It’s Wednesday and now I will try to update all the events I can remember from the last extra woozy 36 hours.
Betty and Jessie left for the motel at supper time and Doug arrived soon thereafter from work.
We had a great discussion of all the exciting changes in his start-up and he left after awhile. It was so good to see him and Jessie and catch up. Their careers are so exciting, so unlike anything B or I have done, that we are eager to hear every mundane detail of what’s to them, well, mundane and boring detail of a typical day, But they hide it well, bless ’em.
Dissappointed I wasn’t offered a sedative because I knew it would be a restless night, but remarkably, after meeting a succession of surgeons and anesthesiologists and nurses from MY teams, I just leaned back and nodded off like I was at home. OK. I did play around with all the bed buttons for about 20 minutes but then I dropped right off at midnight.
I was next aware when I was awakened about 6:30 for D-day. And then left to chat with my Patient Care Assistant who smiled with reassurance that if I had to unfortunately be somewhere, I was fortunate to be there. “These guys are the best!” I was last faced with this kind of pride and confidence when I worked at HP Waltham a couple of summers while in college. Not hollow boasting, trying to prop up shaky confidence. At HP they walked the walk, they were the best, highest quality manufacturer in the world. They proved it with every item shipped and when they claimed to be the best, it was by way of introduction and a warning that you had very high standards to meet if you wanted to be on their team. My Brighams PCA gave the same warm, competant vibe I remember from so long ago and I instantly felt relief.
The transport folks arrived to push my bed down to a cavernous pre-op area with over seventy numbered beds, mostly all filled. I was slid into #64 I think and the anesthesiology team arrived, looking like four members of a college woman’s soccer team but dressed as doctors.
They asked all the same old questions and scanned my wrist band and all of the several bags of liquid they brought, destined for my IV. Noting perhaps that I asked when I would be put to sleep about four times, I was offered an optional epidural along with IV pain control. She picked up on my level of medical sophistication pretty fast as she closed the deal by telling me I would have two buttons, not one, to operate MYSELF during recovery, whenever I thought I needed it. Well played! But then I had to sit in a masseuse chair nekkid while two attractive young women chatted with my nekkid me like it was nothing while they worked the tiny cord into my back. I can honestly swear that I never felt a thing as I was more focused on being the fat, wrinkly old guy sitting bare-arsed on the chair. They pushed a button and my back went numb. “See? Pretty great, right?” I agreed that it was and came to rely on that tiny tube with the chilly nirvana flowing at my command. Then the IV team arrived, painlessly inserted one on each hand, and reassurred me things would be fine. (I must look like a scared, wrinkly old nekkid puppy). But it seems to be working for me. Dr. Nicole something, team captain, then smiled at me and pushed the plunger on this big syringe stuck into one of the IVs, and I was off and gone in a flash.
I awoke a second later (it seemed) in a very similar post-op room to searing pain in my eye, like I rubbed my left eye and discovered a sand grain gring away under my lower lid. They asked what was I feeling on a pain scale of one to ten. I actually said 11 and that I couldn’t feel my surgery at all because the eye pain was so sharp. After two minutes or so a young man appeared (from the Eye Team, I assume). A squirt and then the pain vanished and we could appraise the plumbing rearrangement. Everything was a zero except the wound, which amazingly was about a 2-3. I wanted to high five them all. The family showed up and I was able to honestly reassure them. Dr. Clancy appeared, told us every thing was great, and left. (Note that this the beginning of ‘Tipsy Time’ and chronological accuracy begins to get blurry. But every thing I say I swear actually happened sometime while I was awake.)
Betty and Doug and Jessie went up to the ward to await my arrival. We sat for a bit talking about how good I felt and how bullish Dr. Clancy seemed about his handywork.
Sometime after they left I was presented with a surgeon who had volunteered to help out with the understaffed IV nurses putting in a third tunnel to my blood stream. She asked which arm, wrapped the runner junky strap and began patting and rubbing up to the elbow area looking for a vein. I wasn’t even looking as they have been so good. I felt the alcohol swab and then yelped and violently stiffened as she entered the vein at a bad angle and, I believe, pierced the other side. She looked embarrassed and said it was my overreaction that probably caused the trouble. I was thinking af saying “Maybe you suck at this!” but she had a basket full of needles and a whole other arm to play on. I felt the alcohol swab, a stab, another stab, a third and the needle withdraw. I was damn stoic for a shaky bunny like me and had only commented “Mmnugooflagagglechuddachudda” as she probed around. But her face was so red, approaching purple, and she was so embarrassed and apologetic that I felt bad for her. She promised an immediate appearance from the real IV team. As she left, I muttered “No big deal.” But she wasn’t hearing me or anyone on my floor.
As promised, the professional IV slinger showed up within about five minutes, took my hand and saw my badly cottoned over wounds and asked “What happened here?” I spoke briefly of the rogue surgeon as she shook her head. When I finished, I saw that she was already taping down her expertly planted IV thingy. WTF? She saw my look and just smiled. She then asked who did the other two? Without an answer, she moved the tubes, withdrew the portal, reinserted it expertly and in ten minutes I had three painlessly installed, medical book worthy ports. She smiled the whole time and we both knew she was just showing off but so what? She thinks she’s the best and would get this vote. Later, when told of her expertise, the floor nurses sneered a bit and said she used a numbing pen first, like that was cheating. I almost suggested they all get numbing pens ASAP, but I knew by then they were all expert at needles. It just has to be done several times a day to keep your skill up and the surgeon (who is probably an ace at something) was remembering her long ago mastery of the needle at med school.
I asked Betty to limit visits to only us four until the major icky tubes came out and the plumbing was working. I am told that just handling your entrails, no matter how gently or therapeutically, makes the shy little guys freeze up for a few days, which we have to wait out until their “awakening.” So its a tube up my nose draining bile and other stuff from my stomach. The air vent at the junction on my chest whistles sometimes when I “accidently” swallow a bit of precious melted ice that may fall off my spongy stick thing from time to time and follow the tube into my stomach to be quickly vaccuumed out and whipped up the nose tube.
I have the dreaded catheter, but since I wasn’t really there for the insertion has become just a conveniet way to pee at any time at all. I scoff at those ladies at Foxwoods with their catheters and oxy bottles taped to their walkers, allowing ten straight hours to chainsmoke in front of their chosen slot machine(s). But I quickly got used to the convenience.
Speaking of adaptation, my roomy Jack, my Whipple buddy and an ex-marine have decided to use the mildly vulgar terms “pee”, “poop” and “dick” when discussing our healing process with the nurses. Urination sounds so impersonal.
Another adaptation: no modesty at all as the universally cute young women routinely whip up my laughably small johnny to check the various tubes and drains wound around my junk and whatever. I don’t even stop reading my iPad anymore. How thin the veneer of civilization!
I had about six tubes from about 1/4 in ID down to spaghetti size carrying various vile fluids away to plastic reservoirs. These were emptied, the brownish green content carefully measured and recorded whenever the little grenade shaped cath basins seemed close to full, usually by the PCS during vitals checks every couple of hours.
Today the nose tube came out in a brief but creepy uncomfortable withdrawal. My throat was sore for about two hours, but I could sip precious ice water and even swallow it. I knocked off a quick half pint before they told me I had greedily drank a whole day’s allotment. They saw the physiological consequences of poring liquid into a non-functioning system. I was all “No more water? Wha?”. They won.
I have goals related to peeing through the Ringer’s Lactate from my IV, (and passing gas for some reason) to lose the catheter. I have succeeded at both in my life and expect my long experience to work in my favor.
I have gotten up and walked the corridor with a PCA escort for about twelve laps total by now with minimal discomfort. Now a few times the PCA just pointed me and my trolley at the room and went on to the next thing while I get myself back into bed.
I am astonished at the number of folks who would prefer me not dead enough to mention it in warm, thoughtful FB posts, texts and emails. Well, they get their wish, I guess because I am healing nicely and will be peeing and pooping and (please god) eating like regular within the month. I think it’s obvious how tough it is to tell you guys how I feel about all this, so I’ll just say “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support in a scary time for the Rogers family.”
Well it’s 2am and my two magic happy buttons beckon. I’ll post again soon as I get the chance.