Unfinished Business, Part 1

I am such a procrastinator.

I posted twice in March, both open-ended stories, and at the end of April I find myself with a couple of loose ends to tie up. I’ve really got to do a better job of this. Not for the sake of the few readers who may accidentally stumble upon this modest collection of ramblings, but for the sake of my own self-discipline, which has been sadly lacking as of late.

In early March, in a post entitled “Here We Go Again!“, I told the beginning of my gallstone adventure, and left off, as I remember, having the complaint but no firm plans for its care.

After another week had gone by, I called the Medical Center and left a message on their machine for Dr. Daday (are there any medical facilities left that have actual people manning the phones?), reminding him that I was not having the greatest of times, and was counting on him to help me out. He returned my call the following day, telling me to call Dr. Vasily Sawyena a call. I called and made the appointment, which wasn’t for another week. Seven more days of agonized eating!

I showed up at his office a few minutes early, knowing there would be a mountain of paperwork to fill out. When my name was called, I went into the exam room and met the doctor.

“Let’s see,” he said, looking through a folder that contained the paperwork sent over by the medical center, “you’re here for a hernia, correct?”  He said it so seriously that even today I’m not sure if he meant it, or was merely starting the interview off with a joke. In any case, the session was short and sweet. He just confirmed some information and told me he could do the procedure the following Tuesday.

Afterward, I was going over a few things with Linda the the desk. Dr. Daday had told me that the procedure was no big deal, no hospital stay, and I should be back to normal in a couple of days. I wanted some verification.

“Well, yes, you can probably go back to work on a couple of days. But you still have to be careful. No lifting anything over ten pounds for a month or so.”

What? That wasn’t back to normal for me!

I asked about exercise, specifically my MMA workouts at Tiger’s.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” she said with some doubt.

Dr. Sawyena happened to walk past at that moment.

“Doctor, he does karate.”

“Not for the next six to eight weeks, he doesn’t,” the doc replied without slowing down.

“It’s still major surgery,”  Linda explained to me firmly.

Turns out that what Dr. Daday meant  by “no big deal” was a comparison to the way gall bladders used to be removed, with six-inch incisions, week-long hospital stays, and up to six-months of recovery. My procedure would be much simpler: a few barely noticeable cuts, gall bladder removed through the navel, dissolving stitches, no muss, no fuss, no months of lying around getting better afterward.

I was curious about what changes I’d have to make in my diet. I asked my best friend, Google, what they knew about it.


Eggs (Research showed that eggs caused symptoms in up to 95% of patients. Try substituting flax seed gel in recipes that require eggs for the “glue”. That’s 1 TBSP ground flax seed to 3 TBSP hot water. Let cool and add.)
Fowl (turkey, chicken)
Dairy (milk, cheese, cream)
Gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, etc.)
Oranges, grapefruit
Trans fats,
Hydrogenated, partially-hydrogenated oils
Fried Foods
Saturated fats
(even coconut oil until feeling better)
Red meats
Coffee, regular or decaf
Spicy foods
Ice cream
Black tea
Alcohol, beer, wine, liqueur
Fruit juice
Carbonated water
Tap water
Cabbage, cauliflower
Colas and all sodas
Oats (for some people)

Avoid all artificial sweeteners, sugar, preservatives, refined and bleached foods (like white flour)

Avoid all possible food allergens.”

What the hell? What am I supposed to eat? Bread and bottled water?

Happily, the more sensible (as well as credible) medical websites, such as WebMD and Oprah.com, suggest that I would have to make no dietary adjustments. I decided to follow their advice.

The Big Day arrived. I got a call Monday night telling me that the surgery would take place the following morning at 9:30, and I should show up an hour earlier to take care of the paperwork and other preparatory matters.

I arrived at the scheduled time, filled out the paperwork, and put on the cap and gown. One of the prep nurses remembered me from last summer’s back surgery. Great. Not only does Foursquare tell me I’m mayor of the Medical Center, the Surgery Center and the Hospital, but now I’m becoming a familiar face in the operating room. Where everybody knows my name.

I was wheeled down to pre-op, where I re-identified myself to several personnel, including Dr. Sawyena, who stopped by to say Howdy. The anesthesiologist started an IV drip in my arm. I happened to glance at the clock over the door: it was 9:20 a.m.

The next thing I remember was almost waking up, and a nurse asking how I felt. I remember saying, “It hurts.” Because it did. She said she’d get something to help me feel better. Or something. I don’t remember for sure. I was only almost awake.

I regained my full faculties lying in the spot I started out from, in the prep area upstairs. As soon as I had shaken off the effects of the anesthesia, I was given a Lorna Doone and a small apple juice to  make sure I could keep food down. When that was happily established, the nurse told me I could get dressed while she called Jill; as soon as she got here, I could go home.

Shortly afterwards, she told me she had dialed Jill’s number, but it had gone right to voicemail. I asked the time; it was 11:15.

What??? 11:15? So in less than two hours, I had been prepped, the surgery had been performed, and now I was dressed and ready to go? Gotta love modern medicine. This is why I believe my 17-year-old will be around to see the start of the 22nd Century.

Anyway, to bring this runaway narrative to its conclusion, I’ve survived five weeks sans gall bladder with few ill effects. I’m planning on going back to Tiger’s in a couple of weeks, providing the lymphedema flare-up in my right foot clears up.

Yes, it’s always something. Getting old’s a bitch!

Here We Go Again!

The past few weeks have certainly been interesting. I almost thought I’d traveled through time to revisit January of last year (see several posts I made then about my kidney stones, lymphedema, herniated disc, arthritis, et al), but no, this is a new set of travails.

Since my current medications cause me to occasionally lose focus, I won’t try to relate the whole story again, but instead refer to a recent email exchange between an old high school friend and myself. He felt compelled to write after seeing a few stutus updates on my Facebook page that made him wonder just exactly what was going on.

My friend wrote:

“How are you doing? I catch the occasional status of MRIs hospitials, issues… Have some broccoli and chicken sausage. Are having a world tour for your 60th birthday – Virgos on the road?”

My reply:

“Yes, the past few weeks have been particularly interesting. At the end of January, I was doing warm-up exercises in my karate class. During an innocent “Turn your head to the left”, I felt a sharp pain starting in my neck that traveled down into my left arm. I didn’t feel much different during the rest of the class, but by the end of the following day, I felt (or at least looked) much like Igor in the old Hammer Frankenstein movies: head cocked awkwardly to the left, left arm held in an unnatural position. Couldn’t sleep at night, of course. Any movement at all would make my shoulder protest loudly.

Had an MRI done on my neck and shoulder. The shoulder snapshots revealed an inflamed tendon running into my left bicep. The neck shots were useless. The pain in my shoulder refused to let me lie still, so there was too much movement to see anything.

The following week I was the recipient of a cervical epidural, which decreased my symptoms by about 75%. A second try MRI showed the culprit was arthritis pinching the tendon, or something. Those doctors have their own language meant to confuse you to the point that you just start nodding your head in agreement and digging your American Express Blue card out of your wallet. They figure another series of injections will get me back to normal. My next one is scheduled for next Monday.

The other current excitement started a couple of weeks ago on the Thursday night after my epidural. The steroid they’d injected had eased my shoulder pain to the point where I was finally able to look forward to a good night’s sleep. No luck. In the early hours of the morning, I awoke to a painful burning sensation in my gut that no amount of Tums or belching could sooth. During the day, when I ate, the food traveled to a certain point in my tummy, then it seemed as if it pressed against something that caused great distress. I was certain I was giving birth to a nice ulcer.

That Sunday evening, I was sitting in my recliner, contemplating the universe and watching Cameron save the world from zombies on his Xbox whilst sipping on a glass of Pinot Noir. When my glass was empty, I stood up with the intention of getting a refill. I suddenly felt extremely dizzy. Cam asked if I was OK, and I said I’d stood up ‘way too fast. I took a couple of steps into the kitchen, then went down hard. I came to sprawled out on the kitchen floor with Cam hovering over me, asking if I was all right.

I got to my knees and waited for my head to clear. When I felt OK, I told Cam that I was going to go lay down for a few minutes. Halfway to my room I blacked out again. Cam helped me to my bed. I told him that if it happened again, to call 9-1-1. His mom told him he should have called the first time I passed out, but I didn’t want to spend $600 to find out I was OK.

There were no further incidents. Every time I stand up, it’s very slowly, and I wait to make sure that I can take a step without falling over. I have a nice bruise on my chin courtesy of the kitchen table to remind me to be careful.

Finally making a long story short, I visited the doc the following day, and the diagnosis was gallstones. He had suffered with them some ten years ago, so he knew what I was talking about. (Of course, he should know what I was talking about anyway, being a doctor and all). He ordered an ultrasound and some blood work, which confirmed his suspicions. He told me that I should have the surgery as soon as possible, and he was going to call a few surgeons and see who was available to do it now.

That was a week ago. I’m certain he hasn’t forgotten about me. Maybe all of his surgeon friends went on a golf outing together.

Other that already telling everyone I’m a sexagenarian, I haven’t given the sixtieth much thought, as if ignoring it will keep it from coming. I’m hoping the Medical Center will name an exam room after me, since there have been weeks I’ve spent more time waiting to see one of the doctors than I’ve spent at home sipping a martini. If I don’t get at least a card from the staff, I’ll be disappointed; I’ve had to recite my D.O.B. to almost every doctor, nurse, PA, internist and receptionist so many times that there can be no way they don’t know when my birthday is.

Anyway, I have plenty of time to plan for celebrations. Of course, it seems like only yesterday that I was thinking I had plenty of time to deal with having a teenage son. “Time passes by and leaves you with nothin’, mister, but boring stories of glory days. ” – Bruce Springsteen. “Anybody can get old. All you have to do is live long enough.” – Groucho


And that’s the scoop. Still waiting for word of my pending cholecystectomy. Every meal is an adventure in discomfort.


More to follow, I’m sure.