Story Time

So it’s been a while. I didn’t win NaNoWriMo last year. I didn’t get back into posting this month as I had originally planned. I didn’t do a lot of things, but that’s because there’s been some big changes.

I’m on my phone so at this time I’m not going to link to old posts about this stuff, but I may come back and do it when I feel better.

Remember a few years back when they found that adrenal tumor when I had a kidney stone? I was having my annual scans to keep an eye on it, and in June 2017 my endocrinologist called to tell me now I had a tumor in my right lung.

I’ve been seeing an oncologist for that, and for a year and a half he kept telling me it’s not cancer and not to worry about it, we’ll just have an annual look at it for a few years.

In August he said, “oh, has anyone told you about your thyroid?” Direct quote. Uh, no, you’re the one who’s supposed to tell me about it, no one else looks that high in my body. There’s a large cyst on the left and several small ones on the right.

You can probably guess where this is going.

I had my annual follow up with endocrinology, and they scheduled me for a thyroid ultrasound. Then a biopsy because while the right lobe has normal, age-related cysts, the left side has a four centimeter complex cyst that is suspicious. They schedule a fine needle aspiration biopsy.

I got a new primary care doctor last May, and she didn’t like the look of the lung tumor. She referred me to the cancer center at the medical school here. Great place.

I had my first appointment with the pulmonary oncologist in October, and he sent me for a PET scan. Both my lung and thyroid lit up. The oncologist called me and used the word “worrisome.”

I got my thyroid biopsy. Not fun, but in hindsight, a walk in the park. I waited for results.

A pulmonologist called me to discuss scheduling a bronchoscopy to biopsy the lung tumor.

My thyroid biopsy came back inconclusive; they decided to do further testing on the samples.

My bronchoscopy went perfectly well. I was hoarse off and on for a few days but barely had a sore throat. I could, however, feel the spot deep inside my chest where they had poked and poked, trying to get a piece of tumor. That was pretty weird.

The pulmonologist was not entirely confident that they had gotten a representative enough sample, especially considering the tumor was between bronchial branches, not really near either.

My thyroid biopsy came back fine.

The pulmonologist let me know that the Tumor Board was going to discuss my case sooner than expected. I am still tickled pink at the title “Tumor Board.” Anyway, there’s a lot of big shot doctors on this board, and they unanimously agreed that lung tumor needs to come out.

Fortunately, Ian and I had already discussed this amongst ourselves and come to the same conclusion. If they were going to try a surgical biopsy, we were going to ask that they just take the thing out if possible.

We met the cardiothoracic surgeon on December 21. We thought I was going to get a biopsy or wedge resection. He wanted to do a lobectomy. This was when it started getting scarier by the minute.

A surgical biopsy or resection can usually be done with cameras and small incisions. On me, a lobectomy would have to be done by thoracotomy: a large incision from my side wrapping beneath my shoulder blade, a stay in ICU before transfer to a regular room, chest tubes, and an epidural catheter for pain management.

We agreed, and he scheduled the surgery right then and there for January 9.

The only people who knew everything that was going on at that point were my sister and my manager. My parents live with us, and we hadn’t told them yet.

On the 22nd, my stepdad drove three hours to pick up my brother and bring him to our house for Christmas. When they got home, my mom was bragging about her weight loss. I announced that I was losing weight next month, however much a right middle lobe weighs. My mom asked why. I said “cancer,” and shrugged. I don’t think any of them believed me yet, not that I blame them.

How would you spring this on your family? Would you?

My brother had a lot of questions later, as our parents were outside smoking or after they went to bed. I didn’t tell him that I hadn’t told him before because I didn’t want him to freak out and not visit.

My brother-in-law and his family came to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, and he made a joke about a tumor. Later, my husband pulled him to the side and told him what’s going on. Oh, the horror and remorse on his face! I had to repeatedly reassure him that I knew it was a joke, I swear it’s okay.

On Christmas my dad called, and I told him. It was his mother who died from lung cancer a few years ago, and he didn’t take the news well. The next day he called again to tell me he was coming to visit from Colorado.

He spent the weekend with us, and it was nice. He told his side of the family about me, and two of my aunts offered to come and stay with us to help me as long as I needed.

By New Year’s Eve, everyone was back in their own corners of the country, and we were counting down the days until surgery.

My last week at work everyone told me good luck and that I would be fine.

And then it was the day before.

And somehow, someone screwed up and rescheduled me for the 10th without letting me know. That is a whole post of its own. It was nice to have an extra day of eating food and being active, though.

We arrived at the hospital at five in the morning. After I registered, transport took me and two other patients and our families to the surgical unit–at least, she tried. We got stuck in the elevator.

Finally security and cops got us out and we went to another elevator bay. This one worked fine.

I got my IV and my markups and my wipedown and all the normal preop stuff, and then I had to kiss Ian goodbye because it was time for my epidural and then straight to surgery.

From talking to women and googling, my epidural pretty much just shared a name with the epidural women in labor get. The anesthesiologists cleaned me and anesthetized a spot between my shoulder blades and then started poking around. Apparently a thoracic epidural is a lot harder to get exact. But they got it, and wished me luck and wheeled me into surgery.

About five hours later I woke up in ICU without my right lower lobe. It turns out the tumor only appeared to be in the middle lobe because it was in the top of the lower lobe, which shifted up and behind the middle lobe when I would lie down for the scans.

I don’t know how long it was after I woke up before I could say anything besides “shoulder” and “pee.” My right shoulder was agony, and I had to pee. They gave me drugs and told me I had a catheter, and I finally got the picture.

I was so happy to see Ian. He has been my rock through all of this, and I love him so much more than I can ever say.

I had surgery Thursday, I was walking Friday, my Foley catheter came out Sunday, my epidural catheter and dual chest tubes came out Monday, and I came home Tuesday.

I do plan to write a day-by-day, and posts about walking and sitting and pain management and all the different tubes and the cafeteria debacle, but I realize that this post is getting waaay out of hand as far as length.

I came home with two kinds of pain pills, and one has already turned into ibuprofen. I am coming along fantastically, and hold out hope that I will be able to return to light duty at work on January 31.

But it isn’t over. The surgeon called on Wednesday and told us that it was leiomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer. The good news is that the margins were all clear, and the lymph nodes he removed were also all clear. The problem is that I have other questionable tumors in my body, and LMS can sometimes lie dormant for years before busting out like the Kool-Aid Man.

I have my surgical follow up next Friday, and they will probably remove the sutures from my chest tubes. My large incision is nearly a foot of nothing but dermabond and tape; my surgeon insisted that the residents closing me up take extra time and care to “make it pretty for the young lady,” with no ugly staple or suture marks. Thank you, Dr White!

The next week I have a follow up with the pulmonary oncologist, and hopefully we can work out a plan for next steps. Do we take out the thyroid and adrenal gland? Do we wait and watch? I say take them all; I have already had the worst, most painful surgery they can throw at me.

I will definitely have to have semi-annual scans whether I have more surgeries or not, but as of right now, it is nearly certain that my lung is already cured. I will most likely not need chemotherapy or radiation.

Last year was hard. The last quarter of last year was the hardest of all, and my primary care doctor and I worked to find a way to ease my depression and anxiety. Just after my bronchoscopy I started taking Buspar for anxiety. I planned to continue until surgery because it did help the anxiety some, even though it caused crazy vivid dreams when it wasn’t causing insomnia. The side effects were my reason for asking to try something else after surgery. At least, that was my plan.

Now I’m home from surgery and still taking the Buspar because it’s different. I’m different. It sounds so cheesy and laughable, but I feel like I have a new lease on life. I feel like I dodged a bullet, and it is one hundred percent attributable to my primary care doctor. I saw her yesterday, and thanked her.

So I keep taking Buspar, and I’m less anxious. I’m less depressed. It’s like they took part of the depression when they took that chunk of lung. I feel grateful, and I want to laugh at myself for becoming one of those born-again cancer survivors.

I am amazed at how I can look back at my life and see the good that came from bad things. I feel better. I have a wonderful husband. I’ve regained a friendship with someone I’ve known for over 25 years but grown apart from. I have blogger friends who have become pillars in my support system.

I am lucky. And I’m glad. Thank you.


DAY 2

Y’all. I have changed so much since I last posted. I’m missing something that I’ve always had before.

Two days ago my gallbladder was removed.

It all started a few weeks ago, when I would get brief twinges of super mild pain in my right upper abdomen. I didn’t worry about it; I figured it was my gallbladder, and I already had an appointment with my family doctor scheduled for October 5.

On September 29, it started hurting again. I went to work, but it kept getting worse. about two hours into my shift, I told my manager I had to go to the hospital. He was very understanding, having had his own gallbladder out last year.

My husband picked me up and brought me in, where the triage nurse completely mangled my explanation of my complaint. When I got into a room, we got that straightened out, and I got an IV, some pain meds, an ultrasound, and a CT scan. And the first of five urine pregnancy tests.

That doc told me that everything was within normal range, even though Ian watched my ultrasound and saw how large and round my gallbladder was. The doc was also a little uneasy to tell me about the lung nodule on my CT–and I just realized I haven’t told y’all about that. It’s fine right now, tell you more later.

So he prescribed tramadol and sent me home with a referral to a GI doctor for a HIDA scan to check on my gallbladder’s functionality. Okay, cool.

Saturday before yesterday I did my bestie’s daughter’s makeup for her first Homecoming dance. Y’all, she was gorgeous! And such a pretty dress, and glitter hairspray because she likes to sparkle as much as I do. I was feeling much better from the night before, but not good in any way.

Sunday morning, October 1, we went back to the hospital. This time I got a CT scan with IV contrast (and a second UPT) and learned that I’m now allergic. Got a nice rash exactly matching the one I had a few months back and realized that was the same week of my abdominal CT with contrast. Good times.

This doc sent me home with percocet and reiterated to followup with the GI doc. Okay, cool, we can call him tomorrow.

Guess what. The doctor I was referred to doesn’t take my insurance, so my husband called the other clinic he heads that does accept it, and an ER referral was not good enough. So he called our family doc and explained everything and they said they’d send a referral over. He called the GI clinic back and talked to someone who said sure, fax over the paperwork you got from the ER. She said she’d work on it but a doctor has to approve it before she can schedule an appointment, and they’d probably want an assessment before they considering doing the scan. Awesome, right?

I got worse again, and we ended up going to the ER at the same hospital as the second clinic on the recommendation of the GI nurse because then they could just called the GI doc on call over to have a look at me.

Thirteen hours later, I left still in pain, without seeing a GI doc or having any imaging done. I did get another urine pregnancy test, though. The ER doc put in a stat referral for me and said to call the next day.

This past Thursday morning, we were still waiting on approval. We went to our scheduled family doctor appointment and told the new nurse practitioner what was going on. She was super nice, and put in another referral for me, along with a neurology referral for my migraines.

And a rheumatology referral for my positive ANA test that no one had told me about. That means I may have lupus. And no one told me or tested me further. Thanks guys. At least you verified that I’m not pregnant for the fourth time this week.

Anyway, still no approval on the referral. I was feeling well enough to go to work, but I warned my boss I was not at 100%. I went home four hours in after getting worse.

Last Friday I woke up early and in more pain than ever before. I took a percocet and then another an hour later. It didn’t help at all, so when my husband woke up, we got ready to go back to the hospital again.

He called the GI clinic to check, and guess what! I finally got an appointment for next Friday. He told the girl that I was in a lot of pain and we were going back to the ER right then, so was there any way I could get a sooner appointment, and she rescheduled for Tuesday at 230.

Finally.

This time the triage nurse did not take me seriously at all. She told me to hold still and sit back and relax because she needed an accurate blood pressure reading. Yeah, screw her a lot.

This doc gave me some pain meds that didn’t help at all, and that’s when I figured I was in trouble. I had a fifth and final UPT, and this time my bloodwork finally came back with an elevated white count, indicating infection. We found this out when my second nurse came in with a bag of antibiotics and confused the heck out of us, because the no one had said anything. She only beat the doctor in by a couple minutes.

He said he’d called the surgeon to have a look at my ultrasound from a week ago, and I’d be staying at least one night, and maybe have my gallbladder out in the morning. Okay, cool.

I’d never had “real” surgery with cutting and everything before, so I was starting to freak out, even though my husband and my mom and most of my friends have had their gallbladders out and had all been reassuring me that it’s the absolute easiest thing and I”d be back to myself in no time.

The surgeon came in to talk to us and said “I’ve got one more ahead of you, then we’ll get you upstairs and get that gallbladder out. I’ve already done three gallbladders today so I’m warmed up, you’ll go home tomorrow.”

Wow.

I signed the consent.

The anesthesiologist came in and went over his paperwork, and I signed his consent.

I got an EKG in the midst of a flock of nurses getting everything ready for my transfer upstairs. I got naked and removed all of my jewelry, which someone then had to catalog, even though it wasn’t leaving my husband’s custody.

Y’all, they put me in a size 10X gown. It was like I was wearing a sheet.

They took me upstairs and put me in the holding area and gave me some pre-op Versed and Pepcid. I was a little bit stoned at that point, and insisted on taking the blame for the broken chair so that the nice nurse Sara wouldn’t get in trouble. Apparently she was listening to me argue about it with my husband and thought it was hysterical. The chair was broken when we got there. I didn’t even get near it.

The scope ahead of me turned into another gallbladder removal, so I waited a bit longer than expected, but I finally woke up in the recovery room, just me and two nurses since I was the last surgery of the day. I started crying as soon as I woke up because I still hurt so bad, and they gave me more pain meds and put me on oxygen because I’d had so many opioids that day. Eventually it got a little better and I was finally able to go up to my room and see my husband.

He put my wedding ring back on and told me not to worry about my earrings until I could put them back in myself. I reluctantly agreed because I was worried about them closing since I’d had to wait so long to go into surgery after taking them out. But really, I knew it wasn’t a big deal.

Everyone had told me that I would feel so much better when I woke up, but I didn’t. I still had the same gallbladder pain until I threw up some of the sludge that had been collecting in my guts for the past who knows how long. I immediately felt better, but that sludge was the absolute grossest thing to ever come out of my body. Google it. That stuff came out of my mouth.

Since I was finally doing a little better, my husband agreed to go get a bite to eat and pick up some things from the house. He’d already called my boss and his boss and my parents.

While he was gone, I dug the specimen cup with my earrings from my personal belongings bag and painstakingly replaced them, one by one. The only one I didn’t have a problem with was my freshest piercing. Go figure.

And then I started feeling bad again. Ian showed back up and I was so happy to see him, even though I was puking as he walked in the door. It was more sludge, and this time, getting rid of it didn’t help me feel any better. I called the nurse, but it was too soon for any more nausea medicine, and I had to wait another hour for a percocet. I didn’t think the percocet would help since I’d had two that morning and no relief, but it was a straw to grasp, so I stuck it out.

A few minutes after I finally got a percocet, I vomited for the last time. Including that long-awaited percocet. It was still too early for zofran, but the nurse talked to my doctor and got me some phenergan, which knocked me right out. I startled back awake every time Ian moved in his chair next to me, so he eventually decided that it was time for him to go home. He said it was about an hour after I got the phenergan, but seemed like five minutes to me. I only remember waking up twice before he left.

I am very glad he agreed to go home and not stay the night with me, as much as both of us would have liked him to stay. We both knew how bad his back would hurt the next day if he slept in a chair, and he’d already spent so much time in uncomfortable waiting rooms that day.

My nurse woke me up a few times to check my vitals and once to give me meds. I was so much better from the excruciating pain I’d been having right before I went to sleep. I remember she said it was probably from the local anesthetic he’d put inside wearing off that was causing me to hurt so badly.

When she woke me at five to check my vitals I had to poop, but I knew better than to try just yet. I had some serious tummy cramps, but my abs just had some more serious holes punched in them. I finally did poop, and that’s what I was doing when my husband came back. Sorry fam.

Yesterday morning I was off the clear liquid diet that I didn’t really get since I got to my room too late for dinner anyway, even if I’d wanted to eat. I didn’t.

The day nurse let me have the strawberry jello from my clear liquid breakfast while I waited for my real breakfast. I had scrambled eggs and two slices of bacon and some dry rice chex. It took me about twenty minutes to eat, and I gave Ian my biscuit.

He brought me a KitKat. It was delicious. He told me he rode partway up in the elevator with my doctor, who said as long as I’d stopped throwing up I could probably go home. Ian told him that I’d already texted him that I hadn’t puked any more. Unfortunately, I was on the fourth floor, and the surgeon was just starting his third floor rounds.

But it wasn’t too long before he came in and said okay, you’re good to go. Don’t worry about a followup unless something goes wrong. I don’t have any stitches or staples to remove because he used Dermabond on my incisions.

On the way home we got me an iced coffee with no sugar and some McDonald’s fries which turned out to be disappointingly old and hard, which was probably for the best anyway since I don’t have a gallbladder to help digest fats anymore.

I took the best nap of my life while Ian went to the store, and when I woke up to my get-ready-for-work alarm at 430 I felt a million times better.

Today I feel better still, and I’m looking forward to not hurting anymore.

And btdubs, in case anyone forgets to tell you if you have to have your gallbladder out, you will probably have diarrhea for a while. But that’s better than the pain.


The Impermanence of Memory

I look around the circle of faces, but no one in the group was remotely familiar to me. The doctors tried to shove it all under the rug of amnesia after my accident, but somehow, I know better. This is more than just a bump on my head. A lot more.

And they won’t listen. Such gloriously educated and highly respected medical professionals, and they just won’t listen to me. Because I’m nobody.

I’m nobody, who are you? Are you nobody too?

Every now and then a whisper rings true, a faint tickle on my temporal lobe. It’s like the prophetic dark clouds hovering over me, eagerly awaiting the right moment to release their rain droplets. And then it’s gone, like nothing ever happened. Like the only things I’ve ever known are the things that I can remember now.

These precious few.

img_0619Sometimes when I close my eyes there’s a shack in the woods. I don’t know if I lived there or not, if I built it or not, if it’s real or not. Sometimes when I close my eyes it’s all darkness, and I have to open them again and turn on all the lights or else I’ll scream and scream and scream.

Silence. I forgot that I was in group therapy right now. They must be waiting for me to talk. I hate it when it’s my turn. I don’t have anything to say. I don’t remember if we’re still doing introductions. Did I already say my name today? Not that it matters anyway, not in a group for a bunch of people with brain damage.

I stand up.

“Kristy Patterson, 26, car accident.”

I sit down.

They’re still looking at me. We must be past the introductions and on to some topic or other.

“I don’t remember what we’re talking about.”

This is the only place I can say that and nobody makes me think about why I don’t remember. Nobody wants to know what I was doing with the few brain cells that still work instead of paying attention to whatever it is I’m supposed to be paying attention to. It’s the little things that comfort me. The few secrets I have left.

I guard them with my life.

Somebody’s talking, trying to catch me up on the conversation, but I’ve already tuned them out again, closed my eyes to explore the cabin. It’s there this time, not the darkness. I open the door and enter.

It’s like I’ve stepped onto a movie set. Bearskin rug in front of a roaring fire in the stone fireplace. Ancient plaid couch covered in handmade quilts. The smell of hot cocoa creeps softly into my nostrils, and I inhale deeply. I’m home.

Someone’s shaking me. I open my eyes to a stranger’s hand on my shoulder. I brush it off forcefully, and he stumbles back a bit, not expecting me to react as I have. What kind of a person just touches somebody else and shakes them when they’re obviously busy?

I stand up and make a fist. He starts to say something to me, so I punch him in the face. Serves him right, touching my shoulder without considering how I might react. I could be missing the part of my brain that’s in charge of impulse control.

It was a good hit, if I do say so myself. He staggers back a step and reaches up to wipe the blood from his mouth where I’ve split his lip on his row of straight white teeth. I don’t need teeth like that telling me what to do.

I sit down and close my eyes again. Just for a second, just to finish exploring the living room of that little house on the prairie. In the woods. But the door’s locked this time, so I open my eyes again.

I should know better by now. I really should. Every time, it’s the same damn thing. I do remember things since I woke up here just like everyone else does, you know. And here they are, just like every other time I hit somebody.

Two techs, a man and a woman, rush in the group room, the man holding a syringe. It feels like only seconds have passed since I punched that jerk in the mouth, but his shirt is a bloody Rorschach now. I could have sworn that he wasn’t bleeding badly enough for that. Maybe this time someone will press charges and I’ll finally have my ticket out of the hospital and into the world, even if it is jail.

But no dice. I pull my shirtsleeve up for the syringe and follow the woman to the same room I always go to. The man follows me, but they should know by now that I’m not going anywhere I’m not supposed to go.

I just wish people wouldn’t touch me. If he hadn’t touched me, his shirt would still be just fine and dandy. Swear.

I curl up on my side in my bed and pull the blanket up as the world begins to slow down and the colors begin to swirl together.

When I close my eyes, it’s the screaming darkness, but I’m too drugged to escape it.

The scream echoes in my head forever, and I can’t wake myself up.

 


Recovering


There’s a bar across the street from my hospital called The Recovery Room. I wonder how long it took the owner to come up with that. 

In other news, poor little Stanley was neutered today, but he’s doing well. He mostly understands not to jump. I’m sure he’ll be back to his rug-battling ways in no time. 


Stent Removal and Lithotripsy Procedure

Tuesday my alarm went off at 545 for us to get up and take me to the hospital for surgery. I had to be there by 630. We probably could have slept a few more minutes; I had at least ten minutes to spare when we arrived.

I was finishing up at registration when Ian made it in and upstairs. I stupidly decided to use the restroom before we went upstairs. I should have known that I would have to pee in a cup, but it was really early and walking with a stent equals have to go potty. We took the elevator up to the day surgery floor, and I followed the clerk’s instructions of left and left and sign in at the podium. Thank goodness she explained that to me, or I would never have noticed the small music stand ‘podium’ in the hallway with the raggedy binder atop.

We only sat in waiting for a few minutes before the grumpiest nurse of the day called my name and the names of the two ladies behind me. She sent them into an office and had me follow her down the hall. When she asked if I’d like a large gown and I replied with a questioning yes? she unhappily detoured to a small linen area where she grabbed a gown. We got to my room and she put the gown on the tray table at the foot of the bed, handed me two packs of chlorhexidine wipes and a urine cup and told me to take all of my clothes off, clean myself all over, put my gown on, and put the cup on the table after I filled it. Then she picked the gown back up and left.

I laughed with Ian about her taking the gown she’d just gotten out, but whatevs, there was another on the bed. I took it and the cup into the bathroom with me where I wiped my body down with the disgustingly warm wipes. They must keep them in a warmer, but it did not make the wiping any more pleasant. I felt so sticky and gross after. I know, blah blah protocol, but I wasn’t there to have any new openings made in my body. Wouldn’t a clean catch kit have been enough? Ugh. Seriously gross.

Ian put my clothes and shoes in my little plastic bag and I hopped into bed after putting my cup in the designated area. Then another nurse came in to take a quick history–like there was any change in the four days it had been since I’d been there. I know, I know. She was nice, though. Got my pee, verified my identity and armbanded me, made sure I hadn’t eaten or drunk since before midnight. Then she left.

The other two beds filled up with their occupants, and we were in fact lucky enough to not get someone as drama queen-ish as my best friend’s roommate when she had her tubes tied. That woman had a toe amputated, and I’m sorry, fresh out of recovery, you are not in that much pain. She was mostly screaming about the psychological adjustment to having nine toes.

The urology resident came in and introduced himself and gave the first of many surgery length estimates that day: two to three hours. That was a little disappointing, as I’d been told in clinic half an hour to an hour, but what can you do? He verified that my stent and stone were in my right ureter and asked me to pull up my gown so he could mark me. Great idea! He also verified that I hadn’t eaten or drunk lately and told me that they would try not to put another stent in unless it was absolutely necessary.

img_0966

My mark is fading but still quite visible.

The nice nurse came back and started my IV. She was not good at this. She chose an odd vein and missed it at first, so she had to wiggle the needle around in my hand. We can’t all hit a vein the first try, I know, but we can at least choose the largest, most visible one, can’t we? The bruising is not as bad as I expected, but my hand is still a little sore. She taped it down and went to fetch a cap because she hadn’t brought one in.

Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Nearly two hours went by before transport came to take me to the holding area before surgery. Ian was allowed in there with me, but then I wouldn’t see him again until I left the recovery room. The tech pushing me was very friendly; probably the nicest person I’d met so far. He dropped me off in holding and wished me luck.

In holding I met two nurses, one who was training, apparently, because the more experienced nurse was watching the computer screen over her shoulder to make sure she got her t’s crossed and i’s dotted. Apparently there had been a meeting that morning, and I now had to sign a new surgical consent with one extra sentence. But not just anyone could hand it to me, we had to wait for someone from urology to come over and explain it to me all over again. Urology is at least a quarter mile from where I was, so we waited. I also got my second time estimate: an hour.

I met my anesthesiologist, who was the nicest person of the day. He asked to look inside my mouth, as did another doctor who I only saw that one time. He hooked my IV to a mystery bag that I couldn’t see because it was behind my head. I told him I hadn’t had general anesthesia since I was ten, and that I’d gotten sick after, so he gave me some Zofran. I signed a consent for a medical student to hang out and watch.

I finally got to sign my new surgical consent, and the anesthesiologist gave me some IV sedation. Then it was time to go. I squeezed Ian’s hand and said goodbye and that I’d see him soon.

When I got in the OR I transferred to the operating table and scooted around until everyone was happy with my position. The anesthesiologist asked me to hold a mask on my face while he started some things in my IV, and then he took back over holding the mask. That’s the last I remember. No counting backwards from 100 or anything, although I may have done that and just don’t remember.

I came to in the recovery room, where I had the second grumpiest nurse of the day. She was also not very informed about what I’d had done. Not very informed at all. When I was finally myself enough to talk, I asked her if they’d put another stent in. She didn’t know, but she didn’t think so.

I had a coughing fit, and overheard another nurse talking about bronchial spasms. Well, yeah. I have bronchitis. I had to tell my nurse that I was coughing so hard I peed, so she slid a pad under me. Then I just coughed my little heart out without a care in the world. Except I really missed Ian.

My monitor kept beeping because my oxygen saturation was dropping below 90%, and grumpy nurse would tell me to take deep breaths when she was in attendance. After the second or third time, I was awake enough to keep an eye on my monitor and try to preemptively breathe deeper. I was not very good at this. Grumpy nurse kept pulling the sleeve of my gown up every time she walked by, but with every coughing fit, it would slip back down. I didn’t care. I was just happy to have a cup of ice to crunch in between coughing, to try to wet my poor mouth back to some semblance of normalcy. I longed for chapstick.

Finally she told me I would be going back to my room in a few more minutes. Another nurse came to help unhook all of my cables, and she complimented me on my tattoos. She even grabbed another nurse to come see them. I was tickled.

Grumpy nurse pushed my bed out of recovery and down the hall. I’ll give her this: she was grumpy, but she did warn me of every bump in the floor on the way to my room. I saw Ian pop his head up when we came out of the double doors to the surgery wing, and I was very relieved to see him. He said he’d talked to the urologist and the anesthesiologist, and while the surgery took only twenty minutes, they’d given me too much anesthesia so it took me about an hour longer than they expected to wake up.

I got back to my room and tried to ask again how things went. Grumpy nurse told me that she thought they just left the stent in. I’m not sure if she thought she was reassuring me or what, but thankfully Ian jumped in and said that he’d talked to the urologist and I did not have a stent. He told me later that he’d seen the look of terror on my face.

My last nurse came in and told me that all I had to do was pee and we could go. Her name is also April, so hers is the only name I remember. She brought me a can of Coke and a cup of ice. It tasted horrible, extra syrupy and sweet, but I was so parched and dry. I stayed in bed a few minutes before asking Ian to help me get to the bathroom to pee and dress in my own clothes. He reached to untie my gown and was surprised that I was in a different one–my first one only had top ties, and this one had a broken top tie. I just slipped it off like a tshirt.

I’d told Ian that I was sitting on a pad because I was coughing so much I peed myself, but I don’t think he understood the volume of this pee. I got up to go to the bathroom, and we could see that it was a lot. I’d wondered earlier if they were going to suction out the water that they pumped in my bladder with the cystoscope, and I’m reasonably certain that answer was a resounding no.

I peed and got dressed, and Ian went to tell my nurse. She told Ian to go ahead and get the car, and then she brought my discharge paperwork for me to sign and took out my IV. Then I just sat in my wheelchair waiting for transport to bring me downstairs.

I was so happy when we got outside and I got in the car. So happy. But dying of thirst. I asked Ian to stop at for a bottle of water for me, so he did, a block from the hospital. I tried telling Ian some of what happened in recovery, but it was hard talking, so on the way home I mostly listened to him tell me about what the doctors had said as they left surgery.

The urologist said it was probably the easiest and fastest procedure he’d ever done. My stone was hard enough that the laser didn’t nick my ureter, but soft enough that it split right apart into good sized pieces that they easily scooped out of my bladder for testing. My body was rejecting the stent, so it hadn’t grown into my skin at all and was actually lower than it should have been. This was good, because there was no blood from having to pull the stent out of my skin.

But the anesthesiologist was very apologetic. He’d dosed me by weight since I hadn’t been under since I was a kid, and that was a mistake. I have a low tolerance for medication, so by weight was way too much. But at least that’s in my chart now, so if I have any other surgeries, they’ll know.

We got home and I walked up the ramp to go inside. I was glad that I hadn’t thrown up at all that I know of, but I was starting to feel a little nauseated, so I took a Zofran and tried to eat my leftover fried rice. It tasted horrible, which google says is a side effect of anesthesia. I put it back in the fridge and tried to eat some goldfish. They were also unpleasant. We watched some episodes of Bob’s Burgers and then went to take a nap.

I had a headache that was getting worse and worse. I tried to use an ice pack, my usual headache remedy, but it only helped the spot it was touching when it was touching. When I moved it to soothe another area, it immediately started hurting where I removed it from. I lay there and it just got worse and worse. Top three worst headaches I’ve ever had. It was horrible. So hopefully if I have to have anesthesia again, it won’t be so bad because I won’t get as much.

I tried Excedrin Migraine, I tried 10 mg Norco, but nothing really helped, and noise only made it worse. so I asked Ian to bring me some cotton balls and put them in my ears. That was the most helpful thing I tried. So I walked around with those the rest of the day.

We both wanted burgers for dinner, and Ian found a new restaurant, grub, and when he was looking at their menu and read Rice Krispy Treat milkshake, I was sold.

Unfortunately, they no longer have the Rice Krispy Treat milkshake, but I got a Kitchen Sink milkshake (pretzels, peanut butter, salt, butterscotch sauce, caramel sauce,chocolate chips, coffee grounds, and potato chips), which was awesome and gone by the time we got home. I had a Voodoo Mushroom Burger, also very good. I’m not sure which one Ian had, but it had an amazing garlic mayo on it. He didn’t like the mayo, but I put it on my burger. I’m a sucker for garlic. And we got my mom the You’re My Boy Blue (obvs bleu cheese burger), which was my second choice, but I was glad I went with the mushroom burger. Looking up their site to link tonight, I see they have a gladiator burger for Memorial Day. We may have to check that out. It’s a snooty rich people burger bar, but damn, good stuff, y’all.

But the best part of the whole ordeal was when I went to the bathroom when we got home. I’ve been dealing with pain for so long that I forgot that it’s not supposed to hurt when you pee. It’s not supposed to hurt at all. And it doesn’t. Appreciate the pee, guys. Appreciate the pee.

Now to just get my strength back. I put flea medicine on the two easy cats this morning, and it got me out of breath.


Hospital Training

Obviously, Ms. Rose had me in mind when she came up with this prompt: Training Day.

I’m actually in the midst of training for my census job as we speak. My laptop came in today, so I set it up and set all my passwords and did a few pre-classroom lessons. I have a few left, but I still have ten days to go, so no real rush.

But training–I have so many tales to tell. I’ve had plenty of jobs, especially when I was living with my parents in a small town with not much real job opportunity. And then second and third jobs when I got out on my own.

I’ve been trained, and I’ve trained my share of newbies.

I was thinking about a certain training session the other day, when we went to spring a friend from the hospital.

My first real job was as a patient registration clerk in the small town hospital next door to my mom’s office. I spent a few months in the business office side before transferring to the ER, which was so much more fun. I worked graveyards, twelve hour shifts, seven days on and seven days off, which was the absolute best schedule I’ve ever had. I lived with my parents so I didn’t have any bills, and the internet was still new and exciting, so I spent many of my seven offs traveling to meet mIRC friends or coming back here to visit my real life friends.

Since it was a small town, graveyards were both slower and more exciting than day shifts, and they were the training shift as well. I’m Facebook friends with two of the girls I trained; they’re both nurses now.

I remember one slow night, training one of them. The computer program we used was pretty simple, as they tend to be. I would sit and roleplay the patient as she registered me, over and over.

Name, date of birth, social security number, address. Insurance. Chief complaint. I’d whizzed through the pages so many times before I’d just gaze blankly at the television in the waiting room, chanting the enters and tabs and shifts.

If they still had the same system, I’m sure I could hop right in the rolly chair and register as if sixteen years hadn’t passed.

We had good times there. Sometimes we’d sit, watching the entrance, diagnosing people as they made it up the sidewalk and through the doors. Fell off his bike. Cut her hand on a broken glass washing dishes. Kidney stones. Vomiting and diarrhea.

It was those three years in the ER that had me immediately know what I was suffering from the first time I had kidney stones, when I was 22. And the radiological tests to diagnose it, and the pain medication to treat it. Too bad the doctor didn’t listen to me.

And then there were the not-so-fun times, like registering the two preteen girls who drank bleach in a suicide pact. Helping restrain a patient who needed her stomach pumped after an overdose. Ducking and dodging frantic nurses and EMTs to put an armband on a patient who was dying in spite of their efforts–identification is crucial for patients who don’t make it.

I know it’s crazy there right now. Pneumonia runs rampant through the elderly population this time of year. We used to get so backed up on charts in January that any and all downtime was spent sorting them out.

I do miss it. It was a fun job. And training the new people was so easy.