Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Surgery Tips

Mickie McGee

Lest you think this column is destined to be a running commentary on all my aches and pains, let me assure you; it is not. I know there is nothing more boring than a whiner who insists on sharing all his health issues with anybody who will listen. I promise that won’t happen.

Having said that, and just recently having had a part of one of my appendages replaced, I must share with you a few tips should any of you be facing surgery anytime in the near to distant future.

My surgery to replace a worn out knee was performed at Doctors Hospital two weeks ago and I was fortunate enough (if anything remotely related to extreme pain and loss of copious amounts of blood can be considered fortunate) to stay in the hospital’s new state-of-the-art Human Motion Institute.
Doctors Hospital in Augusta holds the distinction of being in the top 10% of the nation for Orthopedic Services.

My room was spacious, shiny, and overlooked the parking lot, a step-up from the usual tar roof views I have gotten in the past. In fact, I think I might have been the first patient to use this very room since it was finished a few weeks ago.

Still, a hospital is a hospital and as a vacation spot, it ranks pretty low on the Must See list. There are also things you should be aware of long before your admission. For instance:

Advice: You will get more than enough of this before your surgery. Friends and/or family who have had your particular operation may say it was “a piece of cake.” They are lying through their teeth.
Surgery is a pain. It hurts. A lot.

Preparation: When your instructions say “Nothing to eat or drink past midnight,” that is exactly what it means. Trust me, even a Tic-Tac or a sip of water after that deadline will eventually send waves of nausea over you the size of Hurricane Katrina’s. You don’t want that.

Check-In: Be as truthful as possible when filling out your admission forms. Stating that you weigh forty pounds less than you do will do nothing but cause you grief in the long run. Remember, the amount of anesthesia you receive during surgery is directly related to the number of pounds you weigh. You weigh more, you get more. I suggest your writing down 400 pounds. I wish I had.

Hospital Beds: Make sure you get an old one. I say this because I was placed in a bed so sophisticated that it could calculate your weight while you were in it. My husband, the nosy so-and-so, discovered this as he sat vigil by my bed. [Note to hubby: I don’t care what the bed said, I do NOT weigh 250 pounds!]

Anesthesia: Ask for lots of it. Preferably gas. Instead, I received an epidural, a procedure, I was told, whereby an IV is inserted into a location somewhere near your spine. Dear Hearts, “somewhere near” your spine just is not specific enough. You want that needle to be dead-on target.

Anesthetist: Check credentials. That could be the janitor standing behind you. You never know. The girl/woman/witch (I never saw her face) who attempted my epidural placed the needle in the wrong spot and my leg (not the one operated on, by the way) began flailing around uncontrollably and it felt like I was being electrocuted. This happened not once, but twice! It took three days to finally get the feeling back in my good leg and, oddly enough, only one day for the repaired one.

Surgery: Speaking of anesthesia, if you are lying on the operating table and you hear the sounds of a chain saw running and smell burning flesh, or if you hear someone say, “Hey, can you stop that thing from beating? It’s throwing off my concentration,” you have not had enough anesthesia and should immediately ask for more. You have a right to be asleep when doctors are playing hot potato with your body parts.

Recuperation: You need lots of outside help when you are recuperating from any sort of surgery, especially surgery that leaves you incapable of walking or going potty on your own. Enlist the help of sympathetic friends and family. You know, the ones who go “Awww, sugar dumplin,’ I know it hurts. What can I do for you? Get you some pain medicine? Some diet Coke? Some banana pudding? Pay your Macy’s bill?” An understanding husband who fluffs your pillows and gives you blood thinner shots in your belly without making Boris Karloff sounds is also a plus.

And if you can get your sweet 87-year-old-mama to be there at your every beck and call, make your beds, bring you sweet tea, wipe your feverish brow, and rub liniment on your legs, you’re way ahead of the game. Do that and you’ll be up and around in no time.

I’m counting on it.


Mickie McGee was raised in a small town forty miles north of Augusta, Georgia. Her childhood was chocked full of exciting, sometimes traumatic, events and thus, her penchant for writing about them. She writes a personal column,"Dear Hearts," in her weekly hometown paper. 

© Mickie McGee

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