Getting through surgery with Grumpy Bear

Problems occur in the space between emotional reaction and intellectual understanding.

I understand that the surgery I’m having on my knee sometime after 5:30 a.m., Friday, is a low-risk procedure.

The surgeon used the phrase “almost no risk.”

People who’ve had the surgery, including Dad 2.0, reported a relatively easy recovery and great improvement in their mobility.

I know this.

I do.

But that does not change the fact that I’m scared.

I had dental surgery to remove wisdom teeth when I was 18. That’s the only time I was ever under general anesthesia.

The hospital asked me about a living will.

Again, I know that’s just standard protocol.

Yet, the thought of it feeds the part of my brain that runs on grim thoughts.

I don’t believe I’m going to die on the table for arthroscopic knee surgery to remove part of a torn meniscus.

Still, I am afraid.

I’m embarrassed by that fear.

A friend of mine underwent breast cancer surgery earlier this week.

The daughter of a friend is having her second major surgery on a hip that’s caused her great pain for a long time.

They’re people who face much greater risks and recovery times than I do.

I feel like I should man up and quit being a baby.

Nonetheless, I am scared.

I think that’s OK.

That’s natural.

The late children’s television host Fred Rodgers said, “Anything that is human is mentionable. Anything that is mentionable is manageable.”

So, let’s manage this.

Why am I scared?

I could die.

That’s true, but the risks are so low as to be statistically insignificant. I know that. I trust my doctors.

What else?

I’m worried it will hurt.

Well, it will. Arthroscopic surgery is still surgery. There are incisions, albeit small ones. There will be swelling and some pain.

The doctor will prescribe some medication to get me over the hump.

Also, I’m already in pain. Since I tore the meniscus in late June, I’ve been largely immobile and fighting constant pain with over-the-counter medications.

To prepare for the surgery, I had to stop taking my prescription anti-inflammatory medication. I still had pain on the medication.

I figured I wouldn’t notice it when I stopped taking it. I noticed.

Both my knees are swollen. My movement is extremely limited.

If the surgery improves nothing, which is unlikely, at least I will get the relief of being able to take my previous painkiller.

I am scared because I worry my recovery will be slow, especially because of my obesity, which could cause me problems in graduate school, delay student teaching, and bring my whole delicate plan to become a teacher down to ruin.

OK, that’s just borrowing trouble from the ether.

Let’s just have the surgery, take the nine days I have after surgery to recover, and then assess what needs to be done.

Drake University helps people who have accessibility issues. We’ll figure something out.

I am scared because this is new and new things are scary.

That’s it. That’s the big thing.

I’m a little scared before every new class or new job.

I have a friend that helped me with these kinds of problems for many years when I was boy.

His name was the Pink Panther.

He was a stuffed animal. He was my constant companion, along with my baby blanket. I still have both.

Old Pink is retired. His tail is flat from me dragging him behind me to Saturday morning cartoons. The fabric on his head is split and his foam is exposed.

He’s fragile, as I’ve learned things that are 46 years old are. Pink is retired. He sits atop my couch with Kermit the Frog.

I know Old Pink would help me get through my fears about surgery. He’d sleep right there under my arm.

But I am not a little boy anymore and I wouldn’t want to damage him.

So, I bought a new friend, a teddy bear.

He’s a Care Bear. I liked Care Bears as a boy, but I never had one.

I vacillated between Good Luck Bear and Grumpy Bear.

I chose Grumpy Bear. He’s light blue with a storm cloud on his belly.

Good Luck Bear was green with a four-leaf clover on his belly. He’s a fine bear, but good luck is just not my ethos.

Grumpy Bear has given me a lot of comfort in the days ahead of the surgery.

Maybe it’s silly for a middle-aged man to hug a teddy bear at night because he’s scared to have surgery.

I don’t think so.

Lots of people my age own pets. I’m allergic to the protein in the saliva of most animals. Contact with the protein gives me hives, swells my eyes shut,

It’s OK to be scared.

It’s natural, especially with new things.

And if I decide I need a teddy bear to help soothe my jangled nerves, then that’s OK, too.

If all goes well, I’ll be back at my apartment, Grumpy Bear at my side, watching Carson reruns, and focused on a new day — one without fear or pain.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
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