Evans “Buddy” King
As I had warned, I don’t want to waste a good heart attack and bypass surgery without getting at least a second column out of the experience.
So this piece will be some random and meandering thoughts on these events, even more random and meandering than usual for me.
Laughter is the best medicine they say, except that I have to disagree in this instance — I think I will go with my skilled surgeon and his staff.
Laughter didn’t seem to make much difference when I was going through the attack. It didn’t make the pain go away and I think it irritated the nurses. This was all while I was still thinking this isn’t really happening to me, and that I needed to lighten the mood in the emergency room.
When the nurses weren’t “LOLing,” or at least “heheheing,” I decided that maybe this was serious, serious as a heart attack.
But laughter never hurts, right? Wrong again. After the surgery, it hurt like hell. Since breathing hurt, why should I expect laughing not to? So laughter wasn’t the best medicine, and it did hurt to laugh, but nonetheless, I think my amusement at my own jokes helped get me through. Not sure if it helped my friends and family or the hospital folks, but I have an amazingly tolerant following.
I was reminded shortly after the surgery by an old friend of mine who has been a deejay at hundreds of weddings and parties that I have attended over the years, that the song I always requested late in the evening was “This Old Heart of Mine” by the Isley Brothers. Was this prescient on my part Ed asked? Actually, I just love the Isley Brothers and I loved the beat. But the irony is not lost.
Getting back to the pain: I learned that the doctors and nurses are very attentive to alleviating it these days. One of my law partners who practice in the area of medical matters told me that doctors used to not worry much about surgical pain, that it wouldn’t kill you, that it was temporary.
Then someone must have learned that temporary can last a long darn time, and now the mantra is “don’t be afraid to ask for a painkiller” and “stay ahead of the pain.” So pain and I got in a race in the hospital, and I was usually ahead, although I had a little trouble with the other catch phrase, i.e., “take the meds before you feel the pain.”
I decided that if I followed this literally I would never know when I had won the race and was pain free. So I occasionally ventured off the painkiller reservation but always stayed within sight of the corporate limits. I was always just a short Uber ride away.
Another thing l learned about pain during my stay was that you have to be able to quantify it. You are constantly being asked where your pain is on a scale of zero to ten.
I also learned that if you want the good stuff you need to inflate your number. Once my nurse asked my level and trying to be conservative I answered “four.” My nurse then corrected me and said, “you said eight, right?”
I realized that this moved me into a good zone where they made the pain go away quickly. So I confirmed that I had in fact said eight. I need to add that I was frequently assured that they would not give me enough of the stuff to get me addicted, and that I would not leave the hospital with a prescription that would cause a problem either. And I can happily say now that I am down to an occasional Tylenol.
I usually took the “where is your pain on a scale of zero to ten” question very seriously, like I was on the honor system or something. I often would give it a lot of thought and would change my number until finally the nurse would say “final answer.”
Then I would blurt out a number and hope for the best, until I figured out eight was the magic number that allowed my nurse to bring out the big guns.
At the height of the post-chest cracking pain, I was tempted to say TEN! But my stepson Chad told me about the comedian who did the skit about the man who answered “ten” and was reminded by his female nurse that no pain approached child birth.
The patient then asked what is the second worst pain known to humankind, and the nurse responded by saying “a broken femur.” The man then assumed that childbirth and a broken femur were a ten and a nine so he responded with “eight.”
The nurse was then visibly angered and said he could only possibly have a seven. The man was confused and said what else could possibly come ahead of his pain other than child birth and a broken femur, and the nurse said “a woman with a broken femur in labor of course!” So I respectfully stayed in the seven-eight range with nurses who looked like they might be mothers.
Another interesting aspect of my time in the hospital was my total lack of knowledge of medicine. For as much education as I have had, I know very little about the medical world. They started using television words on me like “Lipitor” and “Plavix” and I was lost.
My first thought was that the former was a dinosaur and that the latter was a country in Eastern Europe. When the nurses asked me if I watched commercials on TV, I recognized the words and remembered from the ads that these things cause side effects. Other than causing side effects, I haven’t a clue what they do, but I hope they prevent future heart attacks. That is my sincere hope.
One more highlight was my first walk with the respiratory therapist. He seemed to be a rock star among the non-doctor staff, wearing a gold uniform and having an entourage following when he walked me down the hall. He was flamboyant and self-assured and confidence-inspiring. He also seemed to like my attempts at humor, which separated him from the masses.
When we were about 50 feet down the hall, he said, “you’ll be home in two days.” I looked over my shoulder to see who he was talking to and there was no one there!
I said “surely you are not talking to me; I just want to lie down and get some more pain-relievers.” But darned if he wasn’t right.
That’s all. My heart isn’t in it anymore.
Evans “Buddy” King grew up in Christiansburg and graduated from CHS in 1971. He lives in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where he practices law with the firm of Steptoe and Johnson PLLC.