As I sat down to write this post it occurred to me how amazing/terrifying it is to realize what anesthesia can do to your brain cells. My memories from the first few weeks post-op are scattered and blurred around the edges. Luckily, I have my parents and my husband to fill in holes for me.
My surgery was schedule for January 10, 2013 at 9:00 am. We had to be at the hospital around 5:30 am. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to shower/wash my hair for awhile after surgery, I showered the night before and woke up around 4:00 am to give myself enough time to straighten it. I slept surprisingly well the night before, but as soon as I woke up, I had an anxious feeling in my stomach that pretty much never went away. Honestly, from the time I woke up to the time they started to put the IV in me, I talked to God. I asked him for guidance, for courage, for strength but mostly for His watchful eye. Obviously, some of you reading this may not see this as a particularly helpful option, and that’s totally fine. It was my way of distracting myself and calming myself down. I highly recommend finding something that can take your mind off what’s to come. Maybe listen to your iPod or tell stories back and forth with your family?
This procedure was a surgical first for me. I’d never had an IV or a catheter before, both of which terrified me (silly, in retrospect) and I’d really never been in the hospital before, besides a brief ER visit. I was so fortunate to have a friendly, informative nurse who was great with my IV and with answering all of my nervous questions. I suppose this could be different depending on where you have your surgery, but it made me a little nervous that I was without my family/husband for about an hour while they have you change, put in your IV, ask you medical questions, etc. But like I said, the staff was great and made things a little easier. Both my anesthesiologist and my surgical PA stopped in to check on me and explain a few things and this was really helpful as well. Turns out my anesthesiologist went to the same high school I did, so we chatted about that for a bit. By the time they were done with all of this, I got to see my parents and my husband for a bit, but things were moving so quickly, they were pretty much in and out.
All of my anxiety washed away when the nurse anesthetists put a nice dose of Valium into my IV to calm my nerves before the actual anesthesia. And let me tell you, that stuff is fun. I’m sure it effects everyone differently, but I was one happy girl. I remember them rolling me down the hallway to the operating room and I could’ve sworn we were going about 80 mph. Once we got in the operation room, I remember being amazed at the number of people in there. I looked around and
said slurred to my nurse, “Are all of these people here for me?” I don’t remember her answer but I remember feeling slightly comforted that I was surrounded by so many capable hands.
After surgery is done, they take you to “recovery” to wake you up from anesthesia. My first memory after coming out of surgery is coming out of anesthesia. For whatever reason, my brain did not like the process. I remember waking up feeling upset and panicky. There were two nurses there (whose faces are literally blobs of color in my head) who would help calm me down. I would fall back asleep for however long and then wake up panicking again. This happened several times before I woke up a little more clear in the head and they rolled me to my hospital room.
Eventually, my parents and my husband came into the room and I remember feeling so relieved that they were finally there but I was still in a weird, panicky mood. According to my husband, I was upset for about 15 minutes, but unable to explain myself. He thinks I was in pain and confused about how to deal with it. Sounds about right to me.
When you wake up you are going to be in pain. No doubt. It’s going to hurt to make just about any movement. On top of that, you will have all kinds of needles, tubes and wires coming out of and going into your body. You’ll have your anesthesia IV on one arm and another on the other arm that they use to administer antibiotics throughout the day to prevent infection, as well as any other medications you might need. There will be a heart monitor attached to your chest and a drain that comes out of your back to keep your incision as clean as possible. There are two pad things wrapped around your lower legs that inflate and deflate to keep blood flowing throughout your body since you aren’t moving. They reminded me of the little pads you stick your hands in at the nail shop when you get a manicure. And then there’s the catheter which turned out to be the easiest, least noticeable one of all. It’s not painful at all and it’s obviously a blessing to not have to get up to go to the bathroom those first few days that its in. You hardly know it’s there and don’t even feel it when they take it out. Here I am post-op Day One. See all the wires coming out of God knows where?
Most importantly, you have a PCA morphine pump attached to you and simply put, you will feel like it is the most beautiful advancement in medical technology ever. My hand was pretty much glued to that thing. Whenever I started to feel even a twinge of unfamiliar pain, I hit that button quicker than Ken Jennings on Jeopardy.
According to my parents and my husband, I basically spent the rest of the day drifting in and out of sleep. I was woken up by the health & nutrition women who were there to deliver meals. This, essentially, was a joke. I had absolutely no appetite whatsoever. Much to the chagrin of the lovely health and nutrition ladies and despite all of their best efforts, I didn’t eat any solid food until my third day post-op.
You’ll also be woken up by the nurses who will casually flip on the giant overhead florescent light as if they are unaware that the darn thing is like a giant UFO hovering over you ready to suck you in to experiment on you or something. Then they poke and prod you, checking your vitals and administering medicines and forcing Miralax down your throat to help you erm- use the bathroom. Sorry, poo talk makes me awkward. They won’t let you leave the hospital til ya do the doodoo, and it’s kind of a tough task if you can’t even manage to keep down solid foods. Jokes aside though, nurses are a God send. They have a tough job and they are essential to your recovery, so be nice to them!
Apparently anesthesia also makes me a sassy because when my anesthesiologist came to visit me post-op and revealed the he went to medical school at Duke University, I matter-of-factly told him to get out of my room. I don’t really remember this, but I feel bad about it. Sorry, doc!
So here is my account of surgery, day one. My intention was to dedicate this post to the entire first week of surgery, but I’m very long winded and it just didn’t make sense to have such a long post. I hope this has been helpful in giving anyone an idea of what to expect from the day of surgery. I definitely don’t want to scare you off, I’ve said it already a few times, but every bit of what I’ve described above is worth it. Here’s the before and after again in case you don’t believe me: