Good Times! (The Hospital)
Hooray, I'm back home again! Now where to start?
Do I start with the small holes on the side of my head from where my head was held on the table in a clamp?
How about the misery I went through when coming out of anesthesia?
Maybe the ironic fact that after a month of diarrhea, I find myself on stool softners?
The harpist? Should I talk about the harpist?
Ooooh, no, I've got it -- the temporary diabetes insepidus that I got, giving me my new super power of being able to pee almost a liter of fluid every 30 moinutes -- on the nose!
I dunno. I've been trying to sit down for days to catch the 'highlights' of my adventure in Hospitaland, and am still uncertain as to how to capture all of it -- that is, without droning on and on about mundane details.
For days I've been thinking to myself "Ooh, I've got to remember this or that for the blog,' but between having no computer in the hospital, trying to herd my family, AND trying to negotiate life on about 15% of my regular energy output (not to mention come incredible headaches,) one can see how much progress I've made. Somewhere around here, I've got the second-by-second playback started, but even *I* was getting tired of excessive details after a while. I'll try to be informative without narcolepsy-inducing.
Lesse, Monday was all pre-op stuff. I was, not suprisingly, a nervous wreck. By the end of the day I had come completely unraveled, and was weeping all over Husband who spent the whole day with me a the hospital lining things up.
The only thing that got me into the hospital and onto the gurney for surgery was, oddly enough, Sudoku puzzles. I figured out on Monday that these weird little logic puzzles were exactly what I needed in the way of distraction. If I focused on them with every fiber in my being, I would (probably) not run screaming from the hospital. I never let them out of my grasp. If a nurse was asking me questions, I would answer her while my eyes scanned colums of numbers. They took pity on me and even put the IV in my left hand so that I could work on the puzzles up until the last possible moment (bless them.) Eventually they medically sedated me, and I was off to la-la land.
Coming out of anesthesia was one of the most miserable experiences I have ever had -- and keep in mind I've been hit by a car and had natural childbirth. My entire body shook with tremors for what felt like hours while I fought back tsunamis of nausea. My arm would burn with pain every time they put something in my IV. I couldn't open my eyes, and nurses kept leaning over me, bellowing at me to state my name, date, address, who stole the presidential election, and other useless information.
I'd had a second mystery IV in my ankle, which was removed shortly after surgery. A thick wad of cotton batting was taped to my face under my nose to soak up the rivulets of blood, and it felt like a pillow - possibly king sized? - was jammed in my sinuses. My abdomen hurt where they took a graft. Life sucked. It was hard to get excited about having the surgery behind me when all I wanted to do was be put out of my misery.
Husband was at my bedside the moment he was able, eyes all full of love and concern. I think I may have grunted at him wetly in return. He told me that the estimated surgery time of 2, 2.5 hours had run over into 3.5 hours, and the recovery time had gone from 2.5 to 3.5 hours. Turns out once on the table, things did not go as planned. The one bone plate they had to drill through was much thicker than anticipated, and some roadwork equipment from Caltrain had to be called in to break through. Then that tumor - you remember the villain of this tale - ended up being fairly grown into the gland itself, and not the clean delineation as the MRI had suggested. Much detail work ensued, as well as lots of extra bleeding.
A posh dinner of chicken broth perked me up, and I spent my first night in sort of a low-grade ICU for head surgery patients. I can't say I really slept at all that night, what with the oxygen mask blowing arctic air into my face, being unable to recline, the nurses waking you up every 2 hours to take your temperature, or your blood, or to pee like a racehorse every 30 minutes, or the need to consume as much cold water as I could to slake my raging thirst, or to hear the weeping, cries of pain, or retching from the other patients. That, and the sensation of having to blow your nose 24 hours a day (which, duh, is a big no-no, as is sneezing, using a straw, and exerting effort while pooping, kid you not,) I did not sleep at all. Basically gave up trying.
Wednesday was weird, in that, well, I felt fine. No pain meds needed. Perky, even. Got moved to a private room. I watched lots of bad cable. Caught up on my low stores of Chevy Chase movies. Went through several new shifts of nurses. Had about a gallon of blood drawn. Learned the art of eating and drinking with Groucho Marx bandage/disguise strapped to face. Also had to learn how to eat, drink, cough and talk with all of my sinuses basically under heavy vapor lock (I had no idea how hard it was to use your throat without using your sinuses. Really. Try it.) Was visited by Whizz on her flashy wheels. Ate lots and lots and lots of soft foods. Peed some more. Husband visited again during the day, and my family came by that evening. Started to have a headache.
Slept in two-hour blocks through the night until my surgeon visited me the next morning. He checked the blood flow from my nose - now more of a soothing backyard-pond-kind of trickle, as opposed to the earlier Niagra Falls installment - and was shocked to see the aforementioned pillows in my nose (queen sized, in the end.) Within an hour and a half (mere moments in hospital time,) a nurse was there with her tweezers to pull out the packing.
Now, I know I'm getting long-winded here, and I'm about to go off on a bit of an aside, but too bad. Hospital packing is basically a sterile shoelace jammed into [cavity] to absorb whatever fluid is present. In theory, its coiled into place, so it fills whatever size/shape space you have, and then when you pull it out, it unravels, so that the widest diameter coming out through the hole is supposed to only be that of the shoelace. Unless, say, that packing has been left in, absorbed too much blood (which I have since learned has the setting strength of concrete,) and turns into a boulder.
Childbirth is a painful process, do not get me wrong. That whole cheerio/bowling ball analogy. But at least the cheerio is designed to stretch, albeit painfully. Your nose? Not so much. I literally almost blacked out from pain, which I have never done before. My nurse had a great bedside manner, considering I tried to claw her face off. She fanned me with a package of sterile gauze while I laid there like a bloody Scarlett O'Hara. It took half an hour before I even let her touch me again. The other nostril went as expected, which is to say, still wildly unpleasant (I will never store my shoelaces in my nose. Ever.) I made the nurse call Husband and tell him to cancel all visits planned for the day, including his. The doctor came by later to check me out, and said it looked like I could probably go home sometime on Friday, as there was *still* more bleeding than they liked to see.
Did I mentioned the peeing had calmed down to normal by now? Ok, just checking.
I had a screaming, tunnel-vision kind of headache that came and went for the rest of the day. In fact, it kept me up most of the night. The nurses plied me with Vicodin, the strongest thing they had as I had had my IV yanked out the day previous (evil things, hate them.) Vicodin only succeeded in making me nauseated on top of the migraine, so I stopped that. I managed to fall asleep with the aide of an ice pack.
Friday was a lot more of the same. Headache, kill me, headache. Luckily it faded by noon, and it was agreed that I could go home. In fact, they'd take care of my paperwork right away! 6 hours later I went home.
Ironically, it was on Friday that I found out that I would have to start hormone therapy, which the surgeon had hoped to avoid. He'd had to take more of the pituitary gland off with the tumor than he'd originally hoped, which meant many of my hormone levels were off (Hot flashes now? Big fun. Crying at a Velveeta commercial? You betcha.) Turns out one of them was cortisol, the one that I'd prior had too much of because of the tumor. Now those levels had tanked, which may or may not be a temporary condition this soon after surgery. Until we know for sure though, let's get started on some pills, shall we?
For the record, it wasn't all dismembered limbs and pools of blood in the hallways while I was there. My private room had a killer view. It never dawned on me that people might send me flowers, and lo! I ended up with two gorgeous bouquets during my stay! (Sparrow et al have very good taste.) I didn't have a problem with a single nurse while I was there. All very friendly and helpful to the weak and flailing mom in the bed. If we felt up to it, we were encouraged to shuffle around to get some exercise, and even being on the third floor like I was, there was an open air garden/patio to hang out in/eat lunch in. Oh yeah, and the harpists. Stanford has a 'Guest Services' department, to help the patient have the most comfortable stay possible. And one of the things they offer are basically travveling musicians; harpists and guitarists. If you give them a call, when someone is avaiable, they will come and sit outside your hospita room and play traditioanl/classical pieces for 15-20 minutes. Slightly cheesy, but incredibly soothing and appreciated. Hell, even the food was pretty darn tasty (well, to someone who has lost the ability to smell, anyhow.)
As a whole, after I got over the wanting to die part, it was a positive experience. The tumor is out, and was confirmed to be benign. While taking a little longer than expected, recovery is going well. Hell, I even lost 7 pounds of water weight in 4 days due to that whole temporary diabetes thing! (almost an entire gallon.)
My experience since being at home has been fairly interesting as well (to me, anyhow,) but I really do need to head to bed. Need to be back at the hospital by 8am for more blood tests and to meet with my doc for a debriefing, blah. blah. Hope that got everyone up to date, at least somewhat. Thanks again with your patience through all of this, and all of your emails and cards and calls and such. Truly, it means the world.