Sunday, September 29, 2019

Finding the new me after 40 years

I didn't think that shaving off my goatee – which I did on Tuesday – then putting a picture of the newly clean-shaven me on Facebook, was such a big deal.

Not at first.

 But the picture generated 80 comments and 117 thumbs ups, hearts or wows among my friends and acquaintances. Amazing. I've never had any post ever come close to those numbers before now.

As I explained in the original post, I shaved it off because Kim said she'd like to see me without facial hair at least once in our marriage, which will soon reach 39 years together (that's worth a 'wow', I think). Because she's been so phenomenal in my recovery from recent colon resection surgery, I figured the least I could do, like Zoltar, was grant this wish for her.

So I did it. What a guy.

A lot of people have asked her how she likes the new-look me, and she'll tell them, that after her initial shock, it's growing on her.

Nobody asks me how I like it.

Let me put it this way: the other morning, I figured it was time to shave off the three days growth that had creeped out on my face. It had been at least 45 years – maybe longer – since my last full facial shave.

Turns out, I might have forgotten how to shave with a razor. I had trouble negotiating under my nose and I actually drew blood (something a guy on blood thinners doesn't want) when I nicked the corner of my mouth. I was going with the grain, against the grain, up this way, down that way, here, there and everywhere. Oops.

All of this reminded me why I hated to shave in the first place. I don't know how most women do it when they shave every body hair in sight, every day.

Then I looked at the face in the mirror. A hard look. The first real look since I shaved off the goatee on Tuesday. I saw a stronger chin than I remembered, but jowls were forming on the perimeters and they were somewhat accented by dimples I forgot I had. I think I surprised myself. Older? Younger? Thinner? I'm not sure I really have a grasp for myself. I'll allow myself an "I guess it's OK."

For now.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A moving experience

"Your colon is about six feet long. I'm going to remove about a foot of it."

I nodded my head.

Huh? What?

"I don't think there's any cancer, but I'm going to treat it as if it's a cancer surgery. Just to be on the safe side."


That was pretty much my introduction to Dr. Steven Muscoreil a few weeks ago during our scheduled consultation at Davidson Surgical Associates. I'd just had a colonoscopy that showed a polyp, about the length of my thumb, that was lying flat and embedded in the colon wall on my right side.

In my simple layman's mind, I figured it would be done laprascopically, not really knowing what laparascopic surgery really was. I thought it would be an outpatient procedure.

"Normally, your hospital stay would be about five or six days," said Dr. Muscoreil, with the words "five or six days" bouncing around in my brain like an endless echo. "But we can have it done at Thomasville, where they offer the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocol, which could get you out in about three days if all goes well."

"So," I said, choking on my words. "It's not outpatient?"

"Oh, no," said Dr. Muscoreil, standing next to a poster on the wall mapping the human gastrointestinal tract. "This is major surgery."

Every muscle in my body tightened, especially around my throat. And maybe my sphincter, too. The only other time in my life I'd been in a hospital was when I was born 68 years ago.

"Oh, OK," I gulped as he pointed to the poster and explained where and what the colon did. I didn't hear a word he said. All I could hear was "Major surgery."

Scott, Shelly and the impatient patient
To make a long story short (this blog will probably be long enough as it is anyway), I chose to have the surgery done at the Thomasville Medical Center, specifically for the ERAS protocol. Dr. Muscoreil performed the laparascopic surgery in about three hours Friday morning (which happened to be Friday the 13th). When I came to after the anesthesia wore off, sometime around noon, I reckon, I was greeted by my wife Kim, her brother, Greg and his wife, Pam, and my brother, Scott, and his wife, Shelly, both of whom are nurses and had driven in from Oklahoma for this. More on Scott and Shelly later.
•   •   •
There's not a lot I remember about Friday. But one thing I do recall came during the pre-op preparation. I heard voices from a nearby nurses' station listing that morning's operations, one of which was a hysterectomy. When my nurse, Christy, came into my room, I asked her to make sure I wasn't the one scheduled for a hysterectomy. She about burst a gut (maybe I should rephrase that) and said, "We'd make some history, wouldn't we? Thanks for the laugh."

Weak humor is how I compensate for just about everything.
•   •   •
On Saturday morning, after my liquid breakfast, Scott said it was time for me to walk. This was shortly after Dr. Muscoreil had made his rounds and told me he hoped I'd get out of bed as soon as possible. There's nothing that promotes healing faster than walking.

(Interjection: Decades earlier, when Scott was 4 and I was his babysitter [I'm 11 years older than he], my middle brother, David, and I played a sorry joke on Scott. We told him he was adopted and to prove it, I drew up a bogus birth certificate, complete with swirly looking trim on the edges and with the name "Stanley Lipschitz" on it. It made him cry. And now, all these years later, here he was as my caregiver. Uh-oh).

This is my life now
 Scott told me how to roll out of bed, because the belly pain was somewhat acute. He stood me up. He told me to take a step to the left with my left foot, then a step to my right with my right foot. We did that about 10 times.

Then he had me stand in place and march like a soldier. I did about 10 steps like that. It was all about gaining stability.

I needed it, because when we finally launched forward, I couldn't believe how wobbly I was. But we managed about a 100 baby-step yards. During the course of the day, we increased our laps and distance, and I became more stable. It was amazing.

We'd get back to the room and Shelly, who's gone through her own intestinal challenges, offered advice and suggestions. I couldn't wait to see them each day. I couldn't have been in better hands.
•   •   •
Speaking of being in better hands, I have to say the staff at Thomasville Medical, from the nurses to the CNA's to housekeeping, was phenomenal. They always had time for idle chit chat and small talk, for my weak humor and giving me explanations for whatever med was being administered. Remarkable. So I offer many thanks to Lena, Kellie, Lou, Jesse, Twanda, Whitney, Dominique, Christy and Meredith. And those are just the ones I can remember. Thanks to all. Your care was both professional and personal and I know you put the "enhanced" part in Enhanced Recovery After Surgery. Or maybe it was the "recovery" part, I don't know. But thank you. I have not one single complaint.
•   •   •
Scott and Shelly departed for Oklahoma on Sunday, meaning Kim would really have to be the rock she's been through this whole incredible ordeal. Although I've known Shelly for just a handful of days, I gave her a tearful kiss on the cheek and my love.

Then I turned to Scott, embraced him in a big man/bear hug, gave him a weepy kiss on the cheek and thanked him for his care and love and wished them both a safe drive home.

I miss them already.

I wonder when I should tell him his name is really Stanley Wallowitz?

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Animal instincts

I was watching TV the other day – probably a football or baseball game – when one of those Geico gecko commercials came on.

There's a ton of them, and some of them are actually humorous enough to bring a smile to my face. Especially if the game I'm watching isn't all that exciting and my attention span is drifting.

But, you know, never play down the power of a green lizard speaking to you with a Cockney accent about insurance, I always say. And I do. I always say that.

Despite the gecko's overabundant screen time and clever sales pitches, I've never been tempted to purchase any Geico insurance.

I kinda miss the days of Elsie...
 In fact, when I saw my first Geico lizard commercial, back in the days when I was a young man, I'd never heard of Geico. I thought they were a new outfit trying to make themselves famous with an impossibly hokey mascot that, really, sort of creeped me out.

But, no. Geico – which is actually an acronym for "Government Employees Insurance Company" – has been around since 1936, or before television. Or, perhaps interestingly enough, just in time for World War II and all those government employees wearing uniforms.

I just recently found out that the spokesman gecko has a name – "Martin," after the Martin Company ad agency that birthed him. I have it in the back of my head that I've actually heard him called "Martin" or "Marty" in one of those commercials, although I'm not positive about that. But, maybe. There's just so many of them.

Anyway, it suddenly seems like there's animated animal spokesmen, er, spokes people, er, spokes-imals all over the place.

I grew up with Elsie, the Borden cow, but now we have a blue cow promoting lactose-free milk. Blue cows. I'm not getting that. And she doesn't have a nickname, but I'm game. I'm thinking maybe "Flatulent Free Flossie," but something about that doesn't quite pass the sniff test there. Lactaid does have an effective motto, though: "The milk that doesn't mess with you." Yep.

I probably shouldn't admit that I kinda like these guys...
Speaking of cows, there's Chick-fil-A with its "Eat More Chikin" campaign, which is kind of brilliant, when you think about it. The cows, apparently, are illiterate, which automatically gives them subliminal mass appeal in this country.

I think my favorite animal commercial right now is for Serta mattresses. Serta has those goofy-but-adorable numbered sheep that you count while trying to get some shuteye. This most recent commercial has them cuddling up with you on the bed, stretching and yawning, smacking their lips just like you do when you fall asleep.

And, of course, in a stroke of marketing genius, you can order these fluffy stuffed sheep off the Internet and take them to bed with you, like you did with Teddy bears back when you were a kid.

Yep. I'm watching way too much television...