Surgery story, part 4

The vomiting did me a favor and either removed some of the meds, or just the waves of pain cleared my mind for a moment. Enough for me to notice my hand was inflated. My fingers were the size of italian sausages and I could no longer bend them. It looked like when you inflate a rubber glove. Did you see Big Hero 6? If not you should, great movie, but I was Baymax. My wrist and arm were swollen too, up to the elbow. I stared in amazement for a bit then tried to use my sausage to push the nurse call button but I couldn’t push hard enough, it was too puffy. Oh. This must be why they have two buttons, one on each side of the bed. I used my other hand. It was the first time I pushed that button so far during my stay, I hated doing it.

Can I help you?

(Huh? Like a drive thru? I thought she would just come to me, I didn’t know I needed to say why first. I always rehearse drive thru orders. I tried to think of the non insane way to say my fingers were sausages but the word swollen was not coming to my loopy brain)

My hand…ummm

Your hand? Is something wrong with your hand?


I’ll send your nurse.

So I waited, staring in amazement, wondering if my hand might float away, or get popped, it looked straight out of a cartoon so why not, and I was high and well I probably would have those thoughts anyway, who am I kidding. It was horrible and awesome too. It hurt. A lot. But the sight of it…wow.

The nurse came after a while, all I did was hold up that hand.

Her eyes got huge, but not as huge as my hand. She pulled a phone out of her pocket and called someone. Someone came in, said oh no, her IV has infiltrated, I bet someone took her blood pressure on this arm. Then she looks at my other arm, with the Ric dressing, and says, oh….hmmm….OK….well….wow look at the bruising….you poor girl, does this arm hurt? I’ll have to turn off your pump, remove this IV, the fluids have infiltrated. It will go back down but it will take several days. (The awesome was gone when she said days. Sausages are not awesome for days, but I said ok)

So she took out the bad IV and starting looking for a new spot. I had one on the left wrist that was not being used, she had to check if it was still good. It hurt a little but was still flowing so she switched me over to there rather than start a new one.

A Dr came in, not my surgeon, but one from his team, to examine me. She asked me to roll onto my side so she could look at my back. This was the first I had tried this, and it was not easy. Everything pulled, and I felt like I weighed a million pounds. Luckily I didn’t have to stay in that position long. she said everything looked good, no excess drainage or blood. I was supposed to let them know right away if it increases. (I’m thinking I can’t see back there but I just said OK)

I told her about my numb tongue and she looked confused. She had no idea and said to ask my surgeon and let him know if it didn’t get better. I told her OK, but I was getting really worried I might permanently have a numb tongue. I should mention that I was talking with a horrible lisp and impediment a bit like crossing Sylvester Stallone with Sylvester the Cat and wondering why no one else seemed concerned.

After the roll over I was sweating and shaking and hurting. It was like the bed was now lumpy cement and I couldn’t get comfortable. I waited a while for the spasms to stop, for the pain to stop, and then gave in and pushed my pain pump button and let it drift me off to nauseated sleep.

Then a nurse and an aide came in and said they were going to remove my catheter. At first I was confused, until I realized I had not gotten up to pee. Oh yeah. OK. So removing Foley’s from your bladder aren’t the most fun but I do believe it may be the only time women have it easier than men. Not much, but I’ll take it.

So once they were done I started to worry that they removed it too soon. I mean, how was I supposed to get up and go if I could barely roll over?

While I thought about this, a lunch tray came to me. I still was confused, and did my best to eat a little even though everything in me was screaming not to eat. I had a few spoons of chicken noodle soup, a piece of lettuce, a couple pear cubes from a fruit cup, a few sips of water and I was done.

I rested from the exertion when someone from PT came in to see me. she said it was time to get up out of bed. She had a walker and set it next to my bed. I really hate walkers, remembering the one I had when I was 12, and I instantly hated her. But I knew I had to do it.

She put put special kinesio tape on my arm, to help draw the fluids from my hand back into my core. That’s the tape athletes use to stabilize shoulders and such, I laughed to see it on my balloony, non athletic limb.

She then explained I’m not allowed to BLT, bend, lift, or twist. That I have to log roll out of bed. I’m thinking, is there any other way? OK, let’s do this. I roll to my side, bend my knees, like earlier. This time she raised the bed to help me sit up and pulled my feet out to dangle all in one move. There. I was sitting on the edge of the bed.

And I needed to vomit. At least I could reach the bucket myself from my upright position.

PT lady waited for me to vomit, like she’s used to having this effect on people. Then she pushed the Walker in front of me and asked me to stand. She did ask if I felt dizzy, which I didn’t. And she saw my inflated hand and said to rest it on top since I couldn’t grasp with that hand. She held my shoulder on that side just in case. But I stood up fine. It was much easier than the rolling over bit.

My legs were strong.

Both legs.

I just stood there on two legs that I could feel for the first time in 27 years.

She asked me to take a step, did I think I could make it to the chair? I thought I might make it to the moon. Come on, I have two good legs. I can do anything now.

I shuffled over a few steps to the chair, turned around and sat down. She was beaming at how well I did at being safe, no bending, reaching for the arms of the chair before sitting. She doesn’t know I’m an old pro at this.

I was in the chair when hubby arrived. He couldn’t believe it! The nurse came in to change my bedding and wash me up while I was out of bed. That felt great. And odd. We found two electrodes near my left breast I didn’t know were there, and several large pieces of tape covering holes on my legs. Another “what in the world did they do to you…” And me offering suggestions. I guessed it was from the emg nerve monitoring, they stick needle electrodes into your muscles. I’ve had it done while awake so I know, and appreciated not knowing this time. I knew this nurse was actually a student or aide to be on sponge bath duty, so I didn’t let her blank stare bother me. She was super nice and taking great care of me. Everyone doesn’t need to know everything. Yes I typed that. See how much I’ve grown? (I did cringe a little, I admit, but only a little)

Know what’s better than pain meds? Brushing two days of vomiting off your teeth. Being clean brings amazing amounts of comfort.

So I get assisted back into bed, try to settle the shaking from muscle spasms when a transport guy appears with a wheelchair and says he needs to take me for xrays. I looked at him like he had grown horns and was speaking backwards. I told him no way I could get in that wheelchair. I was thinking i was worn out from a few minutes in the chair, no way i can do a whole bumpy ride downstairs. He left for a while and said OK, I’ll take you in your bed when he returned.

Hubby went down with us. I was glad to have him there.

In the x-ray room, they asked me to roll over on my side while they placed film in the bed, and then I had to lay on the film. Ouch!! I asked what this was for, and he said it was checking my abdomen for ileus or obstruction. What?

I then asked hubby, when was my surgery? He gave me a stupid look, and said yesterday. I let that sink in. Why are they making me eat? Why are they concerned about a slow stomach and vomiting? I’ve only been out of anesthesia for about 12, maybe 14 hours now. I usually don’t eat until day 2 or 3 after lesser surgeries. This was odd.

A dr came in later to listen to my belly, ask about nausea, ask about passing gas. No, my belly was still knocked out for the count, no sounds. He put me on a clear liquid diet. Thank you! Why wasn’t I on that to begin with? Idiots. If I had the flu I would have broth and ginger ale why should this be different? The 7 inch hole in my belly, reaching from my navel to my hip, I can only imagine my guts were pushed, disturbed, maybe even bruised to get a clear path to my spine. Did they expect no symptoms from that? Plus the anesthesia, plus narcotics, plus iron pills, plus vitamins, plus pepcid, plus colace…come on. Is all of this to hopefully kick-start my system and get me home, what 1 day sooner? Rather than letting nature takes its course gently? Grrrr

So I started refusing my meds. I told her they hurt my stomach. I only accepted Tylenol. Plain Tylenol. And I stopped pushing my button for pain meds too. I wanted to sober up and let my stomach wake up.

They brought me these lidocaine patches for my back that worked better than any med so far. Nearly instant relief that allowed me to sleep.

I woke up with a familiar urge. Uh-oh, I had to pee. I pressed the nurse button. An aide came in and I explained that I had not gone yet since my surgery, and I can’t walk very well…I got that blank look again. She called the nurse. The nurse called PT. Good lord, does it take a village to help a girl to pee? PT approved me using a bedside commode. They brought in this thing that looked like a chair but you lift the lid and a toilet seat is underneath. They help me roll over, sit up, walk a few steps and sit on this thing. And then 3 people are there with me waiting for me to pee in a chair next to my bed. Umm yeah this might take a while. Now I knew how my toddlers felt, encouragement really doesn’t help. Eventually one by one each person left and they handed me the call button and said to call when I was done. It still took a LONG time to get my bladder muscles going. It hurt to push so I did in small bursts with a deep breath first. Finally done and exhausted, I was ready for bed.

That day ended with a dinner of broth and tea and cherry ice, all of which felt great on my sore throat and didn’t make me sick. I continued to refuse meds and sober up, feeling better for doing so.

I survived day 1 but I had some unanswered questions.


4 thoughts on “Surgery story, part 4

  1. DAY 1? I feel like you’ve been in there forever already! I had the hand balloon when I was in for kidney trouble, for 3 days instead of the anticipated 24 hours. Makes me wonder if hospitals really know what they’re doing. :-/ Once again, thank you for giving the good report first.

    • Well day 1 of recovery, day 2 in the hospital. But yes I know what you mean, so much happens it seems like forever. Sorry you had the balloon hand experience too. It’s quite odd seeing your own limb like that. And ha….I don’t really wonder. All the mistakes I know about makes me wonder about the ones I don’t know about and then I have to stop thinking about it, I think it’s amazing we generally do alright, more by our body’s resilience and capacity to heal itself. And by the few that do know and can make up for the mistakes. A few of my nurses were brilliant and angels and helped me survive the shift with the less than competent or less than caring ones. Plus I had SO many praying and thinking of me this time, I keep wrapping myself in that warm blanket of support.

  2. Is this for scoliosis spine fusion surgery? I am having 2 surgeries in one day in July for my severe scoliosis and kyphosis. I am not looking forward to it at all.

    • Yes I had childhood scoliosis, first surgery was when I was 12 in 1988. At that time I had rods placed and was fused C4 to L4. This recent surgery was a revision, add-on to the original, extension of the fusion all the way to the ilium now, corrected remaining lumbar curve, degenerative discs, instability of my vertebrae slipping over one another, etc. Your 2 surgeries, is this because of anterior and posterior approach? That’s why mine was so long, 2 surgeries in one but I was not woken in between. It’s been tough, but so far I’ve had the best imaginable outcome and feel very fortunate and grateful. Make sure you have help lined up for several weeks after surgery, I wouldn’t be able to have done it without hubby and mom in law. I still need help getting dressed and washing my hair, someone to bring me meals and drive me. I wish you well for July.

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