Friday, May 7, 2010

Outpatient Surgery Day

If you’re interested, and for the purpose of demystifying the medical process for those of you who haven’t had to have hospital experiences yet but may (probably will) in the future.... I also like to journal about this stuff in case I want to refer to it in the future...
It’s really long... Sorry : )

-Wake in the dark of night at 5:15am. Remember it’s surgery day and get excited.

-Almost accidentally swallow water after brushing teeth. Remember you’ve been fasting since 12am last night and breathe a sigh of relief that you didn’t accidentally swallow the water. Hope that your surgery is on time so you don’t almost pass out from hunger like you did when you got your port installed.

-Dear saintly mother drives you an hour to the hospital. Dear sweet father wakes up and cleans up the trash can your anxious dog vented her frustration on.

-Arrive at Outpatient Surgery where a really awesome lady checks you in. Have a great conversation with her about her beautiful earrings and ring. Find out that she made these pieces of jewelry herself and loves art.

-Sit and wait for a few minutes and listen to an adult-focused TV behind you on one side of the room and a child-focused TV on the other side of the room. Check out the other surgery patients waiting and wonder what they are there for. Laugh internally about the orange fake tan lady who keeps staring at your tattoos in a semi-hostile manner and note that you’d like to tell her not to be jealous but to go get her own...

-Nice lady receptionist asks you to sign the ubiquitous financial responsibility form. Wonder if your insurance is going to cover it and remind yourself not to be irrational. They’ve taken good care of everything else so far and you don’t need to worry about it. She compliments you on your tattoos and seems genuinely surprised at herself for liking them so much. Secretly delight in knowing that you have just shown one more person that tattoos don’t have to be crass or grotesque.

-A nice lady comes in and calls your name. She takes you back and asks lots of questions about when you last ate, what you’re going to have done today and then takes your vital signs. She gives you a blue shower cap looking hat, a bag for shoes, a bag for jewelry, and a bag for clothes and a (thankfully not pukey green and not falling open in the back) fancy new disposable hospital gown. She leaves and you change clothes.

-Surgeon comes in, makes a funny comment, and writes "YES" in big letters all over your skin next to the surgery spot with a pretty cobalt blue marker. He has to do this while you're still awake to check it.

-A nice nurse comes in and asks lots of questions about when you last ate, what you’re going to have done today, and when you last took any supplements or medications. She shows how to PLUG IN your fancy hospital gown to an air hose and hands you a remote control so you can warm up or air condition your gown to your liking. She makes it too warm and you have a hot flash. You turn it off but are entertained and play with it later when you’re freezing cold. It is really helpful and you stop laughing at it...

-She accesses your POWERPORT and talks about medical history stuff. She turns out to be really nice with a dry sense of humor.

-Dear sweet mother joins you and you both laugh about the fancy gown. She thinks back over her many medical experiences and reflects on all of the much nicer details of medicine that have improved.

-The anesthesiologist comes in, asks all of the same questions about when you last ate, what you’re going to have done today, and then asks about medicine allergies and anesthesia related things like whether you have liver problems, or heart problems, or anything else that will possibly be an issue during anesthesia.

-You tell her you woke up during your port installation surgery and what the medical team was talking about when you woke up and how weird that was and she says to have general anesthesia instead of local anesthesia with sedation as planned. She says the differences in recovery are minimal so you are relieved and go with general.

-Find out she’s from a big family with lots of brothers too and got a 22 gauge shotgun for her tenth birthday. She prays for you and your mother in the most incredibly powerful way without actually sounding like she’s praying. You are excited and note her example to reflect on later. You note that you know exactly to whom she is praying and exactly what she means by each part of her prayer.You note that her prayer is an invocation of blessing and protection and that she uses terms like “entrusting you to a higher authority.”

-The nurse anesthetist comes in. She is nice and asks if you’re ready to get this thing done. You say yes and walk with her back to the operating room. On your way back there you have a nice conversation about her being a nurse anesthetist and your amazing younger brother who is training toward becoming one.

-She opens the door of the operating room where about eight or ten friendly people are working to prepare for your surgery. Three of them help you lie down on the operating table, putting a pillow under your knees, carefully arranging your gown so it opens easily but being careful not to violate your modesty, and then you are out like a light bulb.

-Wake up in another room. This one is the first of two recovery rooms you’ll be in. You look around and see that you’re in a big room with about eight beds, each of which has an attending nurse and someone recovering from surgery. The nurse is really nice and doesn’t make fun of how groggy you are and the fact that you are out cold asleep and then awake for five seconds off and on until the awake periods get longer and longer.

-Get moved to another recovery space, which is sort of like a cubicle with a curtain all around it. Another nurse comes in bringing dear sweet mother. This nurse is also nice with the added bonus of having a great sense of humor. She talks about how all of the nurses in that area are crazy and that’s why the hospital put them in the basement in surgical recovery. The rest of your conversation continues on in that fashion as she talks about how to care for your surgery site. The most disturbing part is when she says you can’t wear deodorant under that arm for a week because they don’t want you coming back with a raging infection in the wound. You imagine students standing next to you while you’re teaching art.... They are passing out and expiring one after the other in slow motion, their knees buckling as they crumple to the floor, dropping like flies... The other teachers who pass by in the hallway are covering their noses with handkerchiefs and cowering over into the wall as they pass by you in the hallway. You notice that their eyes are also running... Then the nurse says that you can use wipes under your arm. Breathe a sigh of relief now that you know won’t be responsible for the unnecessary suffering of innocent students and coworkers.

-Drink one of the Wal-mart brand Ensures that you brought from home. It’s the first nourishment you’ve had since dinner last night and it tastes like nectar harvested from fields of Heaven’s wildflowers...

-After you’re coherent enough and make enough dry comments about the recovery process, the nice nurse decides it’s okay to let you get dressed and leave.

-Another nice lady brings a wheelchair that is big enough for three of you. You argue for second about not needing a wheelchair but realize quickly that your sense of balance isn’t right yet... Sit compliantly in the wheelchair and get all of your and dear sweet mother’s bags piled on your lap.

-Get wheeled out front in the triple-person wheelchair and dear sweet mother goes to get the car. A lady next to you talks about a young woman who she believes is possessed by a demon and says she’s learning about “that stuff” in her Sunday school class. Apparently the young woman was in the hospital lobby with a laceration from her wrist to her elbow and went running out of the hospital to no one knows where. The woman next to you says she wanted to cast the demon out of her but since she didn’t know the young woman no one would let her. Two cops come out to work on the situation, hospital security but with real guns and stuff. You decide they must be real cops, not the kind of security guys that eat bon-bons and act important but don't have any real authority to do anything. The second cop has nice brown eyes and smiles at you.

-Dear sweet mother pulls up with the car and you wobble over to it. People can’t figure out why someone so young is in a wheelchair recovering from surgery, so they stare at you with great curiosity. Later on when you're more coherent you think of all kinds of entertaining things you could have done in that situation...

-Arrive home nine hours after leaving in the morning.

-Communicate with all of the amazing caring people who have been praying for you all day. Make a mental note for the millionth time about how God has blessed you with phenomenal family, work, and church support systems.

-Cover your bed and pillow with a sheet and fold it over you, carefully avoiding the spread of hospital cooties from you and your clothing onto the blankets etc.

-Cut the pain pill in half, take it with water, and sleep for three hours straight. While you're sleeping, dear sweet father takes your dog to the creek so she can play and get worn out so she won't drive you nuts all evening after you wake up.

-When you wake up, you’re already aware of how nice it is to have the piece of junk under your arm gone so your arm can rest normally on your side. You also realize that your muscles under there are going to hurt for a few days.

-In the evening you take a very careful bath of sorts to clean off the hospital cooties. You can then remove the sheet from your bed, put cootied clothes in the laundry, take the other half of the pain pill, and sleep.

-Keep on keeping on with life, with one less stressor in it.


  1. That was interesting. (I love my Power Port!). Hope your recovery is quick and complete.

  2. I liked it. Some of your humor is similar to mine. I've never had to wear deodorant since I found out how annoying it was to my asthma that I lost about 10 years back. I enjoy using Suave's body wash and shampoos which have the fruity smells.

  3. Oh Martha, what an amazingly lovely story about an amazingly not-so-lovely, now-gone lump. I do so appreciate your sense of humor; it sounds like my own voice in my head... not that I hear voices, mind you. :-) So glad it's over and that you're okay, and that it's gone. I've been praying really hard about those hateful spider crickets, too. Still. Really. Hugs. xoxo

  4. Your post made me feel like I had followed you around for the day! You are an incredible writer! I have been praying for your successful recovery. Much love to you!!

  5. I really enjoyed hearing about the fancy gown :-)