C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

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Waiting for Dawn on the Comeback Trail

The first twenty minutes of coming back from the dead are the worst. After forty-four staples on a ten-inch wound, I’m working on my comeback.

Minor detail: I wasn’t coming back from the dead. I was returning to consciousness after major surgery. I thought I was dying, though. The last thing I remember was a surgical team member lowering a mask over my face and telling me to breathe deeply. I disappeared into nothingness, but in an instant, I was swimming back, wide awake and drowning. The pain was searing, and I was unprepared for the burn. I found out later the surgery had been difficult, but successful.

Pain. Four letters, one syllable. It’s really not a big enough word.

I’d been in the void for just over two hours, and that retreat was okay. Death doesn’t scare me. It’s the dying part that kills you. Why me? I thought. This should be happening to my many, many enemies.

“The morphine will kick in soon, but I can’t give you too much at once, or you’ll stop breathing. My job is to keep you breathing.” That was Laura, my post-op nurse and shepherd back to the land of the living. As the pain subsided, my sense of humor returned. Laura was great. I was going to be great. It was going to work out. But it’s been harder than I’d hoped.

I anticipated most post-op issues. My main problem is sleep. I can’t get enough of it, and I must sleep on my back for six weeks. The sedatives help a bit. At least I’m not watching reruns of Kung Fu at 3 a.m. anymore. I’m bingeing Justified and Fresh Off the Boat, but that’s a daytime distraction while I perform my remedial exercises. I’m off the narcotics, but I must admit arthritis really fucked me up. I’m feeling old and useless. You don’t fight a disease like this. That’s the wrong metaphor. Instead, I’m hobbling away from it. Using a walker and a cane, I’m putting distance from Decrepit Me. I’m nostalgic for the days when I could kick opponents in the jaw, but eventually I’ll walk normally. Surgery makes a pretty X-ray. Activity makes it a moving picture. I’m looking forward to returning to boxing.

Rehab is a full-time job.

My surgeon performed the vivisection and engineering expertly. I am a cyborg, renewed by titanium, cobalt, and polyethylene. My physiotherapist is endlessly encouraging. She sees a stationary bike in my near future. Though my progress is incremental, I’m retraining my body and improving daily. We set up a recovery room with assistive devices at home. My wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, is a doctor. However, through this ordeal, she’s been doing double duty as my nurse. She’s also proved herself a saint.

That first twenty minutes haunts me, though.

I dwell on my mortality too much. My sense of time is still messed up. I’m morbid and more emotional than usual. I didn’t have claustrophobia before. Getting tangled in the sheets triggers me now. A week after surgery, I felt panic mount as it took me too long to find the neck hole in a hoodie. Even as I dismissed the problem as ridiculous, my lizard brain was fired up and ready to flail. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t enough oxygen in the room.

There are many milestones on the Comeback Trail, and I am not a patient patient. Anxiety and depression are common after major surgery, and I had those issues even before I went under the buzz saw. Last week I wrote my first work email, details on a book doctoring job. Typing up a few paragraphs of instructions wiped me out for the day.

I hope to get back to writing my next novel soon, but I had my first shower since the surgery only yesterday. I still want to record my audiobooks, but that’s a little further down the Comeback Trail just now. I must stop for the night. Darkness comes for us all, and I am waiting for the dawn. My surgery date was March 31. This post is the most I’ve written since March 30.

~ I am the cyborg writer of award-winning science fiction and killer crime thrillers. Find all books by Robert Chazz Chute on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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5 Responses

  1. Be well, my friend. You are in our prayers.

  2. It can take a long time to recover from surgery; I had a month of unrelenting pain, and it took three more to even feel human (I’m disabled – that doesn’t help, but the surgery was necessary – I recover more slowly because my cells don’t produce energy, and energy is necessary to recreate the missing pieces).

    Hang in there. Breathe. Space out the pain meds if you can, if they work. Eat lots of fiber.

    Mine was last September; I’m barely getting back to writing.

  3. acflory says:

    I’m so sorry, Rob. I still remember coming out of the anaesthetic 12 years ago. They, whoever they were, put a thing in my hand with a button – I think it was green – and told me to press the button when the pain got too bad. I don’t really remember much of what happened thereafter, but I think I must have pressed the button too much because they took it away from me.
    So…yes, major surgery is not fun. Neither is the aftermath, but you MUST find something good in every day. It can be large or very, very small, but that one good thing will be your anchor.
    Stay strong. -hugs-

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