Tag Archives: recovery

My Surgical Experience – Part Three

As soon as I got up to my room, the nurse came to help me freshen up a little. She was wearing a tichel – headscarf – and was just a doll. Of course we played Jewish Geography, as one does, and it turns out she went to a summer camp with my half-brother many moons ago. She was so sweet and gentle. She also showed me how to work my pain pump. It felt good to be in charge of my own pain relief. It was about the only thing I had control over for a while.

I had a room-mate who was an older lady who had had back surgery up in Albany – and it had not gone well at all, so she came to Columbia to get it fixed. Poor soul – she was in so much pain.

About the time I was getting settled KoD was eating his dinner that had been delivered by Sir Chants-a-lot. At this point in time they were not allowing me to eat anything, but within two hours two kosher meals had been sent up, at different times, from the cafeteria. I could hardly swallow at this point – they had to move my esophagus out of the way to get to my spine during the surgery, so it was very sore and tender – so I just took the applesauce and the juice.

Within an hour my room was filled with friends who came to see me, one of whom I had actually NEVER met in person before! I was drugged up to the max and I hope I wasn’t too loopy. It was just so great to hang out with some of my favourite people. I didn’t want the boys coming to the hospital and had farmed them all out to friends.

By 10 pm everyone had gone home and it was time to turn in for the night. Except I got no sleep. I was in pain, the pain pump was only working so much, the nurses kept coming in to check up on me and my room-mate. I get that. I know it was necessary to check on us, but I so needed to sleep. I had special cuffs on my legs that inflated and deflated noisily every 15 or so minutes, to prevent blood clots or something. So I would fall asleep and jerk awake every time they inflated. Around 4 am I begged the nurse to take them off. Then there was the antibiotics that they needed to give me at 12 am and at 4 am plus the steroids that I had to take at regular intervals too.

At one point I was seriously considering calling the KoD and begging him to come back to the hospital…I was in tears. I just needed to sleep. I needed the KoD too. It was a long night.

At 6 am the student doctors (I call them baby doctors because they are so young!!) came in all bright eyed and bushy tailed. One of them leaned over, I thought, to examine the dressing. He ripped it off!! Without telling me he was going to do it!! Holy heckers it hurt!! My incision was now only covered with heavy duty steri strips. And lots of gunk from the bigger dressing.

A little while later Dr McC came in, we had a long talk about my recovery and what to expect. A little while after that nurse practitioner Mary came in to make sure I had the right instructions, and knew how to reach her if I needed to.

The KoD arrived around 10 am and was told that I would be discharged soon after. At this point they had unplugged and unstuck me – bye bye pain pump, hello Percocet! I honestly couldn’t wait to get home, but was worried they were getting rid of me too quickly. A Physical Therapist came to see me, to get me up and walking and to make sure I didn’t do any BLT – bending, lifting or twisting – during the recovery period.

I got dressed with help, and the porter came to wheel me down to the car. The valet brought the car around and helped me in. KoD drove us home, and by 1 pm I was tucked into bed.

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The community has been fabulous. My awesome friend / neighbor has arranged meals for us from the local ladies – a hot meal delivered to the door every night, Shabbat food, and this week, they have all taken care of feeding us for Rosh Hashanah. Their generosity and kindness has been so touching. I am so new to this community yet I feel so enveloped in their warmth and love.

Under the knife

I have a friend whose little boy is having eye surgery today. He told me that he is pretending to be brave, for his son, for his wife and for the other kids. Even though you know that this is a standard procedure that the surgeon has done a thousand times, it’s your little child under his knife and that is scary.

One of my kids had a similar surgery. He had a lazy eye which we tried to fix with covering his good eye for hours daily with an eye patch, to force the lazy eye to work. After a year there was some improvement, but not enough. So the doctor decided the best avenue to improve his sight was to move one of the muscles in his eye. He calmly explained the procedure and the recovery. We all agreed it was the best option. My son was 3 or 4 at the time – not really old enough to be scared.

They let us stay with him until they had to put him under. He rode a tricycle into the operating room wearing a little hospital gown over his dinosaur underwear, chattering away to the nurse. Didn’t even look back. This was our first experience with any of the kids having surgery. I wanted to run after the surgeon and ask if I could sit in. I wanted him to know how special this child was to us. That he wasn’t just any other patient. That he needed the best the surgeon could give, the best care the nurses could provide. They needed to know he was loved. I guess that was the mommy in me or the control freak. Or both. Probably just as well that they don’t let the parents go back there.

The surgery didn’t take long, and we were called into the recovery room.

That for me was even harder than sitting in the waiting room willing the phone to ring to say the surgery was over. Our little boy was lying on a gurney with a tube in his arm, sleeping peacefully with a dressing over his eye. They told us not to try to wake him, that he would wake up on his own. He looked so tiny and vulnerable. The surgeon told us the surgery went great, couldn’t have been better. All I could see though, was my little boy, so small and quiet. And so still. He didn’t move. My little dynamo was temporarily stopped. It was rare to see him so immobile, even in sleep. My chest felt a little tight, I felt a little guilt at putting him through this surgery. I willed him to stir, to wake up, to call for me, to need me. The longer it took, the more I felt like I was going to panic.

He started to wake up, and I stroked his forehead, his arm, while shushing him as he started to cry. He didn’t know where he was, and was momentarily frightened. He saw Ima, and was calm. It took a little while for the wooziness to wear off, but within a half hour he was himself again. They soon removed the IV. Within an hour we were taking him home. It was as if nothing had happened. The hardest part was keeping him from bouncing around too much for the next few days. He showed no ill effects from the surgery.

It took me a couple of days to recover. My mind kept flashing back to how still he was. But after a while I saw just how OK he really was, and time showed us that it had been the right move.

In the years since we have gone through a few surgeries on different kids, the most serious being Squiggy’s appendectomy at the age of 8. You learn to trust the surgeons. You learn that the outcome of these operations is in God’s hands, and stressing about what could go wrong is not helpful. Sometimes, like the appendectomy, surgery isn’t even a choice and you don’t really have time to think it through. But God continues to guide the surgeon’s hands and to comfort you while your child is in the surgeon’s care. Your heart will always bear the memory of the way that child lies still until they wake up, and there will always be a fear that something could go wrong, but the risks are infinitesimal.

Dear friend, I understand your fear. It is scary. But your son is in safe hands. I look forward to hearing from you that he is out of surgery and healing well. Refuah Shleimah.

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