Surgery story, part 1

Not for the squeamish, don’t read if medical details bother you.

We left at 4:30 am to start driving to the hospital. A two hour drive. I wasn’t too nervous though, this felt right, like something I needed to do. Like my mom’s memorial service yesterday…but that’s a different story, though of course still fresh on my mind.

We make it to the hospital and it feels like a dream or a movie, not my life. Hubby accompanies me to the check-in counter and they hand him a pager and explain the codes, and how to get updates on my status from it and the many monitors in the area. It was like an odd airport, and I was the airplane being prepared for takeoff.

I was taken back to a little room, given a gown, asked for a urine sample (in case I got pregnant since the last one…ummm no) and then an IV was started. Right away I knew she missed, but she wanted to give it a moment. We watched the bruising grow, the pain get worse, and I was worried this wouldn’t be good enough for surgery. When I told the nurse she seemed annoyed or afraid or mad at herself for failing – all things I didn’t want to deal with, I only wanted a proper IV, no fault or blame. She got a different nurse to try my other arm. She went into the top of my hand, which hurt, and ballooned a little but she insisted it was good. OK.

I signed multiple consent forms, answered ridiculous questions a million times. Finally my surgeon appears at 8:00 am and says we will start at 8:30. Hmmm, I think, why did I need to be here 2 hours early to pee and get an IV?  And I thought of the airport again, this must really be an airport, and I laughed to myself.

Finally transport came to wheel my bed away to OR. It was a long, wild ride over ramps, through buzzy locked double doors, past clusters of doctors talking and blocking the hallway reluctant to step aside, and finally I was tucked into bed parking space outside my OR doors. And left there alone. A long time. A really long time.

At last, after I counted all the tiles, tried some grounding games like listing types of flowers, candies, dogs, etc several hatted and masked people arrived to wheel me in.

This OR was straight from sci fi. I’d had c-sections with general anesthesia, but those rooms were junky and barren compared to this. I think I actually said something clever like “woah” when I first saw it all. One wall was an enormous display screen, like half a movie screen with my CT scans and x-rays on it, all moving as my surgeon prepared himself and his team. I’ve previously only seen this many computers at NASA, my airport thoughts quickly turned space station. So many lights, tools, tubes, hoses, trays…everything was either sterile white, stainless steel, or emerald green.

Now all of this could be worrisome, but I found it comforting. I was surrounded by a team of about a dozen brilliant people gathered just for me by my surgeon. Everyone was calm but excited, like I am before a big performance. I’m an interesting case, a challenge, and you could feel the buzz in the air as everyone prepared for me.

Two nurses got my attention and asked me to scootch over to the little operating table. I was surprised to find it had a comfy cushion on it for my back, a circular pillow for my neck. The table was super narrow, I barely fit on it, on my arms would dangle off. They attached side bars for my arms to rest on and strapped them there with soft Velcro.

Next my surgeon came over and gave me the warmest smile, said we were ready to start and everyone here was going to take very good care of me. Then the anesthetist came over and said he gave me something to relax and …. I don’t recall the end of his sentence. Everything got warm and slow and blurry and then my next memory is in the recovery room.


3 thoughts on “Surgery story, part 1

  1. I really identified with that feeling of being in a dream, and somehow being removed from what is actually happening around you. I think we are sometimes able to dissociate enough to allow us to move through whatever we find frightening or overwhelming, by allowing ourselves to somehow disappear, and then we watch what is happening as an impartial observer.

    As Judy said, sorry about the double hit on the IV. Those top of the hand ones are no picnic. But I am glad you spoke up if it was making you uncomfortable, or causing you worry. Love the way you described the face of the surgeon, just before going under. Thanks for sharing a bird’s eye view of how it came together. Very interesting to read, and even better, when we know that you’re not only doing well, but have good news on the horizon. Thanks again for sharing your story. 🙂

    • I’ve been trying to decide if I was being mindful, compartmentalizing, or as you said, dissociating, and I’m not entirely sure how I coped to remain calm. I was trying to use my new skills but as you said, I’m thinking a few moments overwhelmed me and old habits may have taken over. All in all, I did surprisingly well, no panic attacks, more of a Zen state. I was so ready to feel better, truly trusted in the confidence my surgeon exuded, and also had a “nothing to lose” attitude as well. I couldn’t get worse, I was in so much pain, not able to walk or stand. I think all of that gave me peace and ability to do something scary. Even my mom’s memorial the day before was fine…something I haven’t been able to write about yet but I will soon.

      My stay in the hospital was extremely difficult, more trouble to come with iv’s, but as you said, you already know about the good outcome. I’m doing better than I could have hoped already and it’s only 18 days post surgery

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