This is not a post I wanted to write. I blog about many things, but I think I have yet to blog about this particular thing. And yet, here we are.
Let us briefly retrace my medical steps of the last week. On Sunday night, I broke my stupid hand on a stupid apple. I then spent many hours in the emergency room with my long-suffering husband, and when we left we had a prescription for a heavy-duty narcotic (Narcotic 1). I had told the ER staff that I don’t do well with narcotics; in fact, most of them make me throw up. So when I mentioned this, they threw in a prescription for an anti-nausea med to take with it. This was very nice of them. However, I was still worried about taking the medication they’d prescribed, because—in case you haven’t noticed from the years of my neurotically writing about it—I fear nothing as much as I fear vomiting. The next morning (Monday), I saw my primary care doctor. I mentioned that I had been given a narcotics prescription but that I was afraid to use it. My primary care doctor, who is very nice, gave me a prescription for something “non-narcotic,” and said that it was unlikely to make me ill (we’ll call this the Not-Narcotic).
I did a small victory dance. Surely this medication would be the answer to my (pain) prayers. When Otto came home that night, he’d filled my prescriptions. I happily popped two of the Not-Narcotics, looking forward without to my pain ending without any subsequent silliness. Within about 20 minutes, I was completely stoned. Why yes, I AM a cheap date, why do you ask?
This was fine, of course, because I was at home, not using heavy machinery, and headed to bed. However, I was somewhat surprised to find the non-narcotic medication made me, well, stupid. No matter! I’d barely slept the night before, and looked forward to finally getting some sleep.
The next morning, I awoke refreshed and not at all hung over. Hooray! Off to surgery! We arrived at the hospital, I donned the stunning hospital gown, was poked with an IV, and that’s pretty much all I remember. I think they gave me Versed. Or maybe this was just what happens when you start down that road to becoming a junkie. Hard to say. Anyway, one assumes they gave me some sort of pain relief while they were busy filleting my hand. I woke up in some pain, and they gave me something else. Plus, they sent me home with yet another prescription—we’ll call this one Narcotic 2. I was dopey and sleepy and Otto took me home and put me to bed. The next thing I remember, I was taking something—I’m not sure which narcotic it was (oh, the shame)—and taking the anti-nausea drug with it. But! You know what happened next, right? I got nauseous! Even though I wasn’t supposed to! Oh, the humanity! So later I switched back to the Not-Narcotic, though it didn’t really handle all the pain.
The next morning, the surgical nurse called to check on me. I reported that it appeared that someone had run my hand over with a truck. She was not amused. I also reported that despite the anti-nausea medication, the narcotics were making me feel quite ill. She apologized profusely, and offered up yet another prescription, this time for a medication that might not make me sick. (If there was a narcotic that was not going to make me sick, why wasn’t that the first thing that they prescribed??) Otto dutifully went and filled that prescription for me. I didn’t try Narcotic 3 until the next day, but it took exactly one dose for me to figure out that it made me just as sick as all the other drugs. Yes, I took it with the anti-nausea medication. Yes, it still made me puke. I HAVE A VERY SPECIAL GIFT.
On Thursday and Friday, I stuck to the Not-Narcotic, except at bedtime, when I allowed myself one dose of the heavier medication. It seemed to work—my pain was mostly managed, and I wasn’t overly nauseous.
This brings us to Saturday. This is the part where it gets hard to write. If you are squeamish, now would be a good time to go read something else. Anything else, really. Ahem.
Because Otto is a rock star, and also because he continually goes above and beyond for his students, he was away aaaaaaaall day on Saturday running a workshop for his kids. That meant that Monkey and I were home alone. Now is a good time to note that Monkey had a terrible cold and was tired and cranky, which suited me just fine, honestly, because I was also tired and cranky. Clearly it was going to be a day of sloth, television, and good old-fashioned rest. Except.
It was around lunch time when it first occurred to me. I was trying to get Monkey to eat something. “You have to eat something,” I said. “Just a little something?”
“But I’m not hungry,” he whined. Well, I understood that. I hadn’t been very hungry, either. And then I took a quick mental catalog of what I’d eaten in the past week. Tapioca pudding. I’d asked Otto to buy it for me—something I normally never eat—because it sounded good. Some coffee. Half a bowl of cereal, maybe? Eggs, one day. Lots of ice cream and chocolate. And, of course, the cursed, stupid (yet delicious) apple crisp. Not exactly a balanced diet. And the good news was, I was actually feeling hungry. That was a good sign. Maybe I was finally on the mend.
I don’t remember what I ended up eating, but it was probably the first thing close to a real meal I’d had in five or more days. Monkey ate, I ate, and all was well. Right up until I went into the bathroom.
(Listen, I wasn’t kidding about the squeamish finding something else to read. It’s about to get difficult in here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
So here’s the thing about narcotics: apparently, they can cause constipation. I didn’t really know that, or maybe I did, somewhere in the back of my brain? Certainly it hadn’t occurred to me this past week. At least, not until that fateful trip to the bathroom. And no, I am not going to regale you with the gory details, because even I am not quite that gross. What I WELL tell you is that after what seemed an interminable amount of time (most of it spent trying not to whimper too loudly), Monkey came to the door, knocked, and said, “Mom, what are you DOING in there? You’ve been in there FOREVER!”
Had I not been in excruciating pain, maybe I could’ve whipped out a snappy answer for him. I could’ve said I was knitting a sweater, or that I was assembling a ship in a bottle. Instead, I merely managed a weak, “Honey, Mom’s not feeling so good right now. I’ll be out in a few minutes.” He clearly found this answer unsatisfying, and walked away grumbling about how weird grown-ups are.
As for me, I sat there filled with regret. Regret, and, evidently, a week’s worth of waste product. Somehow I had failed to notice my body’s apparent hiatus from the natural order of things. And now I was paying for it with a kind of pain that made the discomfort in my hand feel like a gentle tickle. Drugs, man. They will FUCK. YOU. UP.
When I finally exited the bathroom, I did the only logical thing possible—I called a girlfriend to cry. She was kind enough not to 1) hassle me for being stupid, or 2) chastise me for calling to tell her that I couldn’t poop. In fact, she brought me some pear juice. That’s a real friend, right there. (Real friends still like you, even when they know you’re LITERALLY full of shit.)
Somehow I made it through the rest of the day. I drank copious amounts of juice and water, and ate nothing but apples and dried apple slices. I tried to think, um, soft and soothing and, er, mobile thoughts. Otto arrived home in the wee hours, and collapsed into bed. I thoughtfully waited until the next morning to inform him that I needed him to go to the store and buy me all manner of embarrassing products. Because he loves me, and because he was probably just a little bit scared, he did exactly what I asked, and didn’t even complain. It takes a special kind of love between a man and a woman to survive a husky request for Preparation H.
Of course my other response to this turn of events was to immediately stop taking any and all prescription drugs at my disposal. This was only logical, as it was the evil drug that had caused my intestines to turn against me. Unfortunately, my medication fast lasted about 3 hours before I was in so much pain that Otto asked me what the hell I was doing. So maybe that particular course of action wasn’t, shall we say, well thought out. I took a half dose of the Not-Narcotic to see if that would suffice. It seemed to work, and today I was all set to just switch to Advil.
I was quite literally about to pop the Advil in my mouth this morning when the phone rang. It was my very chipper hand surgeon, calling to see how I was doing. (Side note: I am suspicious of relentlessly happy medical professionals. Right or wrong, someone who is that happy about driving screws into my hand raises my hackles.) I mentioned that I was switching to Advil, and he became very concerned. Hey, did you know that Advil can actually inhibit bone growth? It can! Advil BAD! But he said I could take Tylenol, if I wanted. I, of course, couldn’t find any Tylenol in the house. But I promised him I would buy some. You know, to add to my pharmacy. “You know,” he said, “you could just take half of the other pill.” What a good idea! Why didn’t I… oh, right.
Well, all’s well that ends well. I’m pleased to report that my… um, situation… has mostly resolved itself. Unfortunately, it now feels like every muscle in my body has been stretched to the breaking point. The good news is that this means—in comparison—my hand doesn’t hurt all that much! The bad news is that I imagine this is probably what it feels like after having been tackled by a 300-pound linebacker. And while everyone is very sympathetic to my purple fingers and bulky splint (“Oh you poor thing, what happened?”), it’s a lot harder to garner sympathy in polite company for having plugged yourself up with a bunch of medication that mostly just made you feel sick and stupid.
This leaves me with just one burning question: how do people end up addicted to this stuff? It not only makes me feel dumb, and often makes me puke, it completely arrests peristalsis. Are there people in the world who get off on being pukey, stupid, and constipated?? Am I missing something? I guess I’m in no danger of addiction. Learn from my mistakes, kids: If you must take pain killers, don’t forget the fiber.