(Writing from March 24, 2011.)
I woke to the sound of a soothing female voice saying, “Hi Tawni! You’re awake and in post-surgical recovery, and you’re doing great.”
I couldn’t open my eyes. The lights were unbearably bright. I knew it wasn’t heaven, because it was so ridiculously loud. The sounds of machines beeping, conversations in the room around me, and the clanking and shuffling of surgical necessities assaulted my eardrums. Through my squinting, I could make out the form of a petite, softly rounded woman standing in front of the surface of the sun.
“I can’t keep my eyes open. It’s too bright,” I told her. She assured me this was normal.
I started shaking uncontrollably. I wasn’t afraid, so it felt like the involuntary shivering of the very cold.
“I’m going to give you some Demerol now that should make the shivering stop.” It worked immediately. “We’re going to move you to your own room now,” she said.
A large, friendly man introduced himself, and I tried to look at him. It was getting easier to see, and as we smiled at each other my eyes cracked halfway open.
He wheeled me down the halls to my room while I giggled. I was warned that I might come out of anesthesia feeling disoriented and confused, that I might even cry, but all I felt was relief. I had survived the surgery! I had woken up after anesthesia, and the surgery I’d dreaded for the last two weeks (since we scheduled it) was finally over. Hallelujah!
For me, the anticipation of pain is always worse than the actual pain itself, be it emotional, dental, or medical. One of the ways I mentally comfort myself in the middle of the nasty parts has always been to imagine life fast-forwarded to the point of after. Just think how good you will feel when this is all over, I will tell myself, This pain is only temporary. It always helps.
The nice fellow wheeling me to my room seemed surprised by my cheerful mood, and acted a bit uncomfortable with my odd behavior. I’ve always been a lightweight about drugs, and morphine was no exception. I was ready to party. He pushed my hospital bed down the length of the hallway on the women’s floor, past the window of new babies I would never take home, and stopped outside room 240.
“I still need to mop the floor!” barked a woman wheeling a bright yellow bucket of water, “It’s not ready yet!”
“That’s okay. We can wait,” I told her, laughing, while my escort gave me a weird look. A nurse came quickly walking down the hall from the central work station, where computer monitors and medical professionals huddled near coffee and bagels.
The approaching nurse said to the orderly, “Room 204 is clean; you can put her there,” and down the hall we moved, past the glass and the babies, to the opposite side of the building. I exclaimed, “Weeeeeeee!” as we rolled, garnering two strange looks from my cruise directors.
Deposited in room 204, I waited for my husband to arrive as a nurse hooked up my morphine drip to a little hand-held button I could push as often as I needed. It was like I was on Jeopardy! and the answer was “What is IV relief from pain that makes you feel like you’re floating?” Good stuff.
My husband and his parents, who had waited with him during my surgery, came into my room. Apparently it took a long time to rouse me from anesthesia post-surgery, because they mentioned they had been waiting a long time. The surgery was at 8:30 am, the doctor told them I did great around 9:30 am, and it was now 12:30 pm.
They reported that once inside me, the doctor discovered that my uterus was not only twice the normal size, it had adhered to my abdominal wall, probably after my C-section 5 years ago. Normally, when this happens, the adhesion is one quarter of an inch thick, but mine had thickened to over an inch. It involved abdominal nerves and pulled the intestine out of place, causing my nausea, stomach pain, and constipation to worsen as it progressed.
Before the surgery, I could no longer eat, and had been reduced to nibbling fruit and not much else every day. I’d lost 12 pounds in the last few weeks. Immediately after surgery, even though anesthesia is known for making people feel nauseated, I already felt amazing relief. It was the first time in forever I’d not felt like I might throw up. I was elated, and continue to be every day.
With the end of my debilitating nausea behind me for perspective, it’s going to be a very long time before I’m in a bad mood again. All problems seem so petty when you don’t have your health. When you’ve been in pain and puke purgatory for more than a year, and people complain about little things like rain, you really want to tell them to stop it. Let’s just say that I’m a bit more particular and stingy with my sympathetic comments on Facebook now. If you or your family member is sick, you have my heartfelt condolences. But if you’re whining about traffic, shut up and remember that you’re lucky to be healthy enough to drive, you whiner.
I am so grateful to be feeling better. I’m probably going to be obnoxiously Pollyanna about it for a while, but I don’t care. I went into surgery knowing I was lucky to be able to have surgery and options for better health, health care, a supportive husband, and family to help me. There are so many people dealing with natural disasters like earthquakes who would love to be merely having surgery right now. I am blessed to be alive, and I know it.
The doctor had to cut my uterus off the abdominal wall, making my surgery more serious than a typical abdominal hysterectomy. My left ovary was multi-cystic, with a ping pong ball-sized cyst, so he removed that, plus the left fallopian tube was covered with small cysts, and he took that too. He also removed my cervix, which had small cysts. On the bright side, this all means I have no chance for cervical or uterine cancer, and only half the chance of ovarian. And my labs all came back clean for cancer as well. My cysts were full of liquid, not cancer. Yay!
I can also eat again! Food sounds good again! I can’t believe it! I can’t even remember the last time I could eat anything before 1 pm every day, and now I can eat breakfast like a normal person again. I am still in the amazed phase of disbelief. Because I felt like I had a stomach flu that never went away, I had stopped being able to drink coffee, and I can have a cup again in the mornings. And I have been eating healthy oatmeal and yogurt and fruit for breakfast, all unthinkable before the surgery. It feels like a miracle. It is a miracle. I’m so happy.
After my husband’s parents left for the afternoon to take care of our son, a nurse wheeled a baby into my room. “I brought you your baby!” she chirped happily. We told her already had our baby at home, and that I had only given birth to a uterus, and she got confused. I told her they’d wanted to put me in room 240, but had moved me last minute to room 204 because it was clean, and she figured it out. It looked like a very cute baby, but no thanks. I’ve already done the “trying to breastfeed an infant every hour with a 7 inch incision on my abdomen” thing once in this lifetime.
I was determined to get up out of bed and start peeing on my own again and walking as soon as possible. I wanted to get home to my son so his life could be closer to normal. We are closely bonded, and I knew that his momma being gone at the hospital was probably rocking his little world in a bad way.
The day after surgery, the nurse took out my catheter and took me off the morphine drip. She had to leave the IV of Doom in the middle of my arm because it took two people and two painful botched attempts to place the IV in both of my hands before they finally got one into my arm. I have tiny, stupid veins. I think wanting to get the IV of Doom out of my arm really motivated me to work towards an early hospital release.
I was up and walking, peeing on my own, and passing gas (anesthesia shuts down your gastrointestinal system… they won’t let you leave until you fart) like a champ by that afternoon. My doctor came to see me and said, “Wow. You look better than any of the patients I’ve visited today, and you had the worst surgery!” The freakishly competitive part of me basked in his praise like an eager puppy. I was going to be the best at recovering from surgery! I was going to WIN. Haha.
Thursday was the day after my surgery. I asked if I could go home by Friday, and he said, “Well, normally I’d keep you until Saturday after your type of surgery, but we’ll see. You’re looking much better than I expected.”
I was released early Friday morning. Ever watched the show Friends? You know Monica, the character with the obsessive-compulsive cleaning streak and brutal competitiveness? That’s me. The stubborn, iron will that makes me annoying to live with makes me very determined in positive ways, too.
My husband took great care of me over the weekend, and I got my staples removed by a nurse on Monday. Then my dear, sweet momma flew in from Arizona to take care of me for a week so my husband could get back to work. She was so amazingly helpful, and because I was feeling so much better than any of us expected, we were able to have a really nice visit.
She made me too much delicious food, as is her way, and I think I probably gained back 5 pounds in a week. I don’t care. It was so nice to see my momma, and I got spoiled. The day she left, I stood in the kitchen and whined to my husband, “I already miss my mom!” She helped so much by allowing me to really rest for a week, as she cooked food for everyone, and played with my 5-year-old son. She also drove him to and from school, which was wonderful.
When my mom took me to my first doctor check up since the hospital, it was less than 2 weeks after my surgery. He told me that most people come in for a check up at this point wearing a nightgown and slippers, still hurting and feeling awful. I was dressed, wearing make-up, and walking normally. He couldn’t believe it.
Normally, he doesn’t give his patients permission to drive until 6 weeks post-surgery, but when I explained to him that I have been taking only 1 Percoset every 6 hours, instead of the 2 every 4-6 hours allowed, and rotating them with Motrin, he gave me permission to drive my son to and from school, as long as I’m on only Motrin and not Percoset when I drive. This permission eliminates the only problem the surgery created for my family, as my husband can’t miss any more work to drive our son twice a day.
He told me that my healthy diet and the fact that I was in such good shape going into surgery is probably why I’m recovering so much faster than most of his patients. That is always nice to hear from your doctor, isn’t it?
So life is already going back to normal, and my recovery from surgery is progressing beautifully thus far. I am so thankful for all of the prayers and positive thoughts from friends and family, and hope this update finds you all doing well and feeling great. I’m going to post some pictures from my adventures in surgery below, including a picture of Dr. Lisa Masterson from the television show The Doctors, who is the one who performed my C-section 5 years ago that healed so poorly. As I sat in my hospital bed watching her, I thought it was pretty funny. Life is so strange sometimes. 🙂