Tuesday, January 4, 2011


My step-dad is healing from his hip replacement surgery by leaps and bounds.

Maybe that's the wrong turn of phrase.  He's healing by shuffles and groans.  Yesterday the OT herded him into a stairwell and made him go up and down stairs. Fun times.  It's worth it, though.  He feels a little stronger every day.

His pain is under control.  Unfortunately, there is another side effect that is causing him intense frustration: chronic hiccups.

No one can say why, although this has been known to happen to patients who have undergone major surgery: he has been hiccuping almost non-stop for three days, with no end in sight.

My mom, who specializes in pessimism, is gravely concerned.  When we visited him after he'd been hiccuping for 24 hours, she folded her arms and her face got deadly serious.  She stuck out her jaw and regarded me soberly from under frowny eyebrows.

"He looks tired," she said in a stage whisper, as though we weren't standing inches from his bedside.  "Look at those dark circles under his eyes!"

"Yes, well, he has had major surgery.  People tend to look tired," I said.

My step-dad assured us that the hiccups do come and go.  They let up when he's relaxing or sleeping, but come back with a vengeance whenever he's active or talking.

"24 hours!  It's too long.  Did you tell the nurse?  Did you tell the doctor?"

There was one plot on Grey's Anatomy in which a character died from hiccups (at least indirectly), but I don't look there for sound medical facts.  My mom looked like she was seriously considering reviewing his funeral plans and making sure the undertaker was on call because Oy!  He won't stop hiccuping!  Emergency!

That's my mom.  He's in the hospital, surrounded by medical professionals, and all the highest tech equipment the Ontario government can afford... he couldn't be safer!  It's not even as though we live across the street from the closest emergency room - he's already admitted and in a bed!  When he leaves he'll have round-the-clock Personal Support Workers to tend to his every need for weeks.  This is probably the most managed, supervised, safe environment he's ever inhabited.  And still, my mother panics, because that's her thing.  She always panics.

It wears on my patience.  Can you tell?  I would be much happier to let her cry on my shoulder if she'd occasionally look on the bright side and celebrate: Surgery with no complications!  Fast healing!  Pain under control!  Could we not smile for five minutes before the next dramatic scene?  *sigh*  In this mood, love her though I do, very much, I could complain about her all day.  (But I won't.)

So, hiccups.  Today I got to listen in (via speakerphone) on a conversation between my step-dad and one of the professionals who works in his business.  The professional is not an employee per se, but does need to respect the business owners' wishes.  My step-dad had a disagreement with this fellow, and was dispensing what he refers to as "a reprimand".  He took as stern a tone as he could manage.

"Now look here," [when I was a kid I always knew I was in trouble when he started a speech with 'Now look here'] "we have HIC! discussed this and HYYYN! it's clear that HUP! we cannot accommodate you HN! HIP! HUP! anymore."

[silence while the other guy talks]

"I don't see HYNN! why you HIC! insist NN! HEHN! UP! UP! [pause while he catches his breath, and then burps] BBBLLRRRP, excuse me, upon ignoring HM! our previous HUP! damn these hiccups!  HUP! HUP! [...pause...] HNN! agreement.  Dammit!"

I've got to say, it's pretty tough to come across as a Scary Authority Figure when you're caught in an endless hiccuping fit.  I had a hard time keeping a straight face.  Good thing the guy on the other end of the line couldn't see me - or maybe he was laughing behind his hand too.


Warped Mind of Ron said...

Well after a major surgery I think a side effect of hiccups isn't that bad for a little bit. Admittedly it would get old real quick though. Glad things are going well.

Kate said...

Finding humor in it is the best part of being you. And the hiccuping is from the anesthesia. It will go away.

Jameil said...

LOLOL! I can't not laugh at the stern hiccuper either!

Jenski said...

I was going to look up the story about the girl who hiccuped for many days (turns out it was 6 weeks), and found this: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/10/25/hiccup-girl-charged-degree-murder/

You can decide whether your mother needs to see that. :-)

DarcsFalcon said...

Specializes in pessimism, ROFL! They must hand out degrees for that! I've known my share of those specialists too!

Whenever our kids get the hiccups, we tickle them. Laughing seems to "reset" the diaphragm muscle and stop the hiccups.

For the record, I think it's awesome that your s-dad's surgery went so well and that his recovery also seems to be going gangbusters. It's always great to hear good news. :)

G said...

Does make recovery a little bit more interesting to say the least.

In this day and age, its tough not to become a pessimist and project doom and gloom on everything, but it seems like you got it all under control.

Just Plain Tired said...

Maybe the hiccupping is a body's way of taking a person's mind off of pain? That's all I've got to offer.

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: Thanks! My old cure for hiccups was to have a cat sleep on my stomach. Don't ask me why it always worked. Anyway, there are no cats at the hospital, leastways not in the ortho ward.

Kate: Good to know! Sooner rather than later, I hope.

Jameil: Hiccups are very silly, unless you're the one who's got them and then they're infuriating!

Jenski: Good grief! Maybe all the hiccuping lead to brain damage and hence criminal activity. Good thing my step-dad currently has limited mobility. Needing a walker should keep him out of trouble.

DarcsFalcon: That's an adorable cure! I can't imagine tickling my step-dad. He'd be one of those that reflexively fights back. I'd probably get a black eye.

G: Yes, it is hard. I try to take the view that things are just what they are, no more, no less. The thing is to leave the future to the future and just deal with what's in front of your nose without projecting either good or bad outcomes.

JPT: Hmm, there could be something to that theory.

LL Cool Joe said...

Ha ha, I've never heard of that side effect, and it's not one I'd put up with for very long!

Could be worse he could be farting non stop, or is he doing that as well?