It was a day like any other day, minus one small thing–back surgery. This past Thursday, March 11th, I took a trip home to receive a procedure that I have been waiting for. Of course, this wasn’t just another trip to the hospital for surgery, because it involved me, and my family. Let me set the scene for you: I left my house at 7am to drive into the city. On the way, my mom and I stopped at my grandmother’s apartment on the UES so she could come along. My mom had to use the bathroom, so we went upstairs for a few minutes. Then we all hailed a cab and away we went! We arrived at the hospital and began filling out some paper work. I basically had to sign my life away, and God forbid something had gone wrong, I gave the right to my mother to make any “final” decisions. That was definitely an invigorating way to start the day! Anyways, after all the paper work was done, a nurse assisted my mother and I into the patient waiting room, leaving my grandmother in the general waiting room. I slipped into 2 gowns, put on some slipper-socks, threw my shoes and clothing into a plastic bag, and had a seat in a green, reclining chair. My mom sat beside me in another chair that didn’t recline…I felt privileged, to say the least. A few minutes passed and without fail, a woman came into the room holding my backpack, followed by, without fail, my grandmother. Of course she couldn’t wait in the waiting room, of course not, not with her RN license in hand! Being an operating room nurse many years ago for cesarian (C) sections obviously means she has an all-access pass to every hospital in the country…sorry, world, rather! After my mom moisturized my hands 3 times, a nurse came over and started to fill out some paperwork. Shortly after, a few other doctors, including my surgeon came over, to run through the procedure, go over some last minute details, and then initial my ass. Yes, you read correctly–the surgeon signed my ass. Surprisingly, this is standard and mandatory procedure to assure that the doctor operates on the right patient, AND the right body part. So, with purple marker and all, I let it slide.
Moments later, my father emerged. It was a very crowded waiting section, and of course my father decided to bust my chops about a topic completely irrelevant to the surgery. He claims it was his way of taking my mind off of it, but my mother saw it as him sending me into a frenzy before surgery, when I should be relaxed. In my opinion, he was just busting my chops. Soon enough, more doctors, including the anesthesiologist showed up to go over their roles in the operating room. Finally, after a short nap, starvation (I wasn’t allowed to eat before the procedure), and several reminders from my mother to my grandmother that she was only an OR nurse for baby deliveries, the last nurse showed up to assist me into the OR.
The OR was freezing, so one of the doctors offered me a blanket while I was still lucid. My first thought was that it looked nothing like the operating rooms on TV. It was crowded, and full of instruments. There were so many people prepping and just walking around…it kind of made me nervous. I also felt like an asshole because I actually said, out loud, “this looks nothing like it does on TV”. Gosh, Allie, of course it looks nothing like it! It’s television! It’s not real! But it’s me, so obviously a day just isn’t complete without a silly statement let go from my mouth. Getting back to the story, one of the doctors started talking to me about what I do in life, so I told him I was a student, my major, what I want to do with my life, blah blah blah OUCH. It was a clear distraction from the anesthesiologist sticking the IV needle into my right hand. Bravo doctors, bravo, but I believe I won because I saw it coming. Regardless, the last thing I remember is that we were talking about how the Big East tournament was going on as we spoke, and I was missing all of it and………
I was in the recovery room when I woke up. My head and body were wrapped in blankets, there was oxygen hooked up to my nose, and a newfound pain in my lower back. I heard the doctor waking me up and telling me where I was, but I slowly closed my eyes again. When they re-opened, my mom, grandma and dad were there. Of course my dad was already getting yelled at as he snapped pictures of me with his iphone. Moments later, they were asked to leave until I was cleared to go to my room. About 3 minutes later, my dad snuck back in and told me the nice nurse let him back in. After he left, another patient was brought in, followed by a nurse asking that a ventilator be set up and ready for a patient that was on her way in. That was a little freaky, and I wasn’t going to let a few drugs stop me from being my nosey-self. The nurse hooked me up to a Morphine pump, I pressed the button 3 times, but I still watched with great interest. The woman was brought in and she was clearly not well. I wasn’t able to find out exactly was was wrong with her, but it definitely wasn’t good. Before I could make even a dent in the case, the nurse said I could go to my room and wheeled me out.
I arrived in my room. It was a double, but no other patient occupied the other bed so I had a single for the time I was there. After the nurses lifted me from the mobile bed to the stationary bed, I realized I had to pee terribly. A nurse brought me a bed pan, and my grandmother started to set it up. She had to be reminded, once again, that she was no longer working. After 15 minutes of failure and a slight sweat attack, the nurse decided a catheter would be the best choice, as I was not allowed to get out of bed until the next day. The nurse came over with a kit, ripped it open and pulled out a long, thing tube, purple gloves, a storage container and lubricant. Once I saw the lubricant, I squirmed a little bit. Sure enough, she coated the tip of the tube with lubricant and 1, 2, pee. Just like that, I urinated. No effort at all was involved and I wasn’t even aware that I peed until I felt the relief immediately afterwards. It made me think that I should have been introduced to catheters years ago! So great. After I was told I STILL couldn’t eat, my diet that day consisted of ice chips and apple juice. I felt pregnant with hunger. Anyways, a few more pumps of morphine and some quality television later, I fell asleep and slept like a baby, as I didn’t ever have to wake up to pee! It was amazing! Are home catheters available? My mom decided to stay the night with me, and since they removed the extra bed for another patient, she made a makeshift bed on the windowsill/radiator. I felt really bad, but she insisted. The night didn’t last long because I was woken up around 6:30 am to get my BP and temperature checked out, and have blood taken from me…again. After the nurses and doctors checked me out and did what they had to do, I took a much needed nap for about 2 hours. When I woke up, someone was taking my temperature again, and then it was time for the catheter to come out…it was such a sad goodbye as laziness slapped me in the face with the realization that I would have to use my feet once again. So that’s what I did. After several attempts, I was able to get up, and slowly walk to the bathroom, 5 feet away, while holding onto my morphine/nutrients/antibiotic stand. It took me a few minutes, and another sweat spell, but I did it! I peed! Boy was I relieved! A little later a doctor came in to removed the drains in my back that captured the extra blood from the surgery, and to change my dressings. As he removed the bandages, I realized someone used very strong tape, so I was left with bad burns and raw skin on my back. Ointment to the rescue! I was soon back on my back, watching tv, and eating lunch, happily. The rest of the day went slow, but I got up and walked around the halls with my mom to get my legs working again. It was then that we realized I have huge, purple bruises on the back of both my legs. We decided this was from the cuffs they put on my legs immediately after surgery that kept the blood flowing in my legs. I slept with them on and who knows what position my legs ended up in, so that was our conclusion.
A few hours later, I got the word that I was discharged from the hospital, which meant I was allowed to go home that night. I had mixed feelings, because I was still in pain, as I was taken off Morphine earlier that day and put on Vicodin. I decided I would wait until after dinner to see how I felt. Hours passed and dinner time came, at like 4:45, and my food was brought to me. I looked on the tray and was upset that my mashed potatoes were no where to be found. My mom went to the desk to inquire, and came back with a plate. On the plate were 3 lumps of food. One was definitely mashed potatoes with gravy, the other two were unknown. One was orange, the other…brown. I left it up to my mom to decide what they were, so she took a few bites. Unknown substance #1= pureed carrots. Unknown substance # 2= meatloaf. I wanted to throw up. As it turns out, meatloaf was on the menu that evening, but there were some patients on my floor who couldn’t consume solids, so there you have it= the child of meatloaf and a food processor.
Soon enough, I got ready to leave. I was taken down into the rain in a wheelchair, and then carefully climbed into my mom’s SUV. The bumps on the way home hurt my back, but I survived. It was a long journey, but it was for the better. Full recovery will take 6 months, but if it means little to no pain in my back and legs, I’m willing to wait it out. Thanks to everyone who has supported me and visited me either at the hospital or at home. I’ll keep everyone posted on my progress.