Surgery and Recovery

I went in for surgery on Thursday, for my (hopefully one and only) laparoscopy (and hysteroscopy, excision of endometrial tissue and pap smear – I had to confirm my procedures and allergies with 8 different nurses – Aussies are nothing but careful). We woke up bright and early, and got to the hospital about 40 minutes before my assigned check in time. After an hour, I was called back for my check in, and half an hour after that, it was my time to go. I said good bye to Joel, and I was taken back and given my sweet compression socks, opened back gown, and surgery booties, and assigned to a bed. I hung out on my trolly bed in a triage room, looking at laminated photos of European castles that were stuck to the walls before they wheeled me into the little room before the operating theatre, and left me alone. Alone, alone, to ruminate in all my nervousness.

The operation before me was finishing up, and whenever someone came through the double doors I saw her arm laid out on the wing with her IV’s hanging off the side. I tried to focus not on how deeply unsettling that image was, and instead I read all the labels on the baskets and the medical equipment and thought how I’d love to be able to design and organise medical spaces, when a nurse came in and put a hot blanket on me. Fuck, those hot hospital blankets are the most amazing thing. We chatted about how surprisingly good hospital blankets are, and how I got to take one home after I was in a car crash as a little kid. After she left, I fell asleep. Warm and still, that’s all it takes – even while waiting for surgery.

One the attending gyencologists who was assisting my doctor in surgery woke me up to introduce herself, and asked me what my symptoms were leading up to the surgery. I tried to condense 20 years of uterine mishaps in 2 minutes, and I’m pretty sure it all came out as word vomit. She asked if I had any questions, but my only was will “I am going to be completely knocked out for this, right?” Somewhere in the two days I spent worrying about the procedure, I convinced myself I would only be given a local. She reassured me that this was a common procedure, that I would be out entirely, I wouldn’t feel a thing, and I had nothing to worry about.

After she left, I met my anaesthesiologist, and my gyno/surgeon came by to say hi and see how I was doing. I was getting my IV put in, and he made a joke about not being able to stand the site of blood and excused himself to the theatre. IV’s suck. Especially when you’re dehydrated. It took just a little bit of digging, but she was able to get a good vein going, and promptly administered “some pre-surgery drinks.” I felt that familiar ice cold snake trailing down my arm, and my knees started to melt. They opened the doors to the stark white theatre, and wheeled me in. I was staring at a TV with a colour block on it – like when there’s no cable reception. One minute, the colour block was normal. The next moment, the colour block was wavy and blending together. My drinks had kicked in. I said something about “laparoscopy party!”, heard something about “this might sting a bit,” felt something stinging in my arm, and just one second later, I was waking up with violent shakes, horrible cotton mouth, and uncontrollable sobs.

I’ve gone under anaesthesia three times now, and each time has been excruciating. Waking up from anaesthesia is an incredibly painful and lonely experience. You know you’re alive, and that you’re in pain, but you don’t know much else – in fact, it kinda feels like you’ve been abducted by aliens. Because you can’t really see, you’re wearing an oxygen mask, and even though you can hear people around you and you can feel them touching you, don’t really know what’s happening. You hear the nurses telling you you’re ok, and you’ll feel better soon, but Everything hurts and everyone sounds like they’re in a Charlie Brown cartoon. And you’re jumpy and crying and just so uncertain, which makes it easy for panic to slip in.

My throat hurt from the oxygen tube. My stomach felt like it had been stabbed. My vagina felt kicked in. My mouth was so dry it felt blistered, and the oxygen was making it worse. I was dying to pee, I needed water, I needed morphine, and I was choking these requests to my nurse, who was patiently getting to them as she could. She put a bed pan under me but I don’t remember going – even though I did. She took the bed pan out and gave me morphine and when I stopped sobbing, took away my oxygen mask and gave me ice chips. I was still in pain, so she gave me some giant tablets and I finally got to drink some water – luke warm tap water, food of the gods. My nurse was beside me, but I felt alone. I felt so lonely and in so much pain (and pained in a much more shallow sense, I felt like a fat baby for crying because of the pain – even though I’d just had all my reproductive organs stabbed, shaved and prodded and it’s totally ok to cry when that happens), it was excruciating. All I wanted was Joel. And maybe more morphine.

I was wheeled into another recovery room where I heard “she was tachycardic and teary after she woke up, but she’s stable now, and she passed about 100 ml in a bed pan.” Another really nice nurse put a warm blanket on me, gave me ice water, and the drugs kicked in and I finally fell asleep. I was dreaming about Joel, and I missed him. Then I woke up to someone scratching my head – and it was him. And suddenly everything felt good, safe again. It was really one of those dreamy moments where I woke up and he had a fucking halo around his head and I just knew things would be ok.

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So, surgery sucks, anaesthesia sucks (and remembering how to spell anaesthesia really sucks), but having good people around to help you recover doesn’t suck. I have been a 145 lb baby since I’ve been home, and Joel has been an absolute angel looking after me. The hard part is over – and now I just have to rest at home and get better. And hopefully I can have more freedom from the shitty cramps that have been plaguing me. I know there are people who see way more doctors than I do, and have way more procedures than I have or will ever have done, but fuck, I hope I’m done with surgeries.

At the very least, I hope I’m done with surgeries that impede my ability to go to the bathroom without assistance. Days 1 and 2 of recovery have been a bit challenging (sneezing feels like an explosion of all my stitches, all the gas used to blow up my abdomen is taking it’s SWEET time leaving me), but mostly I’m getting restless because I can’t do anything but sit, because basically everything I like to do requires bending and stretching and reaching and obsessively cleaning. And so far making Joel clean the apartment while I watch vicariously hasn’t been nearly as fulfilling as I hoped.

Who knows – maybe I’ll get around to writing my novel in the next two weeks.

Stay tuned.

 

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