Sunday, April 11, 2010

So I Had Surgery

I wanted to capture some of the experience I had this week, having two herniated discs repaired in my lower back. It was the first time I've had surgery, and only my third hospital experience, the others being the births of my children.

Marc and I arrived at the surgical center at the hospital just before 10 am on Wednesday morning. There was a check-in process that involved a few pagers, similar to waiting for a table at a restaurant. Marc was eventually given a old-fashioned pager so that the surgeon could contact him by phone after he was finished (though I guess he never used it, as my surgeon found him in person instead). We were taken back to a pre-surgery area, where I met with a nurse, my surgeon and the anesthesiologist, who eventually administered some lovely drugs that knocked me right out. I have no memory of the operating room.

However, I have a VERY clear memory of waking up in the recovery area, which was one big room with many post-operative patients and lots of hospital staff running around. I was lying propped up on my side and facing a wall, so I couldn't see other patients, and it was sometimes hard to see the people taking care of me. And I was in PAIN. Before the surgery, I had said my level was 8/10, which I think had been amplified that morning because I was so nervous. Afterward, I was definitely 10/10, and I probably would have said 20/10 if they'd let me. The nerves in my legs were on fire. I was wearing devices on my legs to help with circulation, and every time they turned on, the pain became unbearable. I was given lots and lots of drugs. Marc came to see me, but was taken away pretty quickly because I was in such bad shape. He was brought up again later, and I had a total meltdown because the pain was still so bad and, from my perspective, no one was helping me. I had been sedated by the medication, so I'm sure I wasn't communicating clearly, but I couldn't figure out what else to say other than that I was hurting. The nurse mentioned to the anesthesiologist that I would need to go to the ICU if they gave me more drugs, and I pleaded for them to stop, that I would somehow tough it out, but I think that was what made the anesthesiologist review my chart again. He discovered that I hadn't been given a medication for nerve pain, despite his thinking that I had received it, and I was finally given the right stuff. The pain calmed down and I was transferred to my hospital room just before 6 pm - maybe two or three hours later than we'd expected prior to surgery.

I was kept at the hospital overnight because I was having surgery on two levels of my spine (usually it's just one) and because I am a diabetic,. When I reached my room, the pain was definitely less, but I still felt terrible. Marc didn't have much time to spend with me, since it was so late and he needed to get home to the kids, and I felt so bad that I didn't want him there. I shared a room with another woman. I'm not sure what she had done, but she received a lot less attention than I did. Meaning she slept. AND SNORED VERY LOUDLY AND ALL THE TIME. It was miserable. I was very concerned about my blood sugar levels, since I'd been told that keeping them in control would help prevent an infection. Every 20 minutes or so, the nurse would check my vitals (blood pressure, oxygen levels and temperature), but I kept reminding them that I needed my sugar checked. Due to the stress of the surgery (I hadn't eaten for about 24 hours at that point), my blood sugar was incredibly high. I was given, again from my perspective, very small doses of insulin, and my results just kept getting worse. Finally around 1 in the morning I got permission to do half of my normal insulin dose, and by morning I was back at normal levels. When Marc came to see me that morning, he had realized that I'd been feeling so badly that prior evening because of the high sugar levels (remembering that I wasn't the nicest person before I started being treated for diabetes).

My pain was about a 4/10 the following morning, but it was all in the incision site. My legs felt amazing. I hadn't walked much yet, but I could already tell that the surgery had been a success. It was such a huge change from the night before. After walking down a hallway and up and down a flight of stairs, I was cleared for discharge. It was totally surreal to be going home just about 24 hours later from what had been such a life-changing experience.

My brother Ryan had flown in from San Francisco to help out with the kids and taking care of me, and it was wonderful to have him here.* I think the kids almost wished I could have more surgery just so he'd come visit again. I received lots of lovely flowers, balloons and food, plus plenty of prayers and encouragement from family and friends. I am getting stronger each day, walking and sitting and finding it all totally novel. I have to retrain my mind to not expect pain with each and every movement. I've gone for a couple of small walks, and I'm feeling very optimistic that I will be completely healed soon. I can't adequately express how thankful I am for all the kind words and acts over the past two months. While the surgery was definitely not the easiest thing to go through, I am thrilled that I did it.

* I would be remiss if I didn't mention that in all of Wednesday's chaos, my mom called Marc to tell him that my grandfather had passed away. Marc had to break the news to me once I had stabilized and reached my inpatient room. While I was very upset, I think being in the hospital at the time actually made it a little easier to accept. Having Ryan here with me was beyond wonderful as we were able to both be on the phone with my mom together so easily, since our normal lives were already totally disrupted. I wasn't able to travel to attend the funeral today, and I am sad not to be there. My grandfather, Max Curtis, was a survivor of the Holocaust in a truly amazing story of luck. My most fond memories are of riding in his green station wagon when I was a kid. He was a house painter, and so the car was filled with paint cans, drop cloths, ladders and FUMES. He'd take me to McDonald's and then to a toy store called Children's Palace, and I'd come home with an upset stomach from the fumes and the excitement of it. My son is named for him. I am glad that I got to see him one last time at Thanksgiving, and I am going to miss having him in my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment