My stomach announced its awakening with intense cramps that tugged at my incision. I knew this was a good sign, but it did not feel good. By morning I was happy to say yes when the nurse asked if I was passing gas. One of those things you don’t miss until it’s gone I suppose.
My surgeon came in to see me that morning and I was so happy to see him. He told me briefly about my surgery, that it was a success, that he decompressed the nerve and restored full function, that he stabilized and restored balance, but we would talk more later and all I had to do now was rest and heal. He was beaming, happy for me, and proud of his work. His positive energy is contagious.
He said he had to catch a plane and would be out of the country for 2 weeks but his team would take great care of me and call him every day.
I stopped him leaving by asking about my numb tongue.
Suddenly his face changed. His smile left. I had never seen him like this.
There were a few events that could have caused trauma to your tongue though we did our best to minimize it.
One was a serious complication you need to know about, and could have been life threatening if you were at any other hospital not equipped to handle it.
(OK I wasn’t really liking this conversation. No one said anything about complications. I had no idea what he was saying, and it was super scary, he was so serious)
While you were sedated, already deep under anesthesia you had an extremely rare laryngospasm causing you to not receive oxygen for some time. It was required that you be extubated, as you crushed the tube, treated with medications to relieve the spasm and reopen your airway before a new breathing tube could be inserted. This is an extremely dangerous situation and you need to make sure all your doctors are aware of this before any future surgeries you may have so they will be prepared for this possibility. You are fortunate you were at this hospital with my team when it happened.
(Oh f*ck that doesn’t sound good. Wow. Thanks for not letting me die?? Alrighty then. But all I said out loud was)
So even though every care was taken, it is possible your tongue was pinched during this process as it had to be done quickly. Also during the transcranial nerve monitoring an electric current is delivered through your scalp that causes your facial muscles to contract, including the tongue. It is possible all of this has caused some trauma and irritation to the nerve roots of the tongue that should reverse in time.
(What he actually said was longer than this, included more medical terms, and scary stuff like various direct mouth injections, flipping me over, packing my mouth with gauze, hard to see my face when I’m laying on it and contractions with current need to be strong enough to travel the length of my spine…and I got really tired listening to him. I couldn’t hear anymore of what I had been through. He answered my question…and then some…for my tongue might be numb. But he had no idea how long to expect. He said if it was still numb two days after surgery, then it would likely take weeks or months)
He peeled back my bandage to peek at my incision (rolling over wasnt AS bad today) and said it looked good, only some mild drainage on the bottom. Then he left.
After a liquid breakfast, PT came in again. This guy wanted me to take a walk. I raised my eyebrows and thought skeptical thoughts, but of course I said OK. I always say OK. My hand was still inflated, but I could get my thumb and pinky wrapped a bit around the walker today, mostly I still had to rest it there on top. But this walker had wheels, so I didn’t have to lift it like the one I had when I was 12. I only had to push it slightly and it moved. I no longer hated this walker, it was becoming my friend, my path towards freedom.
Look at me go! I could race past ummm, no one actually. But I didn’t care. It felt so good to be walking, well, emotionally good. Physically it hurt. Each step pulled and tugged on my back and belly. PT guy asked me to walk out to the hallway. I walked past my roommate, first time I had seen her, and eventually I made it to the door. He asked me to stand and rest a moment, then head in the direction of the elevators ahead. I was slowing down, which I didn’t know was possible. PT guy guided me to turn around and head back. By the time I reached my bed, I was sweating and breathing hard. I had walked about 30 feet and needed a nap.
When I woke up I noticed my left arm hurting, and noticed swelling around the IV. I called the nurse. She took it out, I had blown another vein. This one didn’t inflate too badly. She started looking for a spot to start a new IV and I was bruised and swollen or bandaged everywhere. They were doing several blood tests to check electrolytes and hemoglobin to see how i was recovering from the blood loss, so i had bandaids everywhere. The nurse called a special IV team in that used a vein finder, it shone a red light and like magic my veins appear. Even with the special team and tools, it took 5 more attempts to get one in, and it was nearly in my right armpit, not exactly comfortable.
After a liquid lunch PT guy returned and wanted me to start using the regular bathroom in my room. I wished I had the closer bed, the walk seemed so far, but of course I said OK. I’d do about anything to upgrade from the bedside commode. I still needed an escort to walk with me, but they left me alone in there, much better.
Then transport guy came with a wheelchair and said time for x-rays. Again? PT guy was still there, so he put two pillows in the wheelchair and showed me how to get in and instructed the guy to be gentle. I had to hold my Walker on my lap/feet so I could have it with me to stand for the x-ray.
The standing x-ray was easy. Then she wanted me to lie on the hard metal table. I should have refused, but everything else was going so well I thought I would try and be compliant. It hurt. It hurt for several hours. And it was for another abdominal x-ray because the one yesterday in my bed wasn’t a clear picture. My stomach is fine! It will be fine soon!
A Dr came up later and asked me again about passing gas, yes, passing stool, no.
Then an aide comes in and says she has an enema for me. What? ??? I was so tired, in too much pain to fight. She has me stand and lean forward and comes at me with a squeeze bottle. Let’s just say the contents did not go where she thought it did, which was fine with me, as I didn’t need it. I also didn’t need to be all wet now. She handed me a towel and left and I shook my head in disbelief.
I slept until my liquid dinner. I confirmed each time that I do not like orange jello. But the cherry ice was superb. I tried not to think about why my throat hurt, that I had a rare complication and was within a minute of death. I used to wish for death. Was that my wish being granted? Did something happen to change it though? Why am I not only alive, but with this amazing outcome of restored sense and strength in my legs? I feel so many new sensations, the blanket, my toes rubbing together, the coarse texture of the hospital grippy socks. I also notice a lack of pain, no more crushing, or zapping, or twitching, or jumping. My legs are calm, happy, and move when I ask them to. I fall asleep moving my toes and ankles up and down, up and down, up and down.
I wake up with pain in my arm. Yup, the vein has blown. The nurse stops the pump and removes the IV. I tell her how difficult it was to place that one and that it only lasted 8 hours. I asked to please have no IV since it was only fluids, and I was drinking fine, not vomiting. She asked Dr and I got permission to go overnight without IV if I promised to drink a certain amount of water. I agreed.
Without the IV, my arms started deflating, and I started peeing unbelievable amounts. I overflowed the measuring ‘hats’ they place to keep track. My poor bladder couldn’t hardly keep up, I’m sure my kidneys were tired too. By morning my hand and arms were normal size and I was exhausted. I couldn’t help wondering if they were giving me too much fluids all along. I felt SO much better without that IV.