Friday, April 26, 2013

Partly Sunny With a Chance of Recovery

So surgery. Here is how it went. It is pretty unfiltered. It's really hard to talk about so it might seem a bit cold at some points but I tried to be accurate. Also, as it is unfiltered there is medical stuff (including poop and catheters) as well as cursing. There, you've been warned.

I couldn't sleep the night of the 4th. I was up just scared and stressed, watching Frasier on Netflix, screwing around on Facebook. My little sister called me at 3:45AM my time, 6:45AM her time while she was up with my nephew for a feeding. We chatted a bit, said I love you. I tried to get some sleep. I got about max 40 minutes before my alarm went off to be at the hospital at 5AM. I shook my husband awake. Threw on the clothes I had set out for myself when I had packed my hospital bag the night before. Brushed my teeth. Waited for him to finish taking our 2 pups out. Snuggled the crap out of our dogs and kissed them. Grabbed my stuff and we drove the 5 minute drive to hospital.

Joe dropped me off to sign in and register whilst he parked the car. I was the first person to sign in. Joe came in about halfway through the process of paperwork and paying $500+ for 2 days they expected me to be in the hospital. I got copies of all paperwork I signed (please if you're ever ill or hurt make sure you get a copy of EVERYTHING you sign, I mean it, keep them on file for yourself-trust someone who has been doing this for a decade). We went out to the waiting room. There was a guy my age or younger there with his father and his girlfriend. He told me he was having shoulder surgery. We chatted for a minute or two and they called him in to sign-in and register. Joe and I waited. The 3 of them came back out after he signed in. All 5 of us waited.

A nurse came and led me down to the surgery prep room. I changed into my gown and hair & feet covers. I peed in a cup to prove I wasn't pregnant for them. I got into the gurney and had blood drawn, an IV set up, nurses checked my blood pressure and my stats and logged them. Joe got to come in to be with me. Two young gals introduced themselves to us and told me they worked for some company and would be monitoring my movements of something-I was a little distracted by my mounting fear. The anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself to us and began (in the most monotone voice ever) to go through the long laundry list of what could happen to me and how I could die, then he went through his part of the procedure and left. The lead nurse during surgery came and introduced herself to us. She assured my husband she would be in constant contact with him via his cell throughout my procedure. She checked a few vitals and left. During this time shoulder guy was wheeled in and prepped and hauled off. Joe and I both were white as sheets and afraid and pretending not to be. We tried to be up beat and joke around. They then wheeled me to the last prep room before surgery.

I was right across from surgery guy and his family. He looked panicked. I tried to smile and joke. A nurse came in to talk to them, his surgeon came, he said goodbye to his family and they wheeled him off. Joe and I were alone. I told him how much I loved him, how much he means to me, how scared I was. We held each other. He was scared and pretending to be fine. He told me he loved me. We went over the phone tree of who to call with updates. We laughed at the silly posters about hand washing in the room. My surgeon came in. Dr. Lanman looked over my stats and we chatted briefly. He went to go see what was taking so long. Joe and I held hands tightly. I started to cry but choked it back. Facing my mortality is NOT what I wanted to be doing at 28. I grabbed Joe and hugged him. The nurse came to wheel me in to the OR, I hugged and kissed Joe and told him I loved him, he said the same. I was wheeled across the hall to my OR.

As soon as we entered the Operating Room it was FREEZING! They asked me to slide across the gurney to the table. I slowly made my way onto the table set up and reclined as best I could. They immediately began to pull off my gown from around me to just on top of me and started putting my arms into foam holders so I was lying in a T set up. The anesthesiologist began to hook me up to my drugs whilst the head nurse packed warm blankets over me to keep me from shivering. The 2 monitoring gals arrived and started hooking up electrodes to me feet and legs. The anesthesiologist told me he was going to start my drugs and I floated off into my oblivion scared and panicked but forcing myself to think positively.

The surgery was about 2.5 hours Joe tells me. A little less maybe. He said the nurse called him and updated him and he called the VIPs on the phone tree [my folks and siblings] with the intermittent news and everyone when surgery was complete. I don't remember the recovery room. I don't remember being put into my hospital room. Apparently it took quite some time to find me a space. None of that is anywhere in my memories. I remember being in my room. Having Joe there. Feeling sore and bloated in my stomach, knowing there were drugs, having the nurse tell me I was on a drip and had a catheter in and to just rest. I felt fuzzy but safe and felt relieved to find my Joey there beside me. Things began to clear up as the afternoon/evening wore on. I talked to Joe, kept lifting my catheter fascinated to see constant fluids from my IV draining out of me (and it wasn't pee-so weird when you're on drugs), adjusted to bed to feel more comfortable, drank loads of fluids (water, broth, juice, more water), sucked air from a plastic device to try to get rid of anesthesia pockets in my lungs. I met all 3 nurses who were taking care of me that night (and thank goodness they wrote their names down on that dry erase board because I was all drugged up gal). I was woken up multiple times in the night to ask about my pain levels and to empty my catheter, apparently I was a champ with my fluids and my poor male nurse had to empty my bucket more than anyone.

The next day I got the dilaudid drip that I could release myself every 6 minutes. Boy did I love that bad boy. I was pushing that button all the damn time. I joked with the nurses I would divorce Joe and marry it if I could. They introduced me to the physical therapists, I was helped out of bed and walked the hallway. That's right, one day later I was walking. My catheter was removed because, again, I am the fluid champ. Joe and I watched t.v. and he worked on math. A few friends came to visit me. They were angels and helped me stay positive and made me laugh (but not too hard as I was really sore in my incision site). I made Joe take pictures of my incision site everyday to monitor the swelling and bruising. The first days were swollen, then the bruising came on, then I was distended from lack of bowel movements due to the drugs. I had multiple mishaps with the Cafeteria not understanding I was vegan and had to send lots of food back. I met with the Caf director person and she seemed to get it but my orders still got messed up all week. This was the only low spot to my hospital visit. I had amazing nurses looking out for me (I only disliked 1 of the whole group of 12 or so). I walked more and more everyday. I tried stairs towards the end of the week (Thursday, Friday, & Saturday), that is 3 days post op. I went on oral meds & milk of mag. I took a shower which felt like heaven, Joe assisted as I sat to take it. It was rough but we did it. More friends came by, some brought gifts, sent flowers, made me laugh, they were all lovely. My room had so many flowers it was beautiful. Joe slept over every night with me from Tuesday on through. He left only for an hour or so at a time to take care of our pups. By Friday the nurses told me if I didn't have a BM they would do an enema. I managed a small one that night but agreed in the morning to just go for it. It was a ridiculous and uncomfortable experience that I cracked jokes about the entire time. My nurse was a sweetie about it and told me about her own post C-section. After a morning of being in the bathroom and a shower I was released to go home at about 1PM.

They wheeled me down to the front door. That elevator ride was painful. Getting into fresh air felt amazing though. Getting into the car was awful, the ride home felt like torture. When I stepped up the 6 steps of our apartment building it was slow and tough. Walking in to our apartment Joe held the pups back from jumping on me, he put their leashes on and we went to the bedroom where they got on the bed and I pet them without bending, once they had calmed down after having not seen me for a week we took the leashes off. I got into bed and called the CVS pharmacy I use and asked about my prescriptions being filled and my husband picking them up. We called our pal to come sit with me whilst Joe went to the pharmacy. Poor guy sat with me for 3 hours whilst Joe was stuck at CVS. I fell asleep a little. Joe came home. He had bought a chair for the shower for me. The hospital had given us a raised toilet seat. I know had a slew of pain meds & stool softener. I kept taking photos of the incision site for myself to look at my progress. Joe and I tandem showered every other day. I walked around the block.

My mom flew in that Sunday to help during that next week so Joe could go back to school. She & I walked around the block 3 times a day with the pups. She helped clean, bought us groceries, did laundry, vacuumed, watched The Waltons with me, took Joe and I shopping for clothes & apartment items & all the rest of the series (seasons 2-film specials) of The Waltons, and just helped. It was nice to be taken care of so well. You have no idea how much it was needed for me but also for Joe. I think he needed to be spoiled and needed a break and that is exactly what my mom did by being here.

The next week my dear friend Benny came all the way from NYC on tour with Beauty and the Beast to stay with us. Having him here was wonderful. I kept making progress and walking. We walked together quite a bit and laughed tons. Laughing may be the best thing for recovery. He stayed with us for 2 weeks and I miss him being here! It was so much fun to reconnect and laugh at stupid stuff and cry at great music videos and watch ridiculous movies from the 80s. Our school pal Kathy came up to see us from San Diego and that was amazing too. We all spent Easter together and it was the best treat the ol' Bunny could have brought. And we had an amazing brunch with another high school pal who lives out here and I got a wee sunburned at Miss Di's brunch. It was lovely. Not the burn but the company and food.

Now I am almost at 2 months post op and I have been cleared for light cardio (breast stroke swimming, elliptical, & stationary bike) so I am looking to join a gym with a great pool here in LA. I am using less pain meds, have gone back on my mutli-vitamin (for my vitamin D deficiency), and Joe and I are starting to get things together for our October Wedding Part 2 shindig. Life is starting to move forward and I am alive and well. I was fully fucking scared. But we did it. And those who are my true friends rose to the occasion, those who aren't didn't and I am sad about that but also glad to slough them out of my life. I need nothing but those who can handle the shit with me. This proved it. I was scared but I did it. Joe was scared but he did it with me. So did my family and my friends. I cannot wait to see how amazing life can be with less pain. Chronic pain is hell. And Degenerative Disc Disease will always plague me and so will my acute arthritis. But this part of the story is over and hopefully the thoracic and cervical parts of the story don't start for awhile because I am ready to get out there and kick some ass.

Joe and I may be going to France soon for a math conference. He is actually away right now on one in Oregon, it is my first weekend alone post surgery and I am feeling pretty good. I miss him but it feels nice to take care of myself again. I am in full wedding party mode. I made 3 wedding picture albums (professional, candids, and bachelorette party). I have a premiere coming up for the web series I helped on. I am planning on having an amazing honeymoon to Ireland and beyond. Joe and I are talking about loads of adventures coming up here and how we're so ready for them. And I feel so lucky to have this fighter in me that keeps going. Even through the almost decade of shit I have made it. And I will keep mucking through the medical debt and bullshit to get to the awesome. It has already started and I cannot wait to have more of it. I am so grateful to my surgeon, my nurses, the whole staff at Olympia Medical Center, my husband, my family, my friends, my community at Second City Hollywood. And damn it, I am thankful to my back, which has really showed me how thankful I am to be a fighter. Fuck you and thank you stupid failing spine. You're an asshole but you're my asshole.

Here is to all my adventures to be! Na zdrowie & slainte dear chickens!

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