Thursday, January 3, 2019

In the theater


"But Mommy, an operation is better than dying," my 6 yr old likes to say. We have an open dialogue about death and the afterlife. However, there are a few topics I've avoided so far, such as childhood cancer. :( We've talked about how God knows the number of our days, and David prays for people not to die "before it's time." But I have a feeling that in his mind, the time to "go" is at least after you have grandchildren. And given all his phobias, I've been hesitant to bring up the topic of all the accidents that could happen (except in the case of his baby sister possibly choking).

A few minutes after I signed the consent form, a gurney came squeaking down the hallway and careened its way into our room, forcing the door open. I was told to take everything off and climb on.

While I was getting undressed, the orderly took the blanket from my bed and used it to line the gurney. I had to leave my glasses behind and everything. Maybe it was better to have my senses dulled a little. Besides, wearing contacts while being put under would irritate my eyes.

I got onto the gurney with the blanket folded over me, and they wheeled me out of the room as my roommates called goodbye. The orderlies yelled to each other about where I was going. We bumped down the hallway and around the corner and into an elevator, to go down a few floors to the operating room.

In the operating room, they brought the gurney up next to the operating table and I scooted myself over. They must have covered me with something for the preparation, but I don't remember. A few female medical personnel were asking me some questions. I didn't know if they were trying to determine my mental state or not...I remember something about my kids being bilingual. I had to sign a consent form and I couldn't see anything with my glasses off.

Since I had an IV port in already, that was where they could administer drugs. They did a little anesthesia test and asked if I was getting dizzy. "Not yet...oh yeah, there it goes." Then they put the mask away again. I think I was awake for a few minutes longer, but I don't remember much after that.


I was thinking about what to pray. I knew my life was in God's hands, and I knew that even my children would be cared for. They would miss me, but they would be loved. I prayed that I would be able to remain calm on the operating table. That the anesthesia would do its job and that I wouldn't panic and keep the doctors from doing their job.

I woke up with a tube down my throat. "Does it hurt?" someone was asking. I nodded and they pulled it out, which was a relief. I was waking up, but felt groggy.

"Do you have someone that can sit with you back on the ward?"

"My husband is there," I said. "And I have roommates."

They had me scoot back onto the gurney and wrapped me up in my original blanket. Then it was back into the elevator and back the way we had came.

As we approached my room, I could see the blurry/myopic version of Andrei sitting on a bench, and I lifted my head up to look at him.

I'm not sure how I got into my bed. Did they lower the gurney so I could shuffle onto it? I don't remember this part.

I was on my back in my bed. My right side was bandaged and there was a clear drainage bag attached to a long clear tube that was poking out of my bandage.

The doctors said I had to stay awake for the next hour. Andrei and my roommates were constantly calling my name, telling me not to fall asleep. All I could think about was how much I wanted to throw up. "Lizonka, Lizonka," they called. I felt so sick and sleeping felt like an escape. I started to gag. It was a good thing I hadn't eaten for 3 days! But I still wanted to throw up. I was scared of choking. I tried to turn to the side and everyone yelled at me "Don't move! Hold still! You've just had an operation!" A nurse came in and placed a cloth next to my face, saying that I could turn my head to throw up if I needed to. My stomach was empty, so I really just gagged a little.

The surgeon came in to check on me. He told me not to drink for another 2 hours. He made sure I was doing okay and not in pain. I was told that it was okay to shift around in bed. In fact, it was beneficial even to lie down on the incision side as it would help the wound drain. I just had to be careful not to knock anything loose. I also had my temperature checked often, and I'm sure I must have gotten some IV drugs.

I suppose the results of the operation are something to mention! The procedure to remove my appendix had revealed peritonitis, a fairly serious infection (you can look it up, but the statistics are grim). Although it was frustrating that I hadn't been treated sooner, the surgical intervention came just in time: no sepsis. I'm also not sure if a laparoscopic procedure would have been better than open surgery or not. At any rate, it wasn't my decision. Skipping to the good news, I can tell you that no further complications came up.

Still on the same day, my sister called! I wasn't sure if Andrei had had time to let my family know I was going into surgery. "They got it all," I mumbled. I thought she would understand from that statement that an operation had occurred, but she thought it meant that the antibiotics had been successful. I handed the phone to Andrei to explain things more coherently.

The surgeon had said I could expect to be in the hospital for 10 days. I couldn't imagine being recovered in a year, let alone 10 days. It seemed like such a huge mountain to climb. And I couldn't let myself freak out. I had to stay focused on the task at hand. I was alive, and had to spend every last ounce of energy on getting better. Each step towards getting better was another step closer to seeing my kids again.

Evening came and Andrei had to go home to relieve his parents. He made sure I had a supply of drinking water since the hospital didn't provide it and I couldn't get down to the store.

He went home and left me to have my first night alone in the hospital after surgery. I got my pain shot and then an anti-nausea shot. But other than that, the nurses weren't really in charge of taking care of me, so it was going to be up to my roommates. One of them had gone down to the nurses' station to request a bedpan.

Which was good, because I was bedridden and didn't even know how I was going to go to the bathroom.



To be continued....








4 comments:

  1. Oh, my goodness.... I put off reading this a bit because for some reason I am TOO easily "engaged in" your story and I was dreading the operation! And rightly so, I'm here in Lansing, Michigan physically gagging and retching as I read about your nausea! You write very well! (I think nausea is a bit too close to the surface for me sometimes, too!) I hated to have Andrei leave you with no one but sick people to take care of you! I guess the upside of this is that the nurses aren't coming in every hour and a half to prevent you from getting any rest!

    I am just so curious about whether you have the impression your condition would have been treated similarly here in the US.

    So glad you are doing well. I was really a bit shaken thinking about how I'd feel if you suddenly disappeared! We don't know each other in person, but I want the best for you! And most certainly that you don't "die before your time" - which I interpret as having great grandchildren! :)

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    1. Oh dear, I'll try not to write too much about the nausea. I am not sure about diagnostics in the U.S. and I'm sure it partly depends on the doctor you get. Would I have gone to the E.R.? Would a general practitioner have sent me home, or sent me to the hospital? Would they have operated right away or done further imaging? And I think probably the practice of leaving the wound open isn't as widespread in the U.S. anymore. And of course I would have been sent home earlier to fend for myself. It does feel weird sitting here and knowing that I could be gone right now.

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  2. You are right - I've heard of a few people who came close to their end with appendicitis right here in the US. One young dad nearly died because he got one of those "hospital infections". Yes; that open wound thing sounds scary; I've not heard of it..... I guess for you it is "all's well that ends well."

    Hospital stories from other lands are so fascinating. You figure it's going to be the same everywhere, but it isn't! A friend of mine was injured in Italy, and ended up in a big ward in a hospital that was very old; it had stone walls and very tall windows - these were left open for the birds to fly in and out. I am presuming that is not something we'd see here in the US.... With the passion for fresh air, it might be considered optimal in Russia, though....

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