I went in for my surgery pre-dawn Wednesday morning, and after two agonizingly long days in the hospital, I am finally back home. Where I belong. I feel more and more like me again, even though it has barely been 60 hours since I went into the operating room.
I had to be at the hospital at 6:00am Wednesday morning. I was a little nervous, but less so than when I had my laparoscopic procedure that started this entire ordeal last February. Hubby was by my side the entire time until they wheeled me back into the OR. I don’t do well with needles, so when they put in the IV port, I warned the nurse that I would get woozy and to please bring me a cold, wet washcloth for my forehead. That, in addition to being asked a bunch of medical history questions during the process, helped keep my mind off the fact that I had a foreign object sticking into my blood vein. I also was finishing reading a book about a year in the life of an organic farm, which did wonders to keep the jitters away right up until they wheeled me away. The anesthesiologist helped, too. He came in and introduced himself: “Hi. So, I had to work last night. <long pause…> We were short staffed, but don’t worry, I got some great sleep last night here at the hospital.” Instead of making me nervous, his candor actually made me laugh. He explained what they were going to do, and then asked if I had any questions. Only one. “What’s your name?” “Oh! it’s Bill.” Not Dr. So and so. Just Bill. Then he mentioned something about his last name that was a bit of a jumbled mess and I pretty much lost track. It didn’t matter anyway. I realize this might make some people nervous, considering that this is THE GUY who determines when and if you wake up after your surgery, but he seemed lucid enough for me at 6am. I joked about it later with the nurse as she was rolling me back to the OR and we had a nice laugh about it, with Bill standing right there. He immediately put me under.
When I awoke in recovery, the first thing I heard was some guy practically yelling about the pain in his knee: “Ow! It hurts. Oh, my knee hurts so bad!” Then I was sort of back out of it and when I woke up again I was in my private room with Hubby, who was receiving a couple of flowers for me. One bouquet was from 3 of my girlfriends, all of whom live in 3 separate states now (thank you ladies!); the other was from my parents and nephew. Those really made me smile and brightened my day. And they got lots of compliments from my nurses.
Wednesday afternoon was a blur of nurses, pokings, proddings, and blood pressure cuffs (“Look at that beautiful blood pressure”, one nurse cooed when she read the numbers.). By Wednesday night, around 9pm I was feeling a little more lucid. I was confined to the bed with a catheter and compression cuffs to keep blot clots from forming in my legs–I could tell this was going to be a really long night, and I was right. Hubby stayed with me and we got no sleep. Every time I drifted off, I awoke thinking I had gotten maybe half an hour of sleep–2 minutes had passed. In addition, I had someone reading vitals, or giving me pills, or injections every hour or so all night. My night nurse was awesome, though. She is a former bartender and her name is Heather. And she has just the right amount of all the qualities you need to be a great nurse: “I figured as a bartender I got to see enough human bodily fluids that I could handle the nursing thing.” At 3am Thursday morning, Heather told me I could have the catheter taken out at 5:30am. I practically counted the minutes until 5:30. At 4am “The Vampires,” as Heather calls the phlebotomists from the lab, came in to draw blood. Heather came in immediately afterwards to give me more pain meds. Finally 5:30 rolled around and she removed the catheter. I had mentioned my previous experience with my bladder post surgery was that it forgot how to empty and Heather replied, “your surgeon has order bladder management, which is supposed to help with that.”
Bladder management? Really? The way it works is the drain tube is removed from the catheter, then 300 ml of saline solution are plunged, 60 ml at a time with a syringe, through the catheter and into the bladder. Then the catheter is removed. The saline solution is somehow supposed to remind the bladder how to work again. I was skeptical. So I got my 300ml input. No action from the bladder. I settled back into bed for a while and drank some water. Still no action. By mid morning, I knew what was going to have to happen, the same thing as last time, only 3 days sooner: I was going to have to have another catheter inserted to drain the bladder and that would act as the reset mechanism. So I told my nurse daytime that I still was unable to pee and she gave me “a straight cath” as they call it. And she was awesome! The last time I had a straight cath at UrgentCare, there was a sharp pinprick sensation as the catheter was inserted. I hardly felt a thing this time. I told her how much I appreciated her smoothness and that she was totally awesome. She drained about 700ml of urine. Not as bad as the 1L I had drained last time, but still a fair amount of liquid. I was so relieved. And even more so when I was able to pee, very slightly, on my own a short time later. I had sort of forgotten that it was a bit of a process to get the bladder back to full functionality (like potty training, as Heather put it later that night). For the next several hours I went to the bathroom to pee every 20 minutes or so, even through the night and right up until after I got home Friday late morning. Finally around late afternoon I could go an hour without having a strong urge to empty my bladder. Yay!
In addition to having to get my pee back on track, I also had some gas bubbles forming Thursday night. My doctor asked me yesterday afternoon if I’d begun passing gas yet. Nope. Well, until I did, I was to be on a clear liquid diet. So my last meal was Tuesday night at 8:00pm. I did not eat anything Wednesday, but had some cranberry juice that night. Thursday I had more cranberry juice and some vegetable broth for dinner. I managed to sneak 6 saltine crackers in with help from the nurse, but it wasn’t until 9:30am Friday that I got to upgrade to solid food. And by solid food I mean Cream of Wheat, yogurt, and orange juice. I didn’t want to overwhelm my digestive system with something dense…after all, constipation is a common occurrence after surgery and given the delicate position of these sutures, I want to avoid as much discomfort from other body systems as much as I possibly can.
As soon as I was mobile Thursday morning, I put on my own clothes and went for a walk down the hallway. There was a nice little loop around the nurses’ station that I could walk with ease. The first couple of laps were a little rough, but I was able to walk them on my own, with a little assistance from the railing along the wall. Later in the day I didn’t need the railing. The nurses were all impressed that I was up and around so quickly. It surprised me, too, how quickly I felt pretty decent for having had my lower abdomen sliced open 6 inches and organs removed (my surgeon did remove everything even though he was hoping to save one ovary—but once he got in there he and his partner decided it wasn’t worth it). I was able to get up on my own, with assistance from raising the bed, to get around very quickly. I think all that time spent at the gym the past several weeks really helped strengthen not only my core, but also my arms and legs which I am using to help me up and down. It’s been a tremendous asset (and very liberating) to have that advantage and not have to rely on someone to help me get up to pee every 15 minutes or however long between bathroom trips.
When I got home this morning, The Stinker was there to greet me, cautiously. She knew I wasn’t at my best and she immediately honed in on my sutures. It’s amazing what dogs can pick up on that humans cannot. She stuck by my side when I crawled into bed and slept with me. When I made my way to the living room to be close to the warm fire, she was right beside me. She is so happy to have me home, and Hubby too, because he spent both nights with me in the hospital, which meant Stinker had to be home alone overnight. But she’s been through that routine before and she just sleeps anyway. I’m forever thankful that she’s such a good dog and can be trusted that way.
Hubby has been great, too. He made me vegetable broth for lunch, with a few saltine crackers. I also ate half of a piece of cranberry orange bread that I made earlier in the week. It was the perfect welcome home comfort food. I ate the same thing for dinner. For breakfast I plan to have Cream of Wheat again, and broth again for lunch. Then by tomorrow night I think I’ll—Whoops! I mean Hubby will–make my spring greens soup (which is mostly broth, but has some well-cooked, i.e., soft veggies in it). I pre-chopped all the veggies and pulled together the spices and herbs and put them into freezer bags a couple of weeks ago so that all he has to do is add water and boil. Easy for him and stress-free (though if I know Hubby, he’ll find something to stress about). Then I’ll slowly start to work into some thicker, more substantial soups by next week. Maybe even mashed potatoes! Yum….
Hubby asked today what I wanted for my birthday, which is this Sunday. Nothing, really. I mean, I won’t be up for my traditional carrot cake, though it does sound awfully good right now. Really I just to be home with the 2 individuals I love most in the world. He suggested ice cream, and though it’s supposed to snow Sunday, that actually sounds good if we eat it in front of the wood stove. We can eat ice cream and watch the snowflakes dance down to the ground.