activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press

Florence in Words

Apology for Two Silent Months Following Surgery on November 13

January 19, 2014

Tags: surgery

Inside the hospital
It never occurred to me, since I had never experienced major surgery, that I would not be able to go home relatively soon after surgery, sit at my computer, and write in my usual way. I did not make plans to take my laptop to the hospital. But whatever I was thinking, nothing worked as I had expected.

In the first place, I stayed at the Hospital for Special Surgery (a beautiful facility on the East River) for five days instead of the two or three, mainly, I think now, because I was afraid to take the pain-killers offered after this type of surgery. I tried to survive only on Tylenol, which didn’t work. By that, I mean that the Tylenol wasn’t strong enough to allow me even to move the surgical leg off the bed or onto the bed. Post-surgery, I had no control over the leg. The leg seemed comatose. It followed no commands from my brain. And if someone tried to help me move it off the bed so that I might stand on it and make my way to the toilet, the pain was so intense that I felt nauseated as though I was about to faint.

After three days of no progress, and an out-of-body horrible experience overnight, a friendly nurse, who took the time to sit and talk with me, suggested that I try a small dose of delaudid, a drug that no one else had suggested. But something about the manner of this nurse, and perhaps the fact that I had had that dreadful experience the night before, allowed me say yes, I would try it. And yes, it worked.

(If you are wondering about the “experience,” I feel reluctant to write about it, though I have an account of sorts in the small journal I kept while in both hospitals. And perhaps it merits a blog of its own.)

Flowers in the hospital
Once I could stand and even take a step or two, I was transferred by ambulance to Roosevelt-St. Luke’s hospital, so that I could participate in its well-respected re-hab program. There I continued on the delaudid, and the medical team in charge seemed to know about its qualities and respect it as a useful drug. Compared to the Hospital for Special Surgery, Roosevelt could not have been more different. It was located on the third floor of the hospital, and perhaps some of the rooms were spacious, light, and cheerful. But mine was small and dreary and probably good for me, since I knew I could not survive in it for long. I had to get out of there and back to the light of my apartment.

So I set a goal of a week. I would stay only one week. And the first thing I did was to abandon the wheelchair. Take it away, I said. I would use only the walker, and my goal was to get onto the cane before the week was up. The trainers assigned to me were excellent, as were most of the nurses and aides. And I made some progress, though it was difficult, painful, and sometimes also exasperating. I was treated by some of the staff as though I was 60, the age of many of the patients. No one was as old as I, and young people, I’ve come to believe, cannot see any difference between a sixty-year-old and someone close to eighty-five.

But I did leave, as I said, the day before Thanksgiving, and with a lot of help, I was able to spend Thanksgiving with close friends.

Select Works

"Everyone concerned about global feminism, women’s contributions, and humanity’s future will be enhanced and enchanted by A Life in Motion.”—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume I and Volume II
Lecture delivered by Florence Howe on January 8, 2011, at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention
“It is impossible to imagine women’s studies without Florence Howe. Myths of Coeducation shows her vision and courage, insight and dauntlessness.”–Catharine R. Stimpson, Rutgers University
A revised and expanded edition of the classic groundbreaking anthology of 20th-century American women's poetry, representing more than 100 poets from Amy Lowell to Anne Sexton to Rita Dove.

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