I resurface into consciousness in what I assume is the Recovery Room. I feel groggy, sleepy, and disoriented. For the next few minutes, my head bobbles on its axis as I track the passing nurses. After a few crossings, one of them notices me.
“Welcome back, Mr. New. How are you feeling?” She cocks her head at me, her eyes bright and business like.
“Umm.” My upper palate has a soft, cottony feel to it. My entire body feels weighed down. So tired. “Groggy?” I croak.
Nurse smiles. “Would you like some water?”
I nod, unable to mutter anything coherent.
Nurse holds a plastic cup of water for me. She places the straw in my mouth. Like a newborn babe, I immediately give suck. Ah, cool, clean, wet water floods across my lower palate. Before she takes it away, I suck another mouthful, swishing it around in my mouth, forcing the dry, cottony feeling away.
“Thanks. That’s much better,” I say.
Nurse smiles again. She sets the cup down on a nearby table, then reaches for a metal tablet, opens it, and makes some marks in it with her pen. I lay there, content for the moment to be among the living. Nurse glances at a monitor hanging from the wall to my left, makes some more notes, and then moves around the bed to my right. She bends down out of my sight and I hear her pat something down there. She rises back up and grins at me. “Well, Mr. New, you’re doing quite well. Just rest here for a few more minutes.”
“What time is it?”
She looks around, dismay crossing her face. “Oh. Sorry.” She pulls the curtain back on my left to reveal the clock on the wall. The hands are almost pointing to ten and twenty-five. It’s almost ten-thirty in the morning.
“How long was I under?”
“About two and a half hours. Not long compared to most surgical procedures.” She pats my left arm, below the pressure cuff. “Just lay here and relax, Mr. New.”
Sometime during this phase of resting/waking, Carle shows up on my right. She takes my right hand and squeezes it.
She gives me her best, bright smile, the one they use on TV when advertising toothpaste products. I smile back at her, already locked under her spell. It’s a comforting feeling. Then I notice the IV in the backside of my right hand. There’s no puffiness around it. My arm above it is of normal size, with no swelling present. That’s good news; meaning the IV has not infiltrated and blown my arm up like a water pillow.
I hear buzzing on my left arm as pressure increases on the skin there. It’s an automated blood pressure cuff. It puffs up, squeezing my upper arm within its grip, until the building compression stops. Then, it slowly backs off the crushing heaviness, making several loud ticks as it does so. Soon, it sighs loudly, relaxing all the way before starting the process over again.
I feel a soft clamping on my left index finger. I pull my hand out from under the bed sheet and hold it up in front of me. Attached to my finger like a giant clothes pin is a white, plastic clamp, attached to a white wire, which trails off to the monitor on my left. The tip of my finger glows red within its grip.
Nurse stops by to make more notations on my chart sitting within the metal tablet. “What’s this?” I flex the finger at her.
“Oxygen monitor. It measures how well you’re breathing, how much oxygen is in your blood.” Oh. Now, I remember. This is much better than taking multiple Blood Gas samples, where the technologist has to stick a needle into an artery, usually the one inside the wrist, to measure how much oxygen is in your blood. Arterial sticks hurt. The oxygen monitor clamp doesn’t. Good to know.
I’m waking up slow, little by little, becoming more and more aware of my body. There is something heavy on both ankles. I ask my ever-helpful nurse what that is.
“You have a set of large pressure cuffs above each ankle that massage your lower legs. This helps prevent blood clots from forming until you start walking again.”
“Why can’t I walk now?”
Nurse smiles again. “Small steps, Mr. New, small steps.” She pats my arm again and leaves. I watch her glance over at Carle and smile a crooked little smile.
“Rich, you remind me of one of my four year olds at work,” Carle says, where she’s employed as a teacher at a local Tutor Time Daycare. “All ready to jump up and go play with another toy before you’ve finished with your current one.”
“Yes, dear.” Recognizing words of wisdom when I hear them, I relax in the bed. I may even drift off to sleep.
More time passes. Nurse appears. This time, she brings an accomplice.
“Mr. New, meet Terrance. He’ll take you to your room.” She winks at me. “You behave yourself, you hear?”
“I’ll be a good boy. There’s too much stuff attached to be anything else.”
Nurse hands Terrance my chart encased within the metal tablet.
“Hang on, sir.” I feel Terrance hitting the bed’s brake controls with his foot. In no time, the bed is swivel free. “Here we go.”
With an effortless push, Terrance glides the bed forward, out and past other patients separated by more curtains. Some are awake with their heads bobbing around, while others are still sleeping off the anesthetic.
Up on the nursing floor, Terrance stops the bed outside Room 442. He goes inside the hospital room, but emerges soon. “Here we go, sir.”
Inside Room 442, I see bed A (the bed nearest the door) is rotated and pushed against the wall, making more floor space available to maneuver my transport bed into the room. Terrance pushes my bed up against bed B (the bed farthest from the door), and engages the brakes to keep it there. Suddenly, three additional people show up in the room. The place feels crowded.
“Okay, Mr. New,” says a woman wearing whites. I guess she is the nurse, “if you can, swing yourself over onto the other bed and we’ll help you get all fixed.”
I notice a substantial overhead rack rising from both ends of the new bed, with a trapeze handle suspended from its middle. I grab the handle with my left hand and hoist myself up and over, slow and easy like. I’m so busy concentrating on one small job that I barely notice everything else moving with me via nurse power.
“Oww! Hey! That’s tender!” What in the world am I feeling?
Using quick, professional motions, Nurse repositions the hospital gown and pulls the bed sheets up around me. “Now Mr. New, that’s the Foley Catheter. You’ll get used to it.”
I blink at her, not comprehending. “Say again?”
“Really, Mr. New. You must have seen these things before on friends you’ve visited in the hospital.”
“Seen ’em, yeah; had ’em, no.”
“Yes, well. Ah, this beautiful lady must be your wife.” Carle comes into the room to stand against the wall, out of the way.
Nurse pulls on the bed’s guardrail, clicking it into place. “Remember,” she pats the guardrail, “there are bed controls in this one and in the other one.” Nurse pulls on another remote calling unit, laying it on my right. “For contacting the nursing station.” She moves to the other side of the bed. “Here is your phone. Please press this button to answer or make any phone calls.” She swings a small plasma screen into view on my left. “Your television. Controls are here and here. Any questions? No? Well, I’ll leave you two alone then so you can settle in. I’ll be back later.”
As soon as Nurse leaves, one hand dives at the bed sheets and the other pulls up my hospital gown. Pressing both out of the way, I stare at the space between my legs.
There’s a hose coming out of my penis!
Okay, so it’s not the size of a garden hose. That would hurt. Nor the same color. It might be a quarter of an inch in diameter and it’s an orange-ish shade.
I touch it. It has a firm, rubbery, plastic feel to it.
“Not much of a view out the window, Rich.”
I remain quiet, staring at the view between my legs. In my peripheral vision, I see Carle turn around.
“Ah, but this view ….” She drifts off into silence.
I tilt my head at her, cocking an eyebrow.
“It’s only a Foley, Rich.”
“I know that. I’ve never had one. Everything’s … tender.”
“I can only imagine,” she whispers.
Carle moves around to the bed’s right side where the IV pole stands on its set of wheels. She looks close at the fluid filled bags hanging there. “Hmm, there is a one-liter Normal Saline bag with an antibiotic label stuck to it. There are two two-liter rinse bags of additional Normal Saline that,” she follows the fluid-filled tubing, “hey Rich, lift your leg—”
I lift my right leg.
“—that connects to the Foley. Look at this.”
She pushes tubing underneath my leg.
“Easy,” I say.
“Be still, you big baby.”
She hands me the external end of the Foley, with tubing attached. This catheter looks like its a triple lumen job, that is, three tubes in a circle make up the thing. “Where does the tubing come from and go to, Hon?”
Carle gazes at the plumbing. “I think this Rinse tube delivers fluid to the Foley. The middle tube seems to—yes, it does—it delivers Rinse and your urine away to the Foley Bag, and the third tube has a plastic plug stuck into it. No idea what it does.”
I cover myself back up as a food try floats into the room. A person from Dining Services has brought me food. “Your lunch, sir.”
Carle removes the main platter’s cover. “Wow, real food. With real salt.”
“It even looks tasty,” I admit.
“Well, if you admit to being hungry, you’re on the road to recovery. And if you’re feeling that good, you don’t need me here. Besides, I’ve got errands to run.” She gives me a quick kiss and then looks me hard in the eyes. “No quick moves, fella.”
“How can I? I’m anchored to this bed on three sides plus at my center.”
Grinning, she exits out the door. “I’ll call you this evening ….”
By the time I finish my meal, Nurse glides back in pushing a white, plastic cabinet.
“What’s that?” I nod at the cabinet.
She glances at me, curiosity shining on her face. “I thought you worked here, Mr. New. You don’t recognize Epic?”
“Oh, yeah! That’s the new, hospital wide, total-comprehensive computer system. How’s that working for you?”
“Off-and-on. But right now, it’s working.”
“How come I didn’t see this in the Recovery Room? They still used pen-on-paper to make their notations.”
“Well, you know doctors,” Nurse murmurs. “They can only be brought along just so fast and no faster. Change they don’t like. What they do enjoy though, is masses and masses of paper, which gets out of hand very quick. Hence, this computerized system—along with other reasons. Don’t you work with doctors in your area?”
“Pathology docs. Yeah, they’re kind of the same.”
“But, you don’t have the Epic program?”
“Not for my immediate use. We do have a grossness called Misys,” I say.
Nurse finishes taking her measurements and inputting them into the Epic system. “Well, let us know if you need anything, okay? My staff will come around every so many hours to take your vitals.”
“Say, can you explain this Foley catheter to me?”
“Sure. As you know, the surgeon worked a Cystoscope up your urethra to remove the tumor. This instrument has a couple extra guide ways to allow more than one, umm, ‘tool’ in place at a time. There is a light, a camera, a gripper, and a blade. Maybe a few others, if needed. Not all at once, of course. I mean, there is only so much room available inside any urethra. However, because of all that shifting, back and forth movement, your urethra took some damage. The Foley protects your raw urethra lining from your urine’s acidity, allowing it to heal.”
Nurse glanced at the large bags hanging from the IV pole. “The Foley Catheter consists of three long tubes, made as a single unit. It ends in the three round ‘tips’ I’m sure you’ve found by now.” Nurse smiles at me. I guess she is trying to make me feel better. “These bags on the pole contain a rinsing solution that flows into your bladder, cleansing it of what isn’t supposed to be there. Everything that flows in must flow out, including urine, and that all goes to the Foley Catheter Bag, which my staff or I measure and empty. The third line opens up a 10 cc. water-filled balloon, right inside the bladder, holding it in place.”
“Like a sock in a funnel?”
“Yes, Mr. New. Except, this ‘sock’ stands just far enough away to allow fluid to trickle out around it.”
“Okay. How did they get it there?”
“Lubrication, Mr. New. Good old lubrication.”
“Geez. That’s more than I want to think about,” I reply. “By the way, how soon can I get disconnected from this hardware?” I glance around me.
“I’ll have to check with your doctors. But, you might as well know, the Foley goes home inside you.”
“Yes, sir. When we discharge you tomorrow morning, everything comes off or out—the blood pressure cuff, the oxygen monitor, the lower leg cuffs, your IV comes out last—but the Foley Catheter remains inside until your return appointment to the Urology Clinic five days later.”
Geez! “That’s going to be awkward!”
Final results: Oh, man!