Chest Tube Removed
I knew I might be in trouble when the doctor hefted his boot onto the back of my shoulder to get better leverage. He’d come in to pull out the centimeter-thick tubing extending from my lung to the Briefcase O’ Blood sitting on the floor next to my bed.
It was the moment we’d been waiting for: When the tubing came out, we knew I’d probably be able to go home – or at least leave the hospital. Now that the moment had arrived, it occurred to me that the occasion might not be as pleasant as I’d anticipated. The doctor tells me to turn on my side so that the ribs with the tubing inserted will be pointed in his direction. I may have imagined this but I felt like I could hear him smacking his rubber gloves in anticipation. “This will probably hurt a little,” he says, “but, really, pulling out the tube itself isn’t as painful as when I need to bear down on you to tie in the suture.”
I ponder this new bit of information for a few moments.
The doctor informs me that, when he gives the word, I’ll need to hold my breath until he has pulled out all the tubing and, after that, will then need to remain perfectly still while he stitches the wound. “I’ll need to tie it,” he says. “Six times.” At first I think he’s ribbing me (Get it? Ribbing me?). But he doesn’t laugh. Six times? Without so much as a Tylenol? Do I look like Rooster Cogburn? And while it all went off without too much of a hitch, it’s odd when even minor procedures that involve needles and scissors and fishing wire are performed while you’re awake. They always seem … well, less pleasant than when you’re not. I could feel him yanking on the suture with one hand and pushing on my back with the other and it seemed to go on for a while. I began to worry about what he was actually doing back there. Inking a tattoo? Stuffing heroin into my ribcage as a clever ruse to smuggle it into Virginia? If I get a call that I need to visit the good doctor’s “cousin” in the back woods of Richmond to remove the sutures, then I’ll know I need to contact my old colleagues at the DEA.
I am pleased to say, however, that now my ribs are tied up like a bow for Christmas and I’m home with the girls. Dena and I became nervous, as the lung seemed to be taking longer to seal than anticipated, that we might not make it back for Christmas. This would have been devastating. But no, we’re here and I could think of no better Christmas gift than to see Kate and Josie when I walked through the door.
And like an early stocking stuffer, I’ve got a treasure trove of Percocet, which I’ve been told to use liberally. I do. Aside from regular dosings every three hours, I like to mix it into my coffee in the mornings, sprinkle it on my food like salt, bake it into a variety of delicious and colorful Christmas cookies and mush it up for toothpaste before bed. I am thinking of making a Holiday Percocet Cookbook and distributing it to friends as gifts. Watch for yours in the mail. (And don’t worry, you can get your supply of Percocet from my doctor in Durham; he has a regular column of “lung surgery” patients coming through this area on their way to New York.)
In the meantime, all of us here at the Battle household would like to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas.