November 10, 2018
I had another blog ready for today, but I am so filled with relief at having weathered my first surgery that I think I will document that.
Perhaps the reason I didn’t mention it before was the delicate nature of talking publicly about what is going on in an organ that only half of the population has. I will summarize by saying that after having severe pain unmanageable by ibuprofen and excess bleeding several months in a row, my family doctor ordered a pelvic ultrasound. Upon getting the results of the ultrasound, and finding an unidentifiable mass in my uterus of 1.6 cm in size, she promptly did what a good primary care provider does and sent me to a specialist.
Although there was reason to suppose that the “mass” was just a fibroid tumor which are almost always benign, the radiologists simply could not say for sure what it was.
“There’s definitely something there,” one told me, “but it’s not specific. I wouldn’t worry about anything bad at your age.”
Well, that was somewhat comforting, but clearly its appearance could suggest something bad.
So, after speaking with the specialist, we decided the most reasonable approach would be a D&C, which would give the advantage of both seeing exactly what the mass was, if it was there at all, and of being able to remove it if needed.
I tried not to think about the surgery and the possible implications, but I do believe it was more in my subconscious than I realized for a few weeks.
The surgery was scheduled for Thursday, so on Wednesday I packed myself a bag that I could have just in case I had to stay in the hospital over night. Far be it from me, I told myself, to be caught without my slippers, after admiring all the patients I had who remembered such details. I also packed a bag of things to work on if my surgery got delayed. Far be it from me, I told myself, to get all bent out of shape if they get postponed because of an emergency. I, of course, was often the bearer of these evil tidings when I worked in heart surgery.
Wednesday night in bed, I told Marnell I should probably go get a drink since I couldn’t eat or drink after midnight.
“Yes, you probably should,” he said.
“But I’m not actually thirsty,” I pointed out, and besides, I was too lazy to get out of bed.
So I awoke at 5 am, longing for a drink of water. However, far be it from me, I told myself, to cheat and incite the wrath of the anesthesiologists upon me and possibly get my surgery canceled. I even remember a patient who had eaten a banana before surgery. I think he said he “forgot”.
We arrived at Elkhart General before 6:15, and I was given a plastic wrist band and told to state my name and birth date. We then went up to the fourth floor, where a nurse soon took us back, told me to state my name and birth date and reason for being there that day, and gave me a hospital gown to change into. She came back and stabbed a sharp needle quite expertly into the inside of my elbow, and I realized that I could no longer knit.
Next came the doctor, who did not tell me to state my name and birth date. She was dressed in her coat, and I remembered how Dr. Halloran would often come out of his car and straight to pre-op so the patient could be cleared to go back to the operating room.
“You’ll be able to tell what it is by looking, don’t you think?” I asked her.
“Yes, I think so,” she said.
Next came the anesthetist, who told me to state my name and birth date.
“You’re going to give me propofol?” I asked after he mentioned it.
“Oh, yes,” he said. “You don’t want to be awake for this.”
Propofol is that magic stuff in the glass bottle that puts people to sleep in seconds. It’s so magic that nurses are not allowed to give it, not even if a doctor tells them to. I have seen many people fall into its trance and it sounded kind of exciting. He warned it might burn when it hit my vein.
Finally, after signing another consent, the very same ones I always made other people sign, the operating room nurse arrived. He told me to state my name and birth date as well.
“Does my husband have time to get breakfast?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” he said.
Marnell gave me a kiss, and the nurse whisked me through the door.
“Have you ever had surgery before?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“Well, it gets colder and colder the farther back you go.”
They helped me onto the operating room table, and the nurse put a mask over my face.
“This is just oxygen,” he said.
The anesthetist behind me said, “I”m putting this patch on your ear to help with the nausea.”
Then a few moments later, “I’m giving you the medicine now that will put you to sleep.”
I didn’t feel a burning in my vein. I just heard a voice saying, “Katrina, are you awake? Surgery went well. It’s all over. Do you know who I am?”
It was a nurse I knew to be competent and experienced, and I felt relieved to be in good hands.
“Yes,” I said. “What time is it?”
“It’s 9:05,” she said.
I was surprised at how alert I actually felt. Sometimes I wondered how people could wake up from surgery and speak perfectly normal. But I felt normal, just like I was awaking from a night’s sleep.
“How’s your pain?” she asked.
“Maybe a four,” I said.
“I’ll give you some Dilaudid,” she said.
“Is she awake?” I heard a voice.
“Yes,” the nurse said.
It was the doctor. I thought of turning my head to see her, but then I guessed that she would walk around to my side where I could see her, and sure enough she did.
“I told your husband everything we did,” she said. “I don’t know if you’ll remember this or not, but I found a fibroid.”
“Were you able to take it out?”
“Yes. You’ll just have some cramping and bleeding, but I ordered some Tramadol for you.”
I’ve never had narcotics before, so I was glad to hear the word Tramadol, which I knew to be strong, but without as many side effects as the narcotics. I wondered how the Dilaudid would effect me. Sure enough, as the pain disappeared, I began to vomit. No surprise.
She gave me more anti-nausea medication, and then I went back to the room where I had started.
“Can you bring Room 19’s husband back?” I heard someone say, and soon Marnell arrived.
“She said it went well!” Marnell said.
“She doesn’t think it was cancer, right?” I asked.
“No. Just a fibroid.”
“Was it 1.6 cm?”
“It was 3 cm!” he said. “She showed me pictures and said she was glad we went straight to surgery. If we had just done more tests to determine what it was, we would have just found out that we needed to do surgery.”
So, home we went. I vomited 5 or 6 times, in typical fashion. I kept thinking, what will I do if the pain medicine they gave me wears off? I won’t be able to take any pain medicine orally, because I keep vomiting.
But I never had pain. I woke up during the night, and Marnell asked me if I was keeping ahead of the pain.
“I’m not having any pain,” I said.
He’s a fantastic nurse, by the way.
By morning I was much better.
“Should I remote into work for a bit just to make sure you’re all right?” Marnell asked.
“I’ll be fine,” I said, although eating applesauce at breakfast made me feel a little ill and I went back to bed. I took off the nausea patch just in case it was making me feel extra sleepy.
By noon, I was feeling a little better and thought, hey, some soup! So I called my friend Sarah at the Baker’s Nook and she informed me they still had soup. So I drove over there, and the soup went down well, and I continued to work on my book.
While there, the hospital called me. Just checking in, they said, to see how you are doing. Is your pain controlled by medication?
“I don’t have any pain,” I said. “I haven’t taken anything. Which is good since I couldn’t keep anything down yesterday.”
“Well isn’t that a blessing,” she said. I can’t remember her exact words, but it was close to that.
I guess I’ve been around surgery so much that I couldn’t help thinking of all the bad things that could happen. Instead, I was cared for by competent and caring people, and got to go home as expected. Even the nausea was no surprise.
Thank you, God!