Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fun with Medical Procedures

I laid low most of yesterday, sleeping a lot, due to a minor surgical procedure I underwent. I’m still not 100% functional today.

The genetic beneficiary of receding gums, I received a tissue transplant for my upper gums last year. Yesterday, the doc did the same thing on the lower gums.

It's not so bad. The main discomfort associated with this operation, so far as I'm concerned, comes whenever I rinse my mouth with water every few hours. That's because the procedure involves the grafting of skin from the roof of a patient's mouth and transplanting it to create new gum tissue.

The first day's post-surgical bleeding and pain didn't match that of last year at all. On the first afternoon following last year's surgery, I woke up once and found blood all over my pillow. Using the old "chomp on a tea bag for a few hours" routine stemmed the bleeding quickly. At about 3:00 this morning, I woke up again. My mouth was full of blood and had to once more rinse and find tea bags. That once again stopped the bleeding. But I didn't have to change the pillowcase this time.

By Wednesday, I should be able to tolerate solid foods and be back to work full swing. I fixed scrambled eggs this morning. They tasted so good after a day of just yogurt, apple sauce, and chopped fruit!

When it comes to pain, I guess I'd have to say I'm something of a wimp.

But most medical procedures I've undergone through the years haven't been as horrible as some friends led me to believe they would be.

For example, one friend of mine, a burly, strong guy, once told me about the flexible sigmoidoscopy he'd just undergone. He made it sound like torture. "Pray that you never have to have one of those done," he told me in all seriousness.

When, some five years later, my GP said that I should have a sigmoidoscopy, my whole body clenched. I went to the office of the recommended specialist, was taken to the examination room, and braced myself for the worst. Five minutes into a procedure I can only describe as mildly uncomfortable, the doctor administering the test told me, "We're done." "We're done?" I asked. "Yep." "There was nothing to that." "Not really."

Two weeks ago, with my GP concerned that I might be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, I went for an EMG (for electromiogram) test. With electromiography, physicians can determine how the muscles are functioning...or not. The test can tell whether a patient is suffering from carpal tunnel problems.

For years, people have told me how horrible the EMG test is. Undergoing the test, which entails having one's hand, arm, shoulder, and neck shocked and stabbed with needles, isn't my idea of a good time. But, except for two times when I felt quick twinges of pain, the test wasn't that bad.

My point in bringing all of this up is that you can't let yourself get spooked by others' experiences of various medical procedures.

The main reason for that, I think, is that everybody reacts differently to different procedures. Last year, I underwent an EKG. (Parenthetically, the reason was pains that my doctor determined resulted from a rotator cuff injury sustained in the local gym. My heart appears to be in tip-top condition. I also have perfect blood pressure.)

But having allergies or being even slightly asthmatic, as I am, can complicate the administration of an EKG. While not in great shape, I walk a lot and always hit my recommended elevated heart rate while working out on treadmills and ellipticals at the gym. But I couldn't do much running on the treadmill when I started in on the EKG. Congestion in my lungs seemed to prevent it.

Instead, I had to undergo Version B of the EKG. It's one in which chemicals are injected into a subject's veins while they sit, bouncing crazily in a chair.

The technicians who worked with me, all women, warned me, "Once this chemical gets into your system, you might become really hot. It will feel just like hot flashes feel for menopausal women."

Within the first twenty seconds of being injected with the chemical, my hot flahes hit. As instructed, I squeezed a rubber ball furiously with my right hand and tapped both feet like Fred Astaire on crack. Barely able to breathe, I looked at the three women monitoring my test and said with a smile, "I get it. This is revenge on men for not having to endure menopause like you." They all laughed.

If I ever undergo another EKG in my life, I intend to be rested and not allow any breathing issues to keep me from staying on the treadmill. I don't want to be a chair dancer again.

Others who've undergone an EKG may think that it's no big deal. And of course, they're right, I guess. But I'd frankly rather have the surgery I had yesterday...or an EMG or a sigmoidoscopy...than have an EKG again.

What medical tests or surgical procedures have you had that weren't as bad as your friends billed them? What ones were worse?

1 comment:

Charlie said...

You're right that some of these things are much easier than the folklore makes them out to be. I went in for a cardiac stress test this year and had heard from some friends what a killer test it was. I imagined all sorts of terrible things, but it turned out to be just a brisk walk uphill. I suppose if your heart is in a bad way, it would be awful, but I didn't find it hard at all.

I have the same receding gum problem you have. Didn't know they could be repaired. I'll have to look into it. Meanwhile, I'll be praying for a quick recovery.