The morning after, and I was up early, taking care of the last minute chores, emptying out the garbage and the compost; running the vacuum one last time; drinking as much fluid (and a couple of cups of black coffee) as I could suck down by 8:30; washing up the dishes and putting things in order. Set up coffee so it’d be ready to go on return, set up a movie ready to roll, packed a pair of sweats in my backpack (along with the Kindle and MP3 player) in case I wasn’t quite ready for jeans after surgery – and it was time.
My most excellent tenants Hillary and Debbie brought me up to the hospital and dropped me off at the door well before 10:30; I went through the usual registration and thus into the pre-surgical waiting room (where I explained, that, no, I didn’t have anyone with me at the moment, but someone would be coming, and here’s their phone number) – and before my butt could even hit the chair, they whisked me back to the *real* waiting area.
You know the routine: change into attractive surgical gown, put your clothes in the handy plastic bags, climb into the adjustable bed, and let the nurse on duty wrap you in warmed blankets. It’s just like a spa, only completely different. People come in and out of the curtained room; blood is drawn; questions asked – did you do what you were told?last food? last drink?; IV inserted – a bit more painfully than usual; you meet the anesthesiologist and sign more release forms; and in between it all you read or listen to music and the time flies by… the next thing you know, they’re making noises about how the room is ready, and it’s time to go.
Luckily, Mom showed up just before that happened. She grabbed my backpack, and I was wheeled off, down the corridors, with Dr Murray following behind, and into cooler and colder zones until we reached the operating room.
More quick introductions, two more warmed blankets provided and the old one taken away – all done very discretely so as to preserve my modesty (I always find this effort slightly ironic, considering it usually occurs just as one’s about to lose all modesty – and still, it does mean something, it is important. It’s absurd – I was in stirrups for most of the surgery, my delicate inner bits on camera, it’s not as though there was any modesty left – and yet it’s important. It’s acknowledging the humanity of the patient, before you carve into their flesh; it’s a reminder. It’s good policy, just as the introductions are even though you’ll not remember any of these people’s names; just as leaving the room while a patient changes is.), and I scrambled adroitly from the bed to the narrow operating table, scootched down into proper position, and lay back. I was belted in, snug and low across the hips as they advise you in planes; compression devices strapped on my legs; oxygen mask lowered on; bustle about me; and
…..the first thing I remember is swiping at my right eye as I surfaced, and someone restraining my hand, telling me not to.
…..the second time I was in the recovery room, which is connected to the presurgical waiting area, and has much the same set-up; curtained rooms with hospital beds and equipment; there was a nurse and my mom, and my eye hurt, my eye hurt… and then there are multiple jumps and cuts, as I swam up and out of the fog. I was given ice water to drink, and an oxycodone; my eye was irrigated at least twice, and the pain kept rising; I was offered an ice pack and more drugs which I refused; my mom gave me a handkerchief which I folded and held against the eye, and my eye swelled, and wept, and screamed louder at me. It was a particular intense pain, and quite took my mind off any other discomfort I might have been in – it’s really all I remember of immediate post surgery pain, the needles in my eye that I couldn’t get away from and couldn’t get out. And this, boys and girls, is why it’s important to have an advocate with you in hospital – my mother asked for an opthamologist to come take a look. I would have never been able to manage, groggy and confused as I was from anesthesia and in unexpected pain… I remember someone asking if I would classify my pain as a 10 – which by the way, I wouldn’t have, being as I wasn’t actually screaming or passing out, and while I *wanted* to claw my eye out, I was still able to resist. However, at the time it seemed best not to demur.
The opthamologist, Dr Alexander, came, squirted a very temporary anesthesia in my eye, looked at it, pronounced the verdict “corneal abrasion”*, did a brief vision test, asked a few questions, dropped some long lasting dilating agent in, and bandaged it up tight. She was not best pleased with the anesthesiologist, and made her apologize to me (to which I responded, in stunning form ‘shit happens‘. Ah, breeding and eloquence will out! I’ll just slink away now…), as well as rebuking her in front of me. Dr Alexander was clear I was not to be charged for the attention or the antibiotic ointment she put in my hand; she was brisk and competent and certain, and I liked her very much – I’ll be seeing her again Monday for follow-up.
(ha! in a typical bout of absurdity, I got a voicemail at some point from a prospective tenant for the Grannis/Hurd consortium – I’d been taking care of their apartments whilst they were in Kenya – and I actually managed to text back while in recovery. My phone says that was 4:53, and also shows a couple of calls placed around 6:30, by which time I was at home and snug in bed , drinking the coffee down – other than that, and knowing I went in to surgery at about 12:30, I don’t have a lot of time markers after entering the hospital time zone, and can barely sequence some events)
My surgeon (the lovely and charming Dr Murray) came by at some point, gave me the DVD of the surgery, and was clear I could stay in the hospital if I wanted to – I remember her offering at least twice. However, as I still had use of one eye, and all my appendages, I really felt I should be going before any of that changed.
I wobbled to my feet on those strange rubber legs they give you to use after general anesthesia, off hand in hand with the nurse down the hall to the loo, where I got rid of the water I’d been sucking down and was given several pairs of post surgical undies* and pads suitable for camping gear; back to my cubby, dressed (all by myself!), and I was out of there.
Back home, where there was coffee (which I could drink) and a movie (which I couldn’t watch) waiting, and my wonderful bed and a handy bottle of oxycodone… peeled off all the sticky nippled pads I could find stuck on my back and chest*, and went to bed.
And the evening went like that – I’d wake up with my eye stabbing at me, pop an oxycodone and wait for it to kick in, go back to sleep. I kept the bandage on until morning, to prevent me from rubbing at my eye during sleep and further damaging it.
The day after, I peeled it off, and started the 4X daily regime of antibiotic ointment, the taste of erythromycin dripping down my throat. My right eye was still dilated for several days, which made focusing hard, and I kept it patched (thanks, Debbie!) for much of the first day. Then I googled ‘corneal abrasions’ and found that patching was no longer recommended, as abrasions tend to heal faster without it… so once my pupil wasn’t quite so expanded and light sensitive, I went back to binocular vision.
Aside from that, the pain wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared – nothing that OTC medications couldn’t handle, and I stopped even those after the first day. Stiff and sore, no doubt – like having eaten a kilo of apricots, done a host of sit-ups, and gotten a good kicking – but nothing outrageous. I’ve been pretty much able to do everything I need to do, as long as I’m slow and gentle and careful. Three little lumps of gauze on my belly, neatly covered in tegaderm.
Still very easily tired, lots of little meals – and thanks to all who’ve provided, Martha & Michael; Nellie & Wes; Davis & Stephanie; Beverly; and my always wonderful housemates; not venturing outside yet, but walking about my house is quite enough; lots of naptimes – and it’s about time for another.
* “Ocular injuries:
The frequency of eye injury during anaesthesia and surgery is very low (<0.1% of anaesthetics), but the spectrum of injury ranges from mild discomfort to permanent loss of vision. Corneal abrasions are reported most commonly. They are caused by direct trauma to the cornea by foreign objects (face masks, surgical drapes, etc) combined with decreased basal tear production secondary to general anaesthesia.” Yah, I’m lucky. Well, it is a teaching hospital, and I figure I provided the perfect teaching moment. Again.
*Ah, those postsurgical mesh granny panties! It’s hard to know where to start… no pressure points, utterly breathable, feels like you’ve got *nothing* on, and the sexiness – well, that’s just a bonus. Willing to bet they’d wash and dry in a *snap* as well.
*missed one, found it clinging on in the morning.