It has been exactly 15 days since my surgery and I can’t believe what has happened in such a short period of time. I cannot believe what is finally behind me and that I have very little recovery left in front of me. In just 4 short days I will be headed back to work as planned and I have never been so excited to get my life back to “normal”. I am so fortunate that everything went the way I wanted it to…the way I needed it to and that my recovery has, overall, been a quick one.
This post will have to be broken down into two separate parts, mainly for purposes of length: (1) the surgery and (2) a post surgery update with reflection
The Big Day: Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
I slept better than expected the night before surgery but, as I expected, we were early to Georgetown the morning of surgery. They tell you to be there 2 hours early and I sat in the waiting room for over thirty minutes bored out of my mind. Thank God my husband taught me how to stream Netflix shows from the ipad so I took that over for awhile before they took me back and had me dress in the godly untrendy hospital gown. (one of these days you would think some company would come in and make a newer, hipper pattern for the modern woman rather than the 60s pattern that I had to suffer and wear. Just kidding…but maybe a new business op?)
The first person who I saw was Ann, my neighbor who was my nurse on the floor. I had actually met her during my pre op appointment and we talked about her goldendoodle which calmed my nerves. Chad and I are going to be getting a goldendoodle in the Spring and talking about anything other than the surgery helped. The second person I saw was a woman about some studies I was participating in. I had to fill out a bunch of questionnaires etc. Next was the breast navigator. Still not sure what her role was but she handed Chad some pamphlets and gave me more warm blankets. Basically, she wanted to make sure I was comfortable.
Then I met with some of the anesthesia team…ahhhh the hell began. So, Georgetown is a teaching hospital and I’m all for learning but not when you are the test subject. This young guy comes in to start my IV (in my right hand) and he literally starts digging. I looked at Chad and just made faces as this guys literally digs in my hand and I see this needle go around and around and around. My plastic surgeon comes in at this time and says “are we ready yet?” and you could tell even he was annoyed. I actually felt bad for the guy because it is really embarrassing to have trouble starting an IV and now there was a lot more pressure. So, we switch to my left arm. He didn’t have to dig (as hard) and he FINALLY got it. Whohooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then, I had to pee. Awesome.
So, eventually my breast and plastic surgeon both came in and drew on me. That was fun. I vaguely remember my plastic surgeon telling my breast surgeon she didn’t need to cut some tissue out of an area near my armpit and her disagreeing so he drew question marks on me, literally. Chad thought it was hysterical. If you can’t tell, the mood was very light in my little curtain closed-off room. If there wasn’t someone visiting me, I was watching an episode of Weeds on Netflix so at least I was content and my mind was off of things.
The drama begins:
About 30 minutes before surgery, the plastic surgeon came in asked me why I wanted to do the one-step so badly. This is 30 minutes before I am supposed to have the damn surgery and I am already all marked up! I didn’t even defend my position and just said:
“This is why I came to you. Otherwise I would have gone to New York or even Chicago.”
So, at this point I am mad…livid actually. He leaves and I said some words I will leave off of this blog to my husband and then my doctor comes back, in sits down next to me and says “there is still the matter of size.” I just blurted out 375 and we were done with it. I almost said the 400….I almost had the balls to go with the bigger size (and Chad said he secretly wanted me to) but I just wanted to sound so confident…so fuck it. 375 it was.
So, he left and said he’d see me in recovery and I broke down, well, not exactly but I got extremely emotional. The anesthesia team came back in and I asked if I could have a moment alone with my husband before I went back. I don’t even know what I said to Chad. I just remember tears and I love you’s…
Then they came back in and had me look over what was suppose to be one last glance of forms that I had pre-signed……………….and I just about had it! Long story short there was a changed form/addition to a form I signed from plastics that said I was having an expander surgery or implant surgery. While this may seem minor to you, I was NOT having the expander surgery unless something went wrong and they couldn’t get the implants in immediately. I literally flipped. We had nurses flying in the room, plastics back in, the entire anesthesia team…I refused to go back to the surgical room without the document changed. (I mean, there was like 3 different color inks on the form…you could tell the form was modified). Anyways, there was a WONDERFUL resident who I will write a lovely thank you note to, and Ann of course, who were extremely helpful during this whole thing and we modified the document, initialed and signed it. Now, it was really time to go.
I said my goodbyes to Chad and walked myself back to the room where they were going to perform my surgery. They lowered the surgical table that I would lay on for the next 7 ½ hours and I asked them to take good care of me. Then I was out.
Bring on the drugs & martini’s- evening of December 15th:
The surgery was not supposed to take that long…they just took there time and continuously updated my husband. (I’d rather they take their time and get it right than worry about the clock and need a revision surgery). I woke up in recovery asking for Chad (surprise, surprise)….but they wouldn’t let him come back and see me for what seemed like forever. The nurse told me something about my heart and that my breathing wasn’t right so he couldn’t see me yet. I remember telling her:
“If I see my husband, my heart will be fine. If I see my husband, my heart will be fine. If I see my husband, I PROMISE, my heart will be fine.”
I said this maybe a zillion times and the nurse finally told me that I would basically scare my husband if he saw me at that point and we couldn’t have that. So, I calmed down a bit and when I saw him, finally, I remember thinking that I was right…that all I needed was my husband to make my heart alright (or maybe he didn’t come back to the recovery room until my breathing was normalized…but I’m going to be a little romantic and say it was Chad who made things right in the world).
It also didn’t help that I woke up in recovery feeling paralyzed on my left side so I was really scared. I guess I am lucky I didn’t wake up that immobile with both arms…maybe some people do. But I literally woke up with movement on my right side and the inability to do pretty much nothing on my left. They actually had concerns I might have a blood clot on my left side but soon ruled that out. Then they thought it might be nerve damage. They ruled that out and decided it was from the positioning of the surgery and also because that was the arm the IV was in, however, time will only tell if it is actually nerve damage. I was in a car accident when I was 18 and snapped my left clavicle and through physical therapy we will be able to determine if there is nerve damage. Maybe that is why they didn’t let Chad come back and see me…
The next 24 hours were really rocky for me in terms of memory. I was moved to a private room, which was more like a closet. In terms of pain- I was on really good meds (probably why I don’t remember much). I eventually was switched to Dilaudid for pain because morphine just couldn’t kick it and moved from Valium to Flexeril for muscle spasms because I didn’t like the way the Valium made me feel. They had a lot of concerns due to the left side of my arm but couldn’t get over how good my right side was. I could lift my arm if someone asked me to…My right side was night and day from my left side… it still is actually.
I did have some visitors in the hospital…but if you ask me how long they stayed, or when they came, I really have no idea, as my concept of time is off. My friend A came by, mainly for Chad actually. She had seen all the FB updates, lives near the hospital, and knew things were not going as planned so she brought him a bottle of Kettle One and ever-illusive blue cheese olives. She was also able to see me for a moment (and brought me a rose bush xoxo). She said I told her my pain level was a 2 (maybe I was trying to sound courageous? Lol). Sometime after she left I told someone my pain level was “off the pain chart. “ That’s when they switched me to Dilaudid. Whoever was there for that, I apologize. Chad tells me he was fine that night. It helped that he mixed himself a couple martini’s in the hospitals foam cups that are normally used for ice chips…that certainly helped him sleep in the room’s recliner that night.
My sister was also drove in and actually made it to the hospital from North Carolina and kept Chad company for the better half of the surgery so he wasn’t completely by himself. Our friends R and L stopped in as they were headed on an international trip the day I was going home from the hospital so they would not be able to see me when I was finally home. My father was unfortunately unable to visit me at the hospital as his body is immune-compromised from the chemotherapy he is currently going through but he was the first person Chad updated when he received information. To be honest though, I didn’t want to see many people. I was more focused on making sure I did fall on the way to the bathroom.
That first night was really rough. I will leave the details out but when your husband has to physically put pain pills and straw for water in your mouth because you physically cannot hold a cup it takes a toll on your mentally ability…let alone help you go to the bathroom. To say the least, Chad really enjoyed his martini that night and I enjoyed any sleep that I got.
And it’s time to go home- December 16, 2010
I was released from the hospital the day after surgery. I was actually given the option to stay one more night and I should have taken it but Chad wanted to get me home. We had no idea what we were in for when we got home. My sister followed our car to help Chad get me in the house…and all of our stuff. The next 4 days were somewhat unexpected as I did not mentally prepare myself for the type of pain and angst but it was uphill after day 5 and I am thankful those days are behind us.