All the Boring Details

I was going to call this post “all the gory details, but really, it’s more boring than anything. No gore.

Where to begin? Let’s start with my arrival at admissions, hrmmm? It was recorded that I’d arrived, and I was asked to take a seat. The sign said “patients are calling in theatre order” (or something to that effect, in other words, in the order that they would be operated on. We’d been sitting down for a few minutes (my mother accompanied me to the hospital), when I was suddenly called.

That’s a good sign, I said to Mum.

I handed over my forms and went upstairs to another waiting room with another sign mentioning that patients would be called in the order they were going to be operated on. This time I was the second person to be called. My confidence was going up. I was going to one of the first people into the theatre, the less waiting around the better.

My first, and only pang of nerves was as I stood alone in the cubicle, changing into a robe and a pair of paper undies. I think it was just that I was alone in that moment, because my worries ceased once I was on the bed with the nurse and my mother. It would also be the only time not in a toilet that I would be completely alone.

After going through the checks and filling out some forms, I was told that I was the first person to be operated on in my theatre, and that if all went to plan, I’d be in surgery by 8am. All things were looking up, and all signs pointed to a nice and speedy turn-around.

I was eventually wheeled into the “holding bay” (8:15), and I answered my questions (who are you, what are you having done?) again. There were no clocks in the holding bay, so I have no idea how long I waited there. A lovely Dr Elliot came to talk to me about the anesthesia (again), and finally the Fellow from the Breast Clinic came to see me. He unbuttoned the shoulder of my gown and wrote on my skin where surgery site would be, and I was taken through to the operating room. I understood as they did that why A) staff kept asking patients if they were warm enough, and b) staff kept coming into the holding bay and getting long sleeve “jackets” to go over their scrubs.

Leading up to that moment, I’d been told a few times how good the anesthetics these days were, and that they’d tell me to count, but they might as well not bother, because I’d be out before I got backwards to 9. After the needle was in my hand and the drip running, a dark-skinned gentleman with the most lovely accent introduced himself as Sam and began attaching the electrode things to my chest. I wanted to ask him where he was from, but I never got the chance.

Dr Elliot told me that he was going to give me something to relax me, that I would feel a little woozy, like I’d had a few glasses of wine. I didn’t feel anything at first, but then I realised that I did, indeed, feel woozy. I think I intended to say “oh, I feel woozy now”, maybe I hadn’t made up mind whether I was going to say it or not.

Either way, the next thing I remember is waking up feeling cold, and there was a lady sitting next to me. If you’ve ever had a general, or just woken from a really, really deep sleep, you’ll know that “blink-blink surfacing” feeling. Initially you’re not so much woozy as a long, long way away. They started asking me questions, and I came to lucidity pretty quickly. It was 9:30, I figure I can’t have been on the table more an hour at an absolute outside.

I was shivering, but they’d put a bear hugger on me (where can I get one of these???), and another blanket over that. I was told that there had been a minor complication, but that I could be moved to second-stage recovery (I guess that first-stage is for unconscious patients only).

What had happened was that when they extubated me, there was fluid inside it. They were concerned that I might have aspirated some saliva/stomach fluids, and while I was being waking up, my O2 sats was hovering around 85%. On oxygen, they had brought it up to 92%, but I had a cough, so they ordered a chest x-ray.

They asked me to sit forward to put the x-ray plate behind me, and the nurse was surprised that I was sitting up on my own so well, and I had already explained to the anesthetist that on some, very rare occasions, I wake up in a panic because I’ve experienced some reflux in my sleep and I wake unable to breathe and feeling that burn of acid in my throat.

As my sats rose to 95%, I also mentioned that several years ago during a physical I was given a lung function test, and that the results were rather poor, so a low saturation might just be fairly normal. Breathing too deeply caused me to start coughing, but apart from that I felt bright and alert, and I wanted to go home.

Although the x-ray came back clear, Dr Elliot came by and said that everything seemed fine, but that’d observe me for a few hours to see if it would rise. They brought me a cup of tea and a sandwich. It was just the cheap “black tea” that you see in the supermarkets without any “type” on it (like Earl Grey, or English breakfast, or whatever). I’m a tea snob, and I avoid this generic tea like the plague; but this was one of the best cups of tea I’d ever enjoyed in my life. It felt so good.

They gave me some magazines, and I watched the time getting away, trying to will my sats to rise. I noticed at one point it dropped right back to 92%, and that was mere moments after I hacked up some fluid off my lungs. I was able to get up and walk to the toilet, and I didn’t feel any light-headedness or dizzyness (though, deep breathing, trying to increase my sats was making me feel a bit woozy when I remembered to try taking big breaths).

Finally, Dr Elliot came by one last time. My O2 was up to 96% (though not stable by any stretch of the imagination). I was cautioned that if I felt short of breath, or there was any tightness in my chest, I had to call 000, and he authorised my move to 3rd stage recovery. Finally!

I was given a medical certificate, and another cup of tea and sandwich, and moved to a chair. I still had the cannula in my hand, which was annoying because it kinda hurt. I don’t know if they gave me some kick arse painkillers, but I’ve only had three twinges of pain, none of which I would even rate as a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10. Having the cannula pushed into my hand hurt at roughly a 2.

They called my Mummy, and let me get dressed, and I was finally allowed home (2:30pm)! An orderly wheeled me down to the car and Mum drove me home. She made me a cup of tea, and she found some biscuits for me. And she told me she was making popcorn, and I complained that if I’d known she was going to make popcorn I would have had that. A few minutes later she came back down with a little bowl of popcorn, melted butter and all! (My mum’s a bit of a health nut.)

So, I’m in bed now. I feel a little sleepy, like I could sleep if I lay down, but not so much that I would choose to sleep, unless I got bored, but dinner isn’t so far away now (about 2 hours), so I think I’m good.

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~ by ghostwolfe on April 12, 2010.

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