March 1st – Surgery Day.
It’s 5 a.m. and I arrive at the hospital, overnight bag and Mom in tow. Dad will arrive shortly. I am backed by a huge support system, have a stellar team of surgeons and have done my research. I know the procedure inside and out, pros and cons, risks and recovery. I am ready. The nurse commends my knowledge and my Mom giggles. I meet my anesthesiologist and am assured that he’s the best. It’s time to give Mom a hug and I tell her I’ll see her soon. I am wheeled into the operating room where I meet the rest of the team and drift off to sleep so they can fix me, see you in a few hours…
I wake up in the recovery room, surrounded by nurses. “Success!” I think to myself. At the same time, I am slightly confused why there is so many people around me, asking questions and discussing who to call next. I hear something about my blood pressure so I quietly listen and watch the monitor. Every time it hits 80 or above I tell the nurses, “Hey! hey! It’s above 80! That’s good, right?” They smile.
It’s 12:00 and I wonder when I will get to see my parents… Still, I am oblivious to the fact that I’m in trouble. I am transported to the ICU. The nurse tells me she’s going to talk to my parents while the doctors talk among themselves. She let’s me know that they will be in soon and informs me that my Mom cried and my Dad teared up. I am even more confused now… What is going on? My parents are both in the medical field and are always so calm… Typically I panic and they reassure me, calming my chaos by explaining the medical lingo in layman’s terms and promising it’ll be okay. But today is not that day. Today is the day my Mom walks in with tears in her eyes and takes me by the hand. I tell her not to cry and that I’m okay. My dad isn’t as forward with his emotions but I can feel it in his hug and see the concern in his smile… I am put on a C-Pap machine. All I know is that I look like a scuba diver and no one can hear me when I talk. The machine is loud but I try to listen anyways. Finally, my Dad goes home for the night and my Mom is asleep next to my bed. I don’t want my Mom to know I am scared so I ask the doctors if I am going to be okay… They smile and say yes. The nurses really like my tattoos… I think it’s because one of them is a stethoscope. More nurses stop by to visit and ask to see them. I am flattered. I am a hit in the ICU because I remain smiling and positive. I don’t know how else to be, they’re all so nice to me. One doctor tells me they have to insert a central line. The hard part? I can’t have any anesthesia or pain meds because of the complications i’m battling… I sit still. I remind myself how my tattoo artist always said I sat like a statue and told myself I am tough, I can do this. And I did.
The days pass and I am getting better. My doctors still visit every morning and every night. I am grateful because they keep me optimistic and looking forward to going home, despite the fact that I remain a mystery. I am young, I am healthy. So… Why was I faced with so many complications? The doctors toss theories back and forth but in the end, no one really knows. I try not to feel sorry for myself, rather, I take solace in the reassurance that I will be okay. Almost a week later I am downgraded to the surgical floor with the hopes of going home soon. Within a few more days, almost a week in the hospital, I am finally released to go home… I am overwhelmed with excitement. I am going home to my dog and my family/friends can finally rest their worried hearts.
A day and a half later, I am in the ER. I have a fever, I can’t eat and now I’m vomiting. I can barely walk so I’m transferred to a wheel chair. I’m now battling this while trying to recover from back surgery with 40 staples in my stomach… 3 hours later, I’m admitted. I am diagnosed with an ileus, meaning my stomach never woke up after surgery. I’m told I need an NG tube. A tube that is inserted through your nose, down your throat and into your stomach. It’s like a vacuum, meant to pull any and everything out of your stomach, taking the pressure off so it can rest, in hopes that it’ll wake up… Needless to say, never again. The placement of that tube was a pain I can’t even begin to describe. I cried. It felt as if she broke my nose and my throat was in so much pain that I could no longer talk unless it was absolutely necessary. I begged for them to take it out but my Mom made it clear that this was my only option. If I didn’t stick it out now, I would eventually need surgery. After what I just went through? Nope, no more surgery. Days passed and it finally got removed! It felt like an eternity. But the battle wasn’t won yet. I was now allowed to eat a few ice chips each hour. If I could handle that, the doctors would evaluate and decide if I can be upgraded to clear liquids, then liquids, then real food. In the meantime, I remained a hit with all the nurses. They remembered me from my first visit and appreciated my kindness towards them, despite all I had been through, including all the complications, stomach injections, IV’s and blood draws. I felt like a human pin cushion and looked like a junkie. My Mom was with me every day and was the best of company. When she was away, I watched way too much Food Network and walked the halls with my IV machine attached.
Finally, almost two weeks later, the doctors said I could go home…Again. By this time, most of the nurses had caught me crying a time or two. My once cheerful spirits were fading. I missed the outside world, my family/friends, my dog… My life. By this point I was weary. Never knowing when I would get to go home and being confined to the four walls of my hospital wing is enough to dull the brightest and shiniest of people. None the less, I was finally going home. The nurses hugged me goodbye as my Mom pulled the car up. I stepped outside and my world was bright again… I watched out the window as we drove away and promised I wasn’t coming back this time. I turned on the music and soaked it all in. I couldn’t wait to get home.
It has been 3 1/2 days since I was released and every day I wake up with a grateful heart.
That said, I am starting this journal today because after everything I have been through, I find my mind racing with reflections and thoughts and want a place to sort them all out. I find myself being grateful of the little things, questioning so many others and being humbled by some of the experiences I went through. I find myself struggling with the fact that I am dependent on others while I heal. I try to remain mindful that this is necessary during my healing and soon I can be a stubborn, independent female again but it seems to be an art to be able to welcome the help without feeling guilty or useless… That in itself is another story for another time. For now, this is where I leave you.