2 am, Thursday September 8, 2016. I woke up and found myself unable to fall back asleep. When my alarm went off two hours later, I sighed and eventually dragged myself out of bed, dreading this day and all that was to come with it; the expected, the unexpected, and the unknown. Of all the surgeries I’ve had, this one was probably one of the most nerve-wracking to get through.
We were on our way to the hospital a few minutes after 4:30 am, since I had to be there at the ungodly hour of 5:15 am. When we arrived at the surgical desk, there was already a long line of patients checking in.
After about 25 minutes of fidgeting in the waiting area, I was finally called back into the pre-op area to be prepped. I had a really great nurse, which definitely helped with the nerves. She was heartwarming and funny, and I wish I could remember her name. David was allowed to come back to be with me after I had gotten changed, gone through all the rest of the pre-op routine, and my IV was placed. Once I was wrapped up in warm blankets, I was a happy camper, relatively speaking.
All too soon, it was 7:30 am. I saw other patients being rolled away for their respective surgeries and I was anxiously awaiting transport for mine. My nurse told me that since I was first case, I wouldn’t see the doctors or anesthesiologist until I was in the OR.
Finally, my transporter arrived. David and I said our goodbyes. In a moment of nerves, I made sure he knew that my Healthcare Power of Attorney was in my bag. Then I was rolled away.
There was a caravan of three of us patients being rolled from the pre-op area towards the ORs, which was somewhat entertaining, especially as we approached an upsloping ramp to a skyway and the transporters picked up the pace to a run to make it up the ramp. My transporter said, “Luckily, you have a motorized bed, so we don’t have to do that!” A passing transporter joked, “Yeah, you got the Cadillac.” That got a chuckle out of me. I was parked in a little holding cubby outside the OR and sat, anxiously awaiting what was to come. All I could think of was Psalm 23:4, which constantly cycled through my mind.
I was visited by a few people outside the OR, including a doctor working with Dr. Recinos and a nurse anesthetist, and Dr. Sindwani. Then I was rolled in and it was time to get started. I got positioned on the operating table (why are those things always so darn uncomfortable?) Then I met the anesthesiologist, and I brought up the issue I had with my last surgery in this healthcare system where my anesthesia was slightly botched. As usual, it illicited a slightly horrified reaction and a promise that it wouldn’t happen again. Then the team performed the time-out and Dr. Sindwani reviewed with them what would be happening and where the surgeons would be positioning themselves for the procedure. Then a nurse took my hand and a mask was placed over my face, and I was out in about 10 seconds.
I woke up in the PACU a little over 4 hours later with an earth-shattering headache and congestion like you wouldn’t believe. The headache I expected, for obvious reasons. Retrospectively, I suppose I should have expected the congestion, too, but I hadn’t and it took me by unpleasant surprise. I was given a lot of fentanyl for the headache, which helped mildly.
I don’t remember too much about being in PACU, although I remember being told I had two more IVs than I had when I went into the OR. (Luckily I had expected this, since my pre-op nurse had warned me I would wake up with more lines.) One of them was a huge 16-gauge in my freaking hand and I didn’t expect one of the lines to be an arterial line, but there you have it. At least they were able to draw blood off the art line, since they needed to get labs immediately post-op for some reason. Getting the art line taken out was a bit painful because they had to hold pressure on it for so long and it was right next to my other IV. So that was a bit unpleasant.
I remembered David being brought back just as my first nosebleed started. (This was apparently about 2 hours after I arrived in the PACU, so time flies when you’re only partially conscious). I got blood all over my hands trying to stop the nosebleed, so the nurse had to clean me up. She was very nice about it, but had this humorous look on her face that said, “I leave you alone for ten seconds…” I remember whining to David that I felt awful and I wished I hadn’t done this. I was so congested and my throat hurt so badly from the intubation. It made me feel like I had the granddaddy of all colds. I was no longer a happy camper.
At some point, David explained what he’d been told after the surgery by Dr. Recinos and Dr. Sindwani when they came out to meet with him. I had no CSF leak from what they could tell, which was excellent. But Dr. Recinos was fairly concerned I was going to develop diabetes insipidus post-op because he had to manipulate the pituitary gland quite a bit to get the tumor out, and any damage to the gland at all can cause any number of problems. So at this point, it was looking like I would probably have a 4-ish day hospital stay. Boo hiss.
Relatively quickly (through some behind the scenes string pulling), I was transferred up to one of the neuro stepdown units. My room was what I like to call the “corner penthouse.” Because it was in the corner, I didn’t just have curtains separating me from everything else, I had sliding doors. So I had a lot of privacy that no one else on the unit did. I had a few coworkers stop by to see me before they left for the day, which was much appreciated, despite the fact that I felt like I’d been hit by a truck at the time, and I’m sure it showed.
TW next paragraph: emetophobia
My nurse, Steve, was awesome. He could somehow anticipate what I needed almost exactly when I needed it. When I had a sudden unpleasant bout of emesis (which illicited another nosebleed) from the drainage of blood and gunk from the absorbable packing down my throat, he was there with more buckets before I could hit the call light. And he said he had already paged the doctor for an antiemetic. He constantly kept a close eye on me (and David) to see if we needed anything at all. I wound up with a migraine, which I got the migraine cocktail for (minus the ketorolac). It mostly helped, but I was on pretty regular pain medication otherwise.
I can’t remember my night nurse’s name because I couldn’t understand her when she pronounced it, but she was great as well. The night was rough because I didn’t sleep at all, since I was on hourly neuro checks. Plus I couldn’t move around, since I had a Foley in and was hooked up to the monitors and the inflatable blood clot leg booties, so I was literally stuck in bed. And it was hard when I needed to keep wiping my nose every few minutes because of all the stuff draining out. (No nose blowing allowed!) I asked my nurse for a cold washcloth for my head to help with the migraine; she actually brought me a bucket of ice water with an extra washcloth so I could always have a cold one ready to go. I kept the washclothes on my head all night and it helped quite a bit to downgrade the migraine a bit more.
The most eventful thing that happened overnight was being taken down to radiology at 5 am for an MRI. Laying flat and still for over 20 minutes was a challenge, but I just closed my eyes and breathed through my mouth as best as I could and I got through it all right. When I got back from MRI, I had my morning meds, along with a dose of potassium since mine was at the low end of normal. I hacked the first tablet right back up as soon as I swallowed it, but still managed to get them both down. That drug is evil.
Thus I made it through the first 24 hours in the hospital! More to come on day 2…