Scalpel on the Scalp

Waking up from general anesthesia yesterday, I was tempted to yell, “My leg! Oh my God, what have you done? Where is my leg??” But my voice was so weak, and my throat sore from the breathing tube, I could barely manage a whisper, sparing the post-op nursing staff from my sick joke.

What a long day. Having had nothing to eat or drink after midnight, long before I was put under at 5 PM I had a “dehydration hangover,” because a hangover was exactly what it felt like.

The picture is from the plastic surgeon’s Facebook page. He said it took 90 minutes to close the wound in my scalp from the melanoma removal last week that was done by a dermatologist. Not entirely coincidentally, the two doctors attended Harvard Medical School together.

Before the surgery I was given a choice of procedures. A skin graft or something called a “flap.” The surgeon explained that the latter is more difficult and takes twice as long to do, but the outcome is better. If I were ten years older, or had been a smoker, he wouldn’t offer it, because it requires a healthy blood supply. So a flap it was.

My head now looks like a mess of stitched-together raw hamburger, covered by a transparent adhesive bandage. But it’s better than the open wound was. The surgeon showed me a picture that was taken last week by the dermatologist, after removing the cancer and before the inch-thick bandage was applied. If I had seen it then, I would have yelled, “My head! Oh God, what have you done to my head??” The opening was huge, and incredibly deep! I had no idea the scalp is so thick. Anyway, thanks to seeing how horrible the injury was, I knew I’d made the right decision against a skin graft.

All I can do now is rest and heal. I have two pain med prescriptions, one narcotic one not. But I won’t need them, because it doesn’t hurt very much after taking a single 500 mg extra-strength Tylenol. Before I cover up my head with my new hat, here’s how it looks.

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