Yesterday morning I had my surgery. A Philectomy. It was… an experience.
The surgery itself went really well. It took less time than they thought it would. Phil was surprised so he didn’t resist much when it was time for him to be escorted off the premises. I was home a few hours later.
A few things went down that I was not so happy with.
It seems that everywhere I go these days I get paired with the new guy, or the intern, or the trainee. This day I got new surgical nurse Jarod, who was all right I suppose. It’s just, you don’t want the guy who supposedly knows what he’s doing also to be the guy you saw the automated security system reject over and over again until someone inside came out to bail him while you were waiting for someone to call you to your (possible) doom. You don’t want the guy who is taking your vitals and entering your information into the computer not knowing how, or not knowing where the equipment is or how any of it works.
Then there is the waiting and the awesome, esteem-building johnny they make you wear. And it’s freezing.
When the anesthesia team comes in, I was not really in the mood for anything else to go wrong. I should mention that at this point I hadn’t slept at all the night before, I hadn’t been permitted to eat or drink anything after midnight, and so I was completely off my game with exhaustion. I was so thirsty my lips were cracked and bleeding. The anesthesiologists’ assistant came in, and she was nice, told me what she was going to be doing: setting-up IV’s and then monitoring me while I was out, and later helping me wake up. Then the anesthesiologist blasts in, introduces himself, and then leaves. He appears frazzled in a demented mad-scientist sort of way. He has little circular band-aids all over his face where he apparently had shaving difficulties. As you can imagine my confidence was positively BOOMING right about then.
Up until this point I wasn’t so much nervous as tired. I just wanted to get on with it. But then the anesthesiologist’s assistant starts trying to start an I.V. She ruins the only good vein I have left, because she tried to use a too-large needle on my very dehydrated veins. I was so dehydrated that it took at least fifteen minutes for her to start the I.V. in a terribly painful spot on my wrist.
While all of this is going down, the co-surgeon comes by with the surgical nurse for the meet and greet. This is in the midst of the a.a. shredding all the veins in my arms. I was trying to be cool about it, but it was painful and I have had an irrational fear of I.V.’s since I was a child (and apparently that shit does not go away, even after years of blood infusions and transfusions, and hospital stays for Crohn’s problems and dehydration). So I’m trying to talk but am having difficulty making eye contact.
Then the crazed anesthesiologist bursts back into the crowd of now seven people surrounding my bed, just as his assistant gets the I.V. going and injects the first sedative, to tell me – and surgeon No.2 – that he just talked to my doctor and they’ve decided that instead of putting me under they are going to give me a local, a nerve block and put me in ‘twilight sleep’. Then he turns to me and says “all right?” No. Not alright. I try to ask if this means what I think it means – that I will basically be awake while they cut open my foot and separate egg-shaped Phil from the nerves (and vessels) that control movement and feeling in my toes. But now I can’t talk and faces are getting hard to differentiate, and they are doing something to my hair, and the walls start melting and people continue talking to me all at once as they pull the bed away.
And it’s even colder and they shift me onto the surgical table and put a screen across my chest so I can’t see the gore, all the while assuring me that I’ll be asleep and won’t really need it. And then it begins.
The nerve block is basically like an epidural but for my leg, not my spine. They give me more drugs that make me feel like I’m underwater; like the air pressure was just raised from fifteen cubic lbs to one hundred. They start prepping my foot and I can still feel EVERYTHING. The yellow gunk they pour over my foot, the taping, everything. My pulse must have jumped because the a.a. starts rubbing my head and telling me everything is okay. Then I guess they wait for the stuff to really kick in on the leg-numbing front, then begin.
So I am not sure what they thought was supposed to happen or why this would be a better idea than knocking me out. Maybe my insurance changed its’ mind about how it wanted this to go down, whatever. All I know is, I fucking felt everything. It didn’t hurt, but I can feel moving, tugging and cold. I was aware. I heard the surgeons saying “Damn” and muttering to each other. People kept telling me to close my eyes and asking each other why I was still awake. They kept adjusting the medication which just made the drowning feeling worse and made everyone’s words melt together.
What is it with sedatives making reality melt? Or better yet, why is reality so meltable?
At one point something went awesomely wrong with the nerve block and I felt EVERYTHING. And I gasped but it came out garbled and mangled. My blood pressure went crazy and made it all the harder to breathe. There was all this rushing around and this unbelievably awful sound in my ears, and then it was over. It probably lasted a minute or two but for me it was forever.
When it was over they wrapped me up and started bringing me down from all the druggins. The a.a. kept stroking my head and whispering that it would be okay and that I wouldn’t remember any of this later. Yep.
In post op they put me in an empty ward alone with a nurse. I was across from the room where they have refrigerators full of juice and stuff for the patients and staff. So I got to watch interns sneaking beverages which was pretty funny. I was seriously cold and couldn’t get warm. And it turned out not to be in my head, either – they were having trouble bringing my body temperature and pulse rate up. I don’t know what my temperature was, but my pulse monitor would go up to 53 and then drift back down to 39 and all the alarms would sound. That’s why they kept me separated with my own nurse.
Finally they let my family in and then the surgeon came in all happy and self-congratulatory. I still couldn’t properly talk or I’d have strung together more expletives than he’s probably ever heard. I’d say Belg*um so many times I’d be imprisoned for verbal assault. He declares that he’s changed his mind about the crutches, since I’m supposed to be off my feet for three weeks at least anyway. He gave me a big boot to walk in instead and reminded me to always keep it elevated.
They asked me if I was ready to go and I said yes. They asked me if I’d like to pee first and I said yes. They asked me if I’d like a wheel chair and I said not to go pee and they said fine. Then they left me in front of the bathroom and I was on my own. As in, they didn’t come back. I had to walk back to the car without crutches or assistance, drugged, with a numbed, recently dissected leg.
Then, for the piece-de-resistance: when we got home my pharmacy called to inform me that my health insurance rejected my prescribed pain killer and substituted something significantly less effective instead. So right now I am on waaay more than the prescribed dose of something which is having no effect on the pain in my foot (or my head at that matter), but is making it rather hard to read or watch television. This is bad as I have to read two Melvilles by tomorrow night for one class, and Frankenstein by Tuesday for another. (I would have started the Shelley earlier, but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to read it before having surgery.)
I have good reason to believe the insurance company was also responsible for the sudden change in anesthesia and the lack of crutches. I’ll find out more and deal with that later.
I’ve been typing this thing for over three hours, mostly with my eyes closed, so I hope you can follow it.
I hate being on drugs. When it’s too much and I can’t function outside of my head it’s upsetting. When it’s too much and my head is fuzzy and/or my thought are garbled I panic. Right now I’m in the upsetting category. I can’t express myself properly verbally, but if I take my time I can type. It makes me frustrated and I sound like I am snapping at people when I’m not. It also makes it easy for people to misinterpret me, ignore me or do things I can’t stop. So my mind churns on, getting into a nice lather and I start thinking things I can’t properly express. It’s hazardous, and a waste of my energy, time and fabulous grey matter.
Right now am seething because as soon as we came home, my parents, happy with the surgeon’s post-surgical spiel set me up in bed and then jumped on the telephone. They called all the people they had already told, but called a bunch more who weren’t informed. And it was both of them on two phones. I couldn’t stop them. All I had asked was that they not tell anyone they didn’t have to until after the biopsy results. That’s it.
Calling people with ‘good news’ is too early: while I don’t think it’s at all cancerous, we don’t know for sure. I don’t think anyone should have to worry while they wait either. That’s why I’ve only told the people who NEEDED to know, who were close to me and would you know, catch on to the fact that I had been crippled for a month. So now my grandparents know and they are pissed at me that we didn’t inform them. They have SO much bad shit going on over there right now, and if there was an Olympic prize for worrying, my grandmother would be the all time gold medal champion. They’d have to come up with a platinum medal to adequately give her her props. Worrying about my biopsy results is the LAST THING she needs.
Now am angry with my folks for doing this. It’s not just that it’s pre-emptive, and it’s not just that it’s gossipy. It’s because they never listen to me, and they always tell my business, especially my secrets. It’s disrespectful and hurtful, and when I point that out they disagree and continue to do so.
So it’s understandable that I don’t like to tell them anything. Especially since, as giant overgrown children, if you tell either of them that you are upset with them, or that they are doing something to upset you, they immediately become defensive and get angry at you. It’s ridiculous and nothing gets sorted and everyone walks away mad.
Such a healthy environment, don’t you think?
The hospital just called and told me to take all of this other stuff with the prescription painkillers, and now I am SLEEPY.
I’ll leave you this picture of my new guitar. For no reason.