Top surgery, part 2

3:40pm, one day post-op

Not being allowed to eat anything prior to surgery, I woke up and remained hungry the entire morning as we prepared to leave. I took my last shower for the next week, as the bandages are not supposed to get wet at all.

The hospital owns the hotel we’re staying in, and for their patients’ convenience a shuttle between the two hospital campuses and the hotel is provided; however, the first shuttle departed at 6:15, so we had to arrange for a personal shuttle arriving at 5:30 to allow us to reach the hospital by 6.

Once there, we were greeted by a friendly man named Billy who charged my debit card for the anesthesia, had us sign various paperwork and led us into a small pre-op patient room where I could change into the hospital gown; which I was pleased to find closed entirely at the back and hung below my knees — nothing like the short, open-backed white gown worn during my brief stay at the psychiatric hospital. Also provided were rubber-bottomed socks and skin-tight elastic nylons which went up to mid-thigh to assist with blood circulation during the procedure.

It was not long before a nurse arrived to take my vitals, attach the ID band to my wrist and talk us through any concerns. Dr. Brownstein came in shortly afterwards to mark my chest with his famous purplish-blue marker. An IV was attached to my arm — not as bad as I had anticipated, though not altogether as easy as I may have hoped either. After a short waiting period, we were wheeled into the elevator and then to a public waiting room, where the anesthesiologist went down the beds one by one. The reality began to sink in at about this time, and as I was the last in the line, I had plenty of time to begin freaking out. Several tears were shed between the two of us; and after about 5 minutes, the anesthesiologist reached my bedside, where he asked if I was ready.

By this time it had been roughly an hour. Mom was allowed to accompany me until the door leading into the OR, but no farther. Upon our arrival I vaguely recall being transferred onto the surgical table, but I cannot be completely sure. I do recall noticing the world seeming to take several seconds to register after my eyes moved.

“Woah,” I said. “Is that the anesthesia working already?”

“Yep,” someone answered.

“Oh,” I said; and, promptly afterwards, conked out.


I had anticipated having some notion of, “so when are we starting?” after waking up; although immediately upon waking I could remember having a number of dreams, and was aware that some time had passed. I couldn’t feel a thing; nor could I keep my eyes open in the slightest. I recall being wheeled back into the pre-op room, where Mom was waiting.

“Sup,” she said.

“Sup, yo,” said I, and fell asleep.

I was feeling unnaturally groggy and kept fading in and out as the effects of the anesthesia waned; when I had regained no consciousness around 3:00pm, nearly five hours later, we began to worry slightly. Most patients seem to leave around 4 or 5 hours following the procedure, however, so we waited. A generous dose of morphine as well as antibiotics were injected through my IV.

I went to the bathroom several times with Kate, my nurse’s, help; completely draining all energy once returning to the bed. It was determined during this time that my nurse call button was broken; which was discovered after I had repeatedly pressed it to no avail upon feeling nauseous. By 6:00, I was feeling even more tired than I had ever been, and found it physically impossible to hold my eyes open for more than 5-second time periods. This was beginning to be a problem as the daytime ward closed at 8, and if anything I was showing decreasing signs of ever waking up.

After talking to several nurses, on their recommendation I was brought ice chips and a few Saltine crackers; which, though their taste was tolerable, were exceedingly difficult to eat on a dry mouth. I managed to ingest two full crackers and half the cup of ice chips, yet still with no possible chance of regaining coherency. Concern turning into slight panic, I began to feel truly doubtful that I would ever wake up at all; particularly as I had not yet actually fallen asleep; simply, I could not open my eyes. Reluctantly, particularly given the extra $425 fee for overnight stay, it was determined that the cab ride home would likely kill me in such a state and arrangements were made for my boarding overnight; it would seem that I am among the 1% population with such adverse effects from the anesthesia that would require such a hold.

I was wheeled to a lower floor, situated in a small private room and switched to another bed. My nurse, Fabio, a small but very friendly Latino man, took it upon himself to make the room as comfortable as possible, ensure that his call button was functioning properly, and even locating a plush reclining armchair for my mother to stay the night in beside my bed. With the IV feeding me saline at a constant rate, the night was restless as I had to go to the bathroom every hour or, later, every half-hour. This required unhooking the IV, removing the finger-clipping heart monitor and several other medically attached devices; after the second time, a portable toilet chair was set beside the bed so that I could simply roll over to it and take the IV with me.

Dr. Brownstein had another surgery scheduled this morning shortly after 6:00, and he arrived to take a look at the site around the same time. He assured us that my vitals were stable throughout the entire procedure and that there were no complications whatsoever. He was unconcerned at my yet persisting inability to wake up; some people, apparently, simply do not take well to the sedatives. He did however insist that I get up, walk around and above all, eat; being Wednesday morning I had eaten nothing since 8pm on Monday. I managed to ingest a small container of jell-o and a few more ice chips, and my mother and I took a short jaunt around the hospital corridor. Feeling slightly more functioning, I was able to dress myself and even remove the elastic stockings. I was loaded onto a wheelchair and taken down to the lobby to await the shuttle.

The shuttle back to the hotel was a bumpy and uneven ride, and though I had not yet felt any nausea, when we stopped I felt sure that I would throw up. Our hotel room had been changed overnight, as we had found the original room a bit too small and had been annoyed with its various idiosyncrasies, including being as far as physically possible from the elevator. Our new room is closer, much larger, and includes amenities such as a a desk and two small armchairs. I did my shot after we got back and was surprised that I could hardly feel the needle going in; no doubt to the morphine not yet having worn off.

By mid-afternoon, I am now quite high-functioning and have been able to eat two bowls of cereal, half a yoghurt and half a container of Cupnoodles. Dr. Brownstein wrote me a prescription for Vicodin, although I have not had to take even one yet. There is definitely an all-around pressure surrounding the incision site, particularly as the binder is wound very tight around the dressings; but there is really not much pain at all short of if I attempt to raise my arms or sit up completely straight. The only real pain that I can pinpoint is the drains at the place where they are stitched into my skin. They require flushing every 6 hours, and though at first they were almost entirely filled with blood, I can tell that the emissions are becoming more fluid.



~ by geekbynature on June 24, 2009.

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