Out, damned staples! Out I say!

I think I’ve mentioned how insanely early the day started in the Rehab ward and that it was the night nurses and techs who got the patients ready for breakfast before the 7:30am shift change. So, when I heard a cart being wheeled in on the morning of June 1st, I imagined they were coming to scan and drain my bladder. Why would they need to scan it first thing? They know it’s full.

I looked up to see a nurse I didn’t know pushing a small tray on wheels. Not the bladder scanner. “You ready to get those staples out?” she asked. Did anyone else just  hear that choir of angels start singing?

She went straight to work with the medical equivalent of a staple remover and– snap, snap, snap– out they came. She muttered something about a couple of sutures and switched tools to remove those, too. The staples at my belly were slightly more challenging with its softer, saggy, especially after 3 pregnancies and then dramatic rapid weight loss, skin. But even those staples came out only with a mild twinge and I was left looking at the odd collection of metal that had held me together for the last three weeks. Not so tough now, are you staples?

And just like that, I was free. No more Frankenstein Chic. Now I was just bald, stubbly and crippled with a malfunctioning bladder. Things are looking up. I showed off my new staple-free skull at breakfast that morning as they passed around breakfast and belly shots. “You know what my usual breakfast is?” Lilian asked. “Coffee and a cigarette.”

The lack of coffee was becoming an issue on more than one front. I was beginning to get headaches every morning, vaguely in the area of my shunt. It was enough of a concern to Dr. R that she called one of my neurosurgeon’s staff in to check the shunt. They confirmed that it was properly set and when it became clear that the headaches responded to tylenol, they simply added tylenol to my morning pill regimen and contributed the headaches, at least in part, to caffeine withdrawal. That alone dumbfounded me. That a headache would actually recede when I took medicine was almost beyond comprehension. For months and months, I had been self-medicating with so much ibuprofen that it’s a wonder I didn’t send myself into liver failure. Funny thing about ibuprofen, it doesn’t do much for hydrocephalus or brain tumors. This stills blows my mind two years later that, when I have a headache, I can take something and it will actually work.

Matt had another theory he was considering as well. Knowing that we generally split a pot of coffee between us, he wondered if more coffee might be the key to getting my bladder back on track as well. “Would they let you order two coffees?” he asked. I love coffee, but I could barely choke down the cup they gave me much less two, especially in the half hour they gave us for breakfast. “Do you think they would send someone down to Tim Hortons for you?” Doubtful.

The solution presented itself within a day or two. My friend Allanya texted me asking if there was anything she could do for me. Jokingly, I replied something about bringing me coffee, knowing that couldn’t actually happen. Turns out, I had underestimated Allanya. Riverside wasn’t very far from her office, so she agreed that, starting Monday (June 1st was a Friday), she would bring me coffee on her way to work. And she did. For the rest of my stay in Rehab, she brought me coffee on weekdays on her way to work and sat with me at breakfast, joining my little old lady crew. Little did I know what drama that small act of kindness set off behind the scenes among our formerly close group of mutual friends. Unneeded, unnecessary and unwanted drama, but, at that point, at least they kept it from me. She kept her immense displeasure that I  dared to take coffee from Allanya from me, taking it out on our friendship later once I was out of the hospital. How considerate of her.

My new stapleless state earned me a shower with an actual hair (or stubble) wash that afternoon as part of my OT with Jenny. I had been upgraded from the drive thru in the bottomless wheelchair, to an actual shower while sitting on a bench seat. Jenny would direct my actions, instructing me what to wash and what hand to use. I really couldn’t do much with my left at all, although the fingers were beginning to uncurl. “That’s unusual,” Jenny said, “usually the shoulder comes first and the fingers come last.” She wondered if my subluxation had anything to do with it and taped my shoulder after my glorious, wonderful (still razorless, but wonderful anyway) shower.

Later that night as I was parked in front of the mirror to brush my teeth, I think I took my first real look at my scar. It is horseshoe shaped on the top of my skull. You can’t really see it now that my hair has grown back, but it was very prominent then, even without the staples as was the giant lump from the cranial shunt. A few days later, my head was itching badly and after I scratched it, I noticed blood on my fingers. Dr. R checked it out and discovered one suture that had been missed. She removed it. Woo hoo. Funny thing, it’s only as I was mentally composing this entry that I finally put together why I had both staples and sutures. The staples were from the craniotomy. The sutures must have been from when they placed the shunt. And yet another piece falls into place thanks to my self-created blog therapy.


1 thought on “Out, damned staples! Out I say!

  1. Melissa

    I am very sorry for your month of missing may, but have enjoyed reading your story so far..I look several times a day to see if you have put up a new one….hopefully you are healing well and doing much better!!



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