Continued from here.
I woke up and look out of the window. Beautiful white snow had covered everything in Rovaniemi, Lapland. I was sleeping in Stephen’s room because my roommate, who was my second camera op, would keep the lights on till late to copy cards and charge batteries. I checked the time and realised I must head to my room and get ready for breakfast. We were staying in a beautiful luxurious hotel that had big cottage suits with huge glass windows to see the northern lights. I opened the main door and it was half snow half ice everywhere. There were wooden steps leading to the main road. On each side of the steps was a deep pit of mud covered now in fresh snow. I locked the door and turned to slowly carefully step down. A thought crossed my head – What if I slip and fall? I stopped for second and took a deep breath. If I do it carefully, I can make it back to my room without trouble.
They put gravel on the steps and slippery ice to prevent people from falling. I could see the gravel on the steps. I took my first step landing my right foot on the first step and it slipped. I slid off the stairs with a sudden jolt and nothing around to hold on to. In a flash, I felt my knee cap pop out to its right. Now that has happened numerous times with me. My body’s immediate reaction always is to fall flat. It immediately release the pressure from my knee and the knee cap goes back to its place. With the snow, this turned out to be tricky. I spun around slipping through the ice landing in the pit, flat on my face with my knee hitting the icy ground. It popped back in place giving me relief from that excruciating pain it causes. But I felt it wasn’t the end of it. The big question was I had to now climb back up and still make it to my room. My phone was in my pocket but I was all zipped up. It seemed impossible to find it.
I looked around and discovered that my room was actually right next to me. The pit separated the two cottages. The way through the main road made it seem far away at night. I decided it would be wiser to just climb out towards my room. I slowly got up. I had landed on my palms. They were now red and hurting very badly. The good news was I could stand. My right leg shivering and a little numb. I limped around the pit and found a less steep side up. The snow was fresh so it was easy to climb. I made my way up and opened my room, dragged myself to my bed and just sat there breathing. What just happened? Did I just manage to injure myself on a shoot in Finland? In the middle of nowhere? I took off my jeans to look at my knee. It was swollen. I went to the washroom and put it under running hot water.
A normal person would have just gotten up, hurled a few abuses and walked his way out to his room uninjured. The other possibility being you crack open your skull by hitting your head on the stairs and then the stones and ice. But thanks to my luck, I was now tied naked to a table with intact skull in an OT with a shitload of medical equipment beeping and wheezing around me while some doctors take selfies with my cut open knee as they try to fix it. Such is life.
“…he started screaming at me. I told him that even though he is a doctor, he can’t just shout at me like that. Next time he does it, I will throw something at him I swear”
“I know…he’s just an asshole. The other day he got an earful…”
Two nurses were very softly gossiping away with some serious conviction in a corner of the OT. I could hear the doctors murmuring. Nothing seemed like going unusual. There was a calm vibe around. Chill scenes I tell you.
“How are you holding in there buddy?” came Dr Sawhney’s voice tearing through the silence. The two nurses shut up immediately. I told him it was all good and asked him how was it going down there. “Almost there…almost there” he replied and continued to murmur with the other doctors. He probably did that just to remind the gossip girls they were in the middle of a surgery. And no they weren’t two girls. One of them was a guy.
After what seemed like ten minutes, I heard “Ah….beautiful! Come see this. The patella is tracking so beautifully now. Let’s take some more pictures” and everyone gathered behind Dr Sawhney to pose.
“Take some closes as well” he insisted. I looked at the clock and discovered it had not even been an hour since I was brought in here.
“Himanshu, your patella is now absolutely stabilized. It went better than I thought”
“Thank you so much doctor. That’s some relief to hear you say that” I replied. It genuinely felt so good to know it was over. Then I heard a sound I was least expecting but I should have. I looked at the lady doctor who was right by side.
“Is he stapling it?”
“7-8 on one side, about 3-4 on other” she told me with a little wince.
“Show also the pictures as well” Dr Sawhney requested her.
A phone was brought to me with pictures of my knee. There was one big clean incision and every muscle inside was off white. I couldn’t make out much if it was fixed or not. But I was surprised that there was no blood anywhere. Later, google told me what Tourniquet really does is it depletes the area of blood by putting three times the pressure stopping the circulation. It helps doctors perform the surgery without worrying about blood loss. It’s also easy to see things clearly.
They removed the screen that was blocking my view and I was surprised to see both my legs were stretched out straight covered with a green sheet. It was a surprise because before I was given anaesthesia, my right leg was folded up while left was straight out. Post anaesthesia, I kept getting this ghost feeling that my legs were still in the same position. To see your legs in a different position than how you feel them can be a tricky situation.
Doc then showed me x-rays of my knee at every stage. They bent and checked to see if the movement is not restricted. I could see my knee cap was now resting absolutely in the centre in all the scans as opposed to on the far right off the socket in older x-rays.
My knee cap had this problem from a very long time. When I was young, it would dislocate but wouldn’t cause as much of pain to really ring any alarm bells. As I grew up, the problem got worse but the idea of a knee surgery was still not considered to be a safe option. I met with an accident in 2007 and the best solution to fix it was to perform a surgery. Yet the senior doctors at that time considered that healing should solve it and one shouldn’t hinder with complex joints like knee. Ten years later, I can now say it didn’t heal.
Thanks to that condition, I always lived in constant fear of dislocating my knee. I would walk slowly, be extra careful on stairs, never jump or run. There were times when my brain would suddenly remember the feeling when knee twists if I would be walking with people behind me. As if one of them kicked my knee from behind. It would get so fictitiously painful that I would physically just touch my knee to believe that it still is intact. To avoid situations like these, I never walked with people walking immediately behind me. I would always stand with my right left loose so that no one accidently hits it. It was a 24×7 stress on my head.
These x-ray scans just told me, that trauma was over. That after I recover this time, there will be no more random knee twists and the unfathomable pain that makes you want to throw up and haunt you for days and nights. It was something. I was still processing it all. Like a curse was now lifted.
“Once the effects of anaesthesia wear off, you’ll need to pass a lot of urine. We’ve given you a lot of fluids during the surgery. You might experience pain in your bladder but worry not it is normal. If you feel that you’re unable to pee, let us know and we’ll fix a catheter” explained Dr Sawhney.
I almost jumped hearing the ‘C’ word.
“Fix a WHAT? I don’t think that will be necessary. It should be fine without it”
“Hahaha that’s the best part of catheter. Nine out of ten times we don’t actually need to fix it. The very mention of it or bringing it in the view of the patient does its job”
My right leg was now bandaged and put in a full length brace. It looked three times the size it was before the surgery. I couldn’t move a toe or anything. They transferred me back to the stretcher, I thanked all the doctors and was wheeled out in the observation area. I was freezing again. The same doctors came by and set up all the equipment around me including the blower to keep me warm. I was supposed to stay in this room for over an hour.
Dr Sawhney called up my father and made me talk to him. I told him it all went well. He sounded relieved. Everyone left me alone to rest. Like I was even tired. Or maybe I was. I lifted the bedsheet slightly to have a look at my leg and realized they didn’t put back my pajama. I touched the skin on my thigh where I had no sensation and it felt like I was touching another person’s body. Surreal.
I continued to just stare at the ceiling wishing to sleep but could not. Suddenly, my heartrate monitor which was beeping rhythmically started wreaking havoc. I thought everyone will come running but nobody did. On the contrary, a nurse just came by, reset it and found out one of the sensors was pulled out. She put it back on my chest.
Instead of holding on to the skin fully, it caught half of my hair and was now pulling it. I thought I should inform her but she left. It kept pulling away the hair slowly increasing the pain. At one point it got super painful so I just pulled it off and the machine went mad again with beeps. I was amazed how confident they were that nothing was wrong with me. She again came strolling to reset it. I told her what happened and she put it on clear skin this time.
I was surprised that I had no thoughts at that point. I was just blank. I had never been this blank for a long time. I was kind of enjoying this oblivion. Another patient was brought next to me. She had a surgery of her ear. The doctor was extra friendly and chirpy. She joked around with all the nurses. The nurses seemed to not like her much. I could see them going ‘Ooooooh look at Miss I-AM-SUCH-FAB-DOC hop, skip and jump out of here’.
Another patient was brought with some gastro related surgery. The nurses made a face when they were told the patient will pass stool now. They looked at each other as to whose duty was it. A senior nurse sped up and closed the curtains around the patient.
It reminded me, I was neither hungry nor thirsty. It was 2pm and I hadn’t had a drop of water since 6am. My last meal was the day before. Yet I felt just fine. Wait. At some point, I will have to let go of what I am fed here. Will I have to use a pot? Oh Wow. I somehow was convinced that the biggest challenge was the surgery. It was slowly becoming clear to me that shit was about to get real.
I started feeling a tingling sensation all over my lower body. I tried moving my left toe. This was funny. In my head, I was just wiggling my toe but I could see the whole foot flap around like crazy. I didn’t want to risk wiggling my right toe. In the middle of this whole wiggly business, it was time for me to be taken to my ward. An hour had passed just like that.
Back in my ward, I had to be shifted to my bed. The four ward boys picked up each corner of the bedsheet and put me right between the bed and the stretcher. Happy with their achievement, they decided to wheel the stretcher away.
“STOP. I am in the middle. You need to shift me all the way on the bed” I told them and my own helplessness struck me. I couldn’t even shift on my own at that point.
“What? Really?” one of the men lifted the bedsheet on the top to check if that was really the case. I again got nervous. The bedsheet was all that was covering me. All that realization of privacy not being a problem anymore had vanished and there I was all paranoid again. They realized the problem and shifted me again to the centre of the bed. A strange sense of fatigue began taking over me. Shortly before I was feeling absolutely fine but now I felt all my energy had vanished. Head and eyes started to feel heavy yet I wasn’t sleepy. Speaking seemed like a task. I just lay there still, breathing deeply.
My father came by to check on me. And right behind him came my mom. She was half crying half smiling. Caressing through my hair, she asked me if everything went well, if I had any pain, if I was feeling nauseas or dizzy. My father jumped in and consoled her that everything went perfectly well. The doctors were very happy with the result. And she should just let me rest. That calmed her down and she sat next to me.
Then came Shashwat all smiling and happy.
“Aur bhai. How did it go? You feel alright? Let’s see how it looks” and he began to slowly uncover the sheet from my right toe.
“Don’t open it please. That’s all that’s covering me” I feebly tell him.
“What? That’s all? They were going to put a brace and all right? What happened to that?” and he pulls the bedsheet uncovering my entire right leg.
“STUPID GUY. STOP. I MEANT AM NOT WEARING ANYTHING EXCEPT THIS BEDSHEET” I scream on top of my lungs. He immediately puts back the sheet.
“Oh achha. Sorry”
He walks away and starts to fidget with his phone. And a sense of guilt overcomes me. I should not have screamed. I start to wonder what is with me that’s making me so irritable and sensitive about it. I just stay quiet for some time. I should take it easy.
A young nurse comes in with a very innocent smile.
“Hello. You want to have some water?” she asked me very calmly and sweetly. She had a south Indian accent. I nodded a yes. She brought a glass of water and I felt my mouth wanting to soak away the whole glass. Like an influx I began desperately sipping the water. She immediately pulled away the glass.
“No. Not so much. Just a couple of small sips. We’ll give you soup in some time”
Whatever water got through felt like heaven. My head landed back on the pillow with a thud. The tingling sensation had now reached its end. And my bladder was waking up. In about ten minutes I started feeling like I hadn’t peed in a week. I pressed the nurse call button and asked for a pee bottle. I prayed to the Almighty that I don’t have to use a catheter.
A very humble, pleasant looking man came with the bottle smiling. He politely requested everyone to move out and closed all the curtains.
“Take your time son. I am standing right outside” he told me handing over a weirdly shaped bottle with a flat bottom. The shape immediately made sense. Then I let it go. Take it from me. Very few things feel as good as peeing after a surgery. It probably went on for fifteen minutes. I thought the bottle would overflow but it had some capacity. Mamu took away the bottle, cleaned my hands and tucked me back in. The effects of anaesthesia were completely gone.
Which also meant, the pain that I had royally avoided so far was starting to poke my knee. First with little pins. Then with bigger needles followed by knives. And just when I thought that was it, came spears and bludgeons.
It would hit me in waves. Each wave more painful than the other. I asked my father if the drip had any painkiller and turns out they did give me some painkillers (paracetamol) after the surgery. Somehow, it wasn’t working. It grew worse in the next half an hour.
To the extent that I couldn’t hold it together. I began howling in pain. My mother’s face lost all its colour. My father talked to the nurses and on duty doctor. They thought it was normal to feel pain. One of them even questioned my father “Is he a very pampered kid? Can he not bear some pain?”. May be I am a pampered kid. And maybe I don’t deal well with pain. How about helping me instead of judging me?
They had planned a course of painkillers that would increase in dosage gradually. But I was in agony. Every now and then the pain would subside letting me breathe then suddenly it would hit me hard again. The spasms were very random. No fixed rhythm.
I was tired of keeping my hands on the sides. I wanted to raise them above my head. But the moment I would do so, my knee would feel a pull and start to hurt. So I would again bring them down. But then my arms would hurt. I felt absolutely trapped and end of my wit.
“This is ridiculous. Why would they not give me stronger pain killers? If only the pain is constant and slightly less than this, I can bear it. But right now, I cannot bear it.” I cried to my dad in pain.
Very calmly my dad replied “It’s not ridiculous. It’s just a standard procedure. They cannot suddenly give you more pain killers. There has to be a certain gap. Too bad it is not working but it is still in your system. Just try to tough it out for some time. They will add another dosage soon.”
My knee was feeling very tightly trapped in something. Like it was hurting because the brace was too tight. I complained to the doctor on duty and he gave his usual reply
“That’s usual. We can’t open the brace. Is there any other problem?”
“Yeah. The damn tv has no HD channels” I almost replied.
Finally my dad called up Dr Sawhney who immediately spoke to the nurse and asked them to loosen the brace because it must have swollen. She loosened it a little bit and like magic my pain subsided. Still a lot though. But now borderline bearable.
I looked at my mother and could see her freaking out. I knew she would not leave if I continued to be in so much pain. I closed my eyes and began breathing deeply. The nurse came by and added another dosage of painkiller. It had very little effect though. I acted like it worked. I faked falling asleep.
My father then convinced my mother that I have gone to sleep and she should leave. She was reluctant at first but eventually agreed and left. As soon as she left, I woke up and told my dad that it was still very painful but less than earlier. He checked with the nurses again and there was still time before they would give the final dose. So he started talking to me about random things to divert my attention. I explained what all was happening in the OT and how they clicked pictures etc. He began telling me stories of days when he was a medical representative. Two hours passed.
At around 11pm, sister came in with Tramazac. Within a minute of her injecting that, I felt the pain reduce to a little prick. The dosage was really strong. I could feel it. Strong painkillers make your head feel light and give you a sort of high. Like I know what being high is. Still. I can guess. The relief was so quick that I fell asleep in no time.
Bright lights. Beeps. Walking on the road. Jumping. Free fall. And I woke up with a jolt. Breathing heavily, I looked at the clock. It had hardly been few minutes since I fell asleep. I felt extremely exhausted and a little bit disoriented. I continued to lay still. In some time, I began to fall asleep again.
Concrete. My shoes. Free falling feet. Crash. And I woke up again with a sudden jerk in my right leg.
To be continued….