Friday, July 4, 2014

Awake During Major Surgery—Part 1

My first time as a patient in a hospital and I was looking forward to my stay.  My mother and I arrived at about 7:45 P.M. on Sunday, June 22, the night before the big operation which would remove the huge fibroid and adenomyosis from my uterus.  A guy checked me in by placing a bar code tag on my wrist.  It also had my name and birth date on it.  Throughout my stay, any time I received a vitamin or drug, pill or shot, the bar code was zapped with a gun that was read by a nearby computer on wheels.  Fancy having a barcode like an item at a store!

All was quiet on the third floor where we were met by an assistant nurse, Maria, who took us to our room.  The room was huge with two beds, a couch and two chairs, a private shower separate from the sink and toilet, and two TV’s.  There was also a cabinet holding another TV that was hooked up to the camera that would be over me during surgery so my mother could watch the operation without sound.

Maria pampered us as if we were at a four star hotel!  She brought us each a tray of food; though, I didn’t fancy a meal so close to having my bowel sounds disappear and I had already had some soup at home.  It was funny, when I was booking my four night stay at the hospital, I felt like I was booking a hotel at Las Vegas.  During the operation, there would be a male surgeon, a male assistant surgeon, a male anesthesiologist, two male technicians (my surgeon works fast and needs two handing him instruments, etc), and a male photographer for the stills that I would get to keep of the operation.  Insurance refused to pay for the surgeons and the anesthesiologist as they thought I should just have a hysterectomy, so I paid them 100% out of my own pocket.  My running joke became: I feel like I’m booking a trip to Vegas.  I’m going to be naked with six men, get all drugged up, and lose lots and lots of money!  The room was so nice and my mother and I were in great spirits as if we were on the Riviera, that my joke was starting to look like a reality: a vacation.

 I was busy unpacking when Nurse Beverly came to check me in—a lengthy process.   I munched away on my apple that I’d brought from home, answering questions.  Beverly commented on my good attitude and that that would help me through the process of surgery and recovery.  I was just plain sick of bleeding and constantly trying to rebuild my blood.  After ten months of being careful not to aggravate my uterus and experience more blood loss, I was literally on the verge of going insane!  The knife (and lasers) were to be a welcomed change.  My mother had her needlepoint and book, and my only obligation was to be to heal.  What a lovely break from my busy world!

I slumbered in my own nightgown, but had to change into a hospital gown before I was picked up at 5:30, the morning of the 23rd.  Beverly showed up to put thigh high white stockings on my legs that were to keep my legs warm.  Later, the compression boots would be added to aid with circulation. Each time Beverly came to me, she grabbed some gloves from the holders near the doorway.  Here she was just touching stockings, and her hands were gloved.   Old TV shows have characters taking blood and entering throats and other cavities and all sorts of things without gloves.  Beverly’s machine that digitally displayed blood pressure, pulse, oxygen rate, and temperature was certainly more sophisticated than anything I ever saw on hospital related television shows when growing up.   One thing TV does is its shows document how we are culturally at a certain point and space.  I imagine modern TV shows portray hospitals like what I experienced, including nurses in scrubs rather than the white dresses of the past.

Fernando showed up just inside my door with the gurney which I walked over to and got on feeling as though I was about to go on a fun ride at an amusement park.  I lay down and he put a blanket over me and we were off.

I was not nervous.  I was excited.  It was almost more emotion than I could bear.  No more suddenly hemorrhaging out of nowhere.   No more having to supply something on which to sit when at a fancy restaurant with cream upholstery seats.  No more avoiding tennis and ice skating and softball and running and dancing and Insanity and everything that made blood gush from the muscle layer of my uterus without warning.  Soon it would be over!

I was wheeled away from my room toward an elevator fully awake, how I would remain for the entire two hours of major surgery.

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