This is the first surgery I have ever had. I hope it is the last. The operation went very well, and I was actually up and walking relatively soon, but I was in a lot of discomfort and not even morphine would not dull some of the pain.
Here’s what happened.
The Complementary Spouse and I arrived at St. Joseph’s Hospital at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday to find the check-in desk on the second floor deserted. There was a sign-up sheet on the desk, so I filled out my name and we went to the neighboring waiting room. Eventually, a short woman came by to get us, and led us to the pre-surgery area where I was asked to clean myself with premoistened sheets that smelled like Wet Ones and were as thick as Swiffer pads. I then put on my gown, and got into the hospital bed. A nurse came around to put in my IV, which she secured with approximately 50 pieces of tape. The anesthesiologist came by to visit, reassuring me that everything would be OK. The surgeon also stepped by to meet with me. Around this time, my parents arrived as well, so the room got crowded.
The anesthesiologist was named Dr. McCoy. I couldn’t resist making a Star Trek joke. I’m sure no one had made one before.
After 7 a.m., I was wheeled down the hall into the operating room. It was large and brightly lit, and rock music was playing in the background. I don’t recall what song it was. In fact, after that point, I don’t recall anything. I was completely out.
The next thing I remember was excruciating back pain. I tried to sit up, but I couldn’t. Then I tried to roll onto my side, but once again I didn’t have the strength. I slowly realized that I must be in the recovery room, and I started to moan “help” and “back pain.” Someone came by to look at me, and said I was doing fine. I was lucid enough to point out the back pain, so she went out and can back with a painkiller that she injected into the IV. It didn’t work. I’ve had back pain before, but never like this. I’m struggling to describe it accurately. It wasn’t sharp like knives. It was dull and intense. I can’t really compare it to anything.
I don’t know how long I was in the recovery room, or how long the operation itself took. I think it was around 11 a.m. when I was wheeled to my room, which was on the smallish side but I’m not complaining because it was private.
The Complementary Spouse and my parents joined me once I was fully conscious. My back was still throbbing, and it was too painful to move. It was agonizing. In fact, my back pain was so severe that I barely felt anything at my incision points.
Eventually, I peeked under the hospital robe. I had five bandages on my abdomen, covered with gauze and clear tape. Four of them were completely clean, but the one closest to my belly button was a little bloody. It would eventually be changed, and I was told that this was where my drainage port was inserted, so it would naturally have the most leakage after surgery.
I was able to walk around a little bit in the afternoon, and made two circuits of the hospital floor. I don’t visit a lot of hospitals, but it seems to me that they should be designed with more natural light. Even my room, which had a large window, seemed to be dark all the time because there were taller windowless structures next to it. The florescent lights made the halls and rooms look artificial and overly bright.
Eventually, I was given a second painkiller that worked on my back. Despite that, I didn’t move very much. It was hard to adjust my position in the bed. Making things even less comfortable were the giant compression things wrapped around the lower legs. They would inflate and deflate to keep any blood clots from forming in my legs. When they were fully inflated, they looked like the Michelin Man’s leg warmers.
I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything on Thursday, so the Complementary Spouse and parents left around dinnertime so that they wouldn’t have to discuss food around me. I tried to turn in, but had a very fitful night’s sleep. Everytime I started to doze off, I’d be jolted awake. Eventually, around three, I gave up any pretense of sleep and watched some episodes of the Simpsons in the dark.
I was uncomfortable. I was tired. But I was proud of myself. The surgery was over, and the healing had begun.