I was scheduled for a 6:45 am check in at the hospital, and a 8:45 am surgery. Michael and I arrived and got checked in. We were shown to my pre-op room. I was told to strip down to “nothing but what God gave you” and wipe my whole body down with some special wipes. I noticed the packages of wipes had been warmed (nice touch). I put my clothes and shoes in the plastic bag provided. Instead of the faded and often threadbare hospital gown, there was a long, light purple gown, smock type garment. It had some sort of clear liner and the outer layer was an odd paper, material. The paper gown also had what looked like two ports on either side. As instructed I put it on, open in the back. Michael and I couldn’t figure out how to secure the ties.
There were also deep purple hospital socks. The ones with the white grip strips on both top and bottom, with no noticeable place for your heel. Trying not to moon anyone I was about to sit on the inclined bed. I was told to sit with my bum on the pad to avoid choking myself with the gown. For the next two hours I was given pain meds, an antibiotic, an IV was inserted and fluids were started. My whole health history was discussed, and I was called “medically boring”. A nurse from the anesthesia team spoke with me about the process and possible side effects of general anesthesia. I was asked the same questions by multiple hospital staff. There was also a blood draw (from which they would take a pregnancy test) and a COVID test during this time. Sitting up in the bed, I was a tad uncomfortable because the wipes they gave me, made my skin feel stickie.
I was apprehensive of the unknowns I faced. This would be my first time under general anesthesia and being intubated. As well as my first catheter and my first overnight hospital stay. The fact that I chose to be here and go have this done, made the situation no less nerve-racking.
My surgeon came to see me. She answered my remaining questions and did her best to reassure me. A bit later, Michael and I were told I wasn’t pregnant, nor did I have COVID. Neither was a surprise. Although you’d think the COVID test would have been the first thing they did. I already had an IV in my arm by the time the results came in.
Since Michael would need to wait in the waiting room or leave the hospital while I was in surgery, he left around 8:30 am to go home to give our cat his AM insulin shot. He would be called by the surgeon directly after the surgery, to let him know how it went. Then he’d be called again by a nurse when I was out of recovery and he could come back to see me.
As I sat in the bed (feeling apprehensive and sticky) while the 8:45 am surgery time came and went. Around 9:20 am several folks came to take me to the OR. I was reclining in the bed, being wheeled down the hall by my surgical team. The last thing I remember was seeing the bed of another women being wheeled in the opposite direction down the hall. We looked at each other with wide eyed apprehension and that was it. The next thing I knew, I woke up post-surgery in PACU (Post Anesthesia Care Unit).
The whole sensation was very bizarre. My eye lids felt like they weighed 100 pounds, I could barely keep them open. My voice was just a squeaky whisper. I was so tired. For the most part, I kept my eyes closed, but could hear most everything. The nurse would ask me questions and I’d do my best to answer. I heard her make a call to Michael saying that my blood pressure was quite low (something like 70/30) and I’d be in recovery for at least another hour. My body felt incredibly heavy. My mouth was so dry and had an unappetizing taste to it. I was given a few ice chips.
Once my blood pressure stabilized and they were comfortable moving me, I was taken to the private hospital room I’d be staying in. Michael was called and told he could see me. For the next several hours, I drifted in and out of very disjointed sleep. Even with anti-nausea medication as well as an anti-nausea sticker behind my left ear, I still battled nausea. To the point that several times my mouth salivated, that metallic pre-sick warning. Through mediation, I did my best to will it away. My day nurse, Nicole was in and out of my room every 20 minutes to an hour. She would ask for my pain and nausea levels and would give me various drugs as needed. She’d write on a white board on the wall across from my bed, what medication was next and what time it could be administered. Before giving me any medication, I was asked my birthdate and the barcode on one of my hospital wrist bands was scanned. At one point, she put a cool damp wash cloth on my forehead as I breathed through nausea. I began to notice that when I moved my head, I’d also experience vertigo.
I had a heating pad on my lower belly, an oxygen tube in my nose and I wore an ugly green, cloth hospital gown. I also had a blood pressure cuff on my right biceps and compression sleeves on both lower legs. The blood pressure cuff would run every 15 minutes or so and chime when it was finished. The compression sleeves on my legs were constantly inflating and deflating. I found it felt quite nice, kind of like a massage.
I can’t stress enough how dry my mouth was and the unappealing taste that went with it. Sips of water did nothing to alleviate it. I was thankful I didn’t have a sore throat, which is very common after being intubated under general anesthesia. I had no appetite, but I knew that with even a little food in my stomach, the nausea would get better. The last food and drink I had were about 24 hours ago. I started with a Graham cracker. Bad idea! This only intensified the dryness in my mouth. I switched to Jello and applesauce after that.
I was in room 418, on the 4th floor, the women’s unit. For the most part it was pretty quiet. I remember hearing someone moaning in pain, down the hall. They let out a long and slow “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck”. Through closed eyes, I whispered, “Did someone just drop the f-bomb?” Sitting beside me Michael said, “Yup.”
Michael told me, when the surgeon called him, she said everything went extremely well. The surgery typically takes around an hour or so, depending on what is found. Mine took a bit over 30 minutes and seemed to be fairly typical, with no surprises. I am now down three internal organs. My uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes are gone. My ovaries stayed. I will no longer have periods (yippee). At some point my surgeon came in to my room, but I was battling a wave of nausea so I didn’t really pay attention. As the hours passed, my pain level decreased. Thank goodness I had the sense to pack a small container of mints with me. They brought a small sliver of short lived relief to the dryness in my mouth. I also brought a small bag of candied ginger, which can help with nausea. At one point Michael and I each had a piece. After realizing the pieces were a bit too big, we looked at each other quizzically as we slowly chewed the pungently strong, stickie, fibrous pieces.
Michael left just after 8 pm to go home and give our cat his evening shot. Since we live about 15 minutes away, I wanted him to sleep in his own bed, even though he could have stayed the night with me had he wanted. I was able to sleep more soundly once it was night time and my room was dark. My evening nurse would come in every two hours or so. At 1:00 am more meds were given, my vitals were checked and the IV fluids were stopped. At some point I was taken off oxygen, but I can’t remember when. At 4 am she took my vitals again. I was given Tylenol because my pain level was low. The compression sleeves on my legs and blood pressure cuff on my arm were removed. I got up and stood for the first time since 9:20 am the previous morning. My nurse helped me to the bathroom and she removed the catheter (not as bad as I was anticipating). After standing for a short while I got back into bed. My nurse said my big goal was to urinate on my own, into a measured collector. Which I did, twice (after she left) with little discomfort. At 5:45 am a different nurse came in to do a draw blood. After one of my bathroom trips I brushed my teeth, thinking it would fix the dry mouth, gross taste issue. It didn’t. At 7 am my evening nurse came in one last time to check on me, before her shift ended. She said I could change into my own clothes and even take a shower if I wanted. I changed into my clothes but I wanted shower at home.
I still hadn’t eaten much, so despite having no appetite, I ordered French Toast and OJ to have for breakfast. I was told both by my surgeon and one of my nurses that the food at the hospital was decent.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, nor am I sure what they consider “decent”. Clearly what I consider “decent” and what they consider decent are two very different things. Two weeks before, I had been to one of the best restaurants in Seattle (Canlis), so I guess I experienced both extremes of the culinary spectrum. At one end you have, James Beard award winning, Canlis . . . and at the other end, hospital food. It all keeps me relatively humble I suppose.
My surgeon visited me during her morning rounds. We discussed my pain medication prescription, a deadline for a bowel movement, and stool softeners. She wanted me to call her if I experienced excessive bleeding, a fever or other specific symptoms indicating something could be wrong. She suggested Advil and Tylenol every six hours. I asked if it would be a good idea to take a Probiotic and she said yes. At about 9:30 am I was being wheeled out to the car.
I was anxious to get home! While my overnight hospital stay was as comfortable as it could be, under the circumstances, noting beats being home. Surrounded by familiar trappings, your own clothes, your own bed, (your own underwear) and the love of your people (and pets).
At home, the dry mouth and odd taste continued. My voice was hoarse. My pain level was still low. After getting out of the shower, I noticed how much my lower abdomen was swollen. Sneezing, laughing, coughing or even blowing my nose was a bad idea. I’ve been taking it easy, but when I’m up and about, I sometimes feel little twinges of discomfort. I also notice how weary I get. I still have slight vertigo from time to time and my balance is off. The morning after my first night back in my own bed, I asked Michael if hallucinations were a side effect from general anesthesia. He said yes. Particularly bizarre dreams. I was shocked by his answer, but that certainly explains the night sky I saw swirling around on my ceiling my first night home. And yes, I was fully awake. Bleeding has been minimal, even though I’m still advised to use a feminine pad. I now understand why the hysterectomy website recommended the “larger than you need” cotton undies. Because your lower abdomen is swollen.
Michael has really been great! Very attentive and supportive! Titian our cat has also been helpful. Lying with me and purring healing purrs. (No seriously, it’s a thing. Cat’s purrs are at a healing frequency.) My appetite is not back, but we’ll see if a can choke down a Momofuku pork bun. You know, take one for the team.
– Later Addition –
The fatty pork bun was not the best idea as my first full meal.