Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Not what I signed up for... continued.

Once the ER doctor had declared the need for an appendectomy I became the hospital's problem. I thanked Dr. MacGregor and Caitlin profusely as I tried to fill out paper work (I handed some of it off because the damn IV in my right arm was making me not want to use it). I wonder how many people come through the ER really willing and/or able to thank them. I had felt kind of bad as CF and I sat there giggling while people were rather miserable all around me. This experience was a weird one!

So up and over to the hospital. They wheeled me into the short-stay unit where I met a great little team of nurses. Eileen and Mary were brash and loud and a whole lot of fun. Well, maybe it was just Eileen but she had enough fun to go around. I impressed them all by getting up out of my ER bed to walk over to my new one. CF was given a chair and we were left in a small "room" enclosed by a curtain. Various in-laws called CF's phone. "No mom, you shouldn't come here, we're inside a curtain and besides, you shouldn't ever set foot in a hospital unless totally necessary." (Long story.) My chemist brother-in-law grilled CF on what they had done, what they were doing, and what they planned to do. It seemed rather comical, but just in case I also confirmed with CF that BIL did approve. When twin brother-in-law called CF teased him, "We're sorry, you're the last W to call." "That makes him the winner!" "Oh, I've been informed that you're the winner, congratulations." I can't blame them for reacting more strongly than my family. They've had a lot more experiences with hospitals involved and most of them unhappy ones.

Warning, if you don't want to hear about my underwear than skip this paragraph! I was informed that if I wanted to keep my underwear I'd best not wear them into surgery. By the way, I thought about regretting my choice of polka dots on purple but decided it helped to keep things light and fun since so many people were getting to see them. Mary said she'd take care of me, and brought me a fun pair of white boyshorts. I got the IV hanger with wheels set up so I could walk down to the bathroom. Looking for a place set my own undies as I cautiously got changed I couldn't find a single surface I wanted to use. I looked up and decided to hang them on my new friend, the IV hanger. This is where I discovered the hospital issues underwear resembled white fishnet. Sassy! Then I started to go for the door, but luckily remembered the lovely polka dotted flag I had flying up over head. Hadn't enough people seen them already today without me putting them on display like that? I grabbed them down and headed back to bed. Hmmm, fishnet underwear, not comfy to lay on.

Bless his heart, CF knows how to keep me distracted. He had brought his laptop and wireless internet card. So there we were online in the hospital bed. "Let's change my Facebook status! That'll be hilarious!" And that's when it hit me. Obviously I wouldn't be making it to DD's last spin class the next morning. Damn. CF helped me email him. "Looks like I won't be making it to your last spin class tomorrow morning. Also looks like I had appendicitis in your class yesterday morning. I'll miss you!" I hoped he'd find it amusing. CF had talked to the girls at my store and they had started clearing me off the schedule. He had also emailed a bunch of our friends. The subject of the email was just my name. Later Ms. JH would complain to me that he shouldn't be sending out emails titled as such, she thought I was dead. Not yet, dear!

The anaesthesiologist came in to introduce himself. Now, they had put me on a scale for a second when I came in, so maybe he had looked at my chart and decided to flatter me. Or maybe it's a good thing he checked with me, because he asked if I weighed about 150. "Oh dear, no!" That's what I said! I wish I had taken any drugs at that point that I could blame that sort of language on. I set him straight and he went on his merry way. Eventually the surgeon himself paid me a visit to explain what was going to happen. The surgery would be attempted laparoscopically. Meaning no big incision, just three little ones, one at my belly button and two lower. He went through all the information which led us to the surgery and what my options were. I imagine this is because people have been awful about things after the fact saying they weren't told what was going on. He really did fill me in on everything going on. He told me, they could still be wrong at this point. They could get in there and the appendix could be fine. He was going to take it out anyway since he was already going to be in the area. But then we'd be back to square one with the pain. "You really don't even look like someone with appendicitis, even acute."

"It's so nice to have a healthy patient!" Everyone in the operating room nodded to agree with whoever had just said this. This was the second point in the day that I started to get a bit upset and scared. I hate the moment just before the bad stuff goes down. The anaesthesiologist informed me he'd be giving me three drugs and what each one would make me feel. I got distracted for a second by them putting my arms out to the side and then I turned my head back to him and said, "Are we already on to the second drug?" "I've already given you all three." "Oh good, because wooaaah! I thought for a second..." and that's where I black out, trying to make a joke about being a lightweight.

My eyes opened. The moment seemed a little too familiar. Like waking up after a night of too much drinking. Oh god, what did I do? Oh no, now I'm going to feel like crap. I whimpered a little, finally miserable, it had taken all day. Tina, the Recovery nurse, came to check on me. She asked if I was nauseous or in pain. How was I supposed to know? I could barely see or think straight. I told her maybe a little bit of both just to get her off my case. "Was it appendicitis? Was it infected?" I had suddenly remembered that this was left a bit up in the air. "I can't tell you that, the doctor will come talk to you." Well that sucks. Now I'm miserable and uninformed! She told me just to breathe and wiped the gunk out of my eye (they put stuff in there to keep them from drying out). I concentrated on some long yoga breaths, thinking it might help me relax, I was in hell! A machine started beeping wildly and she told me to breathe faster. Funny, it didn't like my yoga breathing. I don't know how long this went on but every time I slowed down into nice relaxing breaths the machine yelled at me. "Can I move my legs? My back is really uncomfortable." "Yeah, it's great if you can move." I just wanted to make sure I wasn't going to hurt myself, I used my legs to flatten my back out, whatever I was laying on had no give to make room for the booty. "Do you at least feel better now?" she asked me. "Umm, no, I was just a little uncomfortable when I got here this morning and now I'm miserable!" I think I offended her. Sorry Tina.

Eventually they wheeled me out of Recovery and I saw CF. I grilled him and found out that the doctor had indeed said that my appendix looked infected. Whew! I had to wriggle over from the gurney to my hospital bed. It was a struggle but it was well worth it. The sun hadn't even set, the view from my room was actually quite lovely and reminded me that I wasn't too far from home. I have neglected to mention that my legs had been plastic wrapped most of this rather hot day. When in bed they hook the wraps up to a machine that inflates and deflates them, to massage and prevent blood clots. I had been annoyed as they made my legs sweat, but that night they felt really good. CF stayed for a while longer and read me emails from concerned friends. My nurse, Gwen, told me to get some sleep and then try to go for a walk, but I felt bad sleeping while he was there since he was going to go home for the night. He went home around 9. I sent my father a text message thanking him for sleeping upright in a chair the night I was in the hospital at age 12. I was fine being alone tonight though. I watched a little television, but was annoyed with the lack of Tivo features. Finally I went to sleep.

I woke up a little after midnight. I was roasting hot, why had they put this blanket over me? I got rid of the offending extra warmth and wondered if it was too late to go for that walk. I pressed the button to call for a nurse. Micoy was on duty now, he said I didn't have to walk tonight if I just wanted to sleep. I told him I hadn't eaten anything since 7am. "Oh wow! Well, what sounds good? I have jello, pudding, crackers." "Yes." Awful jello and unsalted Saltines have never tasted so good. After a nice little snack I decided just to go back to sleep.

The next morning I decided it was time to walk. Micoy was a little distracted, "Ok, go for it." I was barefoot and my hospital gown was not tied in the back. I decided to just go with it and grabbed the back and held it close. "Oh, you need some socks! Why didn't you get those last night?" "I was hot!" So at least my feet were covered. I made it about one step out the door before he realized I was holding on for dear modesty. "Oh, let's get you another gown for the back!" So now I was on track, and I went for my little walk. Right around the corner was labor and delivery. I didn't want to get in the way, and didn't want to get lost, so I turned around and came back. I didn't know it at the time but I saw my next nurse, Kristin arrive. I did a few little laps and went back to bed. I ate a bland but much appreciated breakfast sitting on the edge of my bed. CF joined me and we waited for the doctor to come give me the green light to go home.

It was a couple of hours and another walk before he came by. "Ready to go home?" You betchya! Kristin gave me some instructions and a vicodin for the road. She sent CF to get the car and together she and I walked out of the hospital. I thanked her, and sent good thoughts of thanks to everyone I had come into contact with in the last 24+ hours. Everyone was so nice, so helpful. I hope they get appreciated enough.

When I got dressed Wednesday morning I didn't say to myself, "I think I'll have me some surgery today, I'd be dress in loose clothing." So I got to ride home in unbuttoned denim capris. I quickly changed into a sundress and planted myself on the futon at home. Thank goodness for plenty of television to catch up with. It was the most miserably hot day the peninsula had seen in a long time, and there I was, stuck at home not wanting to move. CF hid out downstairs where it's about 10 degrees cooler but there was no where to lay down, so I stayed upstairs. Eventually I took a cold shower to get the grime off of me and to cool down. I felt a million times better after that.

The next couple days were also hot but not nearly as bad. CF worked from home Thursday and Friday so we were together for the long weekend. By Saturday morning I realized I could go twice as long as I needed to without taking another vicodin so I figured I'd get off the narcotics and switched to Advil. We even went to the San Mateo Farmers' Market, my bloated belly sticking out under my sundress, I'm sure I looked more pregnant than hurt. My mother-in-law came over to check on us and nearly fell on the floor when she saw me up and about. She was speechless because she has basically never had a procedure done that wasn't followed with every major complication possible. The power of positive thinking, I say. I have a lot to do this summer! I don't have time for this to slow me down for longer than necessary.

I've read up on what Mary (the fun short-stay nurse) had called a "lapy appy." Apparently they inflated my belly with gas to give them more room to see/work. And it appears to take quite some time for the bloating to go away. Here I am, most of a week later and I still look a bit pregnant. I waddled around the grocery store yesterday and by the time I came home I was a bit sore from jiggling around so much. Still, it's better than recovering from a regular appendectomy! I read online that people with certain health problems do not make good laparoscopic candidates. Obese people were on this list, which in a weird sick way makes me so proud to have had my lapy appy.

We're still going camping this weekend. I figure I can just stay put in my chair and I won't shake things up too much. The girl who doesn't even like camping has just become the person most adamant to go. Well, let's not go too far. I can think of a few things that could tear me away. But seeing how we won't be around to camp next year, I am looking forward to spending this time with my friends.

As far as my other group of friends, my coworkers, it looks like I have been torn away from my last days of work. The surgeon said no work for two weeks, and everyone agrees that returning for a few days would be useless. I'd be caught up in time just to be done. I'm feeling a bit sad about this. I didn't get to wrap things up, I didn't get to pass along the lessons I've learned... I'm not sure anyone would have been listening. But it would have been nice to try. So I'm robbed of my closure. It leave the past year feeling a little bittersweet. This job brought me back to the real world, to "real life." And now it's time to shake things up, and move on to what I want life to be.

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