And How Was Your Week?

Finally.

So last Tuesday, the 10th of December, I went in for my surgery.

We reported in at just after 7 a.m.; actually, I was standing just inside the building near the reception door waiting for Mr. Stuck to take care of the parking fare when the check-in desk called to ask where I was.  I had been standing there a few minutes already, watching him through the window, but I hadn’t checked in because I was pocket-less and he held my ID and insurance card.  Eventually man bested machine, and then he was standing next to me, handing her my driver’s license.  We finished our paperwork and had just found a seat in the waiting area when they called me to prep.

At prep, all of the normal things happened: I was fitted with my bracelets, I changed into my hospital gown and non-skid, unisex tube socks, I settled into the gurney with a blanket (a heated-air blanket, even!) an IV was started, and my surgeon stopped in.  In between, I met several nurses, a nurse-anesthetist, my anesthesiologist, a patient care technician or two, and the assisting doctors.  I also said and spelled my whole name several times and confirmed my birth date to anyone who asked; in the fray I was also answering questions, the same questions I had been asked and had answered before: who is your doctor?  what is he going to do?

I remember being rolled out of there into an elevator and then into the operating room.  The last thing I remember is a nurse talking to me after emptying a syringe into my IV port and putting a mask on me, but even that’s a bit fuzzy in my mind.

Not me. photo credit Zdenko Zivkovic.

I guess it took me awhile to wake up; I was two hours in recovery before I was brought to my room and Mr. Stuck was allowed to visit.  Sure seemed warm in the room; I kept kicking off blankets and requesting ice chips and cold washcloths for my forehead.  No fever, but I was just too warm.  Besides my pain control IV, I was hooked up to a couple of monitors as well as oxygen, because my O2 level kept dipping.  My respiratory rate is slow and always has been, and the monitor didn’t like that at all.  Periodically, the respiration monitor (whatever it’s called) would go off because I wasn’t breathing fast enough and it apparently thought I had stopped.  No, I was still breathing, just at my own, slow, pace.

Each time I hit the button to get more hits of Dilaudid, a cycle began:  the narcotic entered my bloodstream; I would relax and drift off; the alarms would sound as my respiration slowed and my oxygen dipped; I would wake with a start and sharp inhale;  the monitor, assured I was again breathing, would go silent (most of the time), and with my muscles tense and heart pounding I would again feel the pain and need the Dilaudid.  Over and over and over this played out. The oximeter’s alarm was about four times louder than the respiratory alarm and sometimes the alarms wouldn’t cancel once my stats came back into their ‘normal’ zone, and I would have to wait for a nurse to silence them.  This went on from the time I came back to my room until after 2 a.m. — about twelve hours!  It was awful and it just wouldn’t stop.  If the nurses were getting tired of the routine, and they were, you can imagine how I felt.  When they called him, the doctor told the nurses that I was exactly the type of patient who needed those monitors on.  I’m sure he’s right, but it was a long, sleepless night.

Around 2 a.m., the doctor allowed the alarm to be turned off on the respiration monitor as long as they got me a better cannula (the nasal oxygen tube) so my oxygen saturation would rise.  Thank the Lord.  I was able to get a few hours of shuteye until the resident doctors made their rounds some time around 6 a.m..  But at least I finally — finally! — got some sleep.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
It’s me, but the pic’s a few years old.

It took a long time the next day to get discharged, but we finally did, and we made it home after stopping to pick up my prescriptions.  I suddenly took very cold and started to shake; even my teeth chattered.  I had been so overheated in the hospital, but now I was freezing!  This was the anesthesia talking.  Mr. Stuck tucked me into bed with extra blankets and got me my medication.  My belly was bloated and sore; I just wanted some rest.  After a few hours, I awoke to rejoin the family.

I’m glad everything went so smoothly for my surgeon; apparently, chaos reigned (rained, too) at home. Bo, the Epileptic Chihuahua had suffered a couple of seizures. Number One Son ran his car out of oil. Number Young Son’s car has to quickly be rendered safe and drivable to give NOS a way to work. Mr. Stuck’s truck has been inoperable for several days, waiting for a special tool, because it is leaking fuel.  But these are not things for me to worry and kvetch on; my job is to rest and get better.

Today, four days after surgery, here’s what I know:

  • Although at first disappointed that I didn’t get a heated-air gown, I found that the heated-air blanket is just as good.
  • I have five neat incisions from an inch to an inch and a half long on my belly, which is still a little sore inside.  No tape, because I’m allergic, but all 5 healing nicely.
  • I am still burping from a lot of trapped air (‘scuse me), but I am not so bloated now, and I am sleeping well.
  • I’m not hungry, but I am thirsty, so I am constantly sipping small amounts of fluids.
  • Last night I didn’t need to get up and take pain medicine at all during the night.  Yay!
  • I am tolerating strained soup, protein shakes, tea, jello, and water just fine.
  • Mixing ground-up prescription pills into your food and drink is worse than nasty, and I will stop doing it the very moment I can.  Bad memories of marshmallow creme and crushed aspirin came flooding back.  Mr. Stuck says Actigall is worse than anything I’m taking.  I’ll take his word for it.
  • Omeprazole is my new best friend.  After the couch and the heating pad, I mean.

And now, if you’ll excuse me…

liquids
a few of the things on my nutrition pyramid these days.

 

 

Part II – You Spin Me Round.

This is what vertigo feels like.
This is what vertigo feels like. Only worse.

(reposted due to problem with first post)

I suffered many bouts of vertigo over the next couple of years, events so sudden and violent that they would cause me to fall to the floor.  Some of these ‘drop attacks’ were quite scary.  Following an episode, I would sleep for 12 or more hours, waking up exhausted and foggy the next day.  I tried medication, but the Meclizine made me groggy, the diuretics had no noticeable effect, and the Valium only seemed to take the edge off of the anxiety I experienced with an attack.  It was miserable and frightening and hard to explain.  One MD patient described vertigo like getting really drunk and then getting on a carnival ride.  Sounds fun, huh?

My equilibrium was in constant flux; some days I would walk holding the wall to keep me from tipping over, and some days my horizon would shift and I had to tilt my head to the side to compensate.  Even on days with no vertigo, I never felt ‘right’ – it’s hard to explain, but it was almost like I was always in suspense, waiting for my next round of extreme spinning and nausea.  My drop attacks had been coming around once a month for quite a while, but it was unnerving when I didn’t know what to expect, or when.

Meniere’s disease can go into remission for weeks, months, or even years; unpredictability is its nature.  Finally, just as suddenly as they had begun, the vertigo episodes stopped.  It is an uneasy pause, though, because I don’t know if or when it will return.  I still have what I call ‘the woozies,’ where I get what feels like the precursor to a vertigo attack, but the vertigo never comes.  My eyes stop focusing, my balance seems to leap, and mentally, I fade.  Sometimes my ears feel full, like I need to yawn to make them pop, but they won’t clear.   These symptoms are very common with Meniere’s sufferers.

Hearing loss associated with this disorder is generally at low frequencies, or sometimes at both low and high frequencies.  Couple that with my existing mid-range loss, and I knew I was in trouble.  I began to worry about total deafness.

I found myself struggling more and more to hear people talking to me.  I hated to use the phone, I tried to avoid crowds, and I relied on the closed-captioning option on my television.  I complained to no one in particular that people were mumbling; and I started to rely on the ‘smile and nod’ to get me through conversations I couldn’t hear, rather than continually asking the speaker to repeat himself.  I’m sure that sometimes I appeared uninterested in a group conversation; people who didn’t know about my hearing might have thought I was rude or not paying attention to them. 

I knew I was missing a lot of things: my husband and sons would summon me to the porch to hear the frogs, or crickets, or owls, or coyotes in the night.  Rarely did I hear them.  The rain would have to be coming down in buckets before I could hear it from indoors.  I missed a lot of jokes and conversation because I could not keep up, and I didn’t want to ask and expose my disability.

Sometimes, I just wanted to be by myself with my silence; it was so much easier than straining to hear, and mis-hearing anyway.  Often my mistakes in hearing were pretty funny; the difference between what I thought I heard and what was actually said could be quite amusing.  I remembered Pa doing the same thing, and suddenly, it wasn’t as funny as I thought.  We would all laugh, but he was doing the best he could, and now, so was I.

Continued in Part III