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.

 

 

Adjustments.

I used to say that I intended to go out of this life with the same stuff God gave me coming in: I still had tonsils, appendix, gall bladder, adenoids and reproductive organs.  Well, I still have all of those, but I exchanged my hips a few years back for a new, aftermarket set made of gleaming titanium.  So I guess I can’t say that anymore.  And in another week, I’ll give away something else: most of my stomach.

Next week, I’ll undergo the procedure known as a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG), or ‘sleeve,’ in which a large portion of my stomach will be laparoscopically removed.

Image: Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy
http://www.virginiamason.org/SleeveGastrectomy

The decision was a long time in coming.  Despite a lifetime of being overweight and dieting, I had never considered surgery as a way to lose weight before a few years ago.  At that time, I had only considered restrictive gastric banding.  More recently, several friends and family members underwent bariatric surgery, and as I saw their results and spoke with them more, I began thinking it might be my best hope to return to a healthy weight.  Mr. Stuck had already been working toward his own surgery and healthy weight goal, so I had the added benefit of involvement with his process, too.

I did my ‘due diligence’ and read up on the types of surgeries available; who would benefit from what type; what co-morbidities would likely improve after surgery; risks and benefits; and long-term results.  I joined an online chat group to read real stories and questions.  I spoke with my doctor, who was enthusiastically supportive.  And so I made the decision to work my way through the prerequisites for surgery.

To have this surgery, I have had a psychological examination, sleep study, blood work, EKG, barium swallow, and 6 months of dietary oversight by a nutritionist (in which I lost 30 lbs).  I found out that I am an otherwise healthy obese person who has sleep apnea, but I don’t have elevated blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.  Contrary to popular belief, I am psychologically normal (who knew?).  I have a hiatal hernia, which means my stomach bulges up through my diaphragm, but I’ve never had more than mild symptoms from it.  Right now I am in the pre-surgery diet phase of two protein shakes and one light meal per day.  The day before the procedure will be full liquids.

Although I am healthy now, there are no guarantees I will remain so, especially given a familial history of cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure; and really, obesity increases my risk of everything.  I need to lose the weight to decrease that risk.  But I also hope that losing the amount of weight that I need to will also improve my health by improving my quality of life issues like arthritis, sleep problems, and general aches and pains.

There will be a lot of adjustments to make following the surgery, but I am committed.  Where I used to think that surgery was the ‘easy way out’ for weight loss as opposed to the blood, sweat and tears of dieting, exercise and discipline, I now know that it’s not ‘either-or.’  I will have the surgery and I will also diet, exercise, and discipline myself to change my relationship with food.  But I will have the tool of surgery to help me.

You could say that life is basically a series of adjustments, from the womb to the outside world; from a child to an adult; and from a single person to a couple or family, perhaps.  Some adjustments are easy, some are voluntary, and some are life-changing.  This one is has a little of all of that, and more.  I will be adjusting from obesity to health.

I don’t intend to bore you all with “I lost 3 more lbs!” posts.  I will write about it, yes, but maybe just to tell you about my flying-squirrel arm flaps or my hair falling out.  I may crow a bit when I’ve reached a milestone, and I may whine when I mourn for the Bubba Burgers of my past (I confess, I am addicted to cheeseburgers), but I won’t subject you to much of it, I promise.  And I won’t use the terms ‘fat shaming’ or ‘body shaming’ because I detest them.  But I will share with you some of the lessons I’m learning on my way to a healthy life.

I will never be thin, but I do hope to cross my legs again someday.
And sit on the floor and get back up again.
And sit comfortably on a plane.
And wear Spandex to Walmart.

juuust kidding.

 

 

 photo credit thenext28days and MotiveWeight