Humor award article by Bob McDonnell

As many of my readers know, I had a heart attack and subsequent quadruple bypass surgery about a 18 months ago. 

Since I freelance for the Berthoud Surveyor newspaper, I had a chance to write a column about my recovery.  I was surprised that it won third place (class 2 circulation) at this year’s Colorado Press Association awards.

I’ll take pain management for $100, Alex

Guest Columnist  Bob McDonnell  

So, there I was crammed into a hospital bed that felt about the size of my granddaughter’s youth bed. I was in a room in the intensive (expensive) care unit after having my chest sawed and cracked and my heart re-plumbed.

At the pre-surgery orientation, I was asked to estimate my tolerance for pain. Being a guy, I proudly said six or seven out of ten. Later, that all changed as my foggy brain realized what my old body had just endured.

Somehow, lying there in my ever-so-fashionable hospital gown (the same design I had almost 60 years earlier when my tonsils were removed) with tubes coming out of places where I didn’t know tubes could be, I thought about the television quiz show Jeopardy. Yes, Jeopardy.

This all seemed natural to me even in my groggy haze since I try to watch the show every chance I get, and consider it a fulfilling day if I get the final Jeopardy answer right. Living life on the edge, for sure.

Anyway, as I contemplated my predicament, a Jeopardy- type buzzer was placed in my hand. (Sorry Alex Trebek, I know you call it a signaling device but I was not in the mood to quibble over correct terminology). A nurse said if I activated it, pain meds would magically flow through my newly revamped body. What a deal. No correct answer needed!

It is said that all things are relative, and this was very true of my pre-op estimate that I could handle pain. Anything over a level three caused me to wimp out and push the plunger multiple times. “Let’s make it a true daily double, Alex.”

 But wait, there was a catch. It would be bad publicity for the hospital to have patients too high or overdosing, so the device didn’t work every time. Whenever my thumb pressed the device, I heard a click or a buzz from the maze of electronic boxes, gauges and monitors hanging on the wall behind me. A clicking sound meant it was not time for another dose. A buzz meant I had “answered the question correctly.”

I should go back and ask the staff what the timing of the dosage was. At the time, I was more interested in activities like breathing, standing, showering and trying to think clearly and concentrate without doing something foolish like walking around with my gown open. You probably have to know a secret handshake or something to get this information anyway.

I would assume the device was timed to work every few minutes on a regular schedule, but I suspected a perverted mind may have set mine on random timing that was longer than a couple Jeopardy shows. All I know is when I wanted it to work, and I wanted it to work RIGHT NOW.

Fortunately, this nightmare lasted only a day, then an angel in blue scrubs (whatever happened to the crispy white uniforms?) brought some pills at the appropriate time.

The good news is the entire episode was short-lived, and I am back to normal, whatever that is, watching Jeopardy and being pain pill free.

 Life is good. Thanks Alex.

Printed in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor November 11, 2009

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