Hurdle #1: Getting Out of Bed For The First Time

Laura Zigman Health Guide

    Laura Zigman in bathroom


    Not to keep bragging, but my 12 hour surgery that had ended late Thursday night was so long that the nurses actually gave me a pass on getting out of bed the next day and let me "relax" with my patient-controlled morphine drip until Sunday. Anyone who has ever had surgery knows that there's almost no way to get the nurses to give you a pass on getting out of bed, but apparently I had cracked the code.


    And so first thing Saturday morning it was time to get me up and to the bathroom. Even if my brain hadn't been swimming in morphine I don't think I would have understood how this trip -- this extremely short trip off the side of my bed and four feet away to the bathroom -- would be physically possible. Because having just had my body cut in half, I really wasn't sure how -- or, if -- it would stay together if I moved.

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    I also wasn't sure how I was actually supposed to move. Not only did I have seven drains safety-pinned to my Johnny, I also didn't really have any abdominal muscles -- which meant that sitting up was going to be a problem. The nurses who stood there staring at me seemed sympathetic -- I'm not sure they understood how I was supposed to move, either. But after a few minutes of my confused and medicated mulling, the nurses took over: they pulled me out of bed and dragged me to the bathroom.


    What I was supposed to do there once I got there was another story. Shuffling toward the toilet and turning myself around was ridiculous enough, but sitting down? They might as well have told me to do the tango on "Dancing with the Stars." It was absurd, and secretly I think the nurses knew it, too.


    "I just don't think I can, you know, move," I said, staring at the toilet and then at them. Stroke victims must feel this way, I thought:  they know that they used to know how to do things, but they still can't do them anyway.


    They nodded sympathetically, but nurses being nurses, they made me do it anyway.


    I'm not sure how I sat down -- they must have pushed me -- or got up -- they must have pulled me -- because I don't think I would have been able to figure out what muscles I was going to use to shuffle and turn and sit and hold my drains and my Johnny all by myself. They must have helped me back to bed and into it, too, because I never would have been able to do that on my own. Backing me slowly toward the bed, making sure the mattress was at its steepest incline, helping me sit down and lean an inch or two back into the pillows seemed to take forever. And it was exhausting, too. By the time I was beached again on the bed, I was in shock -- both from the exertion of the journey and from the formidable road to recovery that lay ahead.


    But as anyone who's ever had surgery knows, getting out of bed that first time is the hardest, so knowing I had made it over the first big hurdle was a huge relief, and I fell back asleep -- into a deep, drugged sleep -- with just the faintest trace of a smile on my face.


    Post-surgery Laura Zigman on morphine


Published On: December 17, 2007