Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ode to My New Semi-Colon*

A week and two days ago I went into the hospital to have part of my colon removed. I have had diverticulitis since 2009, and yeah that's a long time to suffer with that kind of pain, but it took a while to get it definitively diagnosed. I have some other stomach problems as well, which I won't go into in detail because I am a benevolent blogger and don't actively hate any of you at the moment, but the addition of those things made all the issues hard to treat as treating one would exacerbate another. I finally got my diagnosis over a year ago, but it took me this long to get brave enough to have the surgery, even though I probably had 4 or 5 attacks in that time. I have a muscle imbalance in my eyes and have had 5 surgeries for that in my lifetime, the first when I was 2, plus I had my gallbladder removed about 12 years ago, and I have had enough of anesthesia and hospitals and trying to pee while attached to a pole. 

 I worked up the courage to talk to a surgeon in January. I had to just pick a name from a list of surgeons who take my insurance, and I chose the first woman on the list. Turned out, I hit the freaking surgeon jackpot. I'm not terribly fond of surgeons, and if any of you happen to be surgeons I would apologize to you for my prejudice except I am totally justified. My experience with surgeons is they all generally see people as objects to be worked on rather than people to relate to. I kept trying to make jokes to the dude who took out my gall bladder 12 years ago, and he was not comfortable with that AT ALL. He kept looking at me like WHY WON'T YOU JUST BE A CADAVER? And when I was an optician, we had a number of medical professionals as customers/patients and the surgeons were all like that, even outside of the doctor/patient relationship. Except the neurosurgeons. They think they're the hotshot mavericks of the medical world ("Anybody can cut out a fucking appendix—I put my hands into your very soul.") and they want everybody to know it. (This one time, one of our favorite neurosurgeons came running in to get his glasses fixed and breathlessly told us that just hours before he had a patient "on the table" whose heart stopped during surgery, and he, being the fast-thinking, god-like hero he was, jumped on top of the guy and pounded on his chest until his heart started beating again. And we were like, "Dude, we fix glasses for free, you don't need to impress us with that COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS STORY." But we only thought that to ourselves because frankly we thoroughly enjoyed repeating his tale—complete with chest-pounding gestures—for years afterwards, and knew that we would. Never shoot a comedy gift horse in the face, or whatever the saying is.)

So, the surgeon I picked turned out to be a very personable and funny woman who gave me so much information about the surgery, hospitalization, and recovery that I was left with exactly zero questions for her. I liked her so much I wanted to do lunch or go shopping or something. And it turned out she knew my primary care doc, a wonderful CNP whom I also adore. So when I went to see her for my pre-op physical, she told me even more great stuff about my surgeon. "You have one of the best surgeons in Annapolis, if not the best," she said. Well okay then.

Oh! And my friend Kimberly made me this bag to take to the hospital, because she totally gets me:

In the 12 years since I had my gallbladder removed and my last eye surgery, they built a completely new hospital complex and I have to say it's pretty sweet. David got to wait for me in a comfy waiting room with a big digital board that had each patient listed (by a secret code number) with their current status: in prep, in surgery, in recovery, transferring to room, etc. The prep nurses and techs were all friendly and chatty and even the anethesiologist was a sweetie pie (I've never had much luck with them either.) 

And while I was waiting in the prep area before surgery, THEY PUMPED WARM AIR INTO MY HOSPITAL GOWN AND I LOOKED LIKE VIOLET BEAUREGARDE:

The surgery went well and didn't take as long as they had said, so I was in my room by late afternoon. when you have colon surgery, they need to know that your colon is "waking up" and functioning properly after being taken apart and put back together, so everybody asks you every five minutes if you have farted yet. But, of course, they call it "passing gas" because, dammit,  this is a hospital not a barnyard, Jim! 

I was introduced to my friend, the morphine PCA, and encouraged to press that button every 10 minutes like a good girl so that I would feel no pain.

Now, I have always hated narcotics because they make me itch like crazy, and I explained this to the doctor, but she said, "Well you have to have something and we're giving you morphine." And within 24 hours I was indeed itching but I kept using my pump, figuring I could handle a bit of itching in return for controlled pain and a legal high. But by the end of Wednesday, my face had gotten quite red (though nobody but my husband seemed to notice it) and I was starting to shiver a lot whenever I got up to go to the bathroom. By Thursday, my arms had turned bright red as well and were extremely hot to the touch, though I didn't register a fever. And worst of all, my arms hurt—far, far more than any of the pain from the surgery—and the pain would increase with even the slightest movement. By now the nurses and techs were listening to me and they took me off the morphine and gave me Tylenol and Benadryl and after about 20 solid hours off the morphine, I could finally use my arms again.

Since I no longer wanted or needed the morphine and the reaction was dissipating, and because I was stinking up the halls like a champ, my surgeon let me go home Friday afternoon. 

My staples came out yesterday (I know you were dying to know that), and so now I have only to take it easy, know my limits, and give myself another few weeks to completely heal. I plan to get lots of reading done and binge-re-watch The Walking Dead until I see Daryl's greasy head in my sleep. And if all goes well, I 'll be able to work on some recent quilty projects that I've been waiting to show you—because I'm planning to turn them into patterns! This is just the beginning of what I hope will be a new phase for me, so I hope you'll stick around for it. I promise I probably won't mention staples again. I probably will talk about farting though.

*Hat tip to my friend Melissa Z., who made the semi-colon joke and made me jealous that I didn't think of it first.