Up until seven days ago, I was a hospital virgin. Other than the day I was born, and two other uneventful visits to the ER, I had never really seen the inner workings of any hospital. As strange as this may sound, I was really excited to simply experience this new thing.
Last Friday was the day. And if I had to summarize, the last week would be something like this:
Friday: Barfy barf barf ... nausea sucks and anesthetic always makes me barf. Thank Goddess for intravenous Gravol.
Saturday: My entire surgical team are ROCK STARS. Pain was minimal. Movement brought on pain, but not severe by any means. My hubby is a ROCK STAR when it comes to nursing me back to health.
Sunday: I am a ROCK STAR.
Monday: Sleep is my friend.
Tuesday to Today: Let the healing itch begin ... and continue.
Rewind seven days. The Out patients' or Day surgery area of the Belleville hospital was lonely that day when I arrived about 9:40a.m. but the preoperative machine was in working order, nurses buzzing around. If I could get a message to all of those nurses, I would apologize for staring. But truly, as a person laying on a stretcher, you are the most interesting entertainment we have. And personally, I just love sitting and watching you. I couldn't help but wonder if you all enjoy your jobs. Do you know that you are a crucial spoke in the wheel of humanity?
I was undressed. I was weighed. I was given the Anesthetist's personal pre-op cocktail of Lyrica, Celebrex, and two Tylenol. Within a mere thirty minutes, I was loopified. And this made the short walk into the pristine, shiney operating room, very interesting to say the least. Upon entering the actual operating room, I was met with sterile equipment, gloved hands, and many sets of smiling eyes beneath dark blue surgical masks. I felt confident and in good hands. Before I went under, I was asked two final qualifying and clarifying questions:
What is my name? What are we doing today? No one told me there'd be a quiz! I aced it ... loopy and all. Next came the wonderful oxygen-rich mask, and a calming voice telling me to take four deep breaths. Another calming voice telling me to nod when I feel like I'm sinking into the bed. And that's all she wrote. It was lights out.
I've heard horror stories. You've heard horror stories. But I can say that my first surgical experience was quite awesome. To be honest, I wasn't so much worried about the procedure itself, my two older sisters had already had it done successfully. I was more concerned about something else. You see, I was completely honest about my Cannabis use. And that scared the shit out of me. But the modern-day ME knows this is the only medicine for my biology, so it was important to me that it was taken seriously. I feared that it wouldn't be taken seriously. And I feared how I would react to that. We in the "movement" think everyone sees what we see. But this is so not true. For every medical professional who knows Cannabis is medicine, there are an equal number who do not. They're not taught about it. Expecting medical professionals to know about Cannabis is silly. Any education they get is on their own terms, time, and their own dime. Ain't nobody got time for that in a 40+ hour work week of saving lives. Because of this fact, I was and still am ready and willing to answer any questions any medical professional has about my use of this plant.
All in all, I wasn't sure how much respect my medicine would garner me. Would they be offended? Would they too give me some silly asinine joke about the munchies? You can imagine my relief upon realizing that my whole team put the capital P in the word Professional. In fact, I was advised that I could have partaken before coming in by one nurse, because as she stated, "that too must be kept at normal and regular levels in the body like other medicines." Amazing.
This seems like a natural segue into post-operative medications and pain control. I had a surgical consult almost a month ago during which time I briefly touched on my use of Cannabis as medicine. Unfortunately, I let my fear and the fact that Cannabis is illegal to limit my discussion on the subject. If I could re-wind I would explain more fully all of the ways in which I ingest. From smoking to taking Cannabis infused olive oil in caplets, to using salve made with cannabis infused coconut oil, it's now all that I use for many many ailments. This ailment was no different.
Nausea. Is there a more basic urge than to eject the contents of one's stomach? And what power that diaphragm possesses! It's crazy to think that for the most part, nausea still has medical professionals stumped at times. Smoking Cannabis seemed the only logical option for me that first night after my surgery. For truly what good is a pill when I know I'm going to barf? Yes ... there are other suppository options out there, but even they can have unwanted side effects. Within three small puffs, my nausea hit the road so I could finally eat something. Insert munchie joke here :-)
One very crucially important thing to me throughout this whole thing has been my aversion to Opiates. My apres-surgery drip was only saline and gravol. I felt a certain gush of pride when I heard one nurse tell the other nurse that I was "dry". But I was sure that I didn't want that shit in my body! I didn't want the high. I didn't want the nausea. I didn't want the constipation. And I personally did not need any of it. Years of intermittent stomach upsets has awarded me a high pain tolerance. By 11 pm on that first night after the emancipation, I realized that I hadn't even taken a pain pill! I honestly found there was no need since as late as 9 pm every cell in my body was still vibrating at a higher frequency, the anesthetic remnants still clearly felt. I was given a script for Tramadol but I let my fear of nausea sway me, and I chose to fill a few gelatin caps with Cannabis goodness to ease me into sleep.
Pain. It truly does suck. Long term pain especially. But for post-operative pain, this has taught me that pain can be a tool. For me, pain only came when I moved. So heavily medicating myself for pain that I could control seemed illogical. No medication is without it's side effects. Tramadol contains codeine ... a known colon blocker ... so my use of those has been sparingly to say the least. In one week, I've taken 7.5 Tramadol and likely as many as 60 cannabis caplets for the pain. This experience has shown me that pain control does not necessarily equal healing. Yet many of us seem to think it does. In my opinion, that wee misunderstanding is a recipe for disaster ... and the disaster is already happening with stat after stat proving and re-proving that more of us are addicted to legal pharmaceutical pain killers than are addicted to illegal street drugs.
In the end, now that it's all done and my life revolves around itchy incisions and sticky steri-strips, I feel as though fate had a thing or two to do with connecting me with my healing team at the Belleville hospital. I felt my surgeon's genuine goo .... whoa ... wait a minute. I am an idiot. I trusted that they listened. I trusted that all seven of them listened to me, and not a one of them did. I just googled Tramadol. It's a fukking opiate.
So ... let me get this straight. If I were to go to any Emerg in Ontario asking for an opiate pain med, I would be immediately black-listed as a pill-seeker. Yet I tell nine medical professionals, and write it down on the pre-op forms that I specifically did not want an opiate and they ignored me.
This is especially upsetting to me because I understand Opiate addiction ... I lived with a recovering addict for several months. I saw how wretched her poor body became ... and that was on Methadone ... the thing that's supposed to help addicts! I saw the pain she went through on days that she missed her drink. That could be me right now had I had any issues in the past with Opiates! And they don't have my medical records so they have no way of knowing!
So ... profit ... frequent flyer miles ... trips to Jamaica ... smooth writing pens ... ski trips to Aspen ... just why did this surgeon ignore my wishes? Does the entire Belleville Hospital have a contract with Janssen Pharmaceuticals to give every out patient Tramadol? Why did she ignore me? I'm not even a doctor and yet if I had told me that I was having this surgery, yet didn't want any opiates, I would immediately suspect past addiction issues. Yet nine medical professionals didn't? WTF??
Is the Medical industry actively making addicts out of us?
I am officially verklempt.