Saturday, January 3, 2009

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning...

I didn't take an Ambien last night and as a result I was wide awake at 1:00 am. And then 2:00 am. And still at 3:00 am. 

I tried desperately to slow my mind down, but it gets stuck in overdrive in those wee small hours of the morning. I attempted to hypnotize myself, to relax every muscle in my body and concentrate on not thinking. But, it didn't work and inevitably I was obsessing about things that I would never normally entertain during my waking hours (well, a normal person's waking hours, anyway).

Last night's topic of fixation was my recent hospital visit. It started innocently enough; the first hour in the hospital was zen-like, so in an attempt to achieve calm and fall mind wandered back to that pre-surgery room hoping to relive the tranquil experience. 

It was about 5:45 am and the hospital had not yet woken up. The sweet nurse escorted me from the waiting room to the pre-surgery area and had me change into a robe. I call it a robe because I assure you, it was not your normal hospital frock. It was made of paper - disposable - but it was a thick absorbent, comfy paper (think Viva paper towels). It was a lovely periwinkle color and tied in the front at the waist. Near the tie, was a round flap like a trap door (think doggie door). I laid down on the bed and the nurse asked if I was warm enough. 

Warm enough? I am never warm enough. In fact, I am always cold. As soon as I moved south of the Mason Dixon line my blood starting thinning and has continued to thin with each passing year. So when I told the nurse that I wouldn't mind a blanket - she indulged me. She brought me two warm blankets: she wrapped one around my shoulders like a pashmina and the other she spread over my legs and feet and tucked it in on the sides. I was in heaven. 

But it gets better....

Behind me on the wall was a vacuum hose and that sweet nurse grabbed it and stuck it in that doggie door hole near the tie on the Viva-like robe. Before I could ask what she was doing, I felt warm air circulating all over my body. I felt like a Viva diva. This is stuff that dreams are made of (mine, anyway). I laid there thinking...what else can I have removed? Take my uterus today, next week you can have my appendix, and the week after that I'll be back to have my gall bladder confiscated. I can function without them, but I am quite certain that I can no longer function without this vacuum hose.

She left me like that for about 1/2 an hour while I slipped in and out of sleep. The anesthesiologist came by to introduce himself and to explain what he'd be doing during the surgery. I didn't care what he had planned and barely listened, I just nodded and smiled and concentrated on the warmth. Then the nurse anesthetist came by and started my IV...again...he could have stuck the needle in my eye...I'm not sure I would have objected at that point. He left and once again I was free to enjoy my surroundings.

And that's when things started to get ugly. 

The nurse anesthetist reappeared, this time with a wheel chair. A huge wheel chair. (I was told that the outpatient operating rooms were used for female surgeries and gastric bypass operations. I guess that was the reason for the ginormous wheel chair?) He announced that I needed to climb aboard. Um, excuse me? This is not how they do it on Grey's Anatomy. Patients aren't wheeled back to the OR in a wheel chair - they enter the room via a bed. And they are asleep. I questioned his tactics but he only laughed and answered, "no dear, the bed stays here and you come with me." Seriously, wtf?

So I reluctantly left the bed and the vacuum hose behind and clambered on to the double-wide chair. I felt like Edith Ann in her rocking chair as he rolled me to OR #4 (some of you may be too young to understand that reference, so click here to get a visual). The door opened and I was met with a blast of cold air and bright lights. Inside were several nurses busy readying themselves for the procedure. He made the introductions and I was forced to exchange pleasantries. Seriously, WTF? I don't like being lovely to people I know, much less people who in a matter of minutes would be tying my feet up in stirrups and suctioning blood from inside my cavity. 

And then the nurse anesthetist instructed me to climb on to the operating table. Swear. I have seen many an episode of E.R., House, Doogie Howser, and General Hospital and I can assure you...this is NOT how it is done. (Hell, I don't think they made the patients on M*A*S*H climb on to the operating table.) But there I was...doing as I was told and scampering onto the table. I focused on the ceiling so as to avoid catching a glimpse of the knives and scalpels, but I couldn't get past the stirrups that hung from chains on two tall poles at the end of the table. Oh, how I longed for the vacuum tube that dispensed warm air and peaceful thoughts. 

Once I was situated on the table, the nurses inserted two boards on either side of me so that I could spread my arms out (as if I were going to be crucified). FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY WASN'T I ASLEEP YET? That's what I get for not listening to the anesthesiologist when he was reviewing the plan. Apparently they slipped me something in that IV right after securing my arms, because the next thing I remember was waking up in my room. Somehow I missed the recovery room altogether. I wonder if they had those vacuum hoses in the recovery room? (I'll let you know when I go back next week to donate my appendix...)

The room on the 7th floor didn't come close to the pre-surgery experience. The Viva-like robe was gone (not sure who changed me into the flimsy hospital gown?) and there was no sign of any warm vacuum hoses. I have no idea if I had to crawl into the bed myself or if somebody helped me. My legs were wrapped in something that resembled a blood pressure cuff that extended from my ankles up past my knees. It was actually quite lovely: air filled the cuffs every minute or so, gently squeezing my legs providing a massage-like effect. Apparently this contraption keeps blood clots from forming in ones legs after surgery. They were to be kept on all night, which was fine with me, that is, until the pump broke and it took the nurse an hour to locate a new one. During that time, the cuffs became hot and itchy and a damned nuisance. Luckily, the morphine drip put me in a drug induced coma, so I was in and out of consciousness and only barely noticed.

I woke during those wee small hours of the morning (that I am far too familiar with) feeling like I had been beaten up. My neck hurt, my arms were stiff and my throat was killing me from the tube they stuck down my throat. But I had weened myself from the morphine drip right after the new massage pump arrived, so I was finally beginning to think clearly and I knew I had to get out of that place. How do they expect you to rest when every hour, on the hour, somebody is taking your temperature and blood pressure and asking you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10? Seriously, every hour? Necessary? And god forbid they coordinate their visits: at 2 am a nurse appeared to take my vitals and at 2:15 after I had fallen back to sleep, another appeared to draw some blood for the lab. My catheter kept backing up so I constantly felt the need to urinate and when I asked the nurse if she could remove it, she told me that she'd rather leave it in until morning so that I could get a good night's sleep. Uh-huh, that makes perfect sense, absolutely

At 8 am my doctor paid a call on me. I let him know that I wanted out of there, but he had me promise that I'd stay the day (since he failed at convincing me to spend another night). So I reluctantly agreed to a 3 pm departure. And by 9:00 am, I renegged on the deal and rang the call button to inform the nurse that she was going to help spring me ASAP. By 11:00 am I was home, in my own bed and enjoying 3 hours of uninterrupted, glorious sleep. I woke up feeling fresh and alive and rested. I took a hot shower and have felt like a million bucks ever since. Dorothy was right...there's no place like home. 

Before the surgery, I started compiling a list of things to buy as soon as my husband lands his dream job. Stupid things; things that we don't need, but would be fun to splurge on. You can bet your sweet bottom that the vacuum hose and the warm air system now tops my list. In fact, perhaps my simple wish can turn into a dream job? Surely my double-degreed engineer of a husband can package a home version and take it to market? A lot of houses have central vacuuming systems, why not provide these same homes with an option for a central personal warming system? A CPWS, if you will. 

I think I may be onto something big...


Anonymous said...

Hey Laurie, I'm with you on the way they take you to the operating room, very disappointing after see how it's done on TV. Keep that blog going. It's the highlight of my day.

L. said...

It's wrong, I tell you, just wrong. Patients should be asleep before entering the operating room! And here I thought everything I saw on Grey's Anatomy was real? Hmm....

Kelly said...

OK, I've gone in for 2 different surgeries - 2 diff cysts on my ovaries and I would like to know WTF was my vacuum of warm air??? And secondly, I agree - climb up on the operating table???!! And how disturbing to be able to look around the o.r. and see EVERYTHING!! Glad you're recovering. And am enjoying catching up on the blogs!