I was nine years old the first time I was forced to stay overnight in the hospital as a result of major surgery. On the first night after the surgery I laid in pain, scared and alone in a cold hospital room with no company save for a few stuffed animals friends and relatives had left behind.
Ironically, the actually surgery part of the ordeal was the easiest thing to deal with. I was born with a congenital deformity called Cleft lip and Palate which has resulted in over fifteen surgeries as early as two months after my birth which is part of the treatment process. By the time I was nine, I had become an old pro at surgery to the point where I even like to crack jokes with the doctors before they operated. The smile the doctors would give as they heard puns from a toddler who was about to go under the knife always made me happy. Plus I figured if I could make the surgeons like me beforehand than perhaps they would put their best foot forward and at the very least eliminate any mistakes.
Equipment used for anaesthesia in the operating room
All of the surgeries that had come before this were generally easy to handle. Either I had been too young to remember or it was a simple matter of being put under general anaesthesia, waking up in the recovery room and be driven home by my mother who was always there to take care of me and help me with any lingering pain or discomfort. It got to the point where I almost like surgeries, a trait which many friends of my youth found very strange. To me it was almost all positive; I got sympathy from my friends, loads of ice cream on demand and a couple days off from school.
This surgery however was different. The doctors waited to perform this operation until I had grown enough in order for it to be safe. The procedure called for the doctors to make a surgical incision into my hip and remove bone and tissue that could be implanted into the roof of my mouth in order to repair the Palate. To do this, the doctors needed to perform a nerve block which as a result rendered the use of my legs impractical. For four days after the surgery I was to remain in bed and required the use of a wheelchair if I wanted to go to leave my room or visit the bathroom.
On the day of the surgery, while performing my normal stand-up routine for the doctors I learned that the anaesthesia used would be gas. My first mistake that day was choosing the “Root beer” flavor for the gas they used. Upon waking up from the surgery my stomach immediately empty itself and continued to do so for the rest of the day (it would be another decade before I could ever have root beer again). My mother stayed with me for most of the day as other relatives dropped off stuffed animals to keep me company, but eventually the night came and my mother had to go home. I hardly slept at all that night, the pain kept me from drifting off and nerve block made for very uncomfortable resting positions. That was the first time I stayed awake the entire night until the sun rose.
The next day was no better, as on top of everything else I was now extremely tired as well. As it was a week day, most of my visitors had prior obligations such as work that kept me alone for much of the day. The minutes crept by, which made the pain worse. I couldn’t go outside to play or even just get up and stretch my legs. Even going to the bathroom was a challenge and sometimes I need the aid of a nurse. Everything I tried to do to keep myself busy only resulted in failure and prolonged my day.
Thankfully, one of my nurses checked in on me and saw that I was not doing that well and after talking to me a bit and asking about my interests she found out that I liked video games. Just talking about games with her gave me some sort of solace however brief. After she left I tried to pass the time eating the subpar food hospitals tend to have and shuffling through the terrible day time television shows. Then to my surprise, my nurse rolled into the room a Television on wheels with a basket underneath that held a Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
The SNES came to me like water to a man in a desert
In the basked were a couple of games as well, Super Mario World, Pilot Wings and Super Mario Kart. At the time, I was a Sega Genesis owner, so before me stood an entirely different system with games I had never played but had certainly read about in Nintendo Power and EGM. I thanked the nurse heartily for this wonderful gift and immediately put in Super Mario Kart. That day Yoshi and I conquered all the courses and cups in the 50 CC class and suddenly I didn’t feel so bad any more. I may have been a little boy in a lonely hospital room, but now I had a purpose as I raced my way through the Mushroom Cup, Flower Cup and Star Cup and by the end of my stay the 150CC Special cup trophy was mine.
Recovery from a surgery or accident normally instructs people to rest and lay down. While that is the best course of action to help your body heals itself, more often than not depression can set in and a feeling of helplessness. It’s hard for anyone to go from an active and fun life to becoming a prisoner of their own bed. Books, movies and televisions can all help take away some of the monotony, but it was video games I found that really circumvented some of the depression that these situations can cause. When you have a purpose and are actively completing missions or in my case tracks and have something you are working at, it helps a sense of accomplishment creep into your psyche in a situation that normally doesn’t lead to those feelings.
The Get-Well Gamers Foundation donating to a hospital
While some hospitals around the country have video game systems to help their patients, there are special groups like The Get-Well Gamers Foundation which was founded by Ryan Sharpe who specialize in helping Pediatric divisions of hospitals that might not have the funding to provide video game systems sill give children the chance to play. While my stay in the hospital lasted roughly one week, I did encounter many children with conditions far more severe who no doubt were feeling the benefits of the video game system available to them. So if any of you gamers out there are looking to get rid of their old consoles as the PS4 and XBOX One make their way on to store shelves, it might be beneficial for you to check out their donation program.
It’s not about just helping children though, while that is always a noble goal. People in a position of powerlessness could no doubt be helped by the availability of gaming in their time of need. As video games become more and more mainstream and the age associated with gaming continues to grow larger, perhaps it is time to open up games to some of the people who made need them most. Tablets, portable gaming devices and consoles could go a long way to aid the healing process for many. Why shouldn’t and elderly Grandma with a hip replacement enjoy some time in Animal Crossing as she recovers.
When I tour my ACL in high school I was laid up for a week and it was Final Fantasy VIII that was with me as I was nursed back to health. This Friday I will be going under the knife again. As luck would have it, I have been diagnosed with another condition called Silent Sinus Syndrome, a rare condition that is treated by a surgery where the doctors implant a metal bar under my eye orbit (which is good in my ever increasing attempts to become a Cyborg). I will be on bed rest for a week and while I heal, I look forward to some video games to aid me in the recovery process. I may even turn on the Wii for once, and play Super Mario Kart again.
DanimalCart’s Soapbox: 08/28/13