My first sleep post-surgery was interrupted every two hours by hazy trips to the bathroom. The nurse heard me go the first time and rushed into my ward to see if I needed help. I was already halfway to the bathroom, so she insisted I keep the toilet door slightly ajar just in case. Her request made me feel like I was a four-year-old all over again, but I obeyed nevertheless.
I woke up at around 7 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. I ate a banana that the church couple brought the night before while watching CNN and waiting for breakfast to be served.
Dr Miia came into my ward a little after 9 am. A Finnish lady of few words, she told me in as many words that as the operation went ahead at 4 pm instead of 12 noon, my left arm had swollen so much it was impossible to sew up the incisions on my arm after she put in the titanium plates. In order to reduce the swelling in my left arm, she told me to open and close my left palm by moving each and every finger one at a time, using my right hand to help whenever I had difficulty moving my fingers. This was easily one of the hardest things I had to do in my life, as my hand had swollen to three times its normal size and each finger felt like it was made of hard, inflexible rubber. She then informed me that the physio would be visiting me later in the day to prescribe me with more exercises to help me recover the use of my left hand, and she’d be back the next morning to see if the swelling had reduced enough for her to sew me up. She wasn’t optimistic about the swelling reducing that quickly though and she was not going to discharge me with an open wound. That meant I was staying in the hospital for at least a couple more days.
I spent the rest of the day doing exercises with my left hand, mobilising my left elbow and shoulder, taking frequent naps, watching TV and fielding calls and messages. As I don’t subscribe to cable TV at home, it felt like a treat being able to watch CNN and flip to other foreign channels initially but the excitement quickly wore off. I began checking and replying to work emails. When my colleagues informed me they were coming to visit me in the evening, I asked that they bring my work laptop so I could do some work while at the hospital. I never felt work was so essential to my sanity and overall sense of well-being until that day.
I was being drip-fed a small dose of painkillers and a healthy dose of antibiotics, so even going to the bathroom required advanced planning as I had to unplug the machine from the power socket, tidy up the cables and push the tree trolley with a machine and bags of medication with my hand in the right position so I wouldn’t set off the alarm warning the nurses my drip wasn’t working.
The physio, Jason, came by at 4 pm. I showed him what my left hand was capable of after eight hours of doing Dr Miia’s exercises. Then he showed me how much more I could do with my left hand, pushing my fingers out and backwards when I opened my left palm and pushing them all the way in when I curled them into a fist. I felt the first bout of pain post-surgery and he encouraged me to up my dosage of painkillers if I needed to. I didn’t know what I was trying to prove but I decided not to do so, preferring to grin and bear it. He told me to do ten repetitions of the exercise as often as I could manage.
After dinner, I received a stream of visitors, with the last one leaving at about 10:30 pm. After seeing him off at the lift, I dragged myself back to my ward and promptly collapsed into bed, dozing off almost immediately. I hadn’t felt so exhausted in a very long time.