So, after what seemed like an eternity, I am out of hospital. It was only 4 days and 3 nights, but it seemed like I was on Venus where a day is 5,832 hours. (Yep, this blog can be educational as well as dramatic). I would close my eyes and think of England, but it never worked. There would invariably be some moaning, coughing, and crying going on, and that would just be from me.
For those of you that are interested, my surgery only took 1 hour and 45 minutes instead of the anticipated three hours. I can only put that down to the fact that either the surgical team were all jacked up on caffeine and well rested OR the fact that I have kept my body fit, thin and surgery ready. What the hell, probably a combination of both. I have five lovely laparoscopic holes in my previously pristine lower abdomen. I asked my surgeon, when I saw him that morning pre-operatively, to tuck in any excess skin and get rid of any extra fat he might find when he closed the incisions, but he eye rolled me, which meant he had heard that particular line from many other women of a certain age well before I showed up in his part of town.
When I finally woke up Monday afternoon, I was all tucked in, warm and cozy, under nicely warmed blankets. I felt like crap, but I was cocooned, so there was some small comfort in that. Plus there was the drugs…..and my family.
The first night did not go badly, except for the fact that I did not have the private room I requested AND had insurance coverage for, the room was over 80 degrees, the woman next to me was singing the song of her people which apparently meant that she cough at precise 30 second intervals, the nurse kept coming into my room to make sure I was still alive by taking my blood pressure and temperature by ear, and I had multiple waves of nausea that were overtaking me. Other than that though…smooth sailing!!!
When Tuesday morning finally came, my surgeon came to see me to let me know how successful the operation was. Sigmund was no more!!! Just another biopsy specimen on its way to dissection and observation. I wanted to ask so many more questions, but I was so tired and brain addled that nothing really came out.
Quite frankly, I barely remember most things that happened while in hospital and have had to rely on family members telling me. I did know that I was getting up that day though!!! No way was I going to lounge around and eat that gourmet hospital food whilst watching the nifty flat screen TV Tim had set up for me. Plus, my surgeon had ordered it. My nurse for the day was Jennifer. I knew this because she scrawled her name on my care board and not because she actually introduced herself. It was 8:30 am by the time she made it to my part of the room and it was only to announce she was going for coffee and would be back in exactly half an hour to get me up and wash me so I could possibly feel human again. She then spun neatly around and departed my personal space. I could tell immediately we would be best friends.
So, half an hour came and went. No Jennifer. Now, I am not as time conscious as one of my sisters, but I do start to get miffed when someone is late. Keep in mind that in this situation it was not like I could get up by myself. I was attached by many lines to a medical device that was obviously feeding me vital fluids and medication, and don’t even get me started on the catheter (which I had NEVER in my life experienced before…such a wonderful thing really. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to get an UTI). As well, I was afraid to move before really understanding the seriousness of my stitches.
So…….an hour and a half goes by before The Bitch Is Back. That’s NOT just an Elton John song, as it turns out. I was so angry, not going to lie. I guess I could have pressed the buzzer by my right hand, but gosh darn it, I was trying so hard to be the nice, uncomplicated and compliant patient. That was just so stupid of me. When Jennifer came breezing in without an explanation, I questioned her immediately. Well, I guess questioning this little gal on that particular day was outlandish of me! She actually berated me. Long story short, we got into a huge argument, I got extremely emotional and asked for another nurse, but she said NO! We were both adults and we would just have to make the best of it. Who was she calling an adult?????????????
To be serious, though, she had actually lied to my face about why she had not come back in the half hour she had originally promised. I won’t go into the lie because that is not important. That lie, however, told me immediately the kind of character this little Nurse Betty had, and she had no idea who she was screwing with. Honestly, if I had been in somewhat better shape, the histrionics would probably not have happened. I would have just breathed fire on her and had her ashes swept away by the cleaning staff. Because I was just so weak and pathetic, though, I allowed her to help me get up and to wash me. Well, wash would be the completely wrong word to use here. Again……I had just had major surgery, was being given the WRONG pain medication (yes, I know that is a new plot development, but I’ll get back to that, I promise), was fuzzy brained and feeling very alone and vulnerable. Jenny from the Block got a small bowl of warm water, a washcloth and some liquid soap and washed my back. She then
hurled tossed the washcloth at me and said, you can do the rest. WTF????? I could barely move. How in the hell was I supposed to wash the rest of my body when I could not even bend to reach my toes and don’t even get me started on how I was going to be able to clean my Va JJ (TMI??) which I was pretty damned sure had to stay clean because of the whole UTI thing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I admit it freely, I burst into tears. I washed myself the best that I could. Jen came back, thinking I had been defeated. I allowed her to think that as I plotted my revenge. I knew my sister Wendy was coming in that day so I just waited for her to arrive.
I waited patiently in bed for my sisters imminent arrival and thought about what had transpired after the washing of my body debacle. Jen had taken me for a walk as per the surgeons instructions but I had to tell her I could go further, as all she wanted to do was take me about ten or fifteen feet to the nurses station and back. I told her in a supercilious way, that I was a RUNNER and FITNESS INSTRUCTOR and could certainly do the entire block of the third floor!!
She asked if I was feeling dizzy, which was the ONLY time she even slightly acted concerned about me which probably had more to do with her awakening to the fact that I was going to report her ample ass to her boss. (Yes, the ample part is a bit Mean Girls, but HEY). Anyway, when Wendy got to my room, the words just tumbled from my mouth in an effort to get her to understand what had happened to me.
Luckily Wendy speaks fluent Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins, and immediately grasped the situation and she believed me. I burst into tears (a theme is forming here) at her sympathy and understanding.
She took over the role of nurse from that moment on. She helped me get up, she unplugged me from the wall, got me up to the bathroom, got my toiletry bag and helped me brush my teeth and wash me properly. She then took me for a walk like I was a fancy poodle being shown in the Westminster Dog Show. We did TWO blocks, because that’s how we roll. On our way back to my room we were discussing how we were going to handle the situation when the head nurse walked up to us. A giant of a woman and one obviously not to be trifled with, as my sister would later remark as I was being discharged. She was tall, blonde and in charge, and Susan was her name. She introduced herself and asked how things were……so I told her, with Wendy right there supporting me and occasionally raising her eyebrows, which was my cue to tone it down a little. Boy, did things change fast. Jennifer was removed immediately. Quite frankly I think that even now she is in the hospital basement cleaning bedpans.
I was told that OF COURSE I had the right to have a different nurse and that OF COURSE I had every right to be upset. Wendy and I went back to my room and within minutes Susan’s boss had come down from her office to ensure I was OK. This was getting serious. Honestly, I was quite impressed by how quickly things turned around. This whole incident was NOT about customer service or “customer”/patient satisfaction. I hate that term when it comes to hospitals, but it comes down to basic human decency.
So, I had a new nurse who was fantastic. Actually every shift came with a new nurse and every single one of them was professional, warm, caring and seemed to actually enjoy their job. Things really did go well from a nursing perspective after that. Unfortunately, a mistake had been made with my pain medication that took two days to sort out. Mainly because I did not know that I was getting morphine for pain relief. I had told everyone that would listen, prior to getting admitted, that I could not tolerate morphine and would need an alternative pain killer. Somehow that was not communicated properly. By the time I got to Wednesday morning, I knew something was seriously wrong. I was dry heaving, could not even think about eating and was overcome with a tidal wave of nausea. After much conferring with the nurses, including a pain specialist who works exclusively in the OR, I casually mentioned that I could not believe that there was yet another pain killer that was giving me a bad reaction the way morphine did. Well…..that was exactly the problem. Somehow it was missed, though I don’t know how as it was CLEARLY noted in my chart. Totes explained my wanting to stab myself in the brain, though.
Before you could say LAWSUIT, I was being given a drug to counterbalance the nausea which is normally given to chemo patients, and a new painkiller called Toradol, or what a nursing friend in the pacific northwest of the United States called the big brother to Ibuprofen. It took some time, but I could finally sit up without wanting to die. However, the damage was done. I was finished with this hospital. I just wanted to go home. I plotted my
escape exit strategy throughout Wednesday night, which was pretty easy given that I was up the entire time listening to the subtle nuances of my roommates coughing. By Thursday morning my plan was formed, I would just beg my way out.
Turns out, getting sprung was pretty easy. I spoke to my wonderful nurse and she told me that the doctor would not let me out until I started eating. I explained to her that that would be difficult given that it was NOT food they were even giving me here. It was “food-like” products. I assured her that the second I got home I would be eating REAL food that would fall under the guidelines of a low residue or low fiber diet.
I would also be sleeping and not wanting to get out of my bed and smother my roommate with her pillow. I said that last part pretty quietly in order not to alarm said roommate should I have to stay. My nurse said she would contact my surgeon and sure enough, about half an hour later, he came swaggering into my room, propped himself up against the window and proceeded to ask me some questions that would determine my fate. I answered them all correctly apparently, because he said YES, I could go home that afternoon!!!
So, after meeting with the dietitian and going over wound care,
as well as being told I would just be using extra strength Tylenol and Motrin at home, my sister and husband took me home where I promptly did everything I said I would, plus more. Walking around is so much easier when you are not plugged into an IV drip, by the way.
As of the publishing of this post, I am on the mend, but still very sore. It is hard to get used to feeling so tired after SO little effort, but as my sister Sarah likes to opine…………..It IS what it IS…….I’m still ratcheted up as I have been told I won’t know the stage of my cancer for a couple more days. So I will leave you readers with this…..Pray for me. Send good thoughts, good vibrations, and good healing contemplations.
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