Monday, October 25, 2004

Not your ordinary stomach ache, part III

Hello Kari:

She's an angel.

Fade to black.

She's an angel. A lovely face.

Fade to black.

She's an angel. A lovely face. A re-assuring smile.

Fade to black.

She's an angel. A lovely face. A re-assuring smile. A soothing voice.

Fade to black.

She's an angel. A lovely face. A re-assuring smile. A soothing voice. I can't remember much of what she said.

I said, today is Wednesday, I had surgery. Everything went okay right?

She said, it went well. The slight smirk in her smile led me to believe this wasn't the first time we had this conversation.

Fade to black.

She's an angel. A lovely face. A re-assuring smile. A soothing voice. The gurney was rolling and she said something about you're doing great so we can move you to the next floor now.

Fade to black.

Post-surgery, I guess there is a holding area where the patient is under the very watchful eye of the post-op staff. At some point though, we come out of the haze and can get moved to the regular ward. The rest of Wednesday afternoon and evening would be in 8 South. My memories of that night are very sketchy. The TV was on and I heard familiar voices and I remembered that was the night of the third presidential debate. The debate or news coverage of it was playing on the TV, I can't remember which. I heard the sounds of baseball but I can't remember whether it was the ALCS or the NLCS.

Periodically, a nurse would come by to take my temperature, blood pressure, pulse, measure the urinary output in the Foley bag, check the nasal-gastric tube, check the IV and ask about nausea and pain.

One post-op complication is infection hence the temperature checks. Also, the other bag on the IV pole was antibiotics.

The blood pressure measurements are probably to check for internal bleeding. One's BP falls and pulse rises when there is internal bleeding.

Nausea can be a problem because stuff can sit in the stomach because my intestinal tract was asleep from all the trauma of the obstruction and the handling they received from the surgeon who had to correct the problem. The nasal-gastric tube that was aspirating stomach contents when working properly reduces the nausea problem but they ask to be sure.

And of course, there is pain. I could feel a dull but persistent pain in the area of the incision. The nurse can give 0.5 mg of pain medicine to help. I did opt for the shot on some occasions.

The other post-op complication is the possibility of blood clots. Surgical patients don't move around much so blood clots can form in areas of low circulation. Hence, I had pants hooked up to a pump. About once a minute, the pump activates and squeezes my legs to increase circulation.

There is also a device to exercise the lungs by inhaling to move round balls inside a container. The goal is to eventually be able to get all three balls moving. The first day I could just manage to get the first ball aloft.

On Thursday morning, the very first thing on the agenda was to get out of bed and walk. This effort helps the circulation, speeds the reawakening of the intestines and gets your lungs to work.

I never knew how often one uses abdominal muscles until this experience. Coughing, breathing deeply and rolling out of bed all hurt like crazy because I had a 4-6 inch wound in my abdomen. I did manage with assistance to get out of bed and leaning on the IV pole, I walked maybe 25 feet before turning back and falling asleep on the chair while the staff changed the linens on the bed.

As the day went on, I walked a few more times, each time going a little further.

As the days went on, the walks became easier and even something to look forward to as an excuse to get out of my hospital bed and room.

Being young and healthy meant that I should recover fairly normally. One nice thing the hospital provided was a handout on what to expect in the 7 days in the hospital which is the typical stay for my condition. As a patient, you often feel anxiety at not knowing what is going on and whether or not one is on track with recovery. The handout indicated what to expect each day which was re-assuring because what was happening with me was quite normal.

The Foley tube came out on the weekend. The Nasal-Gastric tube came out on Monday. The IV came out Tuesday morning and I was out of the hospital Tuesday afternoon.

A huge thank you goes out to family and friends who supported me and encouraged me through this experience. And a really huge thank you and SHOUT OUT goes to the doctors and nurses of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who took care of me in the Emergency Room, Operating Room, pre- and post-op and in recovery on 8 South. You all are the BEST!

As a person of faith in Jesus, I found hope and comfort in drawing near to God during this time. I found my heart thankful that God provides people of medical talent and compassion to care for people in hospitals. I found myself amazed at the human body. 99.999% of the time, the intestines work normally and we don’t have to even think about it. Even though I was in the hospital because it malfunctioned, in a week it was working again. And overall, without any conscious effort on my part, my body was repairing itself.

In some of the post-midnight hours as I stared at the ceiling, I would pray to God. Yes, there were some fears, I am only human. But most of the time there was gratitude.

When the fears would come, I found comfort in praying the familiar Lord's Prayer. Give us this day our daily bread as a phrase took on new meaning as I lay there. Keeping the perspective of one day at a time and recognizing God’s provision helped.

Oddly, at times, I found myself recollecting the Ten Commandments. I don't know why but it came to mind regularly. Can you name all ten? Anyway, I would go one-by-one and think about each one. I have to say I did dwell mostly on the first four which pertain to my attitude towards God. It is all familiar stuff but I found it soothing and re-assuring in my time of anxiety.

Well, that is my story. I am resting at home. I feel like a cat: I sleep, I drink water, I eat little meals here and there, I take little walks for exercise and I sleep.

Being a young person who likes an active life, it is hard. But I tell myself, my body is at work repairing itself. It is at work and active. It is just different and invisible. One friend said your body has just undergone a major trauma and it needs to recover, give yourself that time.

If you have stumbled onto this blog and have either undergone surgery or know someone who has, I hoped that these three entries have helped a little. I know going over it in writing helps me process the experience. Feel free to post questions or observations in the comments section.

Take care and be well,

P.S. Part I

Part II

Part III


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