Roughly two years ago, in the wee hours of the morning, I was nudged awake in the recovery room by the surgeon who had just been elbow-deep in my innards. It was as dark in the recovery room as it was outside as many Costa Rican surgeons do their work at night after spending a full day at the hospital.
I heard the command “mira” (look) and saw the bright screen of a phone levitating in front of me.
I’ve often needed a moment or two to figure out where I am when I awaken. This time was far worse as the only thing I could see was a series of photos on the phone which showed my abdominal cavity in graphic detail.
“It’s a good thing I have small hands,” said the surgeon, pausing on a pic where both of his hands cradled a pile of what looked like spaghetti with a giant, angry sausage poking out. “That tumor was far bigger than we thought so I had to make an even longer incision.”
I tried to sit up, and couldn’t. I squinted at the picture. “That’s my kidney?”
“It was, yes.”
“And what’s all that other stuff?”
“Surrounding tissue. I took as much as I could just in case the cancer had spread.”
He continued scrolling through the photos, which included nurses and his father, also a surgeon, arrayed around my open body as if it were a birthday cake. He promised to send me all of the photos via WhatsApp and said he’d check on me the following evening.
My thirty-two stitches and I were released from the hospital a few days later, only to return when my right knee decided that it was the optimal time to have the last of my meniscus float off and wedge itself in my knee joint.
With two years of recovery now behind me, my scar is now something fun to flash at our boys when the mood strikes. Things #1 and #2 refuse to look at the surgery pics, but I’m sure to work them into a graduation or marriage ceremony in the future. Time is definitely working against me and my crap body, but I still get around and into trouble whenever possible.
This leads us to the past weekend, when I agreed to take Things #1 and #2 to a giant warehouse which is now crammed full of interconnected trampolines. With COVID protocols in effect, guests are required to set a time in advance and then have the run of the place.
I told my bride of my plan, and of my desire to join in on the trampoline action. She gave me a look she’s perfected over the past thirty-plus years and asked, “Is that a good idea?”
Anyone who knows me understands that I refuse to color within the lines of what I’m supposed to do. Very few inspirational stories come from those who decided to stay home and clean out the litter box.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I guess we’ll find out.”
I followed her gaze down to my heavily braced knee and then left the room buoyed by the giddiness that comes from the contemplation of foolish acts.
A couple of days later, the boys and I pulled up to the warehouse. We turned in some waivers we hadn’t read and discovered that, minus two staff members, we were all alone. We hopped after one another, doing our best to clear the various padded obstacles. I had been warned by the staff that jumping too close to the boys in an effort to send them flying (my favorite thing and something they demand) was strictly forbidden. We were all extremely disappointed.
It took perhaps three minutes before I started feeling nauseous. I had worried about my knee (to myself), but the issue seemed to derive from a spot further up — the area just behind the long scar which runs across my abdomen.
I tried to play it cool, but the more I bounced the worse I felt. If my abdomen was a case of beer, several cans were missing and the remainder smacked into one other with velocity, and nausea.
They took a football-sized amount of stuff out of me. Is there still a hole? What’s moving around in there?
I remembered one of the pics the doc showed me where metal clamps had held upon a hole in me so large that it could be classified as cavernous. A lot of the stuff that was supposed to be inside was laying about on the outside. I thought back to some of the car repairs I’d performed where I ended up with extra bolts and parts after putting everything back together. Perhaps something important, and internal, had been accidentally discarded?
I was saved in a way by my knee, which announced that it too was not enjoying this experience. This was followed shortly by my back, which clearly had a few things to say.
My jumping became closer to skipping, but I kept a game face on and declined this opportunity to reveal my frailty to our sons. It seemed like forever but it was in fact fifteen minutes later when Things #1 and #2, faces flushed and dripping with sweat, plopped down for a rest.
“Are we done?” asked Thing #2.
Wanting to agree with him but remembering how much we had paid for the one hour experience, I replied, “No, we still have forty-five minutes.”
They groaned and rolled on the trampoline. I couldn’t really blame them. Fifteen minutes of sustained jumping is a lot. Perhaps this hadn’t been my best idea.
Holding my guts in, I badgered them to their feet and, wincing with every cushioned impact, returned to my skipping. Desperate for salvation, I wandered over to other parts of the facility. There was a dodgeball area — closed because of Covid. There was a squirrel-type run suspended from the roof — also closed because of Covid. There would be only jumping. Forty-three more minutes of jumping.
With fifteen more minutes to go I gave up my charade and announced our departure. The boys were delighted and thought we should celebrate by getting root beer floats. I wasn’t aware of this custom, and there was no way I was going to add a root beer float to the angry contents of my abdomen, but I agreed — then tried not to cry out as I bent down to put on my shoes.
I don’t know what exactly is going on with my internal organs. I am fully aware that there is a large group of people, known as mothers, who have had large objects pushed or cut out of them — sometimes multiple times — with far less fanfare and self-pity. In my defense, women are tougher than men. And, judging from the look my wife gave me when I limped back into the house, often smarter as well.
To stick the landing on that last point, after a sleepless, painful night, I awoke the next morning and immediately rode my bicycle over to a buddy’s house to fulfill an earlier promise to help him build a fence. I spent three-and-a-half extremely uncomfortable hours digging post holes and throwing around bags of concrete. By the time I returned home I could barely walk. I’m no stranger to manual labor, or exercise, but that forty-five minutes on the trampoline nearly finished me.
My bride has, thus far, resisted the likely profound urge to say something like “I told you so.” I shall keep her, and I will never jump on a trampoline again. Probably.