Saturday, October 29, 2016

And on Recovery in All its Glory

Mom-ishly waiting for the kids to get their shoes on!
I walked into the O.R. for a three-hour surgery just yesterday, and I feel fine. I'm taking half the pain meds that I'm allowed to take because the pain is minimal. Weirdly minimal for all that's been done to me. The worst of it is in my shoulders from gas settling there. I have an ice-pack on the top half of me and a hot-water bottle on the bottom half. It should be raining on my rib cage.

Liam thinks I'm a badass for walking there!

Pre-surgery fashion show.
When we first got to the hospital, the place was completely deserted. We were just five minutes early to register, but it took a while working through the maze of darkened hallways to find an actual staff member. It reminded me of The Kingdom, but, listening to me complain of nausea, my kids recited Wayne's World instead: "If you're going to spew, spew into this." Foreshadowing!

Once begun, the day started with a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait. We were shuffled from room to room, closer and closer to the O.R. We were stuck in one room for an hour and regretted not bringing the crokinole board along for a few games; I was too restless for cards. I was glad my kids were allowed to hang out with me during that time to help relieve the boredom and anxiety. But when nurses tried and failed to get an IV going, jabbing each hand before giving up, my daughter got a little pale and exhaled audibly, and all the attention shifted to her: "Take off your coat; you're going to faint!" "Put your head down!" "Are you going to be okay?" I had to remind them that I was the patient lying here with two bloody hands. But she has good reason to be stressed watching it all. She inherited my mutant genes, so she'll be next. That'll be an even harder day for me, I'm guessing.

Trying to be Zen about it all.
Staff kept remarking on the fact that I was getting two procedures at once, but I'd much rather one long surgery than two shorter ones. It's the anesthesia that scares the bejeebers outta me. It's like I'm a sickly animal being put down only to be magically awakened again. I don't trust that waking up part. I told the anesthesiologist as much and he offered to do it the old fashioned way with a bullet to bite on. I was totally up for that, but, alas, he was kidding. Bugger.

I expected to be wheeled into the O.R. like it happens on TV, but I just walked on in and hopped up on the table. There were eight masked people in the room milling about talking to each other jovially with music playing. I felt like I was intruding on an oddly specific Hallowe'en party. The anesthesiologist asked me how much I drink, and when I told him a few beers most Friday nights, the nurse and I got talking about what beers we like. She prefers a dark ale. It was all very chummy. Everyone checked my wrist band and asked my name and what I was doing there. I'm not sure if that was for their sake or my own. They covered me in toasty warm blankets and got the IV going, and tried to put an oxygen mask on my face but were really good about taking it off and just holding it close when I got all claustrophobic about it. Geez, I didn't used to be so neurotic!

And then I woke up, and there was much rejoicing!  I felt totally fine and lucid, and well enough to be annoyed that they couldn't find which waiting room my kids were in and insisted they must have gone out for coffee. They wouldn't have both left, I told them. Wait a minute... they don't even drink coffee! Eventually they let me call their cell phones to get them to me.

Post-surgery: the calm before the storm.
But then I had some troubles breathing. When I'd doze off, it felt like I kept exhaling and not inhaling again for ages, then waking up in a panic: Anesthesia-induced sleep apnea. Waking to a row of nurses staring at me, and telling me I'm not imagining it, wasn't remotely reassuring. I was supposed to be out the door by 1:00, but they kept me until 6:00. I kept getting really confused and having mini nightmares - terrors, really - about things I had to do right away, but couldn't. I was glad to have taken drugs in my wayward youth so I was well-prepared to talk myself down from a bad trip. I was hoping to come out of the O.R. saying hilariously inappropriate things to people; no such luck. The oxygen mask made my face itch, and there was vaseline on my eyes (WTF?), and the inside of my mouth felt like it was coated with glue. And then came the puking. Each time the nurses told me, "Now you'll feel 100% better!" but they lied.

After a few hours of that mess, they taught my daughter how to drain my tubes and carefully measure the blood loss. That would make anyone ralph. They got me into a pressure camisole to keep the swelling down. The nurse called it a teddy, but not many Victoria's Secret products have handy drainage bag pockets like this one does! Then they got me in a cab with a jerky driver, and I barfed just once more as soon as I got home. By 8:00 at night, twelve hours after walking into the O.R., the fog miraculously lifted, and I was up and about and watching Star Wars with my kids. Piece of cake! I almost feel like I could go to work on Monday. Almost. But I did all that prep-work, so I may as well enjoy my time off.

I thought I would feel much more fragile and broken at this point. But I really don't. I feel like I'll have to remind myself not to do too much over the next few weeks. The main surgeon recommended two to three weeks off work, and I pictured going back worried about being bumped in the halls, or unable to write on the chalk board, or too tired to make it through the whole day, but it's nothing like that. It was just two globs of fat taken off my chest and my ovaries and fallopian tubes slipped out of a hole in my belly button. I've had worse hangovers.

The doctors and nurses were all really wonderful. Not a crabby one in the bunch! But I did get my daughter to ask one to keep her voice down, and I immediately felt like such a princess for doing that. She was at the desk in the recovery room and kept talking about her weekend and life in general really loudly to the other nurses around her, while I was trying to focus on basic survival. I'm a little sensitive to chatter at the best of times. I was exactly the same during labour, demanding that my midwives whisper to each other. People are so gosh darn accommodating of my idiosyncrasies!

And my kids. Whenever the nurses would check me over, they'd get my son to leave the room - well, to stand on the other side of the curtain - because he's a boy, and one would lower her voice to ask about bleeding "down there." But he helped me give birth years ago! Nurses kept remarking about how incredible my kids are, as they'd hold my hand and stroke my head and rub my feet and get me whatever I needed. They even held my hair back when I threw up! I felt badly for how gross it all was, but they were troupers. My son's the best masseur I've ever known, and my daughter is amazing at doctoring, and remembering all the many instructions thrown at us, and telling people off as necessary. She's got my back.

Classic composition - my boy snoozing at my feet. But why won't that washcloth stay on my forehead?

A friend commented that it's just like me to keep this all a secret until the last minute. But I didn't do that for any noble reasons. I was keeping it from myself. I could pretty effectively block it out of my mind so long as I didn't talk about it. And then it was realer than real. And then it was over.


The Mound of Sound said...

Wow, what a day and a half you've had. It's good to hear that it went so well for you. With kids like yours, you've got a lot to be grateful for. All the best, Marie. I hope the rest of your recovery goes every bit as well.

Marie Snyder said...

Thanks so much!

Unknown said...

Ditto, on the best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Marie Snyder said...

Thanks, Sue!