Laid Up

The Thinker by Rodin

I wonder what the criteria are these days for an overnight stay in the hospital. They must be high. Many years back my wife had a hysterectomy and to save money the HMO sent her home the same day. She gritted her teeth and wailed all the way home from her many jostling sutures. It seems just about everything is being done outpatient these days, but if it is helping to control health care costs, it is hard for me to tell.

My relatively minor surgery yesterday certainly did not qualify for a hospital stay, which is just as well. I am more comfortable at home anyhow and Georgetown University Hospital is so far away from where I live. It took close to two hours just to drive there from our house near Dulles Airport. Much of that time was wasted creeping onto the ramps for the Dulles Toll Road and then trying to merge onto the traffic. It’s insane but just to make it more annoying they upped the tolls with the start of the new year. The Silver Line is going in, Metro’s latest controversial extension that will go through Tyson’s Corner and eventually to Dulles Airport and beyond. Money has to come from somewhere, so it comes from commuters on the toll road that have no other alternative. I am grateful I have to navigate the traffic on it so infrequently.

Parking at Georgetown University Hospital is always a hassle, but fortunately, my surgery was not. They must have finished patients ahead of me early. I had barely walked in the door and they were moving me back. I had doctors and nurses competing for my attention. They even skipped the traditional gurney ride into the operating room. My surgeon, anxious to get the procedure done with, had me walk into the operating room where the anesthesiologist hurried with my IV. One moment I was looking at the bright lights on the ceiling and suddenly it was ninety minutes later and I was in recovery. Huge bandages now cover my right foot and leg. Somewhere under all that dressing is a three-inch scar near my ankle where the tarsal nerve repair was done. Somewhere on my leg are three other incisions that helped release the pressure on those nerves. By 2 p.m. I was in crutches and on my way home.

Given a choice in the future, I would definitely consider Georgetown University Hospital again. The whole experience felt much faster and more professional than other hospitals we have used. The staff was excellent from the moment I arrived until the moment I left. I could not have asked for more professionalism and courtesy. Some years back after some back surgery, Reston Hospital wanted to give my wife some crutches, for which they wanted to bill her $200. What an outrage! Reston Hospital is a for profit hospital partially owned by Senator Bill Frist, one of the major stockholder of HCA. Georgetown, as a non-profit Catholic hospital (as well as a teaching hospital) charged me $44 for the crutches with no markup. It will take a while to see what my net bill will be but I suspect it will be lower than if I had the procedure performed locally.

Anyhow, I am home, and home is where I will stay for three weeks or so. My leg is bandaged in such a way that driving is impossible. Fortunately, I am reasonably mobile. I use crutches but due to all the gauze covering it, I can put some weight on the right leg. Nor really is there any pain. Yesterday I felt only numbness. It is clear that the surgeon wants the sutures to stay in place because the foot is wrapped so tightly that the whole foot feels numb, and it was the numbness (and pain) that I was trying to get rid of. At least one is down.

Home is where you heart is supposed to be but in truth, I am not much of a homebody. This means that three weeks at home will be something of a minor trial for me. I dread retirement because I feel like I need a place to go to during the day. For as long as I can remember it was always work or school. Even if I was having a stay-cation, should I feel the need to escape there was always the car. As I heal, I may be able to hobble around in my crutches up and down the block. This will be the extent that I will be leaving home.

To fill up the time I will first keep the foot propped up most of the day. Long naps do not seem necessary. I have a stack of DVDs I can work my way through, and there are books to read. There is also the web to surf, but for me surfing the web is always more fun after I have dodged and parried with the real world the rest of the day. Thanks to 21st century technology, I can effectively do 90% of my work at home, at least for a few weeks. So I plan to resume working next week, although my kitchen table is a poor substitute for the office. It has no becalming view of the Shenandoah Mountains, nor the convenience of the cafeteria and snack bars, nor the social life one can find in the office.

Somewhat begrudgingly, I think what I will miss most of all these three weeks at home is my office social life. I am no social butterfly. There have been consecutive days when the only one I spoke to was the guy who removes my trash. Still, it is nice to interact with people other than my immediate family. Here I have my wife who for a while will have to cater to me and who is always nice to have around, but she is a well-known commodity. There is also my daughter who sleeps during the day and who generally ignores me anyhow. There is also one friendly cat. To the extent I have a social life these next few weeks, it will be with my cat.

There are still bills to pay and work for clients on the side to do. That will help. I best double my dosage of Vitamin D because it will be awhile before I will feel the sun shining on my skin again. Being laid up is a part of life, and one I should get used to. It is perhaps something to be welcomed rather than feared. As for being one of life’s trials, it will be a minor one. Come early February, I expect I will be sick of it and will look forward to returning to the office. Until then, I must be a homebody.

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