Post-Operative Care

I’m so tired, I feel like crying. It’s hard work pushing my boy to read and get exercise, keeping the dog walked, and helping my husband with everything from getting snacks and drinks and getting into bed. At least he’s able to be upright now, but his knee is bigger than a football. I guess you’d have to ask if it is bigger than a regulation-sized football and I’d probably say yes. It’s lumpier than a football too. It looks as though he has two knee caps, one in the normal position, and one at a strange angle on the side. Do you remember watching Joe Theismann when that defensive lineman caught him with his shoulder at knee height in 1986?

Nick, my boy, is tired of babysitting Dad and Mike, my husband, is tired of being an invalid. I’m just plain tired. At least Mike is rested enough to set his own alarm for meds tonight. That way I can sleep through two alarms until 6:00am. Will I? I don’t know. I have this way of waking up at the same time each night no matter what.

Here’s my advice to you if you know you’re going to care for someone who gets a torn meniscus trimmed during a laparoscopic surgery:

1) Don’t get sick the week before the surgery. You might feel mostly better in time, but you won’t be able to keep up.

2) Don’t let anyone in the family get sick the week before the surgery. They might feel better in time, but you won’t be able to keep up.

3) Don’t schedule surgery during midwinter break. You’ll still have to get up at 12:30am and 4:30am to administer pain meds yet in the afternoon, you’ll be hauling three boys to Sky High to jump on trampolines while you try to sleep in a cold car for an hour.

4) Don’t forget to board the dog. You won’t have time to run him to the park. If you wait until the last minute, then ask if they have room the week of midwinter break, they won’t. Too many of your friends on Facebook are in Disneyland and Cabo San Lucas and their damn dogs now have priority.

5) Don’t check Facebook when you get a moment to sit down. First, you’ll fall asleep if you sit down for more than ten minutes at a time and second, you’ll harbor a cold and jealous place in your heart for those who traveled to beautiful vacation resorts and posted photos of frosty fruity drinks with a beach sunset in the background. You won’t be allowed to do to these people what you are thinking, but just in case, maybe you shouldn’t schedule lunch with any of them after the break is over either.

5) Don’t let the surgery staff convince you to take the last surgery of the day. They’ll push you out the door too quickly and, when you have to call the on-call doctor at 1:45am , he won’t call back. You’ll have to call again at 2:20am to tell him your husband’s heart rate has been 120 for the last three hours, and even then, he’ll sound annoyed that you called and send you to the ER anyway. Your husband will bleed on your white carpet on the way out of the house and on your light tan upholstery in your car on the way to the ER, which you may or may not remember how to get to at that hour with a residual cold making you dizzy. When you finally arrive at the ER, it will be 2:55 am and your son will flop his entire body across your lap in those upright little chairs because he is rightly tired. No one will ask if you are tired. By the time the ER staff confirms what you told them that you suspected when you walked in, which was that your husband was having a bad reaction to the pain meds the surgical staff gave him but can’t positively identify over the phone and that he is not, in fact, having a heart attack, it will be a beautiful dawn outside. You won’t want to see the beautiful pink and orange dawn at 7:25 am on your way home from the ER.

Oh, I’ve lost track – 6) Don’t get everyone in your house used to having fruit smoothies and omelets for breakfast. That way, when you come home at 7:35am after a night in the ER, you’ll be able to throw Cocoa Pebbles and Captain Crunch in bowls and put milk on the table, except for your husband. You can have your boy pour the milk for your husband.

7) Freeze food ahead of time they way they tell you to do when you’re going to have a baby. Pizza gets old and you don’t have time to cook. Even hamburger helper will be too difficult for you to manage.

8) If you haven’t already done it for football season, install a mini fridge next to the couch, then stock it with junk food and sugary drinks. That will cut your kitchen experience in half. You might also install a toaster oven above it to further reduce your kitchen time by a third.

9) Let the dog chase the cat. It should be the only exercise that the dog needs, except maybe chasing a ball the bored boy throws repeatedly down the stairs. Both the cat and the dog will live for three days without the dog going to the park. If they don’t, there’s one less animal to take care of.

10) Assign simple tasks to the twelve-year-old boy. He can keep the water dishes and food dishes full for the cat and the dog. If he can’t, you will have one or two fewer animals to take care of when he goes back to school. It’s cruel, but some moms lie and say that the hamster accidentally opened the sliding glass door and escaped out to the forest to live the wild life he’d always dreamed of.

7, wait, we’re on 9, no 11) Buy ice. Your ice maker won’t be able to keep up with demand. On the day they tell you to change the dressing, you’ll get a load of that baseball-sized lump under your husband’s skin and insist that he follow the schedule for anti-inflammatories and ice.

12) Unless you want another mess to clean up, don’t let your twelve-year-old boy watch when you change the dressing. You might want to avert your eyes as well if you don’t want the whole living room to turn into the scene of the Bella’s first singing competition in the movie ‘Pitch Perfect.’

13) Don’t tell the neighbor boy that those dried brown dots that are still on the carpet and the foyer floor are blood unless you want to reenact the scene from the pie-eating contest in the movie ‘Stand By Me.’

14) Don’t let your son’s friend invite him over to play on the day after the surgery. He and his mom will text you five times in two hours, trying to confirm the time and pickup location, while you are trying to sleep three hours before your husband’s next scheduled medication. Your husband can’t be trusted to administer his own medication because he’s still loopy, and has an elevated heart rate. Besides, you need your son to sit next to your husband and fetch snacks and water the way you did for him the first eleven years of his life.

16, oh hell) Sleep in the guest room. You husband won’t want you accidentally touching his knee, not even with your frozen toes after he’s stolen all of the covers. You don’t want to sleep on the remaining slice of the bed after he gets situated with all of his supportive pillows. And he’ll want to turn on the TV at 3:36am when his knee hurts and he can’t sleep and that will wake you up. Draw the blinds in the guest room and turn off your phone.

15) Sleep when the baby sleeps, when he’s watching TV, when he’s reading a magazine, and when he’s playing video games, and ignore your phone when he texts you in the middle of the night because his knee hurts. It’s supposed to hurt, dammit. He had surgery on it two days ago.

Thank you for listening, jules


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