The Brain Surgery Experience
Hotel de Brain Surgery
I was in a semi-private room with elderly man who had hit his head in a fall and wasn’t quite all there. The room seemed to be pretty warm. I guess because that’s how my neighbor wanted it. With my heart still racing and most of my head heavily bandaged I was feeling so hot it was making me sick. That first night and next day I was really suffering.
Later that night, I remembered that there was chance I could lose my sense of smell. When the nurse came by I asked her to get something for me to smell. She brought in some perfumed hand lotion. I couldn’t smell a thing. Some time later she brought a pad with alcohol on it. Still nothing. Around daybreak the following morning she came in with smelling salts. As strong as that stuff is, I could just barely smell a hint of something.
The good news is that the loss of smell turned out to be temporary and within a week or so it was almost back to normal. I think. While I was in the hospital it turned out to be a blessing. The old fellow next to me was having some serious bowel problems. They were changing his bed sheets at least five times a day. When my nurse would come in or my family would visit I would see their faces screw up in pain. Occasionally someone would say “Holy Moly” or ask “Is that you?” “No it ain’t me brother. Call that guy’s nurse again.” It was all slightly amusing to me at the time, and I was happy to find humor anywhere I could.
I’m not sure if it’s SOP for every neurosurgery ICU, but my nurses checked on me every hour on the hour. And when I say “checked” I mean they wake you up, take your vitals, and ask you the same series of questions over, and over, and over. After a while it’s hard not to laugh when you’re answering.
“What’s your name?”
“Where are you?”
“Why are you here?”
“What day is it?”
“What is today’s date?”
“Who is the president?”
I realized pretty soon that my short-term memory didn’t seem affected at all. At least that’s what I thought, and it turned out I was right. I never talked jibberish except for one night when I was really tired, but I even remembered that! And I certainly remember the rather unmemorable liquid diet they had me on at first. Mercifully, I was doing well enough in a couple days that I was able to talk them into giving me some real food.
I was actually curious to see what the loss of short-term memory would be like, but I can’t say I was disappointed it never happened. One doctor was all but certain I would have trouble for a month or more, but the other was just as certain that if it even happened that I would be fine in a couple days. I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve read some accounts though where this was a problem.