28 November 2011

The One With the Recovery and the Cannibalism

And now, part two of the Great Surgery Saga.  The surgery itself went pretty well, or so I'm told; obviously I wasn't exactly conscious for the proceedings.  The procedure took maybe an hour, then it was maybe another half hour before I started coming around in Recovery.  It's a weird feeling, coming around...it's sort of like waking from a dream, except not because you are slowly trying to make sense of what you're seeing through the dubious filter of leftover anesthesia.  Everything seems so surreal for those first few moments as though if you were to close your eyes again, it wouldn't really have happened.

As I became more aware, the nurse on duty started talking to me.  Eventually I was awake enough that they wanted to replace my undies, which they'd stripped off pre-surgery so that they could install a catheter.  And can I just say that  I will be forever grateful they chose to do the catheter after I was knocked out?  Nothing like getting to hoist yourself off a bed inverted-backbend-style, using freshly incised abdominal muscles, while a random nurse attempts to navigate your underpants over some weird Velcroed baggies surrounding your calves and up over your ample assets.  After what seemed like 10 minutes (or possibly hours) later, I was once again discreetly covered, with all personal business tended.  The nurse was very impressed at my ability to hold myself up for so long while she performed this service; meanwhile I was mentally casting aspersions on her parentage and encouraging her to speed up the process via the application of more than a few choice words before I either killed her or passed out.

I was wheeled to my room somewhere around midnight, barely two hours after I was first taken into the OR.  Though still a bit groggy, I didn't go to sleep right away, having already spent a couple hours enduring the twilight sleep of the dead.  Nurses flitted about as they do, checking my blood pressure and temperature (with a sad, boring, NON-temporal thermometer) and the like.  They continued to push  IV fluids and antibiotics and I was allowed to have ice chips in an attempt to mitigate the horrifically dry sandpaper mouth I had as a result of the anesthesia.  While on my second cup of ice chips, I was told that I would next get to start on clear liquids, then could move up to cool stuff like juice or soup, finally graduating to soft foods the next day provided I didn't hurl on anyone in the meantime.  Screw that.  I hadn't had a single crumb to eat the entire day and was the closest I'd come to feeling nauseous throughout this whole thing because of all the drugs I'd just had on a very empty stomach.  I convinced them to give me some crackers and grape juice, which the nurse did grudgingly, fully convinced I wouldn't be able to keep them down.

Yummy, pasty, saltines.  Emphasis on the SALT.

Mmmmm...grape juice.

I did, though.  And it. was. awesome.  For the next 30-45 minutes I nibbled on my saltines, first sucking off the salt (lovely, beautiful salt) and then breaking off small pieces and chewing them until they were macerated enough for me to swallow since my mouth was so dry.  While I was gnawing the first cracker into the consistency of wallpaper past, I informed my husband that I was "making paper maché in my mouth."  He raised his eyebrows.  When I took the first sip of grape juice to wash it down, I added "Ooooh, jelly!"  He snorted.  No kidding--it tasted exactly like Welch's Grape Jelly.  It was kinda awesome.  Later I told him that the "jelly and toast" were helping and that I was feeling much better.  I'm pretty sure he thought I was still high on drugs.  I wasn't.  Dry crackers and grape juice DO taste like jelly toast.  I think I pushed him over the edge, though, when I told him I felt like I was having communion (all good Methodists have communion with Welch's Grape Juice in little plastic shot glasses or it just doesn't count).  The hubs kinda half-choked, half-laughed.  I'm not sure he knew what to make of that.  Maybe he thought I was well on my way to Hell.  He should know me better...I've probably been headed there for way longer than this.  I don't think it helped when I looked up after the communion remark to see a happy Jesus crucifix on the wall.  Seriously.  Happy Jesus.  On a crucifix.  (As opposed to on a cracker.)  That's just messed up.  Maybe St. Mary's Hospital only uses Happy Jesus crucifixes because it doesn't want the patients thinking too hard about dying while they're there.  I told the hubs I didn't like Happy Jesus watching me while I ate communion.  Having Him stare at me like that while I was eating my juice and crackers made me feel like a cannibal.  It  gave me the willies a little bit.  I just know Happy Jesus was judging me...me and my cannibalism. 

Happy Jesus welcomes you to St. Mary's Hospital.  He does NOT welcome you to become a cannibal.

It took freaking forever to eat those six crackers, but I loved every single bite, cannibalism notwithstanding.

I finally sent the hubs home around 2 am so he could look after the dog and since there was only a chair in the room, figuring I'd be out cold most of the night anyway.  After he left I was feeling slightly perkier from my cracker communion, so I spent the next hour checking my email and playing online.  After that I did sleep some on and off, though it was difficult to do so around the cacophony of beeps surrounding me.  The IV machine beeped.  The oxygen pump beeped.  I had a blood pressure cuff permanently attached to my arm that inflated approximately every 30 seconds to take my BP, with "take my blood pressure" being defined as "attempting to squeeze my bicep so hard that it makes my fingernails shoot across the room."  There was also the lovely the mechanical drone of my Velcroed leg baggies, which turned out to be leg squeezers hooked up to a machine to make them inflate and deflate them every couple of minutes, thus preventing blood clots while I was in the bed.  I had entirely too many things attached to me.

The next morning I woke up to discover that I had a fat lip, complete with ulcerated blisters, that I hadn't noticed the night before.  It was presumably the result of being tubed by Dr. Jolly the anesthetist, who also told me my throat wouldn't hurt by morning.  He lied.  My throat wasn't the only thing that hurt, though.  My belly button was starting to feel like it had been Roto-Rootered with a red-hot poker.  I had to have a nurse unplug my IV and my leg squeezies and help me out of bed so I could hobble to the bathroom.  I kept feeling like my pants were still around my ankles because of those leg squeezies.

"One, two, three, squeeze those legs, two, three..."

Around 8 am the hubs returned to stay with me.  Before long I met the day nurse, who looked disturbingly like one of the Real Nursewives of Atlanta.  At one point she asked if I'd "ordered breakfast yet."  Seriously.  At this hospital, the patients literally order food at any time from a menu in the room, calling what amounts to Room Service from their phone.  I did this for both breakfast and lunch, and I gotta say, the food was pretty good.   Seems you can't beat individualized service; the foods that were supposed to be warm actually were.  All I lacked was a little vase with a flower in it on the tray. 

The doctor ("Paging Dr. Shirley--'Don't call me Shirley!'") came in shortly before lunch and told me the surgery had gone well, though they had to go through my navel in a slightly different spot than usual, because I apparently have a hernia behind the normal entry point.  Who knew?  Dr. Shirley (you know you'll never stop hearing "don't call me Shirley" now) said he would have fixed the hernia, but it would have involved using some sort of mesh, blah blah, higher risk of infection, blah blah.  Whatever, dude.  I didn't know it was there before, so clearly there's no rush to repair it.  You've gotta love modern technology, though--who knew a "Lappy Appy" involved yanking one's appendix out of one's belly button?  That boggles my mind a little.  The doctor asked a few other questions and was apparently very interested in the frequency of my flatulence.  Nice, right?  Afterwards, he told me everything looked good then gave me a card with his office number on it so I could make an appointment to see him in two weeks.  I was told not to drive for a week and not until I was off the narcotics (well, DUH), to call if my temp went over 101℉,  and not to lift anything over 25 pounds  for a month.  That means the hubs gets to be my tote and carry bitch for another 3 weeks.  Score! 

Dogs have ADHD, Cats have Asperger's.  I'm just sayin'.

We spent the afternoon watching a Friends marathon on TV, including the one where Monica and Chandler got married and Rachel found out she was pregnant.  My stomach continued to burn and my whole body had the itchies, courtesty of a Lortab side-effect.  The Lortab did help take the edge off of my pain, though it didn't knock it completely out, same as when I took it after breaking my toe.  The cacophony of beeps continued until at one point I yelled at the blood pressure machine to shut up, which it promptly did.  The hubs was flabbergasted.  I also have a traffic light karma he lacks and which makes him very jealous.  The nurses continued to demand my name, rank and serial number every time they scanned my bar code for something.  After lunch they make me go and do walkies around the corridor.  At one point I heard an announcement over the PA system:  "Employee turkeys available on Sister Somebody's Porch..."  Okaaaaaay.  That's the first hospital I've ever heard of to employ turkeys.  Turns out it was really just an announcement for the employees to pick up their annual Christmas gift of a turkey, which is still a little weird and nowhere near as much fun as turkey employees would be.

Friends don't let friends have appendicitis.
Throughout my hospital stay, online friends continued to entertain me with observations like "Laproscopic appendectomies are cool--your stomach will look like you've had 3-4 gunshot wounds" and "Sorry you lost your appendix; I guess you'll have to rely on footnotes now."  I didn't see much point in having lots of hospital visitors, given that I was only there about 27 hours.  After resting for a couple of hours while watching Friends, we finally headed home around 4 pm.  While the doctor refused to suck out any extra fat while he was performing my appendectomy (selfish), I still got to leave with the dubious distinction of being one of those very few appendicitis victims to completely forgo any nausea or vomiting either before or after the attack.  Yay, me?  Well, no one has ever called me normal, so I don't suppose this should be any different, really.

Once home, I was ensconced on the crappy, non-supportive couch, surrounded by pillows to keep me propped up comfortably.  Even so, sitting there for extended periods made my neck and tailbone hurt.  Every time I had to cough or blow my nose my Santa belly jiggled like a bowl full of jelly, forcing me to hold it down to keep from blowing out my incisions.  I was supposed to get up and walk regularly to avoid blood clots since I no longer had my squeezie legs.  Bathroom trips became very interesting; personal hygiene is infinitely more challenging when you can't bend over without sending shooting pains through your abdomen.  While in the bathroom I checked out my bandages in the mirror and was convinced that my stomach had deflated some.  It looked like someone had popped a balloon with a pin, which I suppose technically someone had.  My feet were less swollen than they'd been in months.  It was pretty fabulous, actually, so I decided I to weigh myself as well, figuring the number would look much happier after so little food in previous days and the loss of body parts.  I was wrong.  I find it grossly unfair that I should leave the hospital weighing more than when I went in, considering.  Talk about adding insult to injury.

Once back on the couch, I generously allowed my very clingy dog to join me, something she's not usually allowed to do.  I figured it would make us both feel better, and keep her from jumping up on my fresh incisions the way she did when I first came in the house.  She enjoyed it, but then she's firmly convinced that she belongs there and that I am unjust to keep her from her rightful place on the furniture.

Needy dog missed her all-important leg pillow.  (No leg lamps were available.)

I slept the first couple of nights on the couch, being unable to climb into bed.  My girlie arrived home for break two days after I got home from the hospital.  While I was obviously unable to finish all my projects or house-cleaning before she arrived, I did manage to take a shower that morning so I wouldn't reek of betadine or be completely skanky when she got home.  Wouldn't that make a great greeting card?  "Welcome Home, Honey--I Love You So Much I Washed My Hair For You.  Happy Thanksgiving!"

The rest of the week was pretty chill given the circumstances.  We got a Honey-Baked Ham instead of a turkey and everyone helped with preparing the big meal and cleaning up afterwards.  Friday I got to sit and watch my family drag out all the Christmas decorations and assemble the tree while I sat around on my backside supervising.  I liked that part.

Each day I feel a little better and each day I'm moving around a little better.  I can now laugh or cough without buttressing my belly against the vibrations.  My soon-to-be scars are unremarkable, especially compared to that of my C-Section scar, though the landscape of my navel will remain forever changed once healing is complete.  (I was relieved to find I still only have one belly button when the last steri-strip came off--I was secretly afraid I'd have two or something.  Paranoid much, Ginger?)

While it's certainly not how I planned to spend my Thanksgiving this year, this whole experience has made for a much more profound and personal giving of thanks this year.  I'm grateful that the whole ordeal was as efficient and unremarkable as it was.  There was no perforation in the actual appendix, so I was not exposed to any toxicity and was therefore not sent home with any additional antibiotics.
I am thankful for innumerable friends and family checking up on me and praying for me and bringing me food.  I am thankful that my recovery has been steady and smooth, so much so that I was able to ride to the airport and walk around up to Security to see my daughter off (though I did make the hubs drive around to pick me up curbside).  All things considered, it was a surprisingly peaceful and pleasant holiday.  I can live with that.  And, thanks to Dr. Shirley ("don't call me 'Shirley!'"), I will live with that.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Ginger, Stumbled upon your appendicitis tale by chance. It is quite the read, and one I can commiserate well with, having spent 45 hours in the hospital from a mild heart attack two weeks ago. St. Joseph's here does the room service menu bit too, big step up from my last heart attack 16 years ago. Progress eh? I wish I had your power to tell electric gadgets off and have them obey. I'd have told that dang BP Cuff off way early. (They are called sphygmomanometers, what a name)
    I'm jealous. You got a month with no lifting over 25 pounds. I got 48 whole hours of no lifting over 5 pounds, then TADA! "You are HEALED!"
    Hope all has since gone well with your healing, and that we BOTH can manage to stay out of hospitals. The food only tastes good the first day.