Last Thursday I had surgery to repair my badly herniated incision from last August. As I write this from the comfort of my favorite chair, my geriatric kitty on my lap, I am thinking of this most recent medical journey and lessons I can learn, integrate, and use so I do not have to keep learning this particular message.
Now, three days out, I can reflect back on my experiences of the past month or so. My surgical consult happened rather quickly after I was shaken out of denial-land on the 18th. I saw the surgeon on the 27th, and the recommendation was surgery, sooner rather than later. A date of 3rd was offered, and I had to decline due to needing time to prep a few things at home and at work, so the next date available was July 10th. And how quickly did that date arrive! State budget crisis, financial threat and all other deadlines be damned, it seems. My best friend’s mother arrived at my place at 5:30am to have me at the hospital at 6am for my 7:25am surgery. Check in was uneventful, and all the surgical appointment discussions were reiterated. They were going to do their best to do this laparoscopically so my recovery time would be shorter, etc. If scar tissue was too much an issue, then I would awake to the reopening on my mid-line incision, and instead of a short/overnight hospitalization I would be in 3-4 days and off 6-8 weeks instead of two.
I awoke in the Recovery Department with little pain in my midsection, the nursing staff told me I had 13 ‘poke holes’ or access/scope sites and my incision had been opened at the top by about 3 inches or so. That was good news. The not-s0-great-news was I was getting horrific migraine, with sound and light sensitivity. The bad news was there were no hospital beds available, and I would have to wait in recovery until they found one. The first time I awoke that I remember was just before 10am, and I was in Recovery until after 4pm. Dr. Page stopped by to dash my hopes of just going home… since the surgery was a bit more extensive, I was definitely there overnight. Fabulous! They finally got my migraine managed… and not for lack of trying on their part… it was a bad one. I was sent up to my room, and they pulled my Foley before I left recovery. I did tell them that getting my bladder to wake up had been a problem with my hysterectomy in 2007 resulting in a re-catheterization, and after my tumor removal last August, resulting in a subsequent catheterization. I was sent up to the room, to a semi private room. Then the real fun began!
Although this surgery was no where as invasive or life saving as the previous one, it is extremely painful. I asked to get up my first night, and I set no personal records, bent over shuffling along. I think the nursing staff were sick of my requests to 1- shower and 2- walk. I had lots of lovely visitors my first day, and the first morning. The overnight was tough. Narcotics do little to nothing for my pain, and I am allergic to almost all non narcotic and NSAIDs, so pain was an issue, and feeling sick was an issue. I would stop taking pain meds for a 12 hour shot, then be a mess. It was a cycle I experienced the last hospitalization. The first night they used a straight catheter and drained my bladder. My bladder was so full, and I was in so much pain, the poke was a walk in the park. I also was in roommate hell. She was a sweet lady, and I suspect she would have been most upset to know how miserable I was because of her noisy guests who stayed until after 12 midnight (newsflash stage whispers and kisses are LOUD) and her use of her TV at audible volume all night. I did not sleep any. I could have said something, but my feeling was this… I was uncomfortable, cranky, and most likely not going to sleep anyway… if she derived comfort from these things, and could sleep (and sleep she did as evidenced by the sleep talking and snoring) then one of us could have a decent night. The next morning, I was informed that my lack or urination more than likely would result in an extended stay. They drained me again with a straight cath (OUCH) and I asked to walk, and to shower. I knew that walking and the hot water would wake my sleepy bladder, but I was getting a bit of resistance. The other thing was, the surgeon who saw me at 6am said I could shower, and I could go home as soon as I peed. I was on a mission… and that mission was to pee at all costs…
<Cue the mission impossible music…>
I walked or sat in my chair every moment I was not examined by any nursing or medical staff in the local area… I repeatedly requested a shower, then very directly let my nursing staff know that a shower was happening, and they could assist with capping off my IV or I could do it myself (phebotomy training, no matter how remote, is a dangerous thing for Terri to have, BTW!) so they did, and I happily showered… and sweet relief… IN THE SHOWER! OH MY GOD NO! I peed, but I was so embarrassed I cried… it happened in the shower, and there was no proof of me peeing. I finished my shower and cleaned the shower as best I could, and let the staff know. They gave one another knowing looks like ‘SURE you did’ and did a scan to see how full my bladder was. 700. Damn. I peed again, and emptied over half. They wanted to have me wait for a urologist, and wanted me to start a horrible medicine I took when I had the tumor related kidney stone. Um NO. I saw 3 doctors in the short time I was there prior to leaving (I had fully dressed and packed…I was going!) and explained that with the size of the Fallopian tumor (nearly 11lbs and from pelvic floor to past my umbilicus) that things worked different now, and although this was alarming to them, it was 11 month and counting old news to me.
My friend took me home, and I am so glad I made the decision to allow folks to stay with me, do things for me, and help me. Getting in bed was not easy, and alone was a 30 minute and painful maneuver. As the few days have passed, and I have completely stopped all oral narcotics I am doing so much better. The nausea, the body aches and chills, etc. are all gone. My midsection hurts. It is very hard and swollen. And this will be a bit of a process, but this has been just a bump in the road.
I am so grateful for my health, for my friends, and for my decision to be a healthy and physically active person. I did myself some major favors by being in the best physical shape of my life before this, and I am confident I will be running again soon in 3 weeks or so. I will follow doctor’s orders, but I refuse to live a life of excuses or to live on the safe side of the street. I say it often… life is meant to be lived at full volume. No one says this is easy, but I promise in the end, it will all be worth it.
Have a great week. Thank you for reading, and I hope to be blogging about social justice, cats, and running before long!
13 ‘poke holes’ and a small section of original incision reopened. Very swollen belly!