All kinds of venting

Okay, I haven’t been on since surgery, so I have a lot to say. We’ll see how long I can stay focused, since I did actually take a pain pill.

So, let’s see. In a nutshell, here has been my life the past 5 days.

THURSDAY

Surgery was scheduled for 11, but I had to be there at 8. My husband drove me; my mom came about 2 hours later. We had to leave here at 6:30, which was ridiculously early. I was already nervous – mostly about how quickly I knew it would go for me between IV and recovery. It feels like no time at all, because you’re out, and that’s quite a shock.

They got one IV in my right forearm without much trouble. I’m a hard stick. They wanted a second one in my left arm, but couldn’t find anything, so they ended up digging a little in my right hand…

At which point I became nauseated, hot, and lightheaded. I actually got a couple ice chips (and a bucket I thankfully didn’t actually use). Then they hooked my Saran Wrap gown up to a hose pumping cool air and I was much better.

A bunch of people came in – nurses, my surgeon, the anesthesiologist, her assistant that everyone loved and talked and talked about.

Then they gave me giggle juice (she called it “hugs and love”) and I remember very little after that. Actually, all I really remember is them laughing at me for laughing so much, and seeing the OR. It was FULL of stuff – almost like a closet. I said, “There’s so much stuff in here!” and they said, “it’s all for you.” I think I may have repeated that, but that’s all I remember until waking up.

Waking up was crazy. First of all, I wasn’t really sure how I could be waking up, since I didn’t remember going to sleep. Second, I couldn’t believe how much I hurt. I knew I was going to hurt. I knew I was going to hurt worse than I thought I would. I just didn’t know it would be quite like that. People tried to talk to me. I think my mom told me I was in a big room. I think a nurse came in. I think I may have been on my CPAP machine. I don’t really have clear memories for most of that day. I believe it was 5:30 when I finally remember being awake.

And as promised, they made me walk the first day. I only made it to the next room. Even that was horrible. Getting in and out of bed was horrible. The catheter was horrible (although later without it sucked quite a bit as well.

My left hand, which had no needles, but 4 bracelets, swelled so badly they eventually had to give me new bracelets.

So the worst parts about the hospital were the pain, which never would go away, the needles, and the CPAP machine – my mortal enemy. I really didn’t believe the pain pump had any medicine in it, for all it helped, but that didn’t keep me from pushing that button every 8 minutes!

They also did a lot of blood drawing and sugar-checking. They had to use my fingers for the latter, which I never do on my own (I use my palm, where it doesn’t hurt), so that sucked. The blood draws were way, way worse, though. I’m a tough stick. After surgery, swelling, or meds, or dehydration – something made my vessels pretty much disappear. That meant that every time they came to draw blood, they had to stick me and dig around 2 or 3 times. Once, at 4:30 one morning, they came to get blood and had to give up and go away.

The second day, which my nurse correctly promised would be the worst, my IV stopped working. Unfortunately, the other IV didn’t work either, so I was IV-less. It was great for getting up, because I could go without the stand, but it meant I needed another IV. And they still hadn’t had any luck with the blood draw, so I wasn’t thrilled.

Three different people tried and failed. Finally, my nurse called the surgeon, who seemed to have given her an earful about getting that IV started NOW. They were considering a central line. I still don’t quite know what that is, but it sounds terrible. Finally, the anesthesiologist came back in with an ultrasound machine. She found a vein and started a very large, very deep IV. Thank God! The whole process took over 2 hours.

So, going to the bathroom after surgery is interesting. For the first day, I had a catheter. I mostly didn’t care about it, but when I went to get up, it pinched. Also, I always felt a little like I had to pee. Taking it out felt gross, but I was glad to not carry a bag of my pee down the hall on my short trips. But after the catheter came out, there was a problem – I still had to pee. Which meant I had to get up – about every 2 hours because of all the IV fluids. Getting up was a painful, exhausting ordeal. It involved at least one other person, usually my husband, pulling me as hard as he could until I could make it to the edge of the bed, then tipping forward until I had to stand, then moaning and gasping for a minute until I could breathe again. Sitting down on the toilet was the process in reverse. Standing up again hurt like hell. But the weirdest part, was that I couldn’t physically wipe. At all. I just couldn’t get myself to bend over enough to reach. I tried and tried and got a little better, but it wasn’t until yesterday (4 days postop) that I could really do it. And since my poor husband was already supporting me all the way there, holding my gown out of the way, measuring my pee and dumping it out, I just didn’t have the heart to ask him for help. So, yuck.

One of the things they tell you you have to do after surgery is use an incentive spirometer – a breathing device that makes you take a few deep breaths. Seems like no big deal before surgery, but after? It was bad. I guess you’d need to know what the pain was like to understand.

Most of the pain comes from the gas they pump into you during the surgery. Essentially they inflate your stomach so they can see around in there. Well, this gas HURTS. It hurts like being stabbed in every inch of your stomach, from ribs to crotch, simultaneously. If you move, it hurts. If you breathe, it hurts. If you cough or gag – almost lights out it hurts so bad.

So that’s why the spirometer was so awful. They wanted me to inhale up to the 1000 mark. I could do ALMOST 500. By the time I left the hospital, I was up to 750, occasionally hitting the 8/900 mark. I tried and tried, but there was just too much pain.

Some other things I really didn’t count on being rough were how dry and thirsty I got. I couldn’t have anything at all the first day. I had a bunch of things drying me out – anti-nausea patch, pain meds, not drinking for 24 hours – but I couldn’t even have an ice chip. Finally, they did let me rinse my mouth out, but I had to promise repeatedly that I would spit out every drop of water.

Which I did. Because I was terrified.

The second day, the really bad day pain-wise, I did get some water. For breakfast, they brought me a paper plate containing a bottle of water, some medicine cups, and Crystal Light mix. For lunch, the same. And again at dinner. I opted to mostly suck ice chips, because they kept my mouth wetter longer. See, one medicine cup – about a tbsp, had to last 1/2 hour. I wasn’t hungry yet, just so dry and thirsty. I couldn’t drink the Crystal Light they brought, because I can’t do the artificial sweeteners, but I did have some of my own with stevia. Eventually I had some of that too.

This was also the day they took away my pain pump and replaced it with crushed pills. Diluted in the tiniest bit of liquid. Yum!

So the hospital was rough. Everyone was nice. I had 2 nurses who alternated days and nights and they were both very nice. One had actually had the same surgery 18 months previous, which was pretty cool. But mostly I dozed, groaned, walked little laps in the hall, and counted minutes until the next pill.

The third day, I felt SO much better. All but one pocket of gas was gone. I could get up more easily and walk better. I turned on the TV instead of sleeping between trips to the bathroom. And so they sent me home.

I’ll have to get to all of that a little later, because my butt is sore from sitting for so long (you know, 5 days). I’ll just leave you with a glimpse of how my days at home have felt.

This morning I saw a ripening tomato on our bush – the first of the season. It made me cry. I guess I won’t even pick it. I can’t eat it. I can’t eat anything and I’m SO, SO, SO hungry.

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