Surgery & Gratitude

If you want the short version of this post, here it is:

My hysterectomy on March 7th went well. My doctor found fibroids which looked benign. The pathology verified that they were benign, as was the endometriosis.

Here is the longer version . . .

My sister came down a couple of days before my surgery. She had a cancelled flight and arrived a day later than planned, but we still had most of a nice day together before surgery prep, which was a bowel cleanse. Yuck. But this one wasn’t as intense as the colonoscopy one.

Surgery day was an early start for us. The hospital moved our arrival time up from 7am to 6am. I wasn’t called back until almost 6:30.

The last surgeries I had were port installation and removal and a lumpectomy, all at a small surgery center that has since closed.

This one was in a big hospital downtown. What a world of difference when there are so many more people going into and out of surgery at once!

I had hydrated pretty heavily up until the midnight cutoff for fluids, but that didn’t seem to help at all with my difficult-to-stick veins. So much tapping on different veins, trying to find one that would work. Finally, a nurse (or tech, who knows?), brought in a heater to warm me up. Yes, the room was cold, and the warmer blanket didn’t help a whole lot. But the heater did, and finally, she could draw some blood.

The next room was abuzz with activity, with what felt like stalls – a dozen of them – where we surgery patients waited until our turn. Since I’m very nearsighted and my glasses had been confiscated at the first stop, this wait involved my meeting a variety of blurry people dressed in blue. I had a long wait here because my doctor was running late. Most of the half dozen or more people who dealt with me were really nice. Most. A couple were a bit peevish or standoffish. I guess that’s pretty typical for a group of people. Makes you appreciate the nice ones more.

I decided to provide a bit of levity to the third nurse who asked me to tell my basic info – you know, name and birthday and one more question. “Why are you here today?” That’s the one I had fun with.

I said, “I’m here to be spayed.”

The nurse cracked up. She shared my answer with the next set of people who came in – and later with the doc. She told my sister later that I was a hoot, or something to that effect. I’m glad I helped make her day a little more fun, as she was the most compassionate of all the people I met during that long day. I really appreciated her.

I was a difficult stick again right before surgery (no surprise). They ended up using my left hand, even though my left hand and arm are usually off limits because I had nodes removed there. I was starting to worry that there was no vein available for the anesthesia. They told me they’d switch back to my right hand once the anesthesia got going and my veins relaxed some. The person who had to make that switch groused about it. To me. Really?

I think I might have a vague memory of arriving in the surgery room. I was struck with how much stuff was in it – it seemed almost cluttered. Could that have actually been a memory??

So much is vague and unclear right before and after surgery.

I came to after surgery in a loud and busy area. My last surgeries had much more pleasant areas for coming to. There was much less activity, and it was much more quiet.

But at this big hospital, there was a long line of us surgery patients coming to. There was a lot of noise and a lot of activity to make the odd experience of coming to after anesthesia even more disconcerting.

This is where I ran into the least compassionate people of the day. They kept pushing me to decide whether I needed to stay overnight or go home. How did I know??? I was barely conscious! They kept asking me if I was nauseated. They talked about me at the foot of my bed as if I weren’t there. I asked if they were talking about me. They said yes, but they went right on, as if I weren’t there.

I found out later that I’d been dry heaving while I was under anesthesia. I knew I had a problem with vomiting after anesthesia since I had thrown up a lot after my lumpectomy, and I shared that information before surgery. I think they gave me everything that could prevent my vomiting – a patch, pills, probably something else, too – but apparently none of it worked.

I stayed in this post-op area for a while. I never vomited. Luckily. I guess I’d done all of that while I was under.

I did hear someone say that it was almost 2 o’clock. I wasn’t too groggy to figure that if surgery was at 9, that 2 was much later than I should have been finishing. Had something gone wrong? They kept telling me to breathe deeply. I’d try to do that, and I’d lapse back into unconsciousness. Gradually, though, I could stay conscious and could breathe more deeply. My oxygen numbers got a lot better. I didn’t throw up any.

The nurses decided I didn’t need to stay overnight, that I could go home.

And so one of them rolled me into the last area, the same area where I’d begun in the morning. There a kind nurse took care of me until she thought I was doing well enough to go home. The incentive spirometer was the ticket out, it seemed. When I have a goal, I can make progress. Soon enough I was breathing well enough to get my oxygen saturation rate high. So the nurse wheeled me out to my car, and my sister drove me home around 5 pm.

I was sore from the four incisions. I had had the DaVinci robotic surgery. The incisions are about an inch or an inch and a quarter long horizontally across an area above my waistline. The first several days, they hurt when I had to use my abdominal muscles to sit up or twist over. But they hardly hurt at all now, and the bruises there are mostly healed.

I have slept well each night, and I have less pain almost every day. I weaned myself from the high-powered pain meds pretty quickly because I didn’t want the terrible constipation I had last time. That plus the laxatives and stool softeners helped me avoid it.

The weirdest thing is that my upper left thigh was numb for several days, and now it’s a little numb and a lot sensitive to touch. What’s up with that?? Someone told me that surgeons might bear down on you during surgery. Surely that’s not it. Because surely someone has invented a shelf or the like for the surgeon to bear down on – instead of the patient! But I don’t know what it is. I didn’t notice it until I got home.

Tomorrow I have a follow-up with my doctor, so he can answer the questions I have.

I’ve been driving for several days now, and I’ve gone to the grocery store. I’ve cooked and washed clothes and been fairly active around my house.

My sister left a week ago today. She took great care of me while she was here, and she made some meals to last me a few days. My centering prayer group had stocked me up well with food before surgery, too.

I’m very grateful to be healing so well.

I’m grateful for the healthcare workers and providers, especially those who are compassionate, who can, in the middle of daily drudgery, remember that they are working with living, breathing human beings who have hopes and fears just as they do.

I’m also very grateful for the gentle care my sister gave me and all of the different ways she took care of me.

I’m grateful for my centering prayer friends who set me up with food.

And I’m grateful for the prayers and good vibes that have surrounded me before, during, and after my surgery.

I feel especially blessed!

I hope that my recovery continues on a mostly straight upward line. I know everyone’s doesn’t. I know when recovery goes well, it’s something to be especially grateful for.

And so I am!

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I decided to kick off my Relay for Life campaign on the day I got my “all benign” news from the pathology report. I’ve been through breast cancer – with chemo, surgery, more chemo, and radiation – and I resolved to get involved in raising money for cancer patients and cancer research every year since then as a way to show my gratitude. If you feel called to contribute to the American Cancer Society and my Relay team, you can do that here: Krista’s Relay for Life campaign

 

This photo below is from the morning my sister left to go back home. This unusual Southern spring snow (on the azaleas in my front yard) made her trip home very eventful – a cancellation and many delays got her home after midnight (when she was scheduled to be back at 1:30pm).IMG_0190

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Surgery & Gratitude

  1. I/m glad you are on the mend with good results. But the uncompassionate staff really bother me.
    I see it from both sides–a big hospital, being short staffed, etc etc etc–but that is no excuse.
    It IS a reality that management’s expectations keep pushing us more and more–even in Hospice Care. That is one reason I am so glad to be at an age that if they require me to spend less and less time with patients and families at this time of their lives, I know I can fall back on Medicare. I will try to live up to their expectations, but not to the extent that patient/family care suffers more. Love you–Karla, too:)

    • Thanks, Naomi. You’re one of the compassionate caregivers. It was interesting to see where the least compassion was – and it was in the places where, frankly, I think they had way too many patients to attend to. It makes you wonder if administrators/management have EVER been patients! I did ask the least compassionate person if she’d ever had surgery. It turns out that yes, she has. But her bedside manner improved greatly after I asked that.

      It’s too easy to get caught up in a demanding job and forget you’re dealing with fellow human beings – not just in medical settings, either.

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