I keep not writing this and I don’t know why. Maybe I’m so grateful that it’s finally over I just don’t want to go back and relive it. LOL.
It’s not that the experience was bad, necessarily, it’s more that I’m so focused on an “eyes forward” mentality that any type of looking back seems like a bad move to me – but I need to get y’all caught up! So here we go…
By the time my surgery date rolled around, my brain was numb and I felt completely raw. I was scared, excited, and just…exhausted. I was so tired of beating myself down with the “what if’s” that I just wanted it to be over.
The drive to the hospital is an hour and a half from our home. Sure, I could have gone with a closer location but that would have meant giving up the surgeon I chose – and I wouldn’t have given him up for anything in the world. HMH and I got up super early that morning and drove up to the hospital and checked in. They gave HMH a piece of paper with a 5 digit number on it and told him that he could watch the monitors on the wall to see where I was at any given time. We sat and waited for my name to be called, watching other patient’s numbers go from In Facility to Pre-Op to Surgery to Post-Op to Recovery.
While we waited, HMH tried to keep my mind off of things by joking with me or talking about this and that. There was nothing that could shake me out of my “Oh my God, I’m having surgery” mode. I was scared…and I think most people would be. Surgery is a scary thing.
When they called my name, I had to go back by myself to meet with my pre-op nurse. She took my blood pressure (pretty high, go figure) and my temperature before giving me a delightfully awful paper gown to change into. As I sat in the room waiting for her to come back and put my IV line in, I just kept thinking “Okay, here we go…here we go…”
Poor HMH. My surgery was scheduled for 11:30 am and they didn’t come to get me until 1:20 pm. I had several meltdowns in those hours where I’d just start crying for no reason. All I could think about was what I was about to do. I was afraid of waking up in pain, afraid of something going wrong, afraid of the hospital being raided by zombies in the middle of my surgery. Every minute that ticked by gave me another opportunity to create hysteria in my head.
Finally the OR nurses and anesthesiologist came to see me and soon I was wheeled away from HMH, prompting another bought of tears. I think everyone has that moment where you wonder “Am I going to open my eyes again? Am I going to see you again? Am I going to be okay?” I had about 3,000 of those moments in the 2 minutes it took them to wheel me into the freezing cold operating room.
Once I was in the OR, the nurse explained that I was laying on an inflatable hover cushion and that they were going to inflate it and float me over to the operating table. It was a surreal experience. They’d given me something in my IV to relax me because I was crying, so here I’m feeling sort of relaxed and scared at the same time and it suddenly feels like I’m laying in a life raft in the middle of the ocean. Air is blowing all around me and they effortlessly pulled me over to the operating table. They deflated the cushion, but I guess I was on the table crooked so they told me they were going to inflate it once more and straighten me out.
At this point, my surgeon appears above me. He smiled down at me and said “I think they just like play’in with that thing, Dianne…” and disappeared again. My OR nurse, who was just about the sweetest person ever, could see that I was still upset – even on drugs. She took my hand and told me to squeeze it if I was afraid…and told me that she’d be there with me when I fell asleep and the whole time I was out. She explained that she would be there when I woke and that she wouldn’t leave me…and that everyone there was going to take such good care of me. I probably squeezed her hand right off, but I was so thankful for her. For all of them. The last thing I remember seeing was a water stain on a ceiling tile above my head.
Two hours later, I was conscious. My surgery was only 45 minutes long, but I was in recovery for a while. The first thing I remember was choking on the ventilation tube as they pulled it from my throat. Most people don’t remember this, so if you ever have surgery please don’t worry about it. I’d had two surgeries before this one and I didn’t remember it for either of those.
When I woke up, I was in a massive amount of pain – mostly from the gas in my body, not from my incisions. It was overwhelming. My voice was hoarse and raspy and I kept hearing myself say “Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God” over and over…like a broken record. My recovery nurse’s name was Daisy and it pains me to tell you that I did, in my drugged up hysterical stupor, say the following…
“Oh…my favorite flower. Ow! Ow! Ow! Oh my God, oh my God…ow! Ow!! Daisies are my favorite…Ow!!! Oh my God…”
I could barely open my eyes, but I’m certain I saw her trying not to laugh. LOL. Poor thing. I’m not trying to discount my situation, but when I think about it I just giggle. Recovery room nurses are a special breed of people. God bless ’em all.
Daisy mercifully administered some kind of drug and I was pain free before I realized it. In fact, I was still say “Ow! Ow! Oh my God…” when she scooted over to me and calmly said “Dianne, I know it hurts but you have to stop panting if you want these meds to work. Slow your breathing….caaaaaaalm…..” I focused on her words and started breathing deeper and deeper…and only then did I realize that the pain was gone and that I could relax.
Two blonde nurse dudes showed up to take me to my room before I even had a chance to thank Daisy for patiently listening to my hysterical ramblings. I just remember looking up at one of them and thinking “Thor….?” I have no eff’in idea what the hell their names were.
As soon as they wheeled my bed into my room and I saw HMH standing there, I thought….home. Safe. Normal. I’m okay. He’s here. We’re okay. Thank you, God. There was never a sweeter sight than my scruffy look’in hubby standing there, reaching to grab my hand, telling me everything was ok. Thank God, thank God.
There was the normal hustle and bustle of nurses coming in and setting up my chart, writing on the white board, introducing themselves. I had a private room, thankfully, and HMH had a nice couch to stretch out on if he wanted to. After a couple of hours, I felt awake enough to crack a joke or two…and I decided it was time to walk.
All of the information that had been thrown at me since I started this journey came flooding back – and I remembered quickly that the best thing to do to move the gas pains along was to walk. So I called the nurse for help and I started moving.
I had 5 incisions across my belly, some tiny and some not so tiny. None are more than 1.5 inches in length. They were angry looking and bruised, but I expected that. Just as my surgeon had warned me, the one on the lower left was the one that hurt. I couldn’t feel anything from the others but that one on the lower left hurt like a mother. That’s where they did all the work. That’s where they put in the tool that pulled out 85% of my stomach after it was cut away…and in order to do that, they had to cut through muscle.
The nurse helped me up and I walked into the restroom for a quick pee and then walked about 50 feet down the hallway before I instinctively felt that it was enough. By the time I got back to my bed, I was feeling a little woozy. I looked at the clock and realized that HMH had been with me well over 12 hours. He had an hour and a half drive home. Certainly, the dogs were wondering what the hell was going on because one of us is always home. I sent him on his way and told him to be back in time to pick me up at lunch time. Why make him come back first thing in the morning when I’m just going to be scuffling along the halls in my slipper socks…dragging an IV rack with me. Things like this are hard on both halves of a couple. I wanted him to have a break.
I slept a little that night, but how much can you really sleep when they’re coming in to take your vitals every hour? Not much. I left the tv on, but I don’t remember watching anything but one episode of Downton Abbey that I happened to catch. Most of my night was a dreary routine of laying in bed, getting up, shuffling down the hallway, and coming back to bed. Each time I walked, I made a point to walk farther than I had before.
Most of all, I just kept thinking how grateful I was that most of the scary stuff was over. The only thing remaining that I was worried about now was passing the barrium swallow test in the morning. I wasn’t allowed any water or ice chips or anything until I passed that test in the morning. In the meantime, I was given a sponge on a stick that they let me wet with water and rub around on the inside of my mouth.
Sleep, walk, rest…sleep, walk, rest…and pray that I passed the swallow test in the morning. That was the path I was until morning.
Questions? I’m all ears…and I’ll be back soon to talk about discharge day.