Sunday, April 27, 2014

Steph’s Knee: The Final Frontier.

When I had my first orthopedic surgery in 1973, I was a mere twenty-one and, having been raised as a Christian Scientist, I knew next to nothing about medical matters. My idea of surgery was this. You went to sleep, doctors did their stuff and you woke up fresh as a daisy.

I was a college senior and I needed to finish up course work. I knew I would be in the hospital for a couple of weeks so I thought I could get some serious reading done. I brought the following books to the hospital: Paradise Lost, The Magic Mountain, Moby Dick and Selected Plays of Eugene O’Neill. You’ll recall that Hughie and A Moon for the Misbegotten are not laugh riots. My serious reading led to my being moved from a hospital ward to a private room. However, I didn’t read any of those books. The hospital was noisy. I was in pain. I’ve never quite acquired the knack of reading in bed.

My latest orthopedic surgery was about a month ago when I had a total left knee replacement. I spent a few days in the hospital (a social worker called to discuss my discharge plan a week before I was hospitalized) and two weeks in a very good rehab facility. But I’ve now had many orthopedic surgeries since my first and I’ve learned that Milton and morphia don’t mix.

Yes, I could spend my pre-op time worrying about surgical outcomes and how painful physical therapy might be (It smarts considerable) but it’s much more fun to obsess about what I might read. I don’t bring electronic devices to hospitals so I ditched my Kindle and went through my stock of mass market paperbacks. I put a whole pile of paperbacks where Bob could reach them. If one book didn’t work out he could bring another.

First, I tried a Maeve Binchy. I loved Light a Penny Candle and Echoes. I brought Whitethorn Woods with me to the hospital. Alas, after many attempts to lose myself in another world, I gave up. The lady next door to me who was attempting to smoke while she was on oxygen was much more interesting.

When I transferred to the rehab facility Bob brought a different set of books. I quickly seized on The Woman in White, one of my favorite novels. Surely, I could read this. How could I not be beguiled by multiple narrators and improbable plot twists? I made it through a couple chapters but went quickly to sleep.

I was well aware that the pain medication was interfering with my ability to read. I tripled my coffee intake. Normally if I want to get to sleep I can’t have coffee after about two in the afternoon. During my rehab stay I was drinking it at dinner time. Bob doesn’t like to see me bouncing off the walls in the evening. Luckily my hospital roommate thought me “bubbly and fun.”

Finally, I had some success. Dimly lit by caffeine, I picked up Christianna Brand’s
Suddenly in His Sleep. I’ve always liked Brand and this was a good old country mansion with eccentric family members who hate each other tale. I always feel vaguely at sea when I’m not reading a book so even though I was reading paragraphs rather than pages at a time, I was happy.

The nurse who was assigned to me in the evenings said to me, “Oh, I came in last night and you were sound asleep. I had to turn off the light and take off your glasses. I didn’t touch your book. I didn’t want to lose your place.”

That’s my kind of caregiver.

© 2014 Stephanie Patterson


  1. That was so sweet of her. Funny how we don't want to lose our place in a book so we can quickly get back to losing our place in the real world. About the only time I get to read for pleasure is in bed, but I too fall asleep too soon, even though no pain meds are involved. I've found using an e-reader helps -- brighter pages, bigger print, easier to hold. And you don't lose your place when you fall asleep.

  2. I admire your sense of humor in a tight spot... and hope you are soon up and about and enjoying the outdoors with May flowers! tjs

  3. I had fabulous nurses while I was in both the hospital and the rehab facility. I do manage to get a reading history out of anyone I meet. Alas, I met almost no one who was interested in books. This particular nurse not only read, she read mysteries. So I think I lucked out.