Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What's Going On Here?

I want to note the passing of Dan Fogelberg, a noted songwriter and singer from the 70's and 80's, most notably for the song "Leader of the Band", a beautiful song in memory of his father. Mr. Fogelberg died of prostate cancer at the age of 56. What surprised me is that prostate cancer is one of the cancers with the highest cure rate of any cancer if there is early detection of the cancer. By the time a man hits the age of fifty, once a year his doctor says those famous words, "bend over". I don't know what they tell women when it's time for a mammogram, but I imagine their blood runs cold too.

Ordinarily, my doctor lets a student from Georgetown come in and do the work up on things like a physical. My doctor outweighs me by 90 pounds and played starting right side tackle on the Notre Dame 1963 National Championship Football Team. He is the one that sticks his finger up my ass. Not some poor kid that I might accidentally put through the wall. Me and the doc came to an understanding years ago that I really wasn't gay, nor was I bi-curious, although I am open minded.

When I was in my doctoral program, one of my professors, Dr. Paul Bloom, wrote a speculative piece published in the Journal of Marketing, that posed the question, "what if Science fails us?" In the mid 70's, the popular, and even educated belief was that Science was going to cure Cancer, just like it had cured polio in the 50's, it was just a matter of time. This is one of those childish delusions you learn to give up as you grow up and realize that the World is not the perfect place you once dreamed it was, and saying, "I know I can" three times wasn't really the magic charm, not that I don't still try.

The reason I am going through all this is that I have two herniated discs in my lower back. So, when Crankster's sister Ella went into surgery on the 21st of December, I figured, why not. Since I had put the Existential Fix in for her, I might as well ride on her coattails. So I booked an MRI, followed up by surgery. I may be open minded, but a herniated disc inching its way up my spinal canal is another item not included in things I am open minded about.

I consulted my cadre of medical specialists, namely Wicked H, who secretly runs all of the medical services on the Eastern Seaboard and the Maritime Zones, not to mention the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island; and Wandering Girl, leading authority of medical technology, physical therapy, and interior decoration, headquartered in Southern Virginia, available to the entire World. Please note, the two operating room nurses shown below are neither Wicked H nor Wandering Girl. They are two of the actual operating room nurses who actually carved me up like a Thanksgiving turkey after I loosened up the anaesthesiologist with some of my best operating room humor.

Next, I needed a pickle-loving neurological genius and surgeon to boot. Naturally, Dr. Nathan Moscowitz was just waiting for the opportunity to open up my back and fix me up and send me on my way since I knew where to find perfect half done dill pickles. We both had positive mental attitudes, and were naturally likable fellows. A perfect match.

I was right at the part where M@ was running past this guy when the lights went out. No wonder the nurses were laughing. They knew I'd never finish what I had started, and it really had nothing to do with M@ (sorry M@). The next thing I understood was that I was lying on a tennis ball (which was my back where the surgery had occurred) and as I became conscious, a nurse came over and they gave me two percosets, which I took. As it kicked in, I asked about the strange pain in my side. Apparently, I had cracked a rib on the operating table. Instead of going home later in the day, I was now being held over to the next day for pain management. Somewhere, deep inside beneath the drugs, I knew what this meant. But I have to admit that it was buried underneath of six and a half feet of I don't give a shit. Percosets can have that effect when you haven't really come out of anesthesia yet, and they don't want you to really know what kind of pain you're really in.

The real piece d'resistance came at three am (3 AM). Ann, the Best Nurse to Ever Walk Planet Earth, came in and said that the doctor had written an order for morphine. Since she knew that I was diabetic, and had talked to me about the true appreciation of someone else giving you a shot in a place you can't reach so you're not giving yourself a shot in the same places again, she explained what a subcutaneous shot was, and then she gave me one with the morphine. And I slept like a child with no pain for four (4) hours. It may not be what the drug addicts are after, but I was absolutely in heaven, sleeping with no pain. Pure Belgian dark chocolate. I promise, I'm going to buy her a box of classy chocolate and take it back to her. she deserves it!

Judy came to the hospital to get me, and just to "keep me manageable", the new nurse automagically gave me two more percosets so I could go home. The drive home is when my wife explained to me what actually happened. It seems that the disc that ruptured in 1996 and had leaked out and up into the spinal canal had calcified and turned to stone. My good friend the surgeon had evidently never needed to use a hammer and chisel to remove stone from a spine before, nor has he read of it anywhere. He also got my spinal canal unplugged. He had been worried that the sciatic nerve had been trapped for so long that it wouldn't work correctly (stop hurting and burning). The odds were 1 in 3 it wouldn't work. We had all computed that the good result was 2 in 3 about as fast as the other two (Judy was there, Judy is always there). The Doc knew after the operation. It was probably two weeks before I realized that my leg worked differently.About the same time that it took to realize that I wasn't using an alien tongue to eat with.

There still is no cure for cancer, Dan Fogelberg just died of the most curable cancer, prostate cancer, I'm still pulling for Ella and won't stop for anything or any reason, I have a cracked rib that's healing for being a big person who spent a lot of time face down on a rack in an operating room while a neat guy chiseled a stone out of my spine, and I found a neat place to get a deli combo of hot corned beef, pastrami, cole slaw and mustard on rye. Y'all come visit now, y'hear!