Monday, July 18, 2016

PART 2: The Adventures of Post-Op (Lucky Charms, My Stomach's Rebellion, and Nurses From Heaven Above)

By the time the sun came up on Wednesday morning, I had only gotten about 2 hours of sleep, but I opened my eyes and reveled in the beautiful fact that I finally had a comfortable IV, even if the nurse supervisor had to cut off my hospital bracelet and allergy band to place it, much to the horror of one of the new nurses on duty. ("What happened to your bracelets?!" she had asked, and it sounded like an accusation. I stared at my bare wrist and admitted, I don't remember, which sounds suspicious, but I honestly didn't...and then in a flash of recognition, I recalled the IV fiasco of the previous night and I gave her a one-sentence Sparknotes summary, to which she didn't say anything...she just sprinted out of the room and returned a minute later with a freshly-printed bracelet.).

My surgeon stopped by my room to say hello and to reassure me that he was "not surprised that I had a tough night" - but he reminded me  again that all three pins were gone - and that was definitely a reason to smile.

As a result of shift changes early that morning, Benny had been replaced with a new nurse (let's call her Jane because I'm terribly unoriginal like that)...and she was awesome.

"What would you like for breakfast?" she asked, impressively chipper for the ungodly hour that it was.

Nothing!! I was still having trouble keeping down liquids (TMI? sorry) and not far from my mind was the memory of my (well-intentioned) dad forcing me to eat Cheerios during my last hospital stay while I pleaded with him, and the ending to that story was not ideal (read: I vomited cereal all over his shirt.).

As though she had read my mind, though, Jane said, smiling, "Nobody is going to force you to eat. How about I just get you something and you can decide once it's in front of you." I nodded and she recited a list of cereals, from which I mentally crossed off Cheerios (never again will I trust you, multigrain O's).

"Lucky Charms sounds like it could be fun," I said with cautious optimism, and she laughed, returning a few minutes later with the cereal, a plastic sealed pouch of orange juice (?), and a container of blueberry yogurt.

I didn't eat much - maybe half the yogurt and a few bites of Lucky Charms - but I was able to keep it down, which was already an improvement from last time. I should have kept my guard up though, because my stomach was less-than-happy with the oral pain meds that followed my breakfast, and a wave of nausea hit me.

They switched me back to IV pain meds and gave me a dose of Valium for the spasms, which made me sleep for several hours. (I don't know what happened during this time except that my mom was busy getting addicted to my Kindle, onto which I'd loaded All The Light We Cannot See and I told her to read and be amazed. She was - and we've since gotten her a Kindle for her birthday in August, which is hidden up in my room! ;))

The next significant event I can recall is the PT stopping by. When I was a little kid, I used to receive physical therapy through the children's hospital, and she actually knew my therapist, so we connected immediately. :) She helped me stand for the first time and the dizziness that came over me was a little overwhelming, but we worked through it...and then she asked me if I wanted to leave my hospital room. YES.

She handed me a walker and we walked the ten feet to the hospital lobby. Then she pointed to a spot about fifty feet away, in the hospital playroom. "Do you think you could make it to that chair?"

It's crazy how fifty feet can become your mountain, but when you're fighting dizziness every few steps along with your "normal" CP spasticity and you've got one leg that isn't entirely sure it's ready to cooperate, fifty feet isn't so easy. When I finally made it to the chair and then back to my room, I was sososo tired and the PT thought it'd be best if I had a break for a nap before we tried stairs.

I feel bad about this part because the first time the PT came back for me, I had apparently succumbed to Valium-induced sleep...and when she came back again a few hours later, this time I was sick to my stomach. I just couldn't pull myself together!!

THESE PEOPLE. I don't know if they eat rainbows for breakfast or what, but she just smiled a sympathetic smile and reassured me that it was completely fine that she just came back twice and neither time I was ready...You take your time, she said, and I'm sorry you're not feeling good.

A couple hours later (it was like 6:30 pm maybe?), another PT arrived, and I think even if I were still vomiting I would have crawled out of bed and insisted that I was ready, because I didn't have it in my heart to turn down these smiling angel-people a third time. As luck would have it, though, I wasn't vomiting (which, in case you were wondering, is a huge plus). My mom had brought my crutches from home along, and I loved the familiarity of them compared to the walker. Moving with crutches came easier to me, and their rhythm was second-nature even though it had been years since I'd last used them. This time, the PT took me to the stairwell and we practiced going up and down steps - just the first two, because there are two steps to get into my house, so that's all I needed to master for the time being. (There's an entire staircase to get up to my bedroom, but apparently these people only cared that I didn't have to sleep outside, which was good enough for me, too.)

When I was halfway up the first step, I turned around and saw my dad and my brother staring at me....and okay, it sounds bad, but I really didn't want a surprise audience at this point in my life, when I was praying not to fall on the stairs and focusing on keeping my IV from tangling on my crutch handle. Just knowing they were staring made me tense up and the whole task became that much more difficult. "Please please please don't watch me," I said. "It's so much harder when I know you're watching." 

They waited in my room for me to finish, and when I came back to rest after successfully managing the stairs, I was given more oral pain medication and I felt sick to my stomach AGAIN. (Are you getting sick of hearing this yet?) 

Meanwhile, my dad wanted to go home. "Alright," he said, "Can we be ready in thirty minutes?" 

I wanted to go home really badly, but I kind of panicked at that timeframe...having just gotten back from the stairs, I was exhausted beyond words, and the oral pain meds and residual anesthesia in my system were wreaking havoc on my body at that particular moment in time. 

"It's going to take longer than that to get her cleared for discharge," my mom said, "and I don't think they'd let her go home like this..." 

They deliberated for a few minutes, and he reluctantly agreed to take my brother and leave my mom and me at the hospital. 

Soon after they left, the nausea hit me with an intensity I don't think I've ever encountered before in all my life. I was bent double over a bucket and my stomach was trying desperately to reject everything I had given it - which at this point, was a sip of water and a pain pill, so there wasn't much to return to sender. That didn't stop my stomach from trying though.

It also turns out that my five-year-old roommate had selected this exact block of time to host a loud and lively family reunion. They didn't speak English, and my Spanish is rusty, so I can't say for sure if they were talking about me, but several of the guests were watching me with intense, unwavering interest as I retched over my bucket, and I really would have preferred if they didn't, because it wasn't exactly a shining moment for me. As they partied and sang and danced in wild circles around the room, they shouted the same word continuously: "Mañana, mañana, mañana!" 

My mom (who is beyond amazing and was by my side through everything) held my hair back for me and mused, "What does mañana mean?"

"Tomorrow," I breathed, pausing in between the retching to take a gulp of air, and we both started laughing at the utter ridiculousness of the situation we had managed to find ourselves, doubled over a pink plastic bucket, vomiting water and stomach acid as the entire extended family of my roommate danced around our beds shouting joyfully about TOMORROW TOMORROW TOMORROW, and meanwhile we were just hoping to make it through the next two and a half minutes. 

In the midst of all this, a nurse poked her head into the room (I discovered later that she was evaluating me for the possibility of discharge), lingered in the doorway for .3 seconds as I was bent over the bucket, and dashed any hope I had of going home that night. 

I was in this state for more than an hour - an experience I hope to never repeat again because it was its own special form of torture - when my mom took a moment's break from holding back my hair to go see if there was anything the nurses could do to improve my situation. Jane (the same amazing nurse from the morning shift) came into my room and put something in my IV to stop the vomiting (Thank You Lord) and then gave me Benadryl for the nausea (which surprised me - I didn't realize that nausea and vomiting needed to be controlled separately). She also apparently put an immediate end to the raucous party being thrown by my roommate's family, but I wouldn't have cared either way because the Benadryl knocked me out completely. 

(side note: It occurred to me later that if I were to remove all the medical-y details, an unsuspecting soul might expect I was recounting a night full of bad decisions on a college campus, complete with the roommate's loud party, the blackout, and the hangover. ;) I was never much of a partier in college though!)

Cold. I woke up in the darkness to an icy feeling spreading throughout my bed, and it dawned on me gradually and then all at once. I pressed the call button for a nurse and explained in shivering whispers that the ice pack on my leg had exploded. She patiently brushed off my repeated apologies and apologized to ME as she changed the sheets on my bed. (I'm convinced these nurses are from Heaven Above.)

In the morning, I made friends with a few more nurses (seriously...they were all so friendly!) and then, breakfast revealed the most revolting plate of scrambled "eggs" I've ever seen, if you could even call them eggs. They smelled like sulfur and tasted similar to what I imagine burnt rubber to be like, and they threatened to come back up, although not with the same urgency as the night before. I still didn't feel like eating or drinking (but they had been running me on IV fluids throughout the night to compensate for my hour-long date with the bucket, so that could be part of it) and my stomach was SO sore from its repeated attempts to reject its contents that it felt like I'd done 100 sit-ups. My amazing mom went to the cafe downstairs and got me a crusty baguette and some butter, which was incredible...I had a few bites and it actually seemed like it was going to stay put!! 

After a couple of hours, it became clear that today was going to be a much better day than the one before - so a nurse gave me permission to take a shower!!! I was SO excited at the prospect of washing my hair, and I changed into my own pajamas afterward...amazing. :) 

That afternoon, when I had proved to my nurses that I could successfully keep down my oral pain meds and I managed to hold onto the baguette and some water, they said I could go home!!! I was so exciteddd! They slid out my IV (it felt amazing not to be tethered anymore!), went over prescription stuff, and then we went out to the car. My mom and the nurse who was pushing the wheelchair were nervous about how I'd get into the car safely, but I managed no problem. :) (For anyone wondering, my PT taught me years ago to place my hands behind me on the seat and to push up with my arms backward to get into the car, as it's safer and easier than climbing in forward.)

It was awesommmmme to finally be home. I settled on the couch and my sweet dog snuggled up next to me and we took a nice long nap together. :) 

I will write in greater depth about my current situation in my next post (which I hope to write and publish this week!) but I owe you guys a more current update NOW :) so I will say that I am doing great! In the words of my surgeon, I am "not allowed to be a crazy person" until the very end of August, so I can't exactly go skydiving, and I haven't really left the house except for my post-op appointment, but I have been trying to make the best of things! I have been walking around the house - first with two crutches and my mom's support, then with one crutch, and now I mostly walk while clinging to a wall. I am more mobile than we all expected at this point, which is awesome. 

I don't want this post to turn into a novel, so - more details to come - but so far there are no regrets! :) Thank you, thank you, thank you for the support and continued encouragement! You guys are the best! case you're wondering, pictured below is what they took out of me (they scrubbed them clean first, of course!)! I was surprised at how big the screws were and how non-medical-y they appeared...they look like something you'd pick up at Home Depot for a construction project, don't they? ;) 

The pins that were in my leg 


  1. Ooh your post-op adventures make me sad. And those screws? Look like swords! It WAS slightly entertaining to hear about your roommate's family celebrating "tomorrow" (perhaps "tomorrow" was going-home day? :) while you were not quite as excited. Look forward to hearing more current adventures. Always happy to read your blog.

    1. Aww Tonia - thank you for coming back and reading! I really appreciate your support and I love your comments :) The pins DO look a bit like swords, haha! And I'm glad you were entertained by my roommate's party - she was a cute little girl and I'm glad my mom and I were able to find some laughter in the situation as well! It WAS a little annoying sometimes though - I wish they had been more considerate ;) And yes, maybe that was the reasoning behind "tomorrow" - although at the time they had already been cleared for discharge so I'm not entirely sure! (They didn't seem too excited to go home and were still hanging around by the time I left later the next afternoon) ANYWAY :) thank you again for stopping by - it really means a lot.

  2. OMG, what a wild ride you've had. :( I'm so sorry about all the roughness. I loved how the PTs were only concerned about you getting up your outside front steps at home, and also how you remembered how to get into the car. A+ Those are LONG screws - I do not think ours were that long... Yikes. Glad you're kicking this recovery's butt one day at a time! You rock! <3

    1. All the roughness was definitely helped by having you guys!! <3 and YES I have no idea how those screws fit inside of me, but I wonder if the size of them contributed to the pain in my leg - because two of them were sticking out and causing issues, and one was completely covered with bone.

      YOU rock. Thank you for all of your support!

  3. So happy, SO HAPPY! I know you had a horrible time, and I'm sorry to read that so much of it was awful, but BRILLIANT that it was all so successful and that you're home and recovering properly.

    And nurses...can be AMAZING. I think most of them are :D

    1. LIZZI <3 Thank you - I am so happy to have you to cheer me on, friend. And YES, I agree - there are SO many amazing nurses...I think I just didn't realize the extent of their amazingness until this stay!!

  4. Sending you much love and healing vibes xx gee those screws are massive and indeed belong in a hardware store! Big hugs xx

    1. Bron <3 Thank you! Sending huge hugs back! xo

  5. I know all about loud, foreign language speaking hospital roommates, though thankfully I only had one for a few hours before he was moved to a different room. Home is such a nice place to be. Those screws are huge!!!!

    1. Ohhh Kathryn - it can be tough to have difficult roommates when we're already not feeling good! And YES home is amazing! Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. :)


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