After your surgery, you will be moved to the recovery room while your anesthesia wears off. Most patients receive oxygen at this time. It is best not to think about the plastic tube snaking down your throat, as this may trigger the gag reflex. As you lie on your back, you can reflect on your new appreciation for preventive care.

After you awaken, you may be especially sensitive to noises, light, and temperature. The nurses in recovery tend to play their CDs loud, but they will lower the volume if you ask without slurring your words. Most people have some discomfort after surgery, but there is no reason for alarm. The nurse will give you the appropriate medication, or you will simply lose consciousness again from the pain.

After the nurses feel confident that you can breathe on your own, you will be taken off the respirator. At this time, it is safe to vomit, but remember to turn your head to the side to keep your airway clear.

During the first hours after surgery, urine will be carried out of your body through a catheter. While you were unconscious, the pre-op nurses stuck a narrow plastic tube into the end of your urethra and kept pushing on it until it went all the way up into your bladder. Then a small balloon was inflated to keep it in place. We recommend that you do not pull on the catheter, as this may cause discomfort.

The nurses are trained to handle medical situations and will help make you as comfortable as possible during recovery. You will be able to summon them with the push of a button if you need assistance. However, please keep in mind that Cheryl prefers not to touch the patients, Maria does not understand English, and Arlene likes to watch her “stories” between noon and 2 p.m.

Later, you may be told about agreements that you consented to while partly under anesthesia. You may not remember doing so, but that is very common and should be no cause for worry. The nurses will give you hard copies to take with you.

After you have been awake for a few hours, you will start to regain your balance and be able to communicate requests for morphine in a more assertive tone. You will conclude that some addictions should be placed in their proper context and viewed with compassion.

After the catheter is removed, you should not attempt a trip to the bathroom without assistance—you could fall and hurt yourself or make the CD skip. It is best to rest in bed and think of the different ways you may have brought this condition on yourself. Do you smoke? Was it your diet? Your sedentary lifestyle? Did you ever get up early to watch the sunrise, or were you too busy “putting kids through college”?

When the nurses feel it is safe, or somebody needs your bed, you will be transferred to a regular hospital room. Do not make eye contact with the orderly.

This is a teaching hospital, and during your stay an attending physician may visit your room with medical students as part of daily rounds. Try not to take offense at some of the nicknames you may be given by the doctor during these visits—it’s a way of making sure the students are paying attention. The doctor may conduct a few reflex and motor-skill tests on you to illustrate certain points. This may be your best chance for revenge.

When you have recuperated in your room for a few days, you will begin to notice a lack of enthusiasm from the nurses who check on you. It is best that you leave the hospital at this time.

After you get home, you may not feel your “normal self” right away. You may not sleep as well for several days. Food may taste slightly different, or you may have no appetite. Your spouse will be leaving the house often on mysterious “errands.” Your dog will not recognize you and is likely to attack. You will burst into tears at the sight of your son’s birthday glove. In most cases, these problems go away by the end of our billing cycle.

When a week has passed, your spouse will present you with a video montage of various friends and acquaintances speaking sincerely, if a bit self-consciously, to the camcorder, wishing you a speedy recovery.

You will start to wonder when she found the time and then not finish the thought. Your daughter will bring you a gin martini that she mixed herself. Even though she forgot the olive, it will be the first thing in three weeks that tastes normal.