I survived a knifing 2015.10.28


I feel like I've been on the most wonderful vacation lately. It's not like a real vacation when you're driving five hours to get there or rushing off to the airport, only to face a hectic visiting schedule.

My vacation has been little more than lying on my back, interspersed with an occasional walk around the house. It's also known as post-surgery recovery, and it's been very, very restful. Restful to the point of thinking that I should begin accomplishing something instead of just lying around all day.

At first I thought, hmmm, I could get used to this. Eventually, it made me wonder how I might handle retirement after being so accustomed to working all the time. I feel as though I need to do something, like write a column, like think about what kind of paper can be instantly created.

I think it's been interesting for my wife, too. Serving as home nurse has brought Colleen out of her other home, the library, and forced her to attend to more domestic affairs.

I've told some people that I was getting a lobotomy. Remember the old joke—I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy? Actually it was the much more mundane hernia repair, one of the most common surgeries performed in the world. There's obviously some problem with the way people are living these days. Why should the abdominal muscles become weakened in so many thousands of people? What are we doing wrong? I have no idea when and how I got that way. It never caused me any pain. It was just a little bothersome having my intestines trying to expand into the world.

I remember talking to Mike McDowell a couple weeks ago about my upcoming surgery. I explained that I initially hoped to wait until I retired, but I decided action was necessary and had it scheduled Oct. 14. A far-away football game; no city council meeting the following Monday—the perfect date. But the doctor's office messed up the appointment and I had to go a week later. And I missed covering a home football game probably for the first time in 35 years.

Mike realized the absurdity of scheduling surgery in terms of sporting events and council meetings, etc., and then he had to bring up the question his wife asked recently: What will happen to the Observer when I have had enough of it?

I don't have an answer for them, but at that time I was thinking, What will happen to the paper when I fail to come out of the anesthesia? Yes, this was my first surgery.

I wasn't accustomed to wearing a hospital gown, but the nurse explained that it's just like wearing a skirt: Keep your knees together. I was comforted when the surgeon arrived and drew an "x" on my left side to avoid an embarrassing error in the operating room.

I asked the doctor if he got a good night's sleep and was feeling sharp. He said he was doing well and had only a few drinks the night before. That's what I needed to hear: a sense of humor.

I suppose, in retrospect, I could say that it was no big deal. The student nurse did a fine job of inserting the IV needle, although she ended up below the vein instead of in it and the supervising nurse did a more painful job in the other hand.

I have no recollection of sinking into unconsciousness nor any memory of coming out. I was home in a few of hours and ingested my first and only hard drug. I decided to sell the remainder to help pay for the surgery.

Now I need to weigh my camera, lens and flash to see if I can cover the first playoff game Friday night. For the most part, I will probably have to have my hands tied behind my back to prevent unintended injury. I'm cautioned not to lift anything heavier than eight pounds for several weeks, but I worry about other movements that might challenge the abdominal muscles, too. For example, I think rope climbing is out until Thanksgiving.

Surely there are readers who will face this same situation in the future. Let me comfort you by saying this: The worst part was ripping off the tape and uprooting body hair. Oh, the pain!