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.

 

 

I Quit!

Eight years ago today, I smoked my last cigarette before heading to my appointment with a hypnotherapist.

It was time.

When I’d called to make the appointment, she assessed my readiness to quit smoking with a few questions and then agreed to schedule me for two sessions. Hypnosis can’t make you do something you don’t want to do; your outcome depends heavily on your mind set.  I had an unopened pack of Marlboro Lights in my purse, just in case. I didn’t know what to expect.

Marie was a very nice lady with a calm demeanor; as an introduction, she detailed her background as a registered nurse and the path she took to become a hypnotherapist. We had a nice chat, and she explained that while we spoke, she’d be taking notes to use during my session. She asked me why I wanted to quit, what my expectations were, and what I thought the greatest benefit of quitting would be. I told her that my impetus for quitting was my children – I didn’t want them to grow up seeing me smoke and thinking it was a normal thing to do. Most importantly, I wanted to be healthy for them, to be there as they grew up.

She asked if I had any special requests, and I did: the previous times I had tried to quit, I had found that the smell of cigarette smoke made me want to light one up, myself. I asked her if she could make it so that I could tolerate the smoke without craving the cigarette, as I had friends and neighbors who smoked. She cautioned that it might be a difficult task to pull off, but she would try.

I lay back in the recliner and closed my eyes, focusing on her voice. Soon the outside noises faded away and I felt at peace. Contrary to popular belief, I was not asleep; I was completely awake, yet completely relaxed. Her words were soothing and pleasant; I remember that more than what she actually said that day. I do remember, though, that she asked me to visualize myself a year from that day, both as a smoker and also as a non-smoker, and to describe how I felt in each incarnation. She had my ‘future self’ talk to my ‘present self’ to encourage me to choose well.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I was alert, sitting up, and feeling refreshed. She asked me how I felt, and I realized that I felt terrific! She asked if I had any idea how long I’d been there with her, and I said, “I don’t know – an hour?” I was shocked to find out I had been there close to three hours!

Wow.

I asked if we were all done, and she said we were. I reached into my purse to get my checkbook and found an unopened pack of Marlboro Light cigarettes. I was sincerely puzzled – What are these doing here? I don’t smoke! It was as if someone had flipped a switch – I was a non-smoker now. I asked if she’d throw them away for me, and she laughed and said, ‘sure.’

I drove home, still feeling great. When I got there, my neighbor, who had been watching my kids, motioned for me to join her out on the porch for a cigarette so she could tell me how the boys had behaved while I was away. I said, ‘I’ll join you, but not to smoke.’  I sat across from her at a table on the porch, but the cigarette smoke didn’t bother me one bit.  I couldn’t believe it. Success!

The boys asked me where I had been; I reminded them that I had been at an appointment so I could quit smoking. Number One Son asked, ‘Did you quit?’  I said, ‘Yes.’  He burst into grateful tears and hugged me tight.  Number Young Son told everyone he saw that his mom had quit smoking, from the bus driver to the lady at the grocery store.  When I found a partially-opened pack of cigarettes in the house, I offered to let the boys throw them away for me. They happily obliged, destroying the pack and everything in it. They hated cigarettes and were glad to see them gone.

It has been eight whole years since that day.  I have never had a craving, and I have never cheated. It was painless, and my kids have told me they no longer remember when I smoked. I did go back for my follow up appointment, but it was only to reaffirm that I was a non-smoker now. For a while, I kept track of the money I was saving by not buying cigarettes, and it was amazing to see how much money I had literally burned in my years of smoking. When I quit, cigarettes cost about $5.00 to $5.50 per pack, and I smoked about one and a half packs a day. It sure adds up.

Quitting smoking is the best thing I have ever done for myself and my family. My clothes, hair, car, and breath no longer smell like cigarettes; I no longer rush out of a movie or restaurant to huddle in the corner and smoke; I no longer panic when I’m down to the last couple of cigarettes in the pack and scrounge for change to buy more; or worse, pick through my cigarette butts for something I could smoke. I don’t worry about crushed packs, broken cigarettes, or no-smoking signs. I don’t wake up with a hacking cough every morning, and I don’t get every cold that goes around anymore.  I don’t miss holding someone else up because I had to ‘finish my smoke.’

I don’t like to preach; I never liked being preached at.  Yes, I would love for all of my smoking friends and family members to quit, but they, like me, must do it for themselves.

All I can do is support them when they decide to take that step.

 

 

photo credit justj0000lie