On Wednesday morning I got up, double checked my hospital packing list and bags, and hung out with the kid for a while before she went to school. I had a cup of tea and tried to distract myself with reading. I think Horace picked up on my nerves and really didn’t like the looks of the suitcase since I had just gone to SF a couple of weeks ago.
I gave myself a pep talk. I was all set set! Everyone was on board with my health issues! This was going to be great. Okay, so I knew it wasn’t going to be great, but I felt ready and I thought they were ready for me.
I didn’t take any speed because I’d been on a liquid diet for two days at that point and it seemed unnecessarily harsh. I took my normal morning antihistamines and one kind of mast cell stabilizer (quercetin). I taxied to the hospital, checked in, and immediately got hit by the wave of hospital and people smells and got sleepy. I shut down and fell asleep the first time while I was waiting for them to call me for preop–just like the old pre-speed days!
I pulled one of my gowns out of my bag that I knew I wouldn’t react to/get hives from and that was immediately a fight–they wanted me to wear something that was some kind of paper. I brought stew I’d made the night before asked them to please get my food into the fridge. I know that time=rising histamine levels for warming food.
It made me feel better to cook a huge stew the night before, even though I couldn’t eat it. I was doing something normal that I was ok at. It had chicken, onions, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, potatoes, and chickpeas. I kitchen-sinked it because I was hoping there would be some when I got home, too. The nurse looked confused as I handed the bowls of stew to her. She said they would put it somewhere “if they could” and write down where it was.
I told both of the nurses that my surgeons had approved me to wear my own gowns. There was a lot of conferring at the nurses station that I couldn’t hear all of. I had a wild thought and made a pact with myself that if they were just assholes about everything I could bail on surgery all together. It was ok to change my mind on something this major even at the last minute. Finally, my gowns were allowed, but my sheets were not.
I wasn’t upset, really. I walk into a big institution like this and expect to have to try tell people what my deal is repeatedly and accept things quickly that won’t budge.
I got asked the same questions over and over as they do for everyone, I’m sure. The admissions nurse wanted to know what happens when I’m exposed to triggers. I told her the anaphylaxis symptoms I get as well as passing out. “That’s not anaphylaxis,” she said.
“Well, ok, that’s a thing that happens a lot, though, if I don’t take Adderall.”
We had spent about an hour talking about corn at that point. IV bags appeared and I asked her to make sure the bags were saline only and the line flush didn’t have dextrose in them and she said, “Oh are you allergic to that, too? What does that do to you?”
My eyes started dumping like I was crying, which is another thing that often happens, sometimes even if I smell popcorn. It has nothing to do with what mood I’m in. The admit nurse tried to be reassuring, “Oh this is a lot, isn’t it?” I tried to tell her it was just another side effect. My throat was getting phlegmy and my voice was getting hoarse. My head floated and it was hard to think of words.
I had a chat with the surgeons. My gyno surgeon asked if they could do anything for me now. They were trying to start an IV line on me and that nurse was completely failing, which is weird because usually my veins are really easy to find. I asked if maybe they could start the IV Benadryl now? She said they could and said the anesthesiologist was going to stop by in a few minutes.
“Is it a dude? They are always dudes.” I don’t know what made me say this. Filter drop.
“Actually, you’ll have a woman today, she’s great. There’s a lot of women here.”
“I know, that’s why I’m here!” I said. She and my urology surgeon laughed.
The anesthesiologist popped up, took over, and got my IV in so fast I barely noticed. She started the Benadryl right after that. It kicked in extremely quickly and I went from feeling congested, scratchy, crappy, weepy eyes to clearing up in a matter of minutes. Much better. I felt like I could think again, but I also felt kind of drunk.
I handed her my hand-written list of what I take every day (long, crazy-looking). She scanned over it. “Oh good. I saw your chart and was surprised you weren’t taking quercetin. Here it is.”
“Every time I say that to a nurse it gets entered as turmeric,” I said.
I’m taking three things right now that are supposed to have mast cell stabilizing effects: quercetin, luteolin, and moringa. I’ve noticed that since starting moringa I’m getting fewer hives on certain places in my body. I don’t get them on my stomach anymore but I still get them behind my ears and on my face. It seems like flavonoids inhibit mast cells really well.
Like my surgeons, she had read a ton about mast cell so it was nice to talk with her. She had figured out which painkillers and antibiotics did not have dextrose in them. I knew I would degranulate when they made incisions and whatnot, much like with my vein procedure the week before. After we were done she gave me the big shot and I was relieved–all that waiting and then I could go to sleep.
I remember being wheeled into the OR. There was some big fucking thingamaworks at the end of the room that my feet pointed at that made me think of Robocop.
“Is that the vagina robot?” I said.
“Yes,” a nurse said. Good night.
FUCK YOU, PROLAPSE!
I had a little worry that nagged at me all week, because I remember the first time waking up after childbirth when the endorphins were all gone. My vulva felt like roadkill and I was pretty sure my bones were scraping together. I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. I was ready for that feeling again.
IV attempt #2: Unsuccessful!
I didn’t have it though–I woke up three hours later confused, shaking violently, weeping. I sort of remember the recovery room but I was so in my body I don’t remember what anyone said to me. I think they did give me more IV pain meds. A nurse tried to hand me some extra-strength Tylenol and water and I said, “I can’t take these, I have a corn allergy.” My voice sounded like it was coming from far away.
I did not feel like I’d been hit by a truck. Surgery is funny in that you just lie there, whereas childbirth was a whole marathon that I was not ready for the first time since I was so out-of-shape.
They assigned me a room on the fly. I figured out really quickly that it wasn’t private, which I’d asked for and the pre-op nurse on the phone a few days before said would be no problem. “I don’t know why they’re still telling patients that, we remodeled two years ago,” a nurse said. “We only have like, two private rooms for people who actually need them.”
A couple of nurses who came in and out said, “Oh, I’m sorry you didn’t get your PRIVATE ROOM.” The way they said it sounded like it meant, not, “private room” but “YOU’RE THE REASON I HATE MY JOB.” Yikes. I had immediately made myself the most unpopular person on the floor, so it was a pretty typical experience compared to everywhere else I go. I had better get out of here, I thought.
I’d had a similar experience at Group Health with Strudel. I came in after laboring for 47 hours or whatever and no baby. I remember one of the nurses got way in my face, which is probably a good idea since your awareness “bubble” gets really small and people do need to get in close. She said: “I’M SORRY YOU CAN’T HAVE THE HOMEBIRTH YOU PLANNED.” I get the feeling through training and practice they have a script they follow but after saying it hundreds (millions?) of times it can sound kind of rote and hostile. I was thinking to myself, “I don’t care, I just want this baby out.” Home would have been easiest, but if the kid won’t come out, call a fucking plumber.
IV attempt #3: Success!
They hung up my signs that said “keep door closed” etc. but people were coming in and out of the room so much they were being ignored. They were still trying to push Tylenol on me, which was easy to refuse, of course, but it made me wish I had a sign on my forehead (besides the one that obviously said “crazy diva”). I asked someone where my food was and they said they didn’t know. I had brought some shelf-stable snacks with me and inhaled them. I knew as soon as my Benadryl wore off I would be sick again and would wake up at 2 a.m. all scratchy and swollen with my heart racing.
There was a lady in the bed next to me who was in so much pain post-op she was just laying there moaning, poor thing. She said, “I’m not contagious,” which was kind of a three-word essay on how women are socialized to be accommodating at all times. “It’s ok, it’s not you, sorry,” I said. “I have a cellular disorder.” As if that explained anything.
I got super cranky and started unleashing the f-bombs as I normally do, not AT anyone, but just as my usual cavalcade of ignorant and vulgar adjectives. “I need to get out of this fucking place.” They said they would try to reach one of my surgeons to get permission for me to be discharged. I felt bad because it was the dinner hour but I knew my clock was ticking and my pain meds AND antihistamines were going to wear off. I had to use the push they were going to give me to get out of there.
The conditions came back–I had to wear/take my catheter home, and I had to prove that I could walk. “Ok!” I said. I had been assigned some other flavor of patient relations nurse because I’m sure my overworked floor nurse immediately threw her hands up like “this bitch.”
Special Nurse got me up and running with the IV pole/cool catheter combo and threw a robe on me as I ambled out of the room. I walked down the hall and watched the floor and walls spin up at me.
“How’re you doing, dear?”
“GREAT! I feel fine really.”
“It’s at a one. Or a zero. Let’s say ‘zero.”
“Do you want to go further?” she asked.
“Oh, no, I’m good. I can turn around any time.” We had made it about halfway down the first hallway, or maybe an eighth of the way around the whole loop. I was amazed to see how not-far I’d come. It was like when you’re super, super baked and three minutes feels like three hours. I saw nurses and whatnot at their stations looking at me. I hoped it was “normal” looking. I hoped I was normal-looking.
I began the laborious process of dressing myself and getting out of my gown.
“Can I have some privacy while I get dressed?” I asked the nurse, pointing to the curtain on the other side. The moaning lady’s husband was over there and I was sure if I started to change he would suddenly pop his head around, because life always has to be as awkward as possible. She kicked him out!
“Thanks, sorry, I really just wanted my curtain closed, sorry,” I said as everyone left. Then it was just me and moaning lady on the other side. I struggled to get my gown untied and to get a shirt on.
“Sorry you had to put up with my shit,” moaning lady said. I loved her for swearing. I assumed I was offending her and her lovely adult children the whole time.
“Oh no no no no, sorry you had to put up with MY shit. I’ll be out of here soon. I really hope you feel much better tomorrow.”
“Me too,” she said.
Regular Nurse taped my catheter tube to my leg really tightly and helped me get my pants on. They brought a wheelchair and I told them I couldn’t leave until I had my stuff. I knew they would miss a bag if I let them out of my sight. They brought a utility cart for my bags. I still didn’t know where my food was and I didn’t mention it.
“Sorry I’m being a dick,” I said. I thought I was? But I was so doped up and am reflexively British/overapologetic so I couldn’t read the room.
“Did you walk?” Regular Nurse asked.
“The WHOLE loop?”
“Oh yes, absolutely, it was great,” I oversold. “Thanks for everything!”
Then I was wheeled downstairs.
“Is your ride here?” the aide asked me.
“Yes…no…she will be soon.”
They conferred among themselves over my head about how they couldn’t wait here with me.
“I can just sit in a chair,” I said, pointing to the lobby. I wanted to be quit of them as much as they wanted to be through with me I guess.
“Can you leave the cart?” I asked.
“No.” They dropped my stuff next to me. “What is she going to do?” one asked the other.
“Ok I guess that’s my problem,” I said, but their backs were already to me.
“We wish you well in your recovery,” the chair pusher called over her shoulder, sounding like she was talking in her sleep.
Upstairs, right before I left, I noticed it was 7 o’clock, which I knew was important because my sister’s gig was ending then and she said she could pick me up. I had no idea where she was in the city or how long it would take her to get there. I just knew she would come. I texted her with my update. As it turned out, she was two blocks away! Whew.
Here is a text message from a desperate woman.
Then while I waited it was just me, sans the dinner and breakfast I arrived with, and my sidekick, a catheter.
Going home was the right decision. I was able to relax into my own bed without all the monitoring and beeping and fucking allergy-type triggers around. I slept intermittently and woke up at 1:30 and took some more safe Tylenol.
The last few days have been really good. I’ve felt and looked at my five small incisions. One surprise is that they are uneven on my torso; I thought they’d be arranged symmetrically, kind of like pips on a die. I have no idea why I assumed that. Two days after the hysto I went for my leg vein follow up, to make sure they’d killed the varicose vein good and dead and that everything looked all right. The nurse said, “Wow, look at your bruise! I’ve never seen so little bruising! This all looks great.”
I told my sister about this and she said, “Boom! Vitamins!”
Now I think I’m having kind of the dream hysto recovery. I don’t have pain unless I jab myself. I’m not bending over, lifting shit, stretching up high, cleaning, cooking. I’m doing a lot of resting, but I’m doing walking, too. I have had a couple of naps, but mostly because I had trouble sleeping the first night. I’m not even taking Tylenol continuously anymore. My sister just finished her fund drive at work so she’s vegetating with me and we’re watching Drunk History and Hitchhiker’s. She’s been fixing meals. We did a short walk with the dogs today also.
I was still a little on the fence my first day after, wondering if things were about to get much worse, and I hadn’t taken my catheter out yet, so that still hurt. A lovely twitter friend, @kang72, sent me this awesome article. Perfect timing.
The anesthesiologist explained that during surgery and recovery I would be given strong painkillers, but once I got home the pain would not require narcotics. To paraphrase him, he said: “Pain is a part of life. We cannot eliminate it nor do we want to. The pain will guide you. You will know when to rest more; you will know when you are healing. If I give you Vicodin, you will no longer feel the pain, yes, but you will no longer know what your body is telling you. You might overexert yourself because you are no longer feeling the pain signals. All you need is rest. And please be careful with ibuprofen. It’s not good for your kidneys. Only take it if you must. Your body will heal itself with rest.”
With my surgeon’s nurse’s over-the-phone instructions, I snipped the catheter line that would deflate the balloon and let it come out. Removal wasn’t too bad. Pulling the gauze packing out of my vagina was no picnic and resulted in some fresh blood that’s slowing down now. However–a miracle has occurred. I no longer feel the constant heaviness of my shit trying to fall out. I don’t have the feeling of having to pee constantly. It’s wonderful.
I’m resting! And I stand by my conviction that hospitals are for fleeing from.