We’ll get back to good ol’ Literature and Libation classics as soon as my blood pressure normalizes.
I like to think I’m a healthy guy. I may not be a triathlete with bullet-deflecting-abs, but I run three to four times a week and lift weights when my body cooperates. I drink, but within reason, when reasonable. I eat well. Lots of veggies and fruit and not lots of cheese and oil-soaked sausage patties.
In direct correlation, my blood pressure is normally pretty great. 120ish over 70ish, depending on stress levels and how scary my attending doctor is. I’ve got good energy in that range. Energy that I can work with and mold and bend to my focused, writerly will. My normal blood pressure equates roughly to me feeling normal.
Enter the post-operative low-blood pressure monster. He is a cunning predator, waiting for the least opportune times to sneak in and put you on your ass. Low blood pressure is the worst kind of duplicitous; he’ll convince you that you feel great while sitting down, then hit you across the back of your head a hammer made of orthostatic hypotension, giving you a head-rush like you’ve never experienced.
And never wanted to.
As I was recovering from my recent procedure, I passed out for the first time in my life. OK, that’s lie. I’ve passed out before, but almost always as side effect from falling out of a tree, colliding with a soccer player, or generally doing something stupid that resulted in a surface harder than my skull winning our impromptu headbutting contest.
But I’ve never passed out in the middle of feeling otherwise great. It’s incredibly unsettling, akin to the feeling you have right after you discover you’ve been Jedi mind tricked and those were in fact the Droids you were looking for.
The actual sensation can only be described as “mortifyingly unpleasant.” You’re embarrassed that you suddenly forget how be conscious, but also get the joy of feeling like 100,000 tiny spiders are crawling across your brain, interrupting synapses, spinning webs of confusion and nausea.
It’s not something I’d do for recreation, that’s for sure.
I opted for an epidural instead of general anesthesia because hell, why not? I always wanted to have a baby. After the numbness in my legs had melted to a comfortable, dull buzz, I just had to wait until my vitals were back in acceptable ranges. My pressure had pretty much stabilized, I was feeling good, cracking jokes, getting the entire back-story of my nurse (she emigrated from the Philippines in 2002) because I’m the kind of person who is obnoxiously inquisitive even when barely conscious.
The doctors and nurses both cleared me to leave. I stood up from my special medical chair with no issues. Managed to get my tshirt and underwear on still feeling fine. Then I made an attempt at my jeans. I think I let my head hang a little too low, or moved a little too quickly. Before I could process what was happening, I collapsed into an Oliver-shaped pile on the floor. My nurse yelled for help, and the next thing I remember I’m on my back with an oxygen mask stuck to my face, talking to a doctor I’ve never seen who had apparently just emerged from a nearby operating room.
My systolic blood pressure had dropped into the 70s, which had in turn dropped me. It took hours for it to get back to where it was supposed to be, probably because it got lost in all the roadwork being done inside my bones.
For the past few days, I’ve been suffering from the scorched earth aftermath of a body incapable (or unwilling) to consistently maintain its blood pressure. The day after I got home, supposedly hydrated and closer to normal, I nearly passed out from the heat and activity of a shower. My wife saved me by giving me Oreos and telling me to close my eyes and breathe. Short walks to the bathroom and back feel like Baggins-esque odysseys to Mount (porcelain) Doom. I only feel lucid when sitting sedentarily or when sprawled across my bed like a decorative afghan.
But I can’t go through my life being an afghan.
It will take my body a few weeks to recreate the marrow and blood that was taken during the operation. Apparently, I’m in a fateful 10% of patients who have issues with blood pressure post-donation. I should blame myself for always wanting to be different. Until then, I’ll have to keep my activities low impact and low stress.
Guess that means a lot of writing. Recovery is hell.