He pulls the stitches out and I’m surprised to find that it hurts. After having the tip of your lung cut off, the rest of it abraided so that it will adhere to your thoracic wall, and a chest tube for two days, you think you have a new threshold for pain. Almost fainting from muscle seizures in your chest that feel like a thick spear running right through you to the ground, that seems like yet another. But the stitches still hurt as they slide out of my side.
My thoracic surgeon is a thin old man, with a loud shirt and a boyish energy, and he is very happy to talk about the specifics of the procedure, even if both Kristy and I are tired of such things now–of how the swelling under my arm will go down, how they’d had to cut-off the flow to a lymph gland there, how there are still a few sutures holding my muscle to my ribs in a couple of places.
He is nice enough to vindicate me. Well-muscled people, he says, experience far more pain in these procedures simply because there is more flesh to injure on the way through to the thoracic cavity. We talk about when I can start excersing again, and he speaks about his own excercise regime. He swims, because he can’t run. I say I have bad knees and find running difficult as well, and he smiles and within a few minutes lifts up his pant leg to reveal a prosthetic leg that runs from his knee to the ground. His leg had been shot off at the knee in a hunting accident when he was fourteen. Later, because he bounced along too much on it without his prothesis, they’d had to replace his other hip, and put a steel rod in the other leg.
Pain is relative and the spectrum of human anguish is disturbingly wide. And I don’t know if its the medication talking, but there’s something comforting about that.