I am not used to being the bystander. For the many hours I have spent in hospitals, I was usually the patient. Now the tables are turned. Dennis is the patient. He is getting his left shoulder replaced. He has known for about three years that he needed to do this, but he finally gave in, when this year, his shoulder ached continually and he couldn’t do the lifting that he had done in the past.
Dennis has said that once we hit 70, our wheels seem to fall off. So true. I had my left hip replaced last November. I got to the point that I could not walk, sit, or lay down without pain. It was time to throw the old hip away, and bring a new one in. The surgery was a success, and my mobility is back.
Now it is Dennis’ turn. He has never had major surgery, so this is a first for him. Pretty lucky guy, that at age of 73, he is getting his first ever big surgery. I was 6 years old when I had my first surgery. I had my appendix removed, and the following year, the tonsils were gone, and then the list goes on and on for years of strange things happening with strange surgeries.
We had to arrive at the hospital this past Friday at 8:15 a.m. Okay, that’s quite doable. It’s like being employed again. Set alarms, get up, and shower, get dressed, do makeup (for me, not Dennis), and jump in the car and off we go. What complicated this whole process is that we had a viewing of our home late that afternoon. Fortunately, about a week ago, I did a deep cleaning of the house, so it was more of straightening, clearing off counter tops, and making sure everything looked open and inviting. Before leaving at 7:30 a.m., we went around the house and turned on all the lights.
We arrived at our designated time. Dennis was prepped for surgery. After that, I got to sit with him until they rolled him into surgery, which would take 2 to 2-1/2 hours. As he was in surgery, I found a cafe to get a cup of coffee, and then I took it outside to what they call “The Healing Garden.” It is a beautiful and peaceful spot between the towers of the hospital. I finished my coffee, and then hiked to my car parked around the other side of the building. I needed my jacket. It is warm in Columbia, Missouri, but hospitals keep their temperature low (to prevent growth of bacteria and viruses), and then I could comfortably sit and wait.
I forgot that hospitals are always cold. I am curious what their air conditioner bills are—well, really, I don’t want to know. I sat in the waiting room with a smattering of other folks waiting on their loved ones. I checked the screen for the status. Dennis is assigned a number, and it tells if he is being prepared for surgery, in surgery, in recovery, etc. I guess they cannot print their names because we could be violating HIPPA or some other privacy issue. Really? It doesn’t say what he is having done, but I guess they don’t take risks of giving out patients’ names.
Now I understand how Dennis, and in the past all my family, were as they waited while I was in surgery. It’s really boring, and there is nothing interesting at all in the waiting room. I dare not leave, because as soon as the surgery is complete, the doctor will come out to speak with me about the surgery. Then I will wait again, while Dennis is in the recovery room, until they take him to his room. This was a long day, and fortunately I had my laptop with me to keep me busy.
Around 12:30 p.m., the doctor came out to tell me that all went well, and that I should go get some lunch because Dennis would be in recovery for about 90 minutes. I left, and returned the same time he was being brought to his room. I expected him to be groggy. I am always groggy after surgery. I sleep for a good 12 hours after I have been under anesthesia. Dennis was wide awake and perky! He was happy and in no pain. It was eight hours before he asked for something for pain and only wanted Tylenol. They had not ordered anything that weak. They gave him a pain medication, and told him that they will half the dose the second day, and if that works, he can just take Tylenol. Who doesn’t have pain when someone cuts off their bone? I am impressed, because I would be pushing that button for pain relief, and he is such a trooper!
By day 2, and he was fit as a fiddle. He had occupational therapy to teach him how to get dressed with one arm, and physical therapy (although he is not allowed to move his shoulder yet). They sent him home around noon. He was really tired because he did not sleep well the night before. He started to feel some pain, and took his pain meds, and went to bed early. I woke a few hours later to take another dose, and he finally slept through the night.
This is my first time as the caretaker. I hope I do a good job. He thinks he will just pop up and start doing what he has always done within a couple days. Surprise—surprise! That’s not going to happen. He is a novice at surgery. He will be in pain. Fortunately, he is able to walk. But, he is going to need help getting dressed and undressed. He is going to be in pain because they cut off his bones. Of course, he has lived with this bad shoulder for a long time. I must say he does have a high threshold for pain. But, I do believe he will be in pain for a while.
We have all the big work done at our home. We are going into August, which traditionally has been really hot, and the grass doesn’t grow fast. He will not be able to cut the grass. I cannot do it because the ground is hilly and I am not experienced on his riding mower. If for some reason, we have have cooler weather and rain, and the grass grows a lot, I will find a professional company to come cut our 3 acres. It’s probably only 1-1/2 acres. The other half is wooded.
So, as his caretaker, I will make sure he gets fed. I will cook his favorite food. I have been married to him for six years this August, and I don’t know his “favorite” food because he pretty much likes everything. He is very easy to please. The night before surgery, we went out to dinner, and had a special meal, since it will be a bit before he will want to go out to dinner. He will be in a sling, and have only one arm to eat. It looks like my main job will be cutting up his food, and helping him dress. Yes, that is what I did for all my toddler sons! Also, on the plus side, I won’t have to entertain him, like I did for toddlers. I think if I have to go to the store, I won’t have to hire a babysitter. This is so much better than having a toddler.
I posted a photo of him in his hospital bed on Facebook. Whenever I post him on my Facebook page, I get more “likes” and comments than I do on anything else. He’s like when folks post cute puppy dogs, they just all hit the “like” button! This man is loved by everyone. Even our nurse technician wants to adopt us, or does she want us to adopt her? I could do that—she was the most delightful young lady.
I want to give a shout out to Boone Hospital Center. It is a great hospital. Every time we have to be there, it has been a great experience.
So, Dennis is on the road to recovery. He is not giving me real experience at caregiving. I am thankful for that. I need to be inched into that role. Watch out, world, he will be out an about before you know it.
A few photos from the Healing Garden and the beautiful landscaping at Boone Hospital that makes it a delightful place for a visitor.