There are going to be at least three of these, perhaps four or even five as I sort out and process everything that is continuing to happen to me. But I want you to know -- while it is fresh in my mind. You need to know this, and I need to tell you. I NEED to tell you.
Some things are going to be alarming. Some will be gross. It is very personal. But I want to -- I insist -- on laying it out for you. This naked, shivering truth.
I had the following three procedures done on the 15th: breast lift, umbilical hernia repair and tummy tuck. Of course most people don't have all three done at once or even at all. I've been thinking for quite a while about whether if, knowing what I know now, I would have done all or most of these things, and whether I would have done them all at once. Today, my conclusion is that I'd still do it. Same way. But there have been many times I've thought of doing things differently in the past few days. Anyway, here's my tale.
I went in for a consultation about six months ago. I was interested in breast reduction, actually, and didn't even know I had a hernia. The doctor took one look at me and said, if we reduce you, you'll end up looking like a teenaged boy. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's not how I wanted to go. Hence I decided to go for the lift. The bottom line, even though, of all three procedures it's probably the one most informed by vanity, the lift is something I want because I've had sagging breasts for twenty freakin' years. I looked middle aged when I was still young. Now that I'm middle aged, I'd like to look young. Or at least younger. Hey, humor me. :)
So I said yes to all three.
Before going to the hospital, I did the following: I packed an overnight bag. VERY IMPORTANT: I included a top and sweat pants that were too big for me. I was a Medium before I walked into the hospital. The top was an old 2X and the sweats were XL. Also, we arranged for my parents to come up on Sunday. This would assure that they'd be around to take over for my husband so that he could return to work, plus he does not drive so they would be able to help with emergencies. And to keep him company and spot him. It's too much work for one person.
We also cooked some bean soup in advance and bought some easy foods like deli sliced turkey and little individual Greek yogurts. I cut up tons of produce for future salads. We were set.
Our expectation was that I would not even stay overnight. Ha! How wrong we were.
Oh yes, one more thing. Because I am looking for work, I arranged for a job interview (an in-person; I had already talked on the phone to the Hiring Manager) for today. Insane.
We arrived early (we walked to the hospital; it's that close). The doctor was there and I changed into the lovely attire they give you. And then the next thing the doctor did was, he grabbed a purple magic marker and marked me up. Lines on my breasts. On my belly. Around my navel. Under the breasts. To the sides of my hips. Purple everywhere.
Then I met the anesthesiologist and signed more consent forms.
I'd like to right now acknowledge all of the amazing people who cared for me: Dr. Richard Silverman (my surgeon); Dr. Derek Keller (anesthesiologist); Tom (surgical nurse); Kaye (ICU nurse); Katie (overnight nurse, both nights); Leanne (day shift, first day, first shift); Jackie (day shift, first day, second shift); Courtney (fill-in nurse, both days) and Kelli (day shift, second day). See all those days? Oh yeah. My plan to be outta there without an overnight stay was, shall we say, overly optimistic.
Back to our story. I signed the forms and they wheeled me in, or at least I assume that's what happened, as things get foggy. Shots in the arm, in the IV line. Lights out. I learned later that Dr. S. did me from the top down. And, for the breast surgery, I was up on my elbows a lot, so they hurt later.
I woke up in ICU. Mr. Jespah was there; so was Dr. S and Kaye. Dr. S told me he'd removed six pounds of flesh. The entire apron of skin around my belly was gone. He had stitched down my abs. I was wearing a soft truss and a kind of surgical support bra. Inside the bra were the ends of two drains, attached and hanging down on the right side. Everything was taped up snugger than a Christmas package.
Kaye kept talking to me. She was unbelievable. She did whatever was needed. Mr. J would come in and out (I don't think he was allowed to constantly stay in the area). Kaye, of course, had to stay. I could hear machines and the other ICU nurse, Carol, talking to the patient in the next, I dunno, area. They aren't really rooms. More like booths, I suppose.
Then Kaye tried to get me to sit up. We were all still of the opinion that I might head home that night (it was getting late, 8 PM?).
If you were wondering about today's blog song and why I chose it, here's why. The song, if you cannot get to Youtube, is The Beatles' "Twist and Shout".
Because that's exactly what I did.
I have never felt such agony. You don't know what your abs do until they hurt like THAT.
Kaye and I tried to move me. I screamed. Ixnay on THAT. I then apologized. She said I didn't have to. I said, I just don't want to alarm the person in the next room. And it's true. I never knew their name or even if they were male or female. But I hope I didn't scare Carol's (the other ICU nurse) patient. Things are scary enough.
The decision was immediately made for me to stay overnight. Kaye called Marco to wheel me to seventh floor West in the Seton wing. St. Elizabeth's Hospital is a Catholic hospital, so the wards are named for various prominent Catholics. Seton is of course Elizabeth Seton, the first American Catholic Saint. I asked Marco if he was an immigrant from Italy. No, Costa Rica. He got me in, safe and sound and wished me well.
DAY AFTER SURGERY
This is where I met Katie, a pretty, young woman, probably in her twenties. It was maybe midnight on the 16th. I did a lot of sleeping, of course, as is to be expected. The first alarming thing was being unable to urinate. Not a happy thing. Not at all.
If you are reading this and you can urinate on your own, I know this sounds silly but, flush an extra time and think of people who cannot. Because, let me tell you, when you can't, it is just awful. Not just the feeling of fullness. It's also the feeling of utter helplessness. Yes, Katie had the unenviable task of having to catheter me.
Leanne took over in the morning. Leanne is the kind of person who calls everyone honey and love and dear. We went through all sorts of pain medications. Oxycontin (yes, that's what Rush Limbaugh is addicted to). Celebrex. Percocet. Over and over. No real relief. I was never truly pain free. They asked me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten, with ten being agony. Trying to move in ICU was a damned 11, I swear. But during the day, even doped up, I was at a six or so.
The urination thing was still at issue. Leanne brought in Jackie. They talked. Then they brought over the Resident on call, who introduced himself and shook my hand with a grip of iron. That would have been fine if I'd been interviewing him. But lying there in a hospital bed, that just hurt like the Dickens. Yes, you use your abs to shake hands. Jackie insisted that I get cathetered again, and they stop this nonsense.
She eventually won out and came up close to me and whispered. "It's because I'm a b----." That made me smile. But no laughing. Because, you guessed it, you use your abs to laugh.
Jackie took over for a while, and was in and out with Courtney. Courtney was another lovely young woman. Jackie and Leanne were both a bit older, maybe my age. I think they were all Massachusetts natives. Mr. J was around by then (yes, for the second cathetering, too, a sight that must have been a wonder to behold). The doctor had been in, too, and his verdict was, I had to pass two tests: urinating and walking (hopefully not at the same time!). If I could not do both, I'd have to stay.
Mr. J left again (he needed to clean house and set up the downstairs couch for me, plus he needed to email my interviewer and tell them I wouldn't be able to make it). I again attempted urination. Sitting there for an hour was just not a fun time at all. But I was otherwise more alert, eating meals and talking with the staff. The phone rang a few times. I talked to my parents and my brother. Eventually Mr. J returned and I again made the attempt (this was on a commode chair so that I wouldn't have to walk much). With the water running in the bathroom, and with a lot of straining and prayer, suddenly there were happy sounds.
Mr. J wanted to gently high five me but, of course, you use your abs to high five.
There was a football game on, and so Mr. J turned it on without the sound. Even though I no longer had a roommate (when I'd first arrived, there'd been a Filipino woman with some sort of lung function issue, and diabetes -- I kept hearing Katie talking to her about her sugar numbers -- but she was gone by then.), the door was open and we didn't want to disturb the other patients. Dinner was served. Good Lord, coconut cream pie. The first pie I'd had in two years. Weird.
Naturally I did not count calories or log a damned thing. I drank scads of water, and the first thing I had after surgery was a small can of diet ginger ale that Katie gave me. Wow. The best stuff I'd ever tasted. I figure my calories were pretty much in line with what I've been eating, since there were no snacks. It doesn't matter.
I finally sent Mr. J home late that night. He needed the sleep desperately; I'd seen him dozing off in the chair.
SUNDAY MORNING COMING DOWN
The next day, my arms were really starting to hurt me. This was because, since I could finally eliminate on my own, I was getting up every few hours to do just that. This involved using one of those things over the bed -- I forget what they're called. But they look sort of like one of an Olympic male gymnast's rings. I'd pull myself up, swing over as well as I could, and then flop onto the commode, do whatever, and then the return trip was harder as the ring was not in a good position. Back and forth, forth and back, over and over again. Since I could not push hard (those pesky abs again!), I could not eliminate much. Hence all of the trips. But, every time I did it, things got better, or I got faster.
Kelli came in, and we decided to do some walking. We took a tour of the floor and then she got me to the Interfaith Chapel (next door to my room), where I read the bible a bit. Joseph and his brothers. I know the story but it reminded me of dreams and their meanings. And my gosh, Jacob's family was quite a blended family. But the Brady Bunch they were not.
I had accomplished my goals. I could urinate and I could walk. It was time to go.
Mr. J of course came for me. The guy who needed to wheel me out seemed to be going fast; that was scary to me. It's odd what you're afraid of, but that terrified me.
We got into the cab. The World's Most Wonderful Cab Driver helped me in. I didn't know the man, of course, and held his hand like a long-lost friend. The ride was short, cost maybe three dollars. Mr. J gave him a ten. Here, keep it all.
Going up about a dozen steps to our home was easier and faster than I'd feared. The open sleeper couch looked amazing. My parents were enroute. I was exhausted and fell into bed and awaited the next part of the adventure.
If this ending seems rushed; it is. I cannot sit still for too long. More to come in a few days. Thank you for reading.