Monday, October 29, 2007

Surgery Day - 5 weeks ago today

What is surgery day like?

Well lets start from the night before. I did not eat lunch really except for a cheese stick and some chicken salad left that my brother had made. Therefore, I was really starving by the time dinner rolled around. Even though it is suggested to eat light I wanted to take full advantage of enjoying my last meal prior to the hospital and probably not eating for awhile. I probably gorged myself a little too much as the walk up the hill in Portland from the restaurant to my brother's apartment gave me a bit of acid reflux which I really hoped would go away by the next morning.

What did I eat? Something mild and bland? Heck no! I went all out and ate at a Thai restaurant called the "Typhoon". LOL I did not think of the irony of the name until afterward. There I feasted on their delightful "Fall Curry" dish and topped it off with a tantilizing mango raspberry cheesecake.

I also drank lots of water. All food and drink (water even) gets cut off at midnight before the surgery. That kind of stinks because many of us with NF2 have dry mouth and drink water regularly before bed and upon waking. I was allowed to swish water in my mouth and spit it out which is what I had to do. So think about that......almost or near 24 hours without water! Try doing that and then breathing through your mouth also (during surgery a breathing tube is inserted). I guarantee you will end up very parched!

So after dinner we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before the morning arrived. Did I go to bed early? Not really. It is like planning a wedding where you are concerned about everything being ready and going smoothly. Then of course you lie there kind of thinking about it.

What was to get ready?

We had to be up really early at a time when my brain is not sharp. Therefore, I am a person who has to have everything laid out and ready to go the night before as I am apt to forget something in my grogginess of the wee morning hour.

-Clothes to wear to the hospital which are to be put back in my surgery bag for discharge had to be set out

-All my paperwork and surgery binder with medical records, special instructions for the staff, medication list, family medical history, MRI films, appointment times, contact info, etc.

- books for people to read and myself

- paper pads and pens for communication

- my surgery bag which my husband brings when I am moved to a room out of ICU (pjs, eye drops, carmex, tooth brush, shoes, socks, etc.)

- and then finally making sure all my stuff from the week prior to surgery (in another bag) is packed and ready to load while I am in the hospital

I got to sleep around 11 pm or 12. I think it may have been more 12 am. I had to wake back up at 5 am to arrive the hospital at 6 am. (no breakfast or water....just swishing.....thank goodness I was able to do at least that).

My parents, sister, and our friend KC met us in the hotel lobby as they all stayed at the same place. Thanks to "Lola", the GPS, we were taken on a scenic route and got to the hospital a little late (6:10 am). We rushed in only to find the elevators not running yet. People were yet to arrive. I was sort of frantic and marched up to the security guard and told him I was to have a brain surgery that morning and was supposed to check in at 6 am.

First of all, we were in the wrong place. We went to the wellness center where I had my consultation and pre-op appointment. The surgery was to take place at the hospital which was up on the hill.
Solution - ride the tram up to the top which is free for patients and their families
Second of all, we were able to relax as we were early. The check-in time was 6:30 am (wow. They must have known us and our "lola").

So we got there and checked in on the correct floor. My captioner was there for the check-in appointment where it was confirmed who I was, I got an ID tag, I arranged for tissue donation, and I was given the scoop on the surgery and then given a copy of the Advance Directive to read and fill out if I prefered.

There was another surgery before mine so instead of a morning surgery I was to have an afternoon one. That was fine by me as I am the type of person who prefers to be the last to give presentations. I like to have as much time as possible. I got comfortable with the idea of not having to go to pre-op so soon and change into a gown, more time to read and think about this Advance Directive, and more time to hang out with everyone (Harley-my husband, our friend KC, my sister, my brother and sister-in-law, and my parents).

What is an Advance Directive?
As it states in the brochure, it is a legal document that protects a person's right to make decisions about his or her healthcare. Basically it is a document I sign letting family and medical staff know what my wishes are concerning my medical care (if I want to be put on life support and under what circumstances).

It also entails giving permission for someone to act on my behalf if I am unable to, allocating a secondary representative, and then also having witnesses for this discussion and signatures.

While I read through the whole thing, everyone went down to the cafe for breakfast. When they returned I reviewed with them what I decided and then we did the signatures and turned it in.

I was planning to have more time to relax, wear my comfy fleece pants and hoody my sister got me for my birthday from REI, and to walk around but at 9:30 am they wanted us to move down to pre-op already. I was not anticipating moving down there until 11 am so I was a little upset and did not know what was going on.

I was brought into a room with about 4 beds with curtains around them and the GOWN was set out on the bed. After the nurse left I started to cry. I was not ready! I did not want to change out of my comfortable and warm lounging clothes into the flimsy gown. I wanted to be up and walking around too and not lying in a bed for who knows how long. It was too early for me to be confined to a bed and gown already!

Reluctantly and slowly I changed like a pouty kid not wanting to go to bed and put his or her PJs on. I thought I would be freezing but once in bed with the hospital socks and about 5-7 blankets on me I was warm.

I see why they wanted me to get ready early. There is lots to be done and you want to go in relaxed and not rushed. I had a captioner the whole time (the laptop set on the hospital bed table in front of me) which worked out nicely. Several hospital staff came to ask me questions confirming who I was and the procedure I was to have done. IVs were also inserted on me with success. As a matter of fact, the whole time I was there I do not recall being poked more than once for each blood draw or IV which is pretty amazing (it is very hard to get a vein that will not collapse on me).

Since it was not my own room and there was limited space, I could only have 2 people visit me at a time. Therefore, each family member took turns coming to see me. I was planning to come out of the surgery but still I took the opportunity to say what I may have felt but never expressed.

These visits between hospital staff and family went on until it was time (2:30 pm?). The anestiologist visited me one last time to explain what was going to happen. Reality hit me and I was overcome with emotion 10-15 minutes before they wheeled me away. The whole time I was relatively calm and when they came to tell me it was time I felt like what I would imagine a serviceman or woman at the moment of getting on the plane or boat for the Iraq war.

I did not fly into hesterics. It was more like a momentary light break down where you need a couple minutes to regain your composure before getting back up and marching on. I remember a male nurse and being wheeled down the hall and into the operating room. The walls were an almond color and the paint on the surgery light canisters were bright orange like Halloween. Medical staff were moving around in blue scrubs. Then it was lights out for me.

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