Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Mr. Spankowicz Returns

I hate hospitals.

No, it's not because I'm afraid of dying, or that I don't like the smell, or actually for any health-related issues at all.

I don't like hospitals because they tend to be multi-story, shining monuments to incredible inefficiency. Furthermore, despite clear evidence that more personal care means better care, hospitals appear to be basically health care factories, treating each patient like little more than another widget on an assembly line.

Still, the people that work there do their best. Calling them competent is mere faint praise, as they are all smart, hard working, and conscientious. And yet the hospitals still manage to turn them confused and confusing, by giving them more work than one person can handle and bombarding them with process and paperwork at the expense of time spent with the patient.

Since this is a spanking blog, and not a health-care reform blog, that shall be the extent of my editorializing. So let me just relate to you the experience of my stay and my surgery.

The surgery was scheduled for 7 am last Friday morning. They asked me to come in the previous afternoon for presurgical testing and to talk with the anesthesiologist. They also required me to stay the night to make sure that I was properly "prepped." In other words, they wanted to make damn sure that I didn't eat anything. The testing was routine, but the chat with the doctor was not nice.

I have had surgery once before, when I hurt my knee playing softball about twenty years ago. At the doctor's request, I was given a general anesthetic. When I awoke, the nurse made me eat something, which seemed okay since I hadn't partaken since the previous day. No sooner had the food hit my stomach than my stomach gave it back, all over the nurse, the bed, the walls, etc. I was sick for two days, which was attributed to the anesthetic. So, this time I asked the surgeon if I could be awake for the procedure and he agreed. However, the anesthesiologist told me that I would be asleep during surgery. When I told him about my previous experience and my discussion, he literally dismissed me with a wave of his hand, telling me that general anesthesia was best for this type of surgery. When I insisted that I be awake, the just smiled and said that I would be fine.

That night, after visiting hours had ended and Angela had bid me good rest, I turned off the television and fell asleep. It had been a long day and I was quite exhausted. About an hour later, a nurse came in and gave me a cup full of pills. I asked what the pills were.

"They are to help you sleep," she responded.

"No thank-you," I told her. "I will sleep fine."

She firmly insisted that I take the pills, as they were important for my surgery. When I asked her to explain, she just told me that the doctors knew best what I should take.

"Madam nurse," I told her, "I do not take anything unless I know what it is and what it's supposed to do. It is, after all, my body, and ultimately my responsibility, and not your's or the doctor's, to take care of it."

The nurse grumbled that she would have to talk call the doctor, and left the room. I promptly fell asleep. The nurse returned, again waking me up, and the number of pills had fallen to two. One was aspirin, to reduce the inflammation around my spinal cord, and one was an antibiotic to make sure that I didn't get any infections prior to the surgery. These seemed like prudent precautions, so I swallowed them and promptly dropped off again.

I was woken at about 4 am and told to shower with the proper antibiotic soap. The nurse asked if I required any help showering. She was young and attractive, but I resisted the urge to ask her to join me, sans nursing uniform. After all, I did not think that Angela would approve. After cleaning up, the fun really began.

Another nurse came to my bed. Now, because of recent concerns of having the wrong person getting the wrong procedure, hospital employees are required to make sure that you are whom you are. Furthermore, due to the ridiculous interpretations of the famous HIPPA laws, hospitals want you to assent to everything that they do, no matter how small. So they are frequently asking, "Are you so-and-so, and what are you here for?"

So the nurse asked me, "Are you Francis Spankowicz?"

"No," I responded.

"Oh," she replied, crestfallen. She went back to her station and talked to another nurse, and then shuffled through some paperwork. They both looked befuddled. Finally, the nurse returned to my bed and asked again, "Aren't you Francis Spankowicz, and aren't you here for surgery on your back?"

"No," I said again.

Now she was really confused, "Then who are you and why are you here?"

"My name is Spakowiak, not Spankowicz. I am indeed here for back surgery."

"Oh. Why didn't you say that before?"

"I wasn't given a chance."

Satisfied, the nurse proceeded to ask me several million questions, most of which I had answered previously on the preadmission paperwork, and then again on the previous day when I was admitted.

After the questions nurse was finished, another nurse arrived. "Good morning," she said cheerfully. "Are you Mr. Spankowicz?"

"No," I responded.

I received another confused look. I felt sorry for her, so I said, "Are you looking for Mr. Spakowiak." She looked at her paperwork. "Spank-o-wee-itz...." she tried to pronounce my name phonetically.

"Does the name end in a 'K'?" I asked.

"Umm, yes...."

"So it's pronounced Spa-KO-wee-ack."

"Well, let me check something," she said, and walked away. She returned five minutes later with the questions nurse.

"Yes," said the questions nurse, "that's Mr. Spankowicz."

"Spa-KO-wee-ack," I replied.

"Right. That's him."

"Are you here for back surgery?" asked the second nurse. I nodded.

Relieved, she said that she was going to insert my IV. "Can I pee first," I asked, not wanting to drag the IV apparatus around any more than I had to.

"Do you need help," she asked.

"Not since I was three," was my retort.

Angela and Colette arrived about 6 am. Shortly after, another nurse came in to ask still more questions, and fuss over me some more. Before proceeding, she asked, "Are you Frank Spankowicz."

"No," replied Angela, Colette, and I at the same time. Colette, always the proactive one, grabbed the nursed clipboard and looked at the name.

"It's pronounced Spa-KO-wee-ack," she told the nurse. "But at least you have the correct spelling." Colette went over to the computer on the rolling rack that the nurse was also pushing with her and verified that the spelling was correct there, too.

After another million questions, this latest nurse was satisfied and left us. I chatted with Colette and Angela for a while, until the surgical nurse came on. She looked down on her paperwork and asked, "Are you Mr. ... umm ... Spankowski?"

Angela snorted, and Colette snatched the papers away from the nurse.

"Where do you see 'ski' in this name," Colette asked the nurse.

The nurse reviewed her paperwork and said, "Excuse me," and went back to the nurses station. She returned with the original questions nurse, who said, "That's right, he's Mr. Spankowicz."

Colette threw her hands up and walked away. Angela snorted again. I just smiled.

"I'm afraid that I am most definitely not Mr. Spankowicz."

The questions nurse looked at me and then back at her paperwork. "Yes, you are," she said. "See, I have your signature right here." She showed me the paperwork.

"That says Spa-KO-wee-ack, ma'am."

"Same thing," she said. She handed the paperwork back to the surgical nurse and returned to her station.

"Okay, Mr. Spankoshevitz...."

"Please, just call me Frank."

My family doctor had asked if she could observe the procedure, so she arrived about fifteen minutes before I was scheduled to be sawn open. Dr. Linda Wayne is a very good doctor. After I was injured (and after she stopped laughing about how I was injured), she had made sure that I was properly scheduled for all of my appoints with specialists and therapists, and made sure that I had the proper equipment to get around our house. She expertly guided me through the process. Colette, Angela, the doctor, and I chatted briefly, and then the surgical nurse came back to take me to the operating room.

"Okay," she said, "just to make sure everything is correct, just to make sure, are you Frank Spankowicz?"

Dr. Wayne shook her head and said to me, "This is really a good hospital, they just hire people who can't read."

I was wheeled to the surgery room. If you've ever had surgery in a hospital, they make the operating rooms just warm enough so that the staff doesn't get frostbite. The patient, of course, is buck naked except for a gown so thin that the breeze from mosquito wings seems like blast of arctic air. Fortunately, there were no mosquitoes in the operating room. I briefly exchanged small talk with the surgery team and Dr. Wayne, and then came the "gap."

Part of the reason that I hate general anesthetics is that, when one is unconscious, one does not dream. One feels like the time between going under and coming to is a mere instant. Except that one feels fine when one goes under, and one feels like shit when one wakes up. When I regained consciousness, I was laying on my stomach, with my bare ass pointing at the ceiling. My mouth was dry, my eyes felt like there was sand in them, my nasal passages stung, and, oddly, my butt hurt.

My butt hurt. That was something that I had not felt in entirely too long.

If you'll recall, when I was stricken, I could not feel my gluteus maximus, which is strange indeed for a committed, life-long spanko. Apparently, whatever the surgeon had done had resolved that little problem. Dr. Wayne told me later that a very small piece of my cartilage was slightly touching my spinal cord. When they cleaned out the injured area, the piece was cleared and no longer interfering with nerve transmission.

They rolled me back to my room where they made me eat red jello, which I promptly puked up, just as I had predicted. And since the jello was red, the nurses spent several minutes debating whether I was tossing up blood. When I pointed out that blood doesn't jiggle, they seemed relieved. I spent the night sleeping fitfully and peeing about every half-hour, which was unpleasant because every time that I stood up I felt like puking again. When I mentioned this to the night nurse, she said that I could always use the bedpan. I politely told her that I would much prefer to sleep in the loo so could she please leave a blanket and pillow in there. She laughed. I suppose she thought I was kidding. I was sharing the room with an 85-year-old gentleman who was having a pacemaker implanted. At about 4 am., after my eleventh or twelfth pee, he sat up and said that he was having difficulty sleeping, too. So we sat there telling dirty jokes and making fun of the nurses until one of them came in and scolded us.

The next day was Saturday, which passed uneventfully. Angela spent most of the day there, and I received phone calls from Angus, Liz, and several more friends and co-workers. Colette, Luke, and Maribel and the boyfriend all came by to visit. I asked Maribel if she felt bad because I was in the hospital, since, after all, it was she whose shot I was trying to block. She just laughed and called me old. I told Angela to spank (figuratively, of course) Maribel for such an impertinent remark, but Angela just laughed some more and sided with Maribel.

I went home on Monday. The doctors gave me strict instructions to take it easy for six more weeks or so. I asked what "take it easy" meant. They told me "no heavy lifting and no basketball, for sure." Angela inquired about sex. We were told that marital relations were allowed, as long as we "took it easy." Angela took that to mean no spanking. And I just got back the feeling in my butt!

While my convalescence is far from complete, I am much better off than I was three months ago. I can walk with the assistance of a cane, I can drive, I can do some light yardwork, and I shall soon be able to resume work. This is good, because I am bored. I can only watch Sports Central on ISPN (the Imaginary Sports Programming Network) or play solitaire on the computer so many times before I need to do something that actually requires some mental or physical effort. But progress is being made.

Angela is monitoring my progress carefully. She says that, for trying to keep up with my daughter, the professional basketball player, that I was not acting my age. For that, she says, I deserve a spanking. Angela has promised that said spanking will be a good one, once I am more recovered.

So I have something for which to look forward. But Angela is not correct in stating that the spanking will be merely good. Indeed, now that I am on the road to a solid recovery, and I can feel my butt again, a spanking from Angela will be fantastic.

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