Last Monday was surgery day! The day started with a 4:30 wakeup call so we could be en route by 5. The Christ Hospital is about thirty minutes from home and there’s very little traffic at that time of day so it was an easy drive. The hospital was freakishly quiet and deserted at that hour but we made it back to the surgery center where right away they put me into my room to get ready. We were in the pre-op room for about two hours as expected, meeting a series of nurses and doctors, and my doctor came in to say hello before it was time to go, and set some expectations for afterward.
For as much as hospitals get criticism for making you wait, Christ really did not. The surgery was scheduled to start at 7:30 and we were right on time with that. One thing I really didn’t like was that they didn’t give me the anesthesia until I was already in the operating room, meaning I was wheeled into the bright green operating room completely awake. I didn’t really feel any anxiety about the operation until I was laying on the table under the giant lights when it suddenly felt like oh shit, they’re really about to cut me open. It was exactly like every operating room on TV!
They gave me a little bit of oxygen through a mask which was a delightfully claustrophobic experience while they started the anesthesia via IV. The next thing I knew someone was quietly saying my name as they were settling me into the recovery area. Modern medicine is magical. I was much less terrified of being cut open than I was of being knocked out for a few hours, especially after the anesthesiologist told me that you stop breathing while you’re under. (This wasn’t even the first time I’d been knocked out, but I could’ve done without that nugget of info.)
Luckily by this time I woke up, the nurse was hooking me up to the pain drip with a sweet little Jeopardy-style button to give me a little dose whenever I needed it because I woke up in a lot of pain. It surprised me how quickly the medication helped. I’ve never had a major surgery before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect for pain. My biggest complaint was how thirsty I was and they’d only give me ice chips because they were afraid I’d throw up.
Before surgery, the “pain team” had given me the choice of getting some kind of “pain ball” – this cool fanny pack with a ball of pain-blocking medication that was attached to me through two tiny little catheters in my gut. They do a lot these days to try to curb the pain and reduce the reliance on opioids, and as someone who gets sick from most pain medications, I was especially thankful for that.
After two hours I was finally settled into my room on the eighth floor, which is mostly where they put new moms with their brand new babes. I’d basically had a mini c-section, so I guess it made sense. The bonus was my private room!
The first day in the hospital was pretty awful; I spent most of the day nauseous and unable to eat because of all the pain medication on an empty stomach. Late in the evening after my family had all gone home, the nurse and PCA decided I needed to make an attempt to get out of bed which was an ordeal in itself. You really don’t realize how much you use your abdominal muscles for literally everything until you physically cannot use your abdominal muscles. Nausea + weakness = PCA practically carrying me to the bathroom.
The second day was much better. I started the morning by getting out of bed to use the bathroom and sitting up in the chair in the room, and they detached me from most of the machines that had kept me up all night. By then, my nausea had started to subside so I was able to eat a few meals and get out of bed all on my own. They undressed my incision and said everything looked good and I would probably be able to go home Wednesday!
I finally got a decent night of sleep on Tuesday night, so Wednesday I woke up feeling really good. They finished detaching me from everything and the doctor came by to give me my discharge orders. Two days in and I was going home, right on track!
I’m a week out of surgery now and I feel surprisingly good. I have difficulty getting up out of bed and sometimes off the couch, but the pain has been really manageable. It’s discomfort more than anything, except for first thing in the morning when the pain is at its most extreme. I didn’t know what to expect afterward, but I honestly didn’t expect to feel this good so soon when the doctor said it would be a 4-6 week recovery. My mobility is not great but I am very thankful I’m not laying in bed doped up on pain medicine and that I don’t completely have to rely on everyone else.
Hopefully the healing process continues to go this well! I see my doctor next Tuesday for my follow-up and we’ll see how things go then!