Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Stroll down Memory Lane (the Conclusion)

Warning: Again, some content is graphic. Do not read if easily disgusted or offended.

More details of what happened earlier this week.

I remember saying to Pam (the ER nurse) at some point that I wasn’t worried about the miscarriage meaning I couldn’t get pregnant, because I knew better. But I was worried about the implications of what I was going through on future pregnancies. Given how stressed I was and how much blood I had lost, I have no idea if what I meant is what I said, but I remember thinking about how much blood I had lost and how someone had made the comment about “you redheads” and “your beautiful complexions” and how we bleed more than most everyone.

Anyway, Dr. Abate came in around 8 Monday morning and asked if I still wanted to do a D&C. When I said I did, he explained the risks and probabilities and had me sign a new consent form, then explained that because it wasn’t an emergency surgery, they’d fit me in whenever they could, probably around lunchtime. That sounded fine to me.

M and I talked a little bit more. It may have been at that point (or earlier in the morning) that he mentioned that someone at the hospital—one of the nurses, he thought—had said it was possible that I had actually had a period, too, so that all the blood may have been what was left behind from the pregnancy AND what had built up from a menstrual cycle. I told him that was interesting, because I had wondered about that possibility (some changes in the bleeding, some hormonal, arousal, and sleeping changes that happen near my period) but had kind of written it off as being silly and not very likely. But it certainly would have explained WHY there was SO VERY much blood Sunday night after I had already had several episodes of fairly heavy bleeding over the past few weeks.

Around 8:45, M took off to take care of the cats. Maury had started peeing in places he shouldn’t be peeing in just before we left the night before, so he had been locked in a room with food, water, and a litter box ALL BY HIMSELF all night. So we knew he’d need some attention. Plus, M wanted to clean the bathroom up (we had left it a mess in our rush to leave) and maybe get some sleep. He left, telling me to call him when I was done with surgery and he’d come to get me. I made a couple of phone calls to reschedule appointments and notify my parents of what was going on, etc. Then I took the opportunity to nap as much as I could.

I think it was around 11:00 when I heard a knock on the door and a woman’s voice say, “Time to wake up. No more sleeping!” I looked to the door and saw a short, kind of squarish nun come in. She smiled beautifully and introduced herself as Sister Lucille. She asked how I was doing and if I was getting good care. I told her the care I had been receiving was wonderful. (It truly was exceptional—everyone was fantastic, no one talked down to us or ordered us around, and everyone answered any and every question the two of us had had). Then she told me to bundle up and go back to sleep because it was very cold and very windy outside. (I was confused, because I could have sworn it was her voice that had told me, not a minute before, that it was time to stop sleeping…) I told her I was surprised to see it cold and windy because it had been a beautiful, sunny morning last time I had looked out the window. Then she left, and as soon as she closed the room door behind her, I noticed the smell of honeysuckle. My whole room smelled like honeysuckle just long enough for me to get two or three full breaths of it.

At that point, I was awake fully again, so I started making some notes to myself. Around 11:20, a couple of ladies came in to tell me they were from surgery and were taking me downstairs. I called M to let him know, and he told me to call when I got out. I told him I didn’t know if I’d be able to because my phone battery was almost dead, but one of the nurses said she’d be in recovery with me, so she’d make sure he got called when I was done.

I got wheeled down to the hall next to the OR and placed in the hallway across from the anesthesiologist’s office. I commented that it was kind of chilly in the hallway, so a nurse covered me with a warm blanket that felt like it was fresh out of the dryer. It was heavenly. I was introduced to the nurses and the anesthesiologist, was asked if I knew why I was there and what to expect and if I had any questions, was asked to indicate and sign a form about my preference for blood transfusion if it seemed necessary, and was told we’d be going whenever Dr. Abate got there. I lay awake for a bit, listening to the lunchtime conversations going on around me, and then drifted off to sleep. After a while, I woke up, and the anesthesiologist came by to apologize for the long wait, saying he didn’t know what was keeping Dr. Abate. I said that was fine, I was just using the opportunity to nap, anyway. (I figured that would keep me calm so I couldn’t be awake and worry and obsess.) I fell asleep again, and then one of the nurses came by to say that Dr. Abate had just called and said he would be right there. I drifted off again, and then Dr. Abate was there, explaining everything to me again, asking if I had any questions, apologizing for the belching because he had just downed a Coke quickly on his way to the hospital, and asking if M was there. I explained that M had gone home and needed a call when everything was done, so he took M’s number, and they started wheeling me toward the OR. I had no idea what time it was, as I had had to remove my watch before they rolled me to the OR area and I hadn’t been able to see any clocks in the hallway.

Just as the foot of my bed entered the doorway into the OR, a nurse picked up the phone and said that my husband was asking for me. I wondered just HOW long the surgery had been delayed. Dr. Abate asked if M wanted to talk to him or me, so the nurse asked and then gave the phone to me. I told him I was JUST being wheeled in. M said he’d come down to the waiting area there, but I heard Dr. Abate tell me to just tell him he’d go up to my room to talk to M as soon as we were done. So M stayed put in my room in OB. It was about 1 PM. Wow, I guess Dr. Abate had been REALLY delayed, since the office is only about ¼ mile from the hospital.

They wheeled me into the OR, introduced me, had me move over to the operating table, stretched my right arm out onto a support board, told me they’d be putting out a board for my left arm, and told me they were putting an oxygen mask on my face. I had long enough to say a silent prayer and take two breaths of oxygen, and I was out. Oxygen, my ass. I figured when they put the mask down that there was anesthesia in it, but DAMN, that was fast!

Next thing I know, I’m waking up and can barely move anything. The words “damn Mack truck” kept chasing themselves around in my brain, along with a little snort of laughter. I started moving body parts experimentally, noticing the stiffness in my toes, the heaviness in my eyelids, the inability of my head to move up or down without great pain. I listened to the nurse watching me make calls about finding cheap hotel reservations to a 4-star hotel in Chicago. I listened to another nurse complain about how she couldn’t get the DVD that came with a new piece of equipment to play in her computer. I wanted to ask her what kind of problems she was having, and I heard someone say something about PDFs. I couldn’t say anything yet. I listened to two of the nurses tell another one that she should just go home, as there was nothing else going on that day. I listened to them talk about bringing in food for the next day and calling another woman to remind her that it was her turn. I asked about what they were doing the next day, and the nurse told me that one of their own had just had surgery, and they were all taking turns bringing meals to her at home.

I kept stretching and moving slowly, “testing the waters,” as it were. I heard a nurse asked me if I wanted some more pain medication, and I managed to indicate my assent. Then I felt my legs cramp. The nurse was out of my line of sight, and I started hitting the rails of the bed with my arms. I couldn’t talk. I could only whimper, and finally managed to get out “legs…cramping.” The nurse made it back just about then and injected the pain med and said something like, “We warned you about the leg cramps, but you never can quite prepare for them.” Meanwhile, I was, rather mean-spiritedly, thinking, No one told me about any damn leg cramps. Unless it was after I was already under the anesthesia. I would have remembered talk of leg cramps. Stupid freaking leg cramps. But by this time, I had felt the rather unpleasant tingling surge as the pain medicine was injected through my IV and then the blessed release of my leg muscles. There, that’s better.

I saw a clock. I remember the minute hand was on the 8, but I can’t remember much more about that. I asked the nurse how long I had been in recovery. She told me we had gone in around 20 ’til, had finished up around 20 after, and I had been in recovery about 30 minutes. At least I think that’s what she said. That doesn’t jive up with what I know now, but the math worked at the time. I think it actually worked out to about 20 minutes of surgery and about 30 minutes before I woke up. Stupid anesthesia. I can remember crap of no consequence to me that they were talking about, but I can’t remember details she told me about my own surgery. Actually, I’ll bet that little bit of memory modification is a result of the pain med that had just been injected. I remember the other stuff so well because Dr. Abate had told M that morning that he could tell me any secrets while I was under anesthesia and I wouldn’t remember a bit of it later, so I was determined to remember everything said around me. (Plus, nosey Nancy that I am, I had been listening to see what would be said around me while everyone thought I was still under…an experiment, of sorts, a peek into the everyday lives of surgery nurses.—I had learned while waiting in the hall that I was the last surgery of the day, that no one understood how the hell Dr. Abate was so delayed, that the nurses were going to hurry and eat lunch before Dr. Abate got there, that everyone who works down there is always freezing…)

Anyway, I spent the next few minutes (no idea how long) continually moving and stretching legs, fingers, toes, neck, etc., until I could move in just about every direction—but still couldn’t move my head up or down—that would lead to nasty pains. Turns out that’s because I had had a tube down my throat. The nurse gave me some ice chips at intervals, and I remember thinking she was amazingly good at that because I still had no real feeling in my lips and couldn’t get my jaw to close around the spoon enough and yet no ice pieces were falling out of my mouth. Oh, God, those ice chips felt good after not having water for more than 12 hours! Every time she offered, I managed to croak, “yes, please,” and then “thank you.” I even managed to request ice of my own accord once or twice.

Anyway, after a while longer (who knows how long? I was mostly “conscious” but focused largely internally at that point), I was wheeled back up to my room, where M was waiting, apparently rather nervously. The OB nurse asked if I wanted food or juice or water, and I said just ice. My throat wouldn’t allow for anything more than that, I was pretty sure. She brought some ice chips, and I was happy for about an hour. We were watching some food show on the travel channel, though, and I was getting hungry. Very hungry. Where in the world is she now that I’m hungry? I thought. I got up to use the restroom and walk around the room a bit. M still had some saltines, so I requested a couple of those from him and that he get me some more ice. By this point, he knew where to find everything on the floor. Finally, the nurse came and asked if I was ready for dinner. Oh, hallelujah!

She brought that plate of food in, and it looked heavenly. There was even iced tea! After the first couple of bites, I felt a little sick and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to eat all of it. But then I figured out it was just an issue of how my bed was adjusted, so I rearranged myself, and that food disappeared. It was probably the best hospital food I’ve ever had. I’m not one to knock hospital food, having eaten in hospital cafeterias fairly often for various reasons, but this was better than stuff you can get off all-you-can-eat buffets. The rice was buttery and sweet, the stewed tomatoes were fantastic, and the grapes and peaches were…well, grapes and peaches. The meat, which I think was supposed to be Salisbury steak, was rather bland, but I had enough pepper to fix that.

About an hour after eating, I was free to go, with my three prescriptions—iron because I’m now anemic, vitamin C to help me absorb the iron better, and a stool softener to keep the iron from constipating me. I was in track pants, a blue patterned t-shirt, slip-on shoes that I use for garden work, and a flannel shirt that was green, pink, and yellow. I wore no bra (I was too sore to even try to struggle with that). My hair, which hadn’t been touched since just before we left Sunday night for the hospital, was everywhere, without even the benefit of the headband that I had been wearing while exercising on Sunday night. I hadn’t bathed since Sunday morning, and my teeth hadn’t been brushed since Sunday morning. Boy, I must have been beautiful! We got to the pharmacy at, apparently, the peak of the Monday-night pharmacy rush after everyone got off of work. I knew I wasn’t pretty, but I didn’t care. We were in line to get my meds, because they had been called in hours before, and we gave them the Medicaid information, so we had to wait while they ran everything through the system. We turned to sit in the chairs near the pick-up line, and I saw a woman giving me a bit of a nasty glance, as though offended that I couldn’t have dressed normally to come out in public. I returned her gaze coolly, sat down, and reached under the sleeve of my flannel to make sure my hospital bling was showing. I didn’t give a shit what she thought, but I figured the bracelets might keep other people from giving me more judgmental glances and causing me to offend them by laughing at their shocked faces. Yes, I had laughed at that lady, and even whispered to M about the look she had given me.

We finally got home, and M made himself some dinner. Yes, I also partook. I was still hungry. I fell asleep while we watched a movie, then, while M slept on the couch, I did some work. Well, I was a day behind. We slept for about 14 hours. I fought off a headache all day on Tuesday and sat in the dark, watching a DVD of The Ghost Whisperer. Then I napped a little later in the afternoon to get rid of the headache, which I assumed was hanging out because of the after effects of anesthesia and the tube down my throat, because my neck muscles were still a little stiff and made me feel like I had been clenching my teeth. I got up and did a little more work, journaled, and went to bed as the headache neared epic proportions again.

Wednesday morning was cruel. I had awakened many times in the night to pee and to try to have a BM (nothing so wonderful as hours without food and drink and then surgery and hardly any physical activity to slow and block those passages). Finally, the BM had happened, and I slept for hours afterward for my abdominal muscles to recuperate. I woke up to head pain that just got worse and worse as the day went on.

Yesterday’s Journal Entry:

Today, the mother of all migraines. The meanest, ugliest, most hardcore migraine I could ever imagine. Actually, I could never imagine this much pain. I had woke up about every hour last night to pee and to try to poop (constipation from not having food and then of not having enough of the right food and water). So I woke up around 11:30, very sore and exhausted from finally having had a forced BM after several tries through the night (my body decided it was time and wouldn’t take no for an answer). Mike brought in a box of flowers that the guys at Dog Ear had sent.

I was up for about an hour before my head started killing me again. It had been killing me when we went to bed last night, and I had been popping Tylenol every 4 or 6 hours as I woke up, but the headache hit. My vision was crazy, my head pounded, and I was nauseous. I thought maybe it was because I hadn’t eaten in more than 12 hours, so I asked Mike to make me some breakfast. I managed a few bites, but the nausea got worse, and movement and sound all made it worse. Finally, around 1:30 or 2, I called the doctor’s office. Dr. Abate isn’t in on Wednesdays, but the nurse wanted me to come in. Mike took a shower, and I used all that time to get dressed, trying to move as little as possible.

Finally, at the doctor’s office, the nurse measured my BP and asked if these were like the migraines I’ve had before (I’d told her on the phone that I’d had them but this went beyond those). I told her again that if this was a migraine, it was the worst I’d ever experienced. I’d NEVER experienced such pain before. She told me that I had the look of someone with a migraine, and she asked what I’d been taking for this one and if I’ve taken migraine medication before. She said Dr. Abate figured this was a migraine, because of the big drop in hormones. I explained that that made sense, given that my migraines usually hit because of hormone fluctuations near my period. Dr. Abate had given her permission to write a script for Imitrex for me, so she explained how to take it. We filled it immediately at CVS and went home. I took the first pill at 3 PM and was finally able to eat a package of saltines around 4. By 5, the pain was mostly gone, but the symptoms were still around, so I took another pill.

Fell asleep on the living room floor until nearly 7:30. Headache started coming back, so I took another pill at 8. So far, that’s 3 of the 4 allowed in a 24-hour period. Joy. I’m going to take the last one at 10 tonight and pray that that kicks it out…to at least tolerable levels until 3 PM tomorrow.

I slept until about 10, so another 10-hour sleep. I awoke feeling pretty good because I hadn’t got up much in the night to pee or change sleeping positions. Then I got up and hated my head. Most of the pain and stiffness elsewhere in my body was gone, for which I was eternally grateful. I took two Tylenol because my head hurt every time I moved, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do more Imitrex until 3 PM, and we were hours away from there. I managed to eat some microwaveable soup and saltines, but then I thought I was going to cry. The pain got nearly unbearable around 11:30 or 12:00. I’ve never had trigger foods for migraines, but I wonder if something in the soup triggered a worse reaction, because DAMN! I took my little self into the bedroom, put on a sleeping mask, and slept until M came in a little after 3 PM.

I decided to do what I could without Imitrex, knowing that I have 5 left and that they have to get me through the weekend or I’ll have to do a hospital visit and have Dr. Abate paged. Plus, as a friend told me the other day, Imitrex is “hardcore,” and the after-headaches can be just as bad as the original. Joy. (This week has only reinforced my dislike for surgical and medical intervention unless it’s absolutely necessary. They kick my ass. I found myself thinking several times yesterday and today that I almost preferred the nonstop bleeding to the freaking migraine.) So I sat up for a bit, and when the pain started coming back, I took a couple Ibuprofens and had a can of Coke. My vision’s still a little screwy, but I managed to sit in the living room with the curtains all open and the overhead light on and still function. Woohoo!

M refuses to get me the Big Mac and fries I’ve been craving since 5 AM Monday. (Not even my sweetest pleadings worked—I think he doesn’t want to drive ANYMORE, despite what he tells me about not wanting to hear me complain about feeling crummy after having junk food.) So I’m now waiting on baked salmon and rice. I hope it’s as good as it smells, because I’m starving. Since my hospital dinner, I’ve had almost only carbs and fat—rotini pasta with Italian dressing and parmesan cheese, boxed mac ‘n’ cheese, a couple of scrambled eggs (I said ALMOST only carbs), three hash browns, 2 or 3 packages of saltine crackers, 2 ½ cans of Coke, and that bowl of microwaveable “chicken” noodle soup.

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