First 5 Days Post-Surgery

30 Aug

The first five days seemed like the longest and if you’ve read my first two posts, you’ve probably already figured out that there was no way I was being released from the hospital on Saturday.

It all really seems like a blur and if you’ve been in the hospital for multiple days, you know that the actual days start to get really blurry ~ you sleep whenever, you’re awake at odd hours and someone, be it a doctor, nurse or nurse’s assistant, someone is waking you or checking on you every 2-3 hours to take vitals, get blood, give you more medication.

Mark & the kids came to visit on Saturday morning; it was obvious they were scared.  They both stood back close to Mark, one on each leg.  His visit was short as the kids were not thrilled about being in the hospital and I was definitely not looking so great just 24 hours post-surgery.

I digress for a moment because while the surgery and my recovery has been challenging on me both physically and emotionally, when you have a family, it takes its toll on them too.  My kids, ages 5½ and 7 are not used to seeing their mom immobile and needing help with some of the simplest of tasks.  They are scared to talk to you, come close to you and touch you.  It takes time for them to adjust and a 3-month recovery seems like an eternity when you are that young.  Equally taxed is a spouse.  Even if your spouse is used to sharing the load, it is different when they have to carry the entire load PLUS help me with everything.  Mark packs lunches, does baths, laundry, puts dishes away, reaches for anything I can’t do, runs errands, gets the kids to school in the morning, coaches soccer all while still juggling his full-time job.  I know that parents have all had to take on a heavier load for periods of time, but rarely does that extend out for weeks and weeks.  I suspect that by the time I am able to start taking on some of the load, my entire family will need a well-deserved break.

Saturday was eventful for a few reasons:

  1. I found out that my bladder was temporarily paralyzed from the anesthesia.  What the heck does that mean?  It means that I could not feel any urgency to pee!  At around 11(am) my nurse (awesome, his name was Christopher) came in to ask if I had gotten out of bed yet – NOPE, not yet.  He asked to check the catheter – PROBLEM – it was already out.  He asked if I had been to the bathroom yet – NOPE again.  Concerned, he took and ultrasound of my bladder….low and behold, nearly a liter full.  Out of bed I go and off to the bathroom.  It is very weird to try and go to the bathroom without feeling any urgency.  From then until I was released, the nurses had me on a regular schedule to visit the bathroom every 4 hours.
  2. I did my first hallway cruising…with a walker and a nurse side by side.  Holy crap!  Just 3 days prior, I had been out on a 10½ mile run and now I was struggling to walk the halls of my hospital room floor.  Humbling! Seriously Humbling.  I was asked to cruise the halls several times a day.
  3. I tried to drink a cup of Peets coffee via straw and take sips of water.  I had been challenged ever since the surgery to swallow even my own saliva.  I was given a suction tube to remove saliva from my mouth.  I Imagemanaged 3 sips of coffee and 3 sips of water but gagged every single time.
  4. I developed a low grade fever of 101.5 and was at risk of developing pneumonia…just what I need.  I get this really awesome little lung machine to exercise my lungs and I have to stay upright to sleep so the fluid doesn’t settle in my lungs.

Not so surprising, my doctor decided to keep me in the hospital until Sunday.

Sunday my doctor came in first thing in the morning and took me off the IV drip, so now it was up to me to intake enough fluids and soft foods, plus be able to take medication in pill form up until I went home.  Cool – no more IV, I can get up and move around and FINALLY – take a shower!  I felt so gross and was so happy to get into a shower…until I actually got into the shower.  I have to keep on my lovely hard neck brace while showering and I am not allowed to lift my hands over my head or bend forward.  This makes showering a very interesting balancing act.  The shower was definitely the highpoint of my day. Why?  Well, without the IV, I was struggling to stay hydrated as I could barely swallow sips of water.  Over the next 24 hours I only managed to get down ½ cup of water and no other food or liquid.  I couldn’t get down pain medicine either.  Each time I tried to swallow, I would start gagging and the pill would come back up.  This definitely was not going to be good and I wondered how quickly I would worsen or show signs of dehydration if I am sent home without being able to drink a minimum amount of water or take pain medicine.

I am still not sleeping well as I am having problems swallowing or sleeping with my mouth closed.  What’s worse, with my mouth open when I am sleeping, my mouth is drier than ever, but I still can’t swallow liquids.  To add more fuel to the fire, someone is always waking you or checking on you to take your vitals, give you medication, trying to get you to eat or reminding you to go to the bathroom.  On top of the problem swallowing, my trapezius muscle on the left side feels like it is on fire.  Why?  Well they move this muscle during the surgery; guess that would do it.  Apparently this pain is really common with this surgery.  I know that in the end, it will be worth, but wow wee, my burning traps keep on muscle relaxers around the clock.

Monday morning is here and I am now 4 days from my surgery and wondering if I am going home.  My doctor comes in and announces that I am not going home.  My water intake was too low and my inability to swallow pain medication means I am not going anywhere today and I am back on the IV drip.  Also, he made the decision to start me on 3 rounds of low dose steroids to reduce the inflammation so I will be able to swallow.  I have a genetically narrow opening, so the inflammation from the surgery is enough that it is next to impossible to swallow.  The steroids are meant to reduce the inflammation so I can swallow and hopefully get my voice back.

Tuesday late morning ~ 5 days post surgery and guess what – I HAVE A VOICE!  Wow, swallowing is still sore, but I can swallow water!  Yes, that means I get to go home today!  I am so excited to be able to go home.  My sister and dad come to the hospital to help home and settled.  Now remember, I can’t wash my own hair, so I use this opportunity at the hospital to get some help from my sister.  I am starting to wonder how I am going to manage at home when I am by myself.  My doctor removes the bigger bandages from my incision area, but the remaining bandages need to stay on until I see the nurse to remove the ends of my dissolvable stitches.

Five days in the hospital and pretty much a great experience at Marin General.  I had some really amazing nurses (I had other nurses and assistants that were not very nice or helpful, but that could’ve been my experience at any hospitals).  My two favorite nurses were Christopher and Michelle (but French spelling); both were absolutely amazing senior nurses who were thoughtful, knowledgeable and incredibly helpful.  The physical therapist, occupational therapist and the nutritionist were all also wonderful.  The nutritionist came in to see me daily since I hadn’t eaten any food while in the hospital.  She gave me some really helpful tips on making sure I take in enough liquids to meet all of my nutritional needs during my recovery.

Phase One, which I have labeled as Hospital Recovery is over.  Phase two ~ home recovery is next.

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