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Dancing with Sister Morphine

I came out of hospital yesterday. La Belle Dame is in America making money (one of us has to) so Dave picked me up and steered me home. I live quite close to the Chelsea & Westminster and needed some air to clear my head so we walked back. I felt surprisingly well considering I have been under a general anaesthetic and had quite a few squishy bits from inside lopped off me. In fact I felt amazingly well.

The journey back home was interesting. The colours were so very bright and someone seems to have turned up the contrast. Sometimes when I looked closely as the things written on the back of people’s tee-shirts whilst walking down King’s Road, the words seemed to suddenly zoom away from me towards some vanishing point.

Getting home and having a nice shower was a transcendent experience but the thing that really kept me captivated was the way the water fell down, coming from hundreds of feet above my head and travelling downwards towards the gleaming ceramic floor perhaps three yards below. I could feel the vibration of the water spiralling down the plughole and the strange flute-like sound it made.

I looked forward to getting some good food as being chopped up had not dented my appetite and the hospital food was moderately dreadful. When it came time to eat, for some reason Dave would not let me near the hot stove. The smell of bacon was almost erotic.

Dave and I work together and I had been struck by some really good creative ideas whilst pacing back and forth in the ward the night before last, waiting for the frigging painkillers to actually do something. The ideas kept pouring out of me and Dave just absorbed them like the 185 IQ colossus he is. For a while at least.

But then I noticed that I was having to force the ideas out through clenched teeth and they kept bouncing off Dave’s head rather than going in. To make matters worse although the bacon surrendered to me willingly, the sausages were staring at me with ill concealed contempt. I stabbed a couple to death as punishment and gave the rest to Dave.

Today I find the internet in front of me and deep throbbing pains from within. Be prepared from some bad tempered blogging over the next few days when I can drag my fingers to the mouse. Tramadol, Co-Codamol and Diclofenac are pallid impostors. Sister Morphine is a fickle lover and she would not come home with me.

29 comments to Dancing with Sister Morphine

  • Julian Taylor

    Thank God you made it out of the NHS alive though, opiate-induced state or otherwise. Now we just have to hope you won’t keep going back to the C&W regularly to see your ‘dealer’ for more ‘creativity’ :)

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I had a vaguely similar sensation about 13 years ago after a small operation. Take lots of rest and avoid blogging about David Cameron to prevent any undue stress.

  • Would you really have wanted her to come home with you Perry? Before you know she’d have sold your T.V., alienated your friends and stripped you of the will to actually do anything beyond stare at the space where your T.V. was.
    Sister Morphine is like a low class hooker; good at what she does, but you wouldn’t want to marry her.

  • I was hoping for a weekend of fun, not a lifelong commitment :-P

  • 1327

    A few years ago a nasty bacteria took over half of my face caused massive swelling and more pain than I believed possible. After much messing about with weaker drugs the Doctor finally put me on what he said was the weakest morphine based drug available. I must say it was fantastic stuff and after taking it I would sit there and just feel happy for no reason at all. I was warned not to drive but once tried to move the car into the garage sadly despite feeling fine I was unable to coordinate the gear stick and clutch. At the time I was Java coding and came up with some amazing programming ideas but sadly the Java compiler didn’t like them possibly because it wasn’t on morphine :)

    I once read a book on Stalingrad which described how the German doctors short on drugs would give the wounded morphine overdoses. One doctor told how the patients simply appeared to forget to breathe but had a smile on their face at the same time. It seems as nice a way as any to go.

  • Brian

    Just this past February, I too had some biological squatters sent packing. Like you, Perry, I was under a general anaesthetic and therefore required pharmaceutical intervention to prevent the next few days from evolving into a virtual visit to the Fifth Circle.

    My prescription, when received, had the lovely nomenclature “Oxycodone” affixed thereto. One pill made me larger, and the next pill made me lovely. Better than Tylox, which Oxycodone is ostensibly a substitute for. It meant that I had no issues with the repacking of the surgical site by the distaff portion of my household as the healing process progressed. I knew of Oxycodone’s powers when I retrieved the pill bottle from the pharmacy, as the bottle had the yellow Federal warning that proscribes against realloaction of one’s allotment. That told me it was the good stuff.

    As for heightened awareness of the senses, I had none, per se. Rather, my comment about feeling lovely speaks to the Ectasy-like effect that ingestion of two pills would produce. I did, truly and literally, feel warm and fuzzy. There was an undeniable urge to hug everyone I came into contact with.

    Seeing how I was home alone during my flights (having arranged for a Sick Day from work), perhaps the absence of visitors served to concurrently accelerate my convalescence and preserve the state of my relationships.

    If any of you are wondering about my squishy bits, here’s an excellent site: http://www.pilonidal.org. Damn hairy me.

    Epilogue: 100% recovery with excellent healing characteristics.

    -Brian

  • guy herbert

    Welcome back!

  • Yes, welcome back, and what a fabulous piece of writing. Sheer poetry.

  • Glad you’re back. Wishing you a prompt (and painless!) recovery

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    In my experience with the NHS, their non-morphine painkillers suck rocks. They’re amazingly weak and they proscribe them like they’re gold coming out of the doctor’s personal vault.

    One poster above mentioned Oxycodone, which leads me to believe that he’s here in the US. Oxycodone can come as Oxycontin or Percoset, and is some strong shit (it’s what Rush Limbaugh was addicted to) and does a great job as a non-morphine painkiller. But all the quality painkillers, such as Vicodin (hydrocodone), Norco, or any Oxy concoction, are semi-synthetic opiates and as such are closely related to morphine chemically.

    Perry, you should see if the drug in your prescription is actually a narcotic or is something weaker. In any case, go back to the doctor and demand something stronger. There’s no reason you should have to be in pain when there are drugs to treat that pain fully.

  • In my experience with the NHS, their non-morphine painkillers suck rocks.

    The morphine was certainly the most effective, no doubt about it, but the rest seem reasonably effective at taking the edge off, perhaps due to the large doses I am taking. Not exactly a picnic though.

  • refu

    I’m sure this is unnecessary, but I can’t help giving this warning, from the very excellent book on the responsible use of recreational drugs,From Chocolate to Morphine:

    “If you take a drug and feel a rush of overwhelming pleasure, never use that drug again.

    (paraphrase from memory)

  • Refu, you are rather missing the point here… there is nothing recreational about this, I just got out of hospital and the object of the exercise is painkilling! The sensations are interesting but entirely incidental.

  • K

    That was a wonderful desciption of the effect or morphine.

    I have needed medical care only once in my life – for some reason it was one bout with sciatica – and got a single shot of morphine.

    Twenty years later I remember the incident with great fondness, almost yearning. Another shot or two more and I would have been in love.

  • I was on my fourth or fifth dose (I think) before I noticed things were a bit…strange… but that might have been because all I could think about was the discomfort I was in.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    Perry, while you were in the hospital, did they put you on a self-administered drip or did they give you the shots manually? The self-administered drip is a computer-controlled IV push where they can set the maximum morphine you get (i.e. every 20 minutes you can administer another dose of X amount, etc.). After one operation, I was bored so I maxed the thing out for hours. I was pretty damn high, I can tell you; much like your “shiny” experience.

    Totally aside: “shiny” is a term the characters used on Firefly to describe something that was neat or cool. Pretty good term, actually, considering your experience.

  • They gave me little pinky sized tubes of it orally… just pull the end off and suck. Strange taste, bitter, like Campari. Not unpleasent (if you like Campari, that is).

  • RAB

    When you don’t tell folk the exact nature of the surgury then our tiny minds work overtime!
    Nah! Cant be piles, let me see now…?
    Live long and prosper Perry.
    I too have been away, (not that the rest of you care a jot!) . A most thrilling couple of weeks.
    First I sign up to broadband thinking it will be easy-
    And is it hell…
    When I find that I have no internet connextion, I leave it for a week. Well we’re in Tropea, in S Italy for a week arn’t we? (Reminded me of Tenby in S Wales, then I remembered from the guidebook, that the Normans built both of them).
    Almost got killed in the hairpin mountains going up to Serra san Bruno, when a bus trys to overtake two white vans on a bend.
    Didn’t even have time to be scared.
    How do you want your convalesent grapes Perry?
    Whole?
    Or liquified and aged a bit?

  • Brian

    I don’t believe that Refu is entirely off point, Perry. It is easy enough to get hooked on the happy pills even when their use is entirely utiliterian in the present tense. You’ve already admitted to ingesting “large doses — again, purely for reasons of utility. For now. What happens when the pain is gone and the memories remain? (Your lament regarding the weakness of your NHS medication is duly noted here.)

    To build upon K’s point, I’ve purposely retained the surplus Oxycodone from my Feb 2006 procedure. I know the pill’s rated strength will not expire anytime soon, I remember the very pleasant feelings they provide, and I wonder if I will in fact have the fortitude to choose a Hershey bar over a chemical interlude when I REALLY want to go away for a bit.

    -Brian

  • veryretired

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    When I had my back surgery many years ago, they gave me demerol, but all I did was throw up and pass out.

    Somehow, that just didn’t inspire any poetic musings.

  • Freeman

    In case of interest (or need), an extensive overview of standard pain-killing drugs and their typical medical applications is at:
    http://www.priory.com/anaes/canpain.htm

    Additionally, a new, very strong pain-killer (not related to morphine) has recently been approved for medical use; this is Prialt, which acts by suppressing the transmission of “pain” signals to the brain.

    Incidently, the phenomenon of pain provides a great insight into how much of the brain works. When you think about it, it’s just not possible for (say) a wound in the leg to be painful in its own right: after all it’s just meat. So what appears to happen is that damaged cells spill out chemicals that affect local nerves. These nerves then transmitt a message to the unconscious part of the brain, which identifies a damage report coming in from location X. This is possible because the unconscious brain stores a look-up table of nerve-endings and their origin.

    Once the unconscious part of the brain has identified the source and intensity of the damage signal it transmitts an appropriate level of “interupt signal” to the conscious part of the brain, and we then become aware of a sensation of pain in no uncertain terms. Because the unconscious part of the brain actually controlls everything we do, there is, unfortunately, no practical way in which we can inhibit pain information from getting into our consciousness, other than by chemical means.

    Prialt works by “jamming” the signal path from the affected site to the brain. Morphine and its derivatives work by temporarily “dumbing down” parts of the brain.

  • refugee

    “Refu, you are rather missing the point here… there is nothing recreational about this…”

    I didn’t mean to suggest there was–I’m only saying that your very positive response may be a warning flag against future use, for whatever reason.

  • Midwesterner

    In light of Alfred E. Neuman’s and (just plain) Brian’s comments, I really have some difficulty imagining Rush Limbaugh succumbing to the warm fuzzies and having an urge to hug everyone he meets.

    Does not compute.

    I’ve had over a dozen general anesthesias for surgery, and made an interesting discovery very early in the adventure. I do not/cannot tolerate sedatives or pain killers that are even mildly psychoactive. Even a comparatively mild pre-op with Demerol (meperidine hydrochloride) was enough to send me into anxiety that required them to begin general earlier than they would have liked. My brother once tried laughing gas (nitrous oxide) and had to have a dental appointment cancelled as it began. We apparently inherited this from my mother who also has had similar but even stronger experiences. My sisters and father never had any problems to the best of my knowledge.

    I will most likely never experience that particular dance that Perry had. It would probably be more of a scrum.

  • Fred the Fourth

    Back in 72 I was struck by a car and spent a couple weeks in hospital. I could get a morphine injection every 4 hours if I asked. The painkilling was totally effective, but there were three unanticipated side effects. First, it became very difficult to pee (apparently common for men on morphine), second the experience of being flat on my back in traction and on morphine was TOTALLY BORING after the first week, and third, I never had the slightest anxiety about injections after that.
    I have to second Refugee’s note about temptation, though. Vicodin, for instance, I treat like high-explosive. It works, but man be careful.

  • The painkilling was totally effective, but there were three unanticipated side effects. First, it became very difficult to pee (apparently common for men on morphine)

    Yup. Had exactly that effect on me. Complete pizzle-lock :-)

    second the experience of being flat on my back in traction and on morphine was TOTALLY BORING after the first week

    Fortunately I was not incarcerated for that long… plus I was free to work on my project in my head whilst pacing around the ward in the wee hours of the morning.

    I have to second Refugee’s note about temptation

    My problem is a ‘short sharp shock’ issue, dealing with severe pain for a few days, so not much of an issue for me.

  • Bruce Hoult

    I have a left shoulder that is unfortunately quite easy to dislocate (the dish is too shallow, as are my mother’s and sister’s, both on the left side). Comes out easy, but but I’m rather large and broad shouldered and strong and it’s the very devil to get back in. I’ve seen the inside of hospitals all over NZ and also Seattle. I’ve got to credit all involved … walk into A&E (“ER” in the USA) with a dislocated shoulder and you go straight to the head of the queue.

    For me, it seems that morphine works, but I don’t recall getting any pleasure from it.

    The strangest thing, though, was one hospital (in the 1st world!) that decided the morphine wasn’t letting them do their job and gave me a shot of Ketamine. Now *that* is an experience I don’t care to repeat. *Really* strange totally abstract swirly colour-blobby kinda hallucinations, followed by a distant voice and then a gradual awareness that I was lying on a bed with a woman standing beside me talking to me. I started to be able to see but I could not move anything … could not speak (it seemed to me as if was doing all the right things but nothing happened), could not move fingers, could not even move my eyes at first. This lasted probably 10 or 15 minutes. I felt fully conscious the whole time, and not woosy or sleepy, but at first the world just wasn’t there, and then later I was aware of it but could not participate.

    I don’t think I want to do that again.

    The good news is that was seven years ago and I haven’t dislocated my shoulder since. Either they put it back just right (how can that be with no surgery?) or else I’ve finally got an adequate mental list of things *not* to do.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    Bruce, Ketamine (also called “Special K” after the US breakfast cereal when used recreationally) is used primarily by veterinarians as an animal tranquilizer, but has seen widespread recreational use. I have seen it used extensively on animals. That experience convinced me to never try it recreationally; your comments indicate to me that I made the correct decision.

    By the way, what you experienced is referred to by recreational users as a “K-hole”.

  • Ketamine is categorized as a “disassociative”. Bruce did an excellent job of describing the disassociation. In my 38 years of “youthful experimentation” it is one substance I was never curious about experimenting with.

    Understanding the sharp rush of pleasure is the key to moderation in drug use. The real kick is in getting high, not in being high, and the most effective way to maximize the kick is to start out at baseline. Attempting to reproduce the rush by taking more and more before returning to baseline is the path to self-destruction. This is why, altho I readily identify myself as a pothead, I haven’t had a toke in over a month, and haven’t had a toke during Lent in decades.

  • Relaxing into Demerol was very pleasant for me and that’s how I’d like to feel when I die.

    Librium made me mentally relaxed. Really takes the edge off…after all, they give it to people with the DTs.

    Paroxetene was a nice attitude adjuster…one just doesn’t get all het up about anything, stuff just floats by like a soap bubble…rather liked that…but it’s a bitch to step off.

    Enjoyed cocaine at a party at which there were massive amounts of it, and well sourced people in that crowd. I decided never again! I could get hooked too easily and end up a coke whore in no time flat. Cut and run, fast and far. Liked it too much.