Surgery story, part 2

I awoke in a recovery room, although awoke is not quite the correct term to describe my mental state. I was aware of people talking and noises everywhere. I could only open my eyes for a few seconds at a time, everything I saw was blurry and confusing anyway, so it was alright that my eyelids were too heavy to keep open and try to focus.

Next I was aware of my mouth feeling wrong, a queasy spacy feeling, and a feeling like I was surrounded by people talking all at once and no one made any sense. Several people were touching me and saying my name. I think. Or it was the same nurse or doctor walking around my bed quickly, faster than my brain could process. I can’t be sure.

Someone asked me my name and birthday and if I knew where I was, the year, etc. Identification and also mental status questions. I tried to answer but my mouth felt so weird (whats wrong with my mouth ?) and I could only whisper. I knew I had surgery and checked my face with my hand. Nope, no tube in my mouth, but my lips and cheeks felt odd. Or did my fingers feel odd. As I was trying to decide, someone wiped my mouth with what felt like a wet sponge. It helped a little but I could barely feel it. So weird. Why couldn’t I feel it? I tried asking about the tube, is this normal not to feel, but couldn’t get the words out.

A woman grabbed my hands and asked me to squeeze. I could barely do it, my arms were so heavy, like my eyelids, but I also noticed it was hard to feel her hands. Or feel my hands. I wasn’t sure which. She moved to my feet and told me to push against her hands. She said both feet sweetie. Huh? I was. I thought I was. Except I couldn’t feel her touching my right foot. I opened my eyes enough to see her holding both my feet. She said to the woman next to her “did she come out of the OR like this or is this new? Does the Dr know? This is severe neural deficit on the right and I don’t see it noted, I think it’s just happened now”

So I may have had a flashback here, remembering waking up from surgery paralyzed…but I’m not sure. I was so sleepy and sick, I’m truly not sure.

Then the nausea, oh man, the nausea hit me full force. I tried saying I was sick, but made no sound anyone could hear. I started waving my arms, but still no one. Then I started dry heaving, noisily. Gross, I know. My stomach was empty, no eating 12 hours prior to surgery, a 10 hr surgery, plus however long til now…I was empty. But my stomach was still trying. Each retch was louder than the next and growing more violent. I screamed in pain in between each retch as it pulled on my incisions, along my back and abdomen. Tears formed and flowed freely now.

This got some attention. Someone handed me a little cardboard bucket just in time as my stomach found something somehow to bring up. Someone else gave me an injection of zofran, and put a scopalomine patch on my ear.

I suddenly dropped the bucket, unable to hold it. I felt my entire arm go limp, along with my right leg curling up. Oh crap! Hemiplegic migraine! Or a stroke…and I didn’t want to tell them it was a migraine if it was a stroke since that was possible after such extensive surgery.

Someone started neuroassessment on me again and if she didn’t say it I clearly heard her think oh f*ck. When she asked me to push against her hand, push, push, PUSH!!! I can’t. She knows I can’t. My entire right side is limp and droopy, useless as a noodle, numb too.

I’m trying to say “hemiplegic migraine – need magnesium” but aphasia and my numb mouth and sore throat are making it sound like this.

Hem, hem, hem, pleeeee, Kik, mikchal, ammmmm

Mags, mags, mags, mags, ummm

OK so I actually laugh to myself here when one nurse gets the other to put her head by my mouth and they are both a bit panicked and not hiding it at all, and I think this must be what Lassie felt like. What’s that? Timmy needs magnesium? Good girl.

With me repeating and them checking my record, I heard them say OH, could she be saying hemiplegic migraine? I see that here. Can a migraine cause this? I don’t know…I never heard of hemiplegic…

Honey, are you having a migraine do you think?

I nodded yes. And closed my eyes.

Do you need magnesium treatment?

I nodded yes again. Someone patted my left hand twice, reassuringly.

They called someone and started me on 2 grams of magnesium. About an hour, I think, later the hemiplegia was getting better, but I was still retching and moaning in pain. I was trying to recall the anti nausea med I usually get in my migraine infusions when an angel read my mind, or my chart, and said Dr ordered compazine for you since zofran and patch aren’t working. That was it! Hurray! I told her “oh good, i usually get that in migraine infusions”. Wait, did i speak out loud ? Yes she understood me. The trouble speaking before was all due to the migraine. My mouth still felt weird inside like it was swollen and full of cotton balls. And my sore throat only let me whisper. But at least my brain let me form words. The magnesium must already be working. Another neuroassesment proved this to be true. I was regaining strength in my right arm and leg. Everyone looked so relieved, not a stroke then, and not a spinal cord injury…phew ! I had never had an infusion right at onset before to see how quickly it could stop a migraine in its tracks. I’m usually pretty bad off before I get one so this was awesome, I was like “take that stupid migraine!”

Relief was nearly instant from the compazine. My stomach settled and with all the magnesium, anesthetics, pain meds, I slept soundly for the next hour or so.

Next thing I knew someone was touching my arm and saying “what is this? What in the world? What did they do to you, look at that bruising. That will have to come out before she can be moved. But what is it?”

I tried to open my eyes and saw a woman , a super blurry woman, holding my left arm. My eyes kept closing, too much effort. I heard another woman say she looked on my chart and it’s a Rick. They paged someone but said it would be a while for the special team to arrive so we should notify the family now then to see me while we wait.

My family ? Soon I heard hubby’s voice. Ah such a good voice. I tried to see him but I still couldn’t focus on anything. And then I heard, “sir, sir, are you alright? You better have a seat. Someone get us some apple juice! ”

I heard him say yes, he was a bit woozy and giggle nervously. (Apparently I looked so gorgeous I made him swoon)

Once he was stable hubby came up to hold my hand. I still couldn’t see him. I also heard my FIL now. I tried telling hubby about the migraine and asked if everything was OK otherwise, but I don’t really remember much of this. He says I kept falling back asleep and seemed anxious and talking fast. Seems odd to me when I felt like everything was so slow. He also told me later that others in this shared recovery room were sitting up and laughing with family members, not so sick, bruised, swollen, glazed eyed, and generally beaten up like me. But I’m guessing not everyone had just had 10 hours in OR, a 7 inch incision on the abdomen, a 14 inch incision on the back, 2 disc areas replaced with donor bone wedges, fusion across L4 to Ilium, new metal screws and instruments, a slight revision around T12 to decompress the nerve root, a foraminony, laminectomy, and a few other scary spinal words I don’t recall at this moment. I’m actually not entirely sure what all he did to me, I’ll find out in my follow-up next week.

Anyways I was sleeping peacefully until a new voice arrived, another woman, and she just kept saying “sorry”. ” so sorry honey, I have to do this, I know you’re finally resting. Sorry it’s going to be uncomfortable, but this Rick has to come out before we can move you. Just hold real still, OK, please? So sorry” (I later found out it was RIC,
Not Rick, Rapid Infusion Catheter for the nifty cell saver machine that returned my own red blood cells to me)

If I wasn’t so dopey I would have been freaked out. She started tugging on my arm and I felt something moving in my chest. She kept pressing and pulling, pressing and pulling. I looked over once and saw this long white tube dangling out of me and she was still pulling. Finally it was out and she started saying sorry again. “So sorry, but I have to keep your arm up and press here tight for about 20 minutes to make sure you don’t have any bleeds. I’ll try not to hurt but I do have to press hard.”

She held up my arm and it did hurt, but not much, and I kept falling asleep I was so over medicated. Eventually she was satisfied, wrapped my arm in gauze and then a rubber pressure cuff, which I didn’t know until the next day.

At some point they declared me stable enough to go upstairs to my room. I don’t remember the journey at all. I just know I was woken up later in a different, quieter room.


4 thoughts on “Surgery story, part 2

  1. You are AMAZING! Just thought it needed to be said. Thank you for posting the good news of your recover first. May you continue to recover quickly and fully.

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