I had a vague memory that my husband had taken some pictures of me at various moments during the day of my back surgery, but all of the anesthesia and sundry medications I took that day made me wonder if I’d really been photographed or if I’d just dreamed about it. I have a history of disorientation after surgery. Once it ran so deep that in my post-op haze I had no idea why I was in a hospital, let alone why I’d had an operation in said hospital, so I confabulated exotic scenarios like alien birth until my rational mind returned.
Over the past few weeks, I thought about asking him if I was right in thinking he’d taken some pictures that day, but I tabled the question, knowing that if such photos existed, they were undoubtedly unflattering. I may be old enough that I’ve lost lots of vanity over the years, but I am not yet so earthy that I want to see pictures of me looking bad. I decided to wait until I felt better.
This week I asked about the pictures. Yes, the pictures exist, but they were not as bad as I thought they’d be. Here is the before picture:
I’d already had some pre-op meds by the time this photo was taken, and I recall that I felt fairly sober at that point. This picture tells me I was wrong on that count. Back when my sister and I were in our wild phases 20+ years ago, I used to poke fun at her because I could see the exact moment when she’d become drunk because her eyes suddenly looked big. My eyes have that same look in this picture!
Now for the after shot, wherein the surgery seems to have added 10 years and ten pounds to me:
Notice how I already have my phone with me. Add some intoxicating substance to my bloodstream, and I will crave communication by phone. This is one reason I rarely drink alcohol: I can barely resist the siren call of the drunk dial and alienated a few too many people with this past habit. My hospital stay involved no alcohol whatsoever, but the post-surgical opiates opened the faucet of phone calls, both real and imagined.
There were a few times I thought I was talking on the phone to my mom, my husband, my sister, or my boss, and it seemed that the call dropped because whoever was on the other end stopped talking. Then I realized that the technical problem was a phantasm, for the conversation was entirely one-sided except in my mind. I had been talking into an imaginary phone and hallucinating the words of the other person!
I also had lucid dreams about making phone calls, and then I’d wake up and call the person I had dreamed about to talk about the dream.
While my hospital stay was sweetened with such fancy, the reason behind that stay cannot be window-dressed so easily. Below is an image of what my lumbar spine looked like via MRI before the surgery. Note the rupture at L4-L5.