Part 3: Surgery and Recovery

Dr. Gill (r) and Dr. Banffy (l) confident of the outcome

I met Tom Gill for the first time as the anesthesiologists were deadening my leg with a big needle in my groin.  This is called a femoral nerve block and is very effective. I asked if he knew about the circumstances surrounding my arrival. He made it plain that he did. Not surprising. I was, after all, the guy that was evacuated from Antarctica. Three different nurses were surfing 6explorers.com while I was in pre-op, telling me I was living the dream. Funny to be told you are living the dream while wearing a surgical gown and watching a big needle stuck in your groin. I asked Dr. Gill if there was some way to trade longer term recovery time for shorter term mobility such that I could get back to the eastern hemisphere faster. He said with a smile, “you mean put in another stitch?” I said “how did you know?” to which he replied in a confident tone “we’re on the same wave length, you’ll see them soon.”

I don’t know exactly what happened in surgery, but I asked Dr. Gill to take some pictures. They are posted on the very bottom last section of the Photo Gallery, but are not for the weak of stomach. In post-op Dr. Gill came in and informed me that I had, indeed, done a number on my knee. Full tendon rupture and a 270 degree tearing of the tissue around the knee. I went to Dave and Chris Laidman’s house that night feeling pretty good. The nerve block was still in effect and belying the true nature of the beast. The docs and nurses explained my Oxycontin and Oxycodone regimen and admonished me to “stay ahead of the pain.” That night at 9PM I had one Oxycontin and one Oxycodone and went to sleep. No worries. Until the block receded and I was blindsided. From the time I woke up at exactly 4:25AM until about 2:30 PM I was certifiably behind the pain. I was cavalier the night before and paying the greatest price. I later wrote an email to Scott answering his innocent question “how’re you feeling?” in this way:

This is epic. Imagine the worst charley horse that never goes away. Now imagine the feeling of slamming your kneecap into the corner of a coffee table. The sick-to-your-stomach intense pain. Now combine them and have them be constant. Oh Yeah!

Finally, after the doctor suggested I quadruple the oxycodone for 4 hours, I was now well and truly ahead of the pain. I remember thinking to myself, in my cold sweat, that I was experiencing maybe 50% of the actual pain of this procedure. There were, after all, narcotics in my system.  Just not enough. And that, if this was 50% pain, what must the Civil War guys have experienced? Modern man is soft.

I transferred to my own house on Saturday, post-op Day 2. My father had come from Connecticut and was eager to help in any way possible. And he was very helpful. But more so, it was a highly unexpected and most unusual opportunity: a week one-on-one with my father. That doesn’t happen often in the real world. We both gained much from the time, the conversation, the company and the shared experience. Silver lining #4.

Exactly one week after surgery I met with Dr. Gill in his office.  The anxiety and the anticipation were high. I had not gotten any real sense of timing from him and this was to be the day. All the signed pictures of Boston sports greats surrounding me were actually comforting. I could not have possibly screwed myself up worse than some of these guys had. He squeezed the knee, moved the kneecap, looked at the sutures, bent my leg and casually pronounced: “ok, you’re ready to go. Time for an explorer reunion.” I choked up. I asked him to clarify his pronouncement. It was true. My dream of re-joining the squad at the docks as they disembark from the Kapitan Klebnikov in Hobart Tasmania would come true.  Better yet, my dream of surprising them in Hobart and capturing the moment in photographs and video would come true. I later wrote the good doctor that I envied the joy he is capable of bringing through his work and that maybe I should have taken orgo. I really feel that way.

And now, the miracle surprise is on. The family doesn’t have any access to the internet so, for the first time in web history, something on a website can be kept secret. If you know their email address on board, don’t spoil it. January 3rd the surprise reunion happens. I fly out on December 31st and arrive in Hobart on January 2nd. This will be good video.  Really good video. Come back to check it out.

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15 Responses to “Part 3: Surgery and Recovery”

  1. A horrible experience, but a really great story. Glad you were able to find the silver linings and so glad you are able to return so quickly! The blog was riveting, CAN’T wait for the video!

    Bon voyage again!!

  2. So glad you are en route back to exploring with your family. Harrowing and riveting. Looking forward to seeing the surprise and joyful tears at your up and coming reunion.- Liz

  3. Greg, I wish you a good recovery. The reunion will be a fantastic start of 2011!

  4. Betsy Woolley 31. Dec, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Unbelievable! Thank you so much for sharing. We will be praying for your safe reunion. Happy New Year!

  5. So happy that the team will be reunited so quickly and that your prognosis is so good. The family will be over the moon when they see you. It will be the best Christmas/New Year’s gift ever. Be well and be safe in 2011. -the Russos

  6. Way to go Greg…we have loved every minute of “the 6 explorers”.
    We’ll now anxiously await your reunion/surprise…the biggest silver lining is yet to come. 🙂 We’re glad you’re through this rough patch.
    Hugs to all.
    The Brach’s 🙂

  7. We have been thinking about you all over the past month and check the website every so often. Then we hear your news. What an accident! Glad you are on the mend. Best to you all for 2011 and be safe. Looking forward to your updates.

  8. Silver Lining #6: “I quadruple the oxycodone for 4 hours”. Awesome news. On to next post…

  9. Amazing story — best of luck with the reunion!

  10. Wow – quite a story Greg, we are thrilled for the happy ending about to happen tomorrow and can’t wait to see the video of what will be the world’s greatest surprise!!!

    All our best,
    The Collins family

  11. Incredible story, Greg! A week ago Gina and Russ were telling us that you had fallen, been air-lifted out of the Antarctic, and would be rehabbing after surgery in Boston for the next six months. Now I read your tale and am amazed at every twist and turn — not the least of which is that you’ll be back with Dana and the kids any minute! That’s a lot of Silver Linings, indeed. Godspeed!

    Karen, Giles, Colin and Matthew

  12. Oh Greg. Having had my knee rebuilt last winter, I can empathize! I can atest that your description is accurate. Unfortunately. Soooooo glad you live in Boston where there are fantastic experienced doctors who can perform the impossible. My spirits are buoyed with the news that you will be able to rejoin your family so quickly. There is no magic ring to “5explorers” (and no website so named for us to follow!); thank goodness the “6explorers” will soon again truly be 6. Looking forward to your promised reunion video….
    Love and New Year well wishes,
    Nancy et al

  13. So sorry to hear of your misfortune, but so thrilled to hear that you will be rejoining the explorers. I can’t wait to see your pics of your return to surprize your family!! Good luck and be careful!!

  14. maggie harshbarger 05. Jan, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I am so glad to hear you will be rejoining the family in Tasmania! I can’t wait to hear how the reunion went. Take care of yourself and enjoy the next round of your great adventure!

  15. Heard about your mishap from DL at last nights lax mtg. So glad that you are ok, albeit terribly inconvenienced ! Give my love to Dana and the kids and take care of yourself, Greg.

    Annie Kenney