Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Good Morning Baltimore: Surgery Day

Dave's surgery was two weeks ago today. We woke up dark and early, to the tune of 5 a.m. We had to be at the hospital by 5:30. I tend to be very matter-of-fact about things, but I could tell that I was reacting oddly to the stress of the situation. The first signal was that I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and curled my hair. Which wouldn't be that unreasonable except that this is me-- I curl my hair once every month at best (that's being generous). So why the sudden urge to curl my hair in the wee morning hours when I was going to spend the whole day in the hospital and my husband would be knocked out for most of the day?

Previous to this experience I did not have much (okay, any) experience with hospitals or serious care-giving, except for childbirth. I realize in retrospect that I had, shall we say, unrealistic expectations for the experience. Sure, I understood that Dave was going to have surgery, but how bad could it be for me? I wasn't getting sliced open, for starters. Besides, I was going to have an entire week away from the kids. So even if it wasn't going to be the Johns Hopkins Hilton, I would at least have a relaxing week away from my normal responsibilities. (Those of you have experience with major surgery or care-giving to someone who has had major surgery can laugh out loud at this point.)

We got to the hospital and made our way through the sprawling hallways of the Best Hospital in America to the ancient elevator in the Halsted/Blalock wing (it takes about 7 minutes after you press the button to get to the main floor and pick you up). Dave and his dad went off for their pre-surgery stuff while his mom and I waited in the tiny, ugly pre-op waiting room. And waited. At about 7:30 am they finally called us to come visit (and say our goodbyes?). We navigated the old randomly-colored hallways of the 7th floor (you really would think that the "Best Hospital in America" would have had a remodel at some point) to the surgery prep room.

Dave pre-surgery. Don't you love the lavender walls?
Dave related how his dad had told several nurses/doctors/assistants that he had a major allergy to a chemical that they frequently use to prep people's skin for surgery. One doctor finally got frustrated with him and said, "Look, we have it on your chart. It's in the computer. For them to use that on you they would have to order it and it would automatically be rejected. There's no way that you will get that, okay!!" A while later someone came to prep his dad for surgery. He asked them what chemical they were about to use. It was the exact chemical --the one he had told four or five different people he was allergic to, the one the doctor said was impossible for him to get. And on that heartening note, I prepared to have my husband go under general anesthesia.

Hangin' in the GOR Waiting Room.
At this point, Dave's mom and I were directed to the General Operating Room Waiting Room (the GOR Waiting Room in hospital-speak), a lovely haven of mauve vinyl chairs and circa-1980's window treatments. We remained there for the next seven hours or so. I got a phone call at 8:40 saying that Dave was under and his surgery had begun. Another later telling us that the kidney was out. Another when they were sewing him back up. Dave's end of the surgery was done about 12:30. Dave's surgeon said that the surgery went perfectly and "It was a beautiful kidney!"

An example of the lovely color scheme...
Meanwhile, we discovered that the women's bathroom was even more ancient than the pre-surgery waiting room, along with being dirty and having a broken soap dispenser. I think they put the transplant surgeries in one of the ugliest wings of the hospital. Maybe they figure the patients will be knocked out anyway so they won't really care that the hallways are random bright colors and the elevator doesn't come for 10 minutes.

At about 3:30, Dave was finally coherent enough for me to go see him (although "coherent" may be too strong a word...). I really wasn't prepared for the experience of seeing Dave after surgery. I guess doing major surgery involving vital organs and full anesthesia has some minor side effects. Go figure....  It's hard to make your logical mind hold on to the fact that yes, the surgery was done by competent doctors and he is almost certainly going to be fine when your subconscious, emotional brain is saying, "What have they done to my husband and where can I find something heavy to throw at them?" Anyway, Dave wasn't at his best. I didn't take post-surgery pictures- for a good reason. However, I did take pictures three days later when Dave was looking much, much better:

Dave gave me permission to post this picture. He must have been on heavy pain meds at the time.... :)
They kept Dave on clear liquids for a day, then slowly moving him to other liquids and solids. When they finally served him full meals, they told him to take it slowly. The doctor informed us that one of the most important goals post-surgery was for Dave to not throw up.Which is, I'm sure, why they decided to serve this:

Hospital creamed spinach!! Yum!!!
Aren't you jealous?
This was after we had to endure a 10-minute spiel from the director of food services about how their goal was to have multiple appetizing choices of the highest quality food to meet all of their patients' needs. I think we threw away his card too quickly.... (The fact that Dave could eat that spinach without losing it is another feat of superhuman strength....)

And thus we progressed to the next phase of our Baltimore getaway... spending 12 hours a day at the hospital (For me, at least. I'm sure Dave wished it was only that long.)

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Honestly, I'd curl my hair if I suddenly didn't have four children to look after--no matter what the occasion!! : )