Well, it's done. What an amazing experience.
Friday morning my friend Gail picked me up at my apartment at 5:30 AM to drive to the hospital. I packed some clothes and the like, but it turns out that I didn't need them. The day surgery department (where this operation is performed, even though people usually stay overnight) opened at 6:00 AM; we got there a little early, so we just hung out and chatted until the department opened.
I was allowed no food or water past midnight, so I couldn't have any coffee :-(. I went through the usual question and answer session, makng sure I was who I was and that I had no allergies, etc. They weighed me and took my vitals, then had me slip into a johnny and on to the portable bed. Then they wheeled me into the room where I met with the anesthesiologist. One funny thing: while I was getting prepped and weighed and all that they enter all the information into a laptop, and suddenly the laptop dimmed and said the battery needed charging. The nurse said that they have this problem all the time and I pointed out that the plug had come loose in the back. Sure enough, that was the problem.
The anesthesiologist and his assistant came by, again checking for information about allergies, did I have anything to eat or drink, etc. In a way it's good that they cross check and double-check as much as they do, but it does get tedious after a while. Finally, at about 7:00 AM, they put in my IV. This was so they could give me fluid during the operation, plus the anesthesia.
At about 7:20 AM the surgeon came by. His name is Dr. Peter Gee; he's a very nice guy, very laid back yet focused, which is what *I* want in my surgeon :-). Anyway, we chatted for a minute, then he went off to scrub. Right at 7:30 AM they wheeled me into the operating room, where it was FREEZING
. I asked about why they kept it so cold in the OR, and there are two reasons. One is that the low temperature retards the growth of bacteria. Two is that the lights they turn on during the operation are extremely hot and it helps keep the surgical staff cooler. Both are important reasons.
Anyway, after a couple of minutes of prep the anesthesiologist said "OK, I'm going to give you a little medicine now."
If anyone has ever read any of Larry Niven's science fiction books, one of the technologies he describes is the Slaver Stasis Field. This is a field that, while it is on, no time passes inside for the occupants, while time proceeds normally on the outside. So, if you're inside the field, one minute it could be 8 in the morning on a Tuesday, and then a blink of an eye later it could be 3 in the afternoon on Thursday, or it could be a thousand years later; you can't tell the difference.
That's what happened to me. The anesthesiologist said "OK, I'm going to give you a little medicine now" and then I opened my eyes as I heard someone say "It's 1:40" and I was staring at the ceiling of the recovery room and I felt very very tight across my abdomen and butt. No pain, just tight. Nurses kept coming by and asking how I was feeling - they use a scale of 0 to 10 for pain, where 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you've ever felt. I told them a 3, which was "There's discomfort, but if you get into a conversation or are watching TV or listening to music you can forget that it's there."
I've never felt beyond a 3. Well, except once, which I'll get into later.
After a couple of hours they wheeled me into my room. I got into my room just before 4 PM. By then I was pretty much fully conscious and still feeling no pain; they kept telling me "We'll be happy to get you any pain medications," but I never needed it. At around 6 PM my boss, Yoryos, came by to visit, which I really appreciated. We chatted about how work was (there was a big event scheduled for this weekend, which also seems to have gone well), and then he left after about 30 minutes. Then I had dinner.
This whole time I was completely flat on my back. For dinner they wanted me to stand up - I'm not supposed to bend much at the waist, as that puts too much strain on the wound. So I stood up. Bad idea. It took me a minute or two get into a standing position (try getting out of bed some time without bending at the waist and you'll see what I mean), which went OK, but then the blood rushed out of my head and I broke out in a cold sweat and had to lay back down. Gail says I paled about 12 shades. I ended up eating dinner (a chef's salad - no dressing) laying down.
After dinner I watched the Red Sox play the Yankees (David Wells did not
have a good outing - they lost 8-4). Gail left about 9:00 PM, and I went to sleep shortly thereafter.
During the night I woke up either by myself or was awakened by the nursing staff about every hour. This was all fine, and the night nurse, Mary Beth, was really nice and very apologetic and gentle, so that wasn't really a problem. The only negative experience I had was with the clinical assistant who came into my room at 5:00 AM to do my vitals. She had no bedside manner whatsoever, and was not gentle in the least. I had to wear a catheter the whole time I was in the hospital - probably the worst part of the experience - and she was bumping it around while draining it, which was not
pleasant. This was the only time my discomfort got above a 3. I told her twice to be careful and only the second time I got a terse "sorry". Then, when she left my room, she left my light on full intensity. The cord to turn it off was above my head, which was quite an effort to reach, but there was no way I was going to get back to sleep with that hundred watt flourescent blasting me in the face. Finally I did reach the pull cord and turned it off and went back to sleep.
The day nurse was great - her name was Leigh, and her clinical assistant, Erynn, was also great. I had a good breakfast (cream of wheat and a banana), then settled to watch Saturday morning TV. Which sucks. If you're over the age of 6. Finally, though, TNT started showing "Jaws", which is a good classic, so we watched that (Gail returned at about 9 AM to join me), then when that ended we switched to the Red Sox pre-game show. Curt Schilling had a great
outing - I only got to watch him pitch through the seventh inning, though, because I got discharged! Dr. Gee came in in the morning and looked at the incision and was very pleased with how it looked (as were all the nurses - they said he did a fabulous job, and when Gail talked to him while I was in the recovery room she said that he was particularly proud of the job he did, which is something else I like to hear from my surgeon :-). In the afternoon Leigh talked to Dr. Gee and, after I walked up and down the hospital corridor a few times - no light-headedness or pain - and after they removed the catheter and I could pee without it, I was free to go!
Removing the catheter was the worst part of the experience. What they don't tell you but they should is that when the catheter comes out you feel a burning sensation from heat. This is because the tube is full of urine which is at body temperature - 98.6 degrees. Since it comes out rather suddenly, and it's not being driven out by your body, your body isn't expecting it and when the sudden rush of heat comes through, it's very uncomfortable. I think it was the surprise that got me more than anything else though. Though, having never had a catheter, could they really have warned me what it would feel like?
Anyway, I left the hospital at about 3:00 PM and my friend Joyce drove me home with Gail following. Joyce drives a Cadillac where the front seat can recline almost flat, so once I got into the car I could be relatively comfortable and not bend much at the waist while she drove me home. She did an excellent job avoiding manhole covers and other bumps in the road (really important!) and I got home about 3:30PM. I walked into the elevator and to my apartment without incident, and the only issue was getting into bed. In the hospital I kept getting into and out of the right side of the bed; at home I normally sleep on the left side of the bed. It turns out that I feel more discomfort trying to roll on my left side than on my right, so I ended up getting into the right side of the bed for the night. Although I did get out of bed several times during the evening to hit the bathroom and do my drains.
The drains are disgusting; I have about 3 feet of clear plastic tubing coming out of me in two places, ending in squeeze bulbs. The bulbs fill with a bloody fluid - kind of pinkish - and need to be drained about every 8 hours. Each time I drain them there should be less fluid, and so far there has been. Of course, I slept better in my own bed than I ever would in the hospital, so I slept a total of more than 8 hours last night - more like 11 - but the drains were less than half full even after all that time. I'll drain them again after the game this afternoon, but looking at them this morning there isn't much liquid in there at all, so that's going well too.
Today I took a shower for the first time, which felt great. I also got to see Dr. Gee's work in the mirror for the first time; even with the swelling (which there isn't much of) it looks fabulous - all of the loose skin around my waist and on my butt is gone! It was exactly what I had hoped for. I am very glad I did this.
I'm going to watch/listen to the Red Sox this afternoon and catch up on my work e-mail, then read a bit. I'm also going to go for a brief walk outside this evening around dusk - it looks like a beautiful day outside, in the low 80s with lots of sun, and I want to get some of that while I can.
Tomorrow I have to call Dr. Gee' s office to make an appointment for either Thursday or Friday to have him look at and hopefully remove my drains. I'll probably have another appointment a week or so after that to see how I'm doing, and then he'll tell me when I can drive and when I can start walking again - my normal walks, that is, of 8 to 10 miles a day.