I made up my mind to go through with the surgery.  I had to be at the surgery center at 6:30 a.m.  My best friend drove me down, then I signed in and sat in the surprisingly full waiting room for about 20 minutes until I was called up and handed a clip board of paperwork to fill out.  I was a little annoyed they didn’t give that to me when I got there, instead of after I’d been sitting there doing nothing for 20 minutes.

After turning the paperwork back in I waited for a little while longer until a nurse called my name and I followed her down a hallway to the pre-op area.  It looked a little like a mini-emergency room, with beds curtained off and a nurses station.  I went to the bathroom first before changing into my hospital gown (it was a real one made of cloth, not paper!).  I kept my socks on to stay warm, and was given three warm blankets to stay under.  They gave me a blue cap to put my hair up in, and put some braces on my lower legs which alternately inflated and deflated like blood pressure cuffs.  I was told it was to help keep my blood moving and to avoid clots.  Then they put a heart rate clip on one finger.

My friend kept me distracted by talking to me, since she knew I was nervous.  I said some really “blonde” things since I was anxious and my brain was scattered.  At some point I was disconnected from the leg balloon things, and walked down the hall to use the bathroom again.  Even though the back of the gown was tied shut to the side, and my fanny wasn’t visible, I still walked with one hand holding the back closed.  I didn’t want to flash my derriere to all and sundry!  I didn’t pee very much.  It was more of a nervous tinkle.  I had this fear that once they gave me the medicine to put me out, that all my bodily functions would lose control and I’d pee and fart all over the place.

After  I came back to my bed and had my leg things hooked back up we were there for awhile until one of the nurses told me that my doctor wasn’t there yet because his car had broken down while he was on his way in.  She said he might have to cancel the surgery depending on how long it would take him to get there, since there were other surgeries scheduled after mine that would need the operating room.

While I was pondering all of this the person who was scheduled to have surgery after me called and cancelled.  That meant that my doctor could be pretty late without it affecting the surgery scheduled after mine booked for the same room.  But since they didn’t know what my surgeon’s schedule was like, or if he had other appointments to keep after my surgery had been scheduled to end, the fact that there was some leeway in the use of the surgery room may not have helped.

I found it kind of ironic that the doctor might be the one to cancel, especially after all the angst I had about going through with the surgery at all!  I really thought they would tell me I had to reschedule, but about 20 minutes after the scheduled start of my surgery the nurses told me it was a “go” and hooked me up to an I.V.  That actually hurt!  It wasn’t like the needle sticks I’ve had to have blood taken or when they give shots — it hurt a lot more than that.

The anesthesiologist came around and had me sign a form.  Other nurses and people on the team, including the anesthesiologist, kept asking me the same questions.  “What’s your name?”  “What’s your birthday?”  “What are you here for today?”  “Who is your doctor?”  I was told it was to make sure the wrist band and paperwork all matched, so mistakes wouldn’t be made.

The anesthesiologist asked if I would like something to help me not be nervous, and I asked my friend if I should do it.  She was like, “Oh, yeah.”  She was right.  I didn’t feel like I was going to have some kind of crying jag or anything, but I was nervous and had been wound up tight about the surgery for a week.  So the anesthesiologist put 3 different meds into my IV line.  After about 10 seconds it hit me.  It was like being suddenly drunk!  I turned to look at my friend and told her, “Oh, I feel it!”  I know I had a goofy look on my face because I could feel it.  She started laughing and said my pupils were blown wide.  I seriously felt like I was drunk, and even giggled!

Shortly after that they wheeled me away and into the operating room.  I was transfered onto the surgery bed, then my arms were put on their own padded arm rests.  It reminded me of the beds I’ve seen pictures of in death row, to be honest.  Not a pleasant thought to be having at that time!  They set up my IV stand, put the blood pressure cuff and pulse rate monitor on, and maybe some other stuff.  I don’t really remember.  Then the anesthesiologist said she was putting in the medication to make me go to sleep.  The nurse asked me to think of something pleasant, and I mentioned to them a recent trip to Egypt in October, and another to Russia in June (I’m not wealthy — they were budget trips and I used every last penny of my income tax returns to go!).  I remember I looked straight up towards the lights and ceiling, then after that I don’t remember anything.

The next thing I was aware of I was trying to get out of bed.  I felt like I had to pee, so I kept trying to get up.  It was kind of like when you wake up out of a dead sleep to stagger half-asleep to the bathroom and then back to bed again without ever being really awake.  They kept pushing me back (gently) and one asked me, “Where are you going?”  I think they were maybe amused by it.  Once I was aware of my surroundings I stopped trying to get up and relaxed.  I asked the nurses if I’d said anything funny, but they said I hadn’t.  I was feeling pretty groggy and had  pain in my mid section from the surgery, so they gave me something in my IV that made it fade away to nearly nothing.

I remember fuzzy bits about this period in time.  The anesthesiologist came around and asked how I was doing, then showed me a plastic jar with a bloody liquid inside which had my gallstones and gallbladder floating around in it.  The stones were yellow and looked to be a little bigger than peas, and the gallbladder itself looked small!  Like maybe the size of a flattened egg.  I thought it would be bigger, and remember wondering if that was the whole thing.  I may have asked that too, but I think she said that was pretty much it.  I guess I was a little disappointed that there weren’t more stones, and that they weren’t bigger.  I think if they had been then the surgery would have been more justified in my mind, although I suppose the stones I did see might be considered kind of big.  They looked like maybe they were the size of peas, or a tiny bit bigger.  I had kind of been expecting them to pull out something bigger.  Maybe one that was the size of a quarter would have left me with that justified feeling.  I asked if those size stones were considered the “dangerous” kind because they were small enough to get caught in the bile duct, and if having bigger ones would have been “safer” for that reason.  I think she said “yes,” the stones were the dangerous size for that reason, but maybe she was saying that because the doctors (the anesthesiologist was a doctor) think ALL stones are dangerous.  (Or maybe I wasn’t as coherent as I believe I was at the time!)  I’ll be sure to ask at my post-op check-up with my doctor next week.

She then gave me pictures which showed what it looked like inside me during the surgery.  I could see my healthy, pink liver in there under the canopy of my inflated skin.  I was relieved that my liver didn’t look marbled and “fatty,” which had been a mild concern prior to surgery.  Then there was a pic or two of my gallbladder as they were working on it, and what it looked like after it came out and they’d cut it open to have the stones tumble out.  I counted about 10 stones, but it’s hard to judge size in the pics because there’s nothing to compare them to.  The pictures were mine to keep, but they aren’t something I’ll be posting on Facebook!

I was given some saltine crackers and a choice of drinks, and chose the ginger ale.  I know it’s better for settling nausea, and it sounded better than the other choices (which I don’t remember).  I wasn’t feeling sick to my stomach, and didn’t have a headache or anything, but I thought the ginger ale was the wisest choice in case the crackers disagreed with me.  I was able to munch down 6 crackers, with two little cans of ginger ale.  I tolerated them just fine, and didn’t feel sick or like I had to run to the bathroom.

My muscles, especially in my legs, started shaking as if I was shivering from being cold, but I wasn’t cold at all.  I mentioned it to the nurse and they said it was an aftereffect from the anesthesia, and I was given something in my IV that stopped it shortly after.  After I finished the second can of ginger ale I asked to use the bathroom.    The nurse asked if I wanted to get into my own clothes, then go home if I was feeling up to it, or stay in my gown and relax in the bed for a little while longer.  I chose to get dressed, then head home after using the bathroom.

I was shuffling real slow to the bathroom.  On one side was my best friend, and on the other was the nurse helping me in case I stumbled or fell.  I said I felt like an old woman because of how slow I was walking.  I wasn’t in pain, but I was light headed and really couldn’t have walked fast or at a normal pace if I’d wanted.  I used the bathroom to pee without any problems sitting down or getting up (thanks to doing leg lunges and jogging for the last few months, maybe!)  I sat in a chair by the exit while I waited for my friend to get my pain medication from the pharmacy next door, then she pulled her car up right outside the door so I could get in.  Again I walked real slow, and both she and the nurse kept light holds on me to make sure I didn’t trip or anything.  I sat down okay in her little car, although I could “feel” it in my belly.  But since I was high on pain medication it didn’t really hurt at all.

Once I got home my friend helped me into my bed with my pillows fluffed and stacked behind me, then the made me a light lunch.  My surgeon said to stay on a liquid diet for the first day, then to eat low fat after that.  Thankfully I’d already done my homework on this, so I had stuff for a “clear liquid diet” waiting at home: broth, sugar free jello, popcicle sticks (with fruit juice but no fruit bits or anything like chocolate or nuts), and ginger ale.  I had also bought some soups (nothing creamy or chunky), but decided it would probably be best to start off with the broth and see how I tolerated it.  My lunch consisted of 2 saltine crackers, a bowl of vegetable flavored broth, a sugar free jello cup, and some more ginger ale.  I took one of my vicodin pills, since the nurse recommended I stay “drugged up” today.  She said it would be bad to wait until I felt like I needed it, since by then the pain would be pretty intense and would last until the medication kicked in.

I didn’t have any problems eating at all, and no adverse affects after either. I’m very grateful for that, as it’s one of my main concerns.

After eating I took a slow lap around my apartment, as recommended by my nurse.  They said that walking around once an hour or so is good to help prevent pneumonia and help move the air inside me from the surgery out.  I then used my little breathing device, which I’m supposed to do every hour.  It’s a plastic thing with a central tube marked with numbers, and an attached hose to breathe in and out of.  When I inhale there’s something in the central tube which rises.  On the side of the tube with the numbers is a slidable marker, and they set it at about the middle.  My goal is to get the thing in the tube to rise to the marker when I inhale.  This ensures I’m taking deep breaths, instead of shallow breaths trying to avoid pain, and will help me avoid pneumonia too.  I’m supposed to do 8 deep breaths an hour.

I then tried to take a nap, but wasn’t tired enough to fall asleep right away.  Instead I laid awake for about an hour before drifting off for a short nap.  I got out of bed and and took TWO laps around my apartment.  I wasn’t feeling light headed any longer, so it went a little easier.  Then I treated myself to a popcicle, reasoning that even though I wasn’t hungry it probably wouldn’t be good to let my stomach get empty.  I typically eat 5-6 times a day anyway between snack and meals, so my body is used to eating every few hours.  I also reasoned that it might help my body recover if I keep it fueled.  Fuel = energy for healing!  Plus, some people have said they get the trots when they go too long without eating, and I really want to avoid that!

I’m feeling more alert than I was after surgery, too.  I feel almost normal except for some dull pain in my mid section which I know is being kept at bay by the pain meds.

Anyway, so far, so good!

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