Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Surgery

Surgery was scheduled for May 25th.  I had pre-surgery appointments with the endocrinology group and the cochlear implant team on the 24th.  Dave and I stayed at the International Hotel in Rochester this time.  Interestingly enough, so was the President of Iraq and some Kuwait diplomats so there was Secret Service all over the hotel.  This hotel was one of the luxury hotels in Rochester, our place was really nice and it was right across the street from the building most of my clinic appointments were in.  It had two rooms, a sitting area and the bedroom and two bathrooms.  A nice bouquet of bright flowers were set on a coffee table and a bowl of fresh fruit rested on a sitting table.  Very comfortable and elegantly decorated.

In the weeks leading up to surgery, I had been busy getting things caught up at work and training people to cover my tasks while I was on disability.  My former boss and current manager both encouraged me to take advantage of the disability program, that's what it's there for.  I've been working pretty much since I left high school with a one year break when Jamie was born, so it's nice to be able to take advantage of the disability program and focus on the healing and adaptation.

Oddly enough, I wasn't really nervous about the surgery.  I mean, I knew that the surgery was going to be done on my head and it is major surgery, but I was more excited about the possibilities than I was nervous about the upcoming surgery.  Let's just get that part over and done with I thought.  I completely trusted that my surgeon and his team knew what they were doing, they've done hundreds of these.

On the day before surgery, I was up early for a blood test at 7am.  We checked in with Endocrinology, the fun doctor I had before wasn't there this time but another gentleman checked me.  My thyroid has been shrinking, I could notice the difference and he could too.  He compared my neck to the pictures that were taken a couple of months ago and estimated that it shrank about 20%.  That's GREAT!  At this rate, it will be down to almost normal by the end of this year.  I am just so happy that something is happening and in a good way.  I hope that this keeps up.  He said that there shouldn't be any problem with the surgery so I was good to go.

We had a visit with a different Audiologist who was going to be working with me on my Cochlear Device.  It was more of an informational meeting, she described what was going to happen in surgery as far as the device was concerned and she offered to answer any further questions or concerns we had.  This time I was more interested in what kind of things I can expect to hear.  I was trying to clarify exactly what I will be able to hear.  It's not something that can really be quantified though.  Each individual is different. It's all about your ability to listen and perceive.  The potential is there and I'd like to think that an extremely observant person like myself will be able to maximize that potential.  Time will tell.

From the audiology department we walked to the surgeon's office on the same floor.  He also explained what was going to happy at surgery and mentioned that he has a staff of doctors that work with him but he's the one who will actually put the device in.   I mentioned to him that I wasn't really nervous about the surgery, I am already looking ahead.  The "activation" was scheduled for June 13th.  That is the day I am looking forward to.  With no further questions or concerns, we left the surgeon's office and headed to the Pre-surgery appointment.  I was weighed, measured and questioned.  In the end, I was good to go.  No problem, I am calm and ready.

Surgeries scheduled through the Mayo Clinic work a little differently than usual.  The date may be scheduled, but the time slot isn't determined until the night before surgery.  Each day, doctors enter their surgery requests at St. Mary's into the system before a certain time, then St. Mary's schedules all of the surgeries for the following day.  Everyone is supposed to call a hotline number after 8:30 at night to find out when they need to report to the hospital for their surgery.  I think this is a brilliant system but it makes it harder to have visitors when they don't know what time you're going to be in the hospital.

That night, Dave & I went to dinner at a nice restaurant and I had one cocktail with my meal.  (What else but a Cosmo!)  We had to keep an eye on the clock though.  We needed to call that surgery hotline number after 8:30pm.  I couldn't eat anything after midnight, but I could have clear liquids up until 2 hours before surgery.

Later that evening, we called the surgery hotline and found out that I was to report to the hospital at 10:00 am.  I called my parents right away to let them know as they planned on coming down to be with me.  Even now, I wasn't nervous or scared.  I'm not sure why I was so calm.  That night, I slept well.

The next morning, we woke up early, showered, dressed and headed over to the hospital.  We grabbed a shuttle bus from the Gonda Building at the Mayo Clinic to St. Mary's hospital.  We arrived pretty early, but we hadn't expected the ride to be so quick.  No matter, I was brought to my pre-op room, changed into the hospital attire and settled in for the morning.  There was one surgery before me, so I did have to wait  my turn.  My parents found me and waited along with me and Dave.  We chatted the morning  hours away.  My room had large old fashioned double hung windows that overlooked a pretty manicured lawn.  They had that old glass that is slightly warped in them, but we could still see outside.  It was raining that day, so there wasn't much activity outside other than the cars on the busy street.

10:00 came and went.  Several hours went by.  Eventually a nurse came by and mentioned that the surgery before me was scheduled for 7 am, but it was delayed by several hours so my surgery would be delayed too.  Not only was the surgery before me delayed, it looked like some complications came up.  I think it was about 3 in the afternoon when they finally came and collected me.  I am so grateful that my parents were there along with Dave & I, it sure helped to pass the hours.

Seeing that nurse come in with the gurney to lead me away to surgery made me happy.  With a smile on my face I asked "It's time?" and she confirmed that it was.  I think she was surprised to see me so ready to go.  I hugged Dave and my parents, then I laid myself down on the gurney.  I was wheeled out of the room, Dave and my parents followed me out.  My husband gave me a quick squeeze to my hand and then I was gone.  I was smiling and I never looked back, I am so ready for this.  I am not afraid of what's ahead, this is it, the beginning.

I was wheeled into a pre-op prep room.  I was hooked up to monitors and IVs.  I received a couple of visits from some very nice nurses.  The first gal was a real sweet heart.  Sometimes beautiful conversations come in the most unique situations.  I don't know how we got to the topic, but we spoke about kindness and validation.  The best gift anyone can give another human being is validation.  She asked if I needed anything and I said I didn't, I mentioned to her that I'm not really a fussy person and find it easy to be content.  She said she could tell.  We also got on the topic of disabilities.  I mentioned to her that a former boss once told me that he didn't see me as disabled, he saw me as differently abled.  As for being differently abled, God had to keep me humble some how and she thought that was adorable.

She had to leave and another nurse came by for a little bit. Later, my doctor's assistant surgeon came by and marked the ear that the surgery would be done on.  He also asked me if I had any questions or concerns.  I really didn't.  I'm sure that they must get a lot of patients that get nervous or scared.  The anesthesiologist came by and asked me some questions.  Mostly whether I had known allergies and if I ever had surgery before.  I did have my appendix removed over 20 years ago and didn't have any problems.  Within minutes, I was moved into the operating room.

I saw my surgeon in his garb waiting outside the operating room in the hallway and I smiled and said Hello to him.  I was all smiles as I got into that room.  I was introduced to everybody, moved onto the operating table, asked if I had any questions and to confirm what I was having done.  "I am having a cochlear implant in my left ear."  And then everything moved so fast, I was asleep in a matter of seconds.  I think it was around 4pm.

Hours later, I felt a nudge on my arm and I woke up.  I was super groggy, and I looked up.  I happened to see a clock and I saw that the time was 8:30pm.  I tried to force myself to stay awake, but I kept slipping back to sleep.  I was sitting up, but it was extremely uncomfortable.  I couldn't stay awake, I was extremely uncomfortable and I had some pain in my head.  At about 10, I was able to stay somewhat awake and the nurses told me that I would be spending the night in the hospital as there were no doctors available to release me until the morning.  This was actually a blessing.

There was a very large bandage tightly wrapped around my head and I don't hear a single sound.  I was groggy, a little bit nauseous and uncomfortable.  They wheeled me into the room that I would be staying in for the night and I moved onto the bed, I asked if I could lay on my side as it hurt to sit on my butt.  Dave was there waiting for me, my parents had gone home after they talked to the surgeons after I got out of surgery.  I desperately tried to sleep it off, but the pain was kind of too much and I mentioned this.  I was given some Oxycodone and Tylenol.  I got a little loopy I guess, but no longer uncomfortable or in pain.  For some reason, I got restless and I wanted to get up.  I kind of begged to be let up, eventually I asked if I could go to the bathroom.  Not that I needed to go, I just wanted to stand up.  After getting up and using the restroom, they made me go for a walk down the hallway.  My husband said I was goofy and loopy, but I don't remember this of course.  He said I was practically off and running and the nurses had to quick catch my IV up with me so that I could hold onto it.

Sometime around midnight, Dave left to go back to the hotel and I tried to sleep.  Earlier they had offered me a sleeping pill and I turned it down.  In retrospect, I wish I had taken it.  I hardly slept that night, I kept waking up every 15 - 30 minutes.  I was fighting to sleep and it was impossible.  That was one of the longest nights of my life and morning couldn't come soon enough.  In the early dark hours of the morning, I tried to have a bowl of oatmeal which did not settle very well in my stomach.  It didn't stay there if you know what I mean.

The surgeon's assistant came by in the morning to remove the head wrap.  Everything looked good and I was cleared to go home.  I ordered a breakfast which came shortly after.  A nice hot plate with a cheese and egg omelet, bacon, toast and orange juice.  I don't remember if there was anything else on my plate but it was unusually bland for me, but I just didn't have an appetite for anything with strong flavors.  Dave came by while I was eating my breakfast and I told him that I was cleared to go, we are just waiting for the hospital to fill my prescriptions.  I was given a bottle of Oxycodone and 5 days worth of antibiotics.  We were given a lot of instructions what we needed to do for the surgical incision and my general well being, I managed it all with lip reading alone.

From my room, we walked to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions, then we went to the car in the hospital garage.  Dave had to quick check us out of the hotel and then we drove home.  I was tired and still a bit groggy.  I leaned my head back on the headrest and wished that I had thought to bring a pillow.  But we made it home in good time and I slept.

The worst of it was over.

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