Thursday, November 8, 2007

Circus Star Emerges Through the Ring o' Fire

I write this morning from my bed looking out over the Chesapeake. I watched the sunrise this morning and feel completely relaxed. First, I'd like to publicly thank my extraordinary husband, who has done a remarkable job of keeping all informed of the happenings. Quite frankly, I'm a little worried that he has set the bar a bit higher for my blog entries! This morning I read every single email he sent out and every single reply returned. I've experienced pride at his remarkable strength, overwhelming gratitude for the prayers and best wishes, outright belly laughter at some of the responses (Eric L, you are killin' me!), and tears of joy at the amount of love that has emanated from this little screen this morning.

Rewind 7 days... I was understandable nervous heading to the hospital Friday morning, but I had difficulty putting my finger on what exactly I was afraid of. I had every confidence in the team, I felt that they would be able to manage my pain, I was still confident in the decision I'd made for the double mastectomy... Fear of the unknown; that must have been it. After going back to change into the hospital gown, they let Gary come back. Shortly after, the anesthesia team came in. Gary, in his usual modus operandi, had everyone laughing in no time. Dr. Rodriguez then came in to draw cartoons on my torso. A big smiley face on my belly, with a circle around my belly button for the nose and two circles around my nipples for the eyes. It was pretty funny looking. Only then, were they able to give me some valium to take the edge off. Gary was still in "improv" mode and I remember laughing all the way to the OR. I don't remember what about exactly, but Glenda the OR nurse and the anesthesiologist and I cracked up all the way there. Something about I should have taken the red pill... ("Matrix" fans will get this.) I remember then looking up to see the two large OR lamps and thinking what a cliche. You see that in every movie about someone going to surgery, but that's exactly the last thing you see before you climb down into that hole of dreamless sleep. I think that they may have been the thing I was most afraid of. There is something very unnerving about having your brain on hibernate for 14 hours. There is no sense of time passage, no memory of anything.

The worst part of coming out up out of the hole was the nausea from the morphine (I'd rather have been in pain.) Oh, and the sore throat from the breathing tube. My night nurse Jane was a total angel. I've not had to be bathed by anyone since I was a baby, but she gave me the most gentle, soothing bed-bath... Nurses, I know that we think that baths may be the least important things we can do, but from the patient perspective; not so. It is such a tender, caring and necessary act. It was incredibly relaxing and is one of the greatest acts of kindness you can do for the infirm. All I could do was to keep thanking her over and over again.

There wasn't much sleep that night as they had to check the pulses on my breasts every hour to make sure everything continued to work. Much napping in between... I started eating the next day and also began getting pain medicine orally. I have to say, that the pain was not what I expected. What I mean was that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. After being able to assess the landscape a little better, I realized that the insertion sights for the drainage tubes (all SIX of them) were (are) what was most uncomfortable. I was still pretty numb across my torso from my breasts down to my bikini line. I likely won't regain any fine sensation since nerves were cut. I felt like some pre-pubescent boy not able to take my eyes off the work they'd done. The breast mounds they created are amazing. It really doesn't look like they removed anything. I keep thinking 'I got got a new rack; same year and miles as the last pair, but slightly improved model.' It is incredible. In my mind, Dr. Rodriguez walks on water!!!

The only other PACU experience was my emotional meltdown. It was Saturday night around shift change. My back was sore and I wanted to bring the head of the bed up a little. My arms were up on pillows and the controls for the bed were on the railings. I couldn't reach them because of the pillows and my limited ability to move. I tried and tried, but no luck. I called to my nurse, but she didn't hear. I called again. After 5 minutes I started calling for anyone. My back was in full spasm at this point; I was in pain, no one was coming. I basically came unglued. All the stress of the last few weeks just came in a huge tsunami of emotions. Finally an nurse came up and and helped me raise the bed. My nurse and the new nurse coming on duty came to help. It was so overwhelming not having any control over the simplest of things like shifting to get comfortable. I let it all out and unloaded the whole saga of my life in recent weeks onto my night nurse Rokia. She too was an angel sent to me for that evening. Her compassion knows no bounds and she was exactly what I needed. So Mr. Rivest if you are listening, you need to outfit EVERY bed in the hospital with hand-held call bells with bed controls! (FYI: Rivest is the big cheese at the hospital.) There are many more people with procedures much worse than mine that need to have some semblance of control during their hospital experience.

Nearly 45 hours after my surgery was completed I finally was transfered to a bed. It was so good to be in a room with a clock and a window. You have no idea how quickly you can lose all sense of time without one of those two things. More later on that experience. As Gary would say, 'film at 11.'

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you are home resting comfortably. Yay!!! New boobies! Wow, it is just unbeliveable what they can do nowadays, no?
Sooooo glad for you the pain was less than what you anticipated-- hey-- can't really ask for better than that. Congrats on getting through it all sweetie. Yes, your hubby is quite the entertainer. While reading his postings, I could just see his funny little expressions: eyes blinking, head turning, mustache twitching, you know... he is just so preciously funny. I (as you probably read) let him know we here on the outside(it goes without saying you & Carolyn have GIGANTANORMOUS gratitude for him) wanted him to know how much I thought he was a superhero. You guys are a blessed union I tell ya.
Good news all around.