Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Adventures of Post-Op: Part 1

A dream was edging its way out of my mind. I tried to keep hold of it, to see how it was going to end, but it escaped, faded, and my consciousness was replaced by the strange sensation of air on my face.

I coughed reflexively, opened my eyes, and realized that it was an oxygen mask.

A woman's voice, quiet and kind: "Do you want me to take that off for you?"

I nodded, and the air on my face disappeared and was replaced by a wave of nausea. I pitched my head forward and there was the voice again: "Do you feel like you're going to be sick?"


"Try to keep your head still and it might get better," the woman's voice said. "I know you have a motion sickness patch behind your ear and I'll give you some more meds so it will probably go away soon, but that's common, don't worry, just a reaction to the anesthesia." As she spoke, I felt a cold cloth being smoothed across my forehead.

And then: my mom's voice.
"Take some deep breaths. It's okay."

I turned my head toward her voice and suddenly, strangely, I felt like I was holding back tears. I tried to speak but the words felt heavy and cumbersome, and she didn't understand the first time, so I tried again.
"I don't want you to be sad."

I felt her hand on mine. "Oh....oh...I'm not sad, I'm not sad at all. I am so happy for you. He got them all. All those pins, they're out of your leg!"

My leg. It throbbed with a stabbing, constant pain underneath the layers of blankets...but somehow, knowing that the pins were gone meant that the pain mingled with relief.

I opened my eyes and saw my dad walk towards the bed and sit down. He said something about how two of the pins had been rubbing against the muscles in my leg every time I moved, leading to inflammation...more inflammation than they'd thought...and that the pins were breaking down the padding in my hip joint.
My elephant :)
(this pic was taken later, in my hospital room,
not in the PACU)

Somebody said that I'd taken two hours to awaken from the anesthesia - I wondered dimly if they'd been watching me that whole time. Another voice told me to close my eyes and sleep, but the throbbing was enough to keep me from slipping back into unconsciousness -- not excruciating, but far beyond the realm of uncomfortable. There weren't any pillows to spare (which - even in my drugged state, struck me as odd), so my mom placed my stuffed elephant (pictured - thanks T & T! :)) between my knees, which helped ease some of the pain. The clock on the wall indicated that it was past 7 pm, and I was the only patient left in the PACU (recovery room) at this time of night.

After about an hour, they moved my bed to an inpatient room. My memories at this point are a little bit body felt hot, "like fire," I had managed to text to my friends (which probably sounded kind of alarming, but the fever combined with the anesthetics that must have been coursing through my system made it difficult for me to analyze the emotional repercussions of my messages).

As the night progressed, my mind must have become clearer, because my memories are more cohesive.

The main nurse that tended to me that night - let's call him Benny (not his real name) - had incredible bedside manner, but I'm not so sure if nursing was the right career path for him.

"I'm going to put some Motrin into your IV now, okay?" he said.

"Motrin?" I said, "Can check on that? I've got a factor VII deficiency in my blood so I bleed more easily and I've been told not to take Motrin because that can make it worse."

"Ohhh," he said, "Hmm...I think Tylenol is a blood thinner, so Motrin should be okay."

"My pediatrician told me that Tylenol is what I should take instead of ibuprofen, so if you could confirm that that I'd really appreciate it. It's not usually a huge deal because my deficiency is mild but I'd want to avoid extra bleeding if we can," I said, and he smiled and agreed to check.

A few minutes later, Benny came back in. " I won't be giving you Motrin," he said cheerfully. "Thanks for that heads up."

He was such a kind nurse, albeit he seemed a bit forgetful. He'd offer to go get ice for my leg, for example, and then he'd forget. Then, he walked in to check my vitals and as he was exiting the room, he said, "I'm just going to shut the door so you can try to get some sleep." - He immediately forgot, which was okay - it was just a door, not a major oversight, but it made my mom and I laugh.

Then came the spasms. If I could insert music into this post for dramatic effect, here's where I'd put an ominous soundtrack, because those spasms were harddddd to deal with. I'd kind of suspected that they'd sneak up on me again, because I asked my surgeon in pre-op if they might appear again, as they did the last time, and he sighed. "Yes, you'll probably get spasms again, because with CP, your brain will know there's something up with your leg, but it's not going to know how to handle it will send mixed up messages to your muscles, which will manifest as spasms."

I never knew when the spasms were going to creep up on me again, but each time they did, both my legs jumped...and when my left leg jumped, the sudden muscle contractions in my already-painful leg were difficult to deal with.

Benny peeked his head in and asked if I was in pain. When I said yes - and when he noticed the spasms - he was sympathetic and truly wanted to help.

"I'm going to flush your IV with saline and then give you some Valium [a muscle relaxant] for the muscle spasms," he said. But when he bent down to flush the IV, it felt as if my veins were being flooded with bee venom - a constant stinging sensation washed over my arm, and I startled so hard that Benny jumped too. He pressed on the IV tube lightly -- "Does this hurt?" YES - even gentle pressure was painful. He summoned another nurse to take a look at the IV, and they agreed that if a saline flush was this painful, the Valium (which is achy going in anyway) would be intolerable. (I'm still not sure what was up with this IV, but it "traced" my veins with at the end if you're curious)

"Okkk," he said. "Let's leave this one in while I try for another access point." Then he sighed. "I just feel bad poking you with more's definitely not a fun thing to go through."

I assured him that at this point, another needle stick would be less painful than the current, constant-stinging IV. He pouted (LOL) and sat on the edge of my bed.

"Owww!" I didn't mean to just slipped out, because Benny was sitting on my left leg.

"Ooops, oops, oops!" He panicked and shifted his weight off of it.

Then he slipped on blue rubber gloves and casually broke the glove on his index finger so that one finger was exposed....which I'm sure aligns perfectly with the sterile technique protocols he learned in nursing school, but of course I didn't see anything at all, nope! ;)

He located a vein on my hand and poked, fiddled for a few moments, then drew the needle back. "Ohhh...ohh no, shoot. I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry, I had it and then I...I missed it. I'm sorry, I screwed it up."

The genuine guilt and sadness in his voice made me feel awful. "It's okay, really. I don't mind, it didn't hurt that badly. You can try somewhere else!" I said.

He found another spot, this time on my arm. "OH NO. OH I messed it up again. I'M THE WORST, I'M SO SORRY. I feel so bad," he said. "I don't know why that one didn't work!"
The passive-aggressive "please knock" sign on my door
(Made me smile :))

Honestly, it still didn't hurt as much as the IV in my wrist - and I told him so. "I'm sorry," I said, "I'm a tough stick! You should have seen the last time they tried to give me an IV, it was crazy. This wasn't that bad; you can try again if you want."

As he sat on the edge of the bed examining the needle, another nurse came in to check on his progress, glanced at the bloody needle in his hand and the red-spattered pillow under my arm, and sighed. "Bennnnnnyyy," she said. "That needle is bent!! How in the world did you bend the needle?"

He looked so dejected that I apologized again (the two of us just apologized back and forth to each other, haha!), and he left to retrieve the nurse supervisor - a large-boned, muscular older man with an unmistakable air of authority.

"Lower the bed," the supervisor ordered, his voice all-business. "Watch, Benny."

He grabbed my arm and studied it, selected a vein with the precision and concentration of an artist selecting his paints, and slid the IV in, first try. Then he led Benny out of the room and they didn't come back for several minutes.

When Benny came back, he removed my first IV and my wrist immediately felt SO much better. He must have been preoccupied by this whole IV situation though, because he apologized again and then left the room, forgetting administer the Valium and pain meds.

My pain was tolerable at first, but by 1:45 AM, it was getting to be too much. My pain threshold is fairly high, but between the spasms and the missed dose, I had my face pressed hard against my pillow to hide the tears.

And phone buzzed. It was as if you guys KNEW I needed you, at that exact moment in time. First it was Tonia and Tara, and promptly a minute later, an email from Lizzi - and I can't even begin to express how much that meant.

Benny came in a couple minutes later to give me pain meds - but medication wears off. It's the messages of support, the outpouring of encouragement (from all of you) that stays with me through everything.

I'll write more soon about the rest of my hospital stay and then about my recovery so far post-hospital! Once again - THANK YOU! I've really appreciated the emails and comments and notes, more than you know :) xo

PS...a few of my more medical-y friends were curious about my IV case you are, too, I've put them at the end of this post...but I put a ton of space between this note and those pictures in case you'd rather skip them (I don't blame you!). I won't share a pic of my incision though (unless you're reallllly curious) because it's a little more gruesome. ;)

warning warning warning

pictures of bruises ahead

From my first IV
Benny's attempt #2 (his first try was in my hand)
(It looks like he poked me 3 times for this attempt?
I'm not really sure what happened! Poor Benny :( ) 


  1. I kind of can't believe you managed to remember SO much about post-op! Your writing is once again making me feel as if I am right there with you. (Like I wish I really was.) Sorry you had such a rough go of it, but happy to have helped in some small way. :) <3

  2. Glad the pins are out after all! And I'm impressed you can already write a full coherent post. I was a complete mess after my surgeries and they were not so major.
    The part about your nurse was funny to read! Poor you (and him). But at least he made you laugh and not many nurses can do that for their patients.
    And the fact they let your mom with you in the OR until you fell asleep is great. My mom couldn't do that and it was scary for me. I went alone, and the first 2 times I cried as they strapped my legs and arms down and then put me out. At my last one, I managed to stay calm but I sill would have wanted my mom to be there. (I'll probably need her in the OR even when I'll be 30)
    Hope the worst part is over and that it wil only become better.

  3. Hey gorgeous. Thinking of you and so very appreciate the update. Hope it's gone better since all this and poor you and poor Benny... who is learning I guess?? UGH. xoxoxo

  4. Ohhhhhh BLIMEY my dear, adds injury to injury, that does, but I'm SO GLAD you're healing now (came late to this post - so sorry!) but HOORAY for timing helping <3 <3 Keep resting, and getting better. You're doing amazingly.

  5. Oh, how I can relate! I fell off a cliff, split my ankle and needed surgery. The doctor put a screw through the joint to hold things together. I was young and fit yet waking up took hours, longer to become fully alert. Your return to awareness is impressive, as is your ability to clearly remember. I admire your spirit and hope you keep writing!


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