 2010 when such problems can be solved without panic or doubt. Thursday, Jun. 24, 1:30 p.m., was designated VJ (Vain glorious Jappo) Day.

We performed an L2 laminectomy and found there to be significant hyperthrophic ligamentum flavum . . . adherent to the dura.  We performed bilateral mesial facetectomies of L2-3 . . it was noted that his right side was significantly more stenotic than his left . . . the decision was to proceed with the microdiskectomy.  (We) found there to be a significantly large herniated disk fragment that was friable (and) removed this in its entirety . . . Prior to final wound closure, all lap counts, needle counts and sponge counts were correct . . . Estimated blood loss was 300 mL.

Assessment:  Mr. Hiroto is a very pleasant (their words) gentleman who is status post lumbar revision for progressive bilateral multi-level lumbar radiculopathy with lower extremity weakness and pain.  The patient’s postoperative course has been unremarkable.

I departed OR with the misguided belief that practicing Japanese stoicism would be better than good ole American realism. You know, that old b.s. about gaman/shimbo over a pain killer. It wasn’t until after 48 hours of suffering that I finally asked for nirvana, a jolt via IV. Any normal human being will tell you that constipation is preferred over excruciating pain when the chips are down.

So there I lay talking to a dog.  And then arguing with a brother (who has passed along). Waving two arms in opposite circular motions because my room had become as cold as a morgue.  Eerie. Weird. Scary. But at least the hurt was  momentarily forgotten. Such is the magic of morphine.

Three days of post-op and I was granted a coveted spot in CSMC’s renowned Rehabilitation Unit. The nice Japanese man in Room 7904 who wears an Italia cap was scheduled to begin his slooow road to recovery.

(I should have worn  Espana during FIFA. But if I didn’t wear something I would’ve been tabbed the Wild Man from Borneo, what with hair going every which a way and the decision made not to shave during the entire hospital stay.)

CR2S had a spinal fusion some 11 years ago but had never been in a hospital bed before or since. And I’ve always been a renegade when it comes to proper social behavior regarding patient etiquette.

A hospital is just about the most ominous edifice imaginable. No matter how dressed up, modernized and presentable, it does not have a pleasant aura. Friends of patients are understandably concerned and compassionate, hoping and praying for the best. Which is translated into visitations and telephone calls.

Both sides of the miserable equation are uncomfortable. And the concern is on display with such probing questions as, “How you feeling?” Or a Pollyannaish uttering of “You’re looking great!” I mean, geez.

I went into CSMC incognito and stayed there sans visitors and well-wishers. I would prefer the same treatment, for awhile at least, at home. I’m sure my radii-shrinking circle of friends will understand.  E-mail welcome.
(Being in a hospital for an extended period of time is like being in an alien world; if you remove the pain and apprehension, it’s kinda cool. Have never been so pampered in my lifetime. Cedars is peopled by the finest of professionals, I’m sure, and that excellence blankets the lower echelons as well. As a live-alone I already miss the warmth and concern of the two most-oft asked questions: “Are you in pain?” and “Have you had a B.M. today?”)

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W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached by e-mail. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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