Well, so much for 90-minute, minimally invasive surgery with a two-centimeter incision. The surgery started at eight a.m. and lasted FIVE HOURS. Did you know that when you have your neck operated on for five hours, it isn't just the incision that hurts afterward? Because they tilt your head way back in this hollow circle thing so that they have unobstructed access to the surgery site? And they hold it there, perfectly still, for five hours? So when you wake up, OH MY GOD IT'S SO STIFF.
Anyway, so, I'm still in the hospital, but I'm supposed to be going home sometime today, hopefully soon. We got here at 5:30 a.m. yesterday, as specified. There wasn't much of a wait. I was being prepped for surgery by six o'clock or so, including wearing a fantastic purple paper gown. It was seriously the best paper gown I've ever seen--thick and padded and with vents that hooked up to a hose that blew in temperature-controlled air so I could stay as warm or cool as I liked. In fact, I'm thinking about setting up some similar technology for my wedding dress, because all those layers are HOT.
Then, let's see. Oh, they wanted to do a pregnancy test just to be absolutely sure before they put me under, so I had to give a urine sample, which I thought was convenient because I really had to pee. Seriously, really bad. But when I got to that bathroom with that cup, I just... I couldn't do it. I thought I had overcome the inability to pee under pressure during the 24-hour urine test, but it was back. So I went back and said I'd try again later, and the nurse said she literally only needed three drops for the pregnancy test. She wasn't exaggerating--the instructions on the test really do call for three drops of pee.
So I trudged back to the bathroom, ran the water, struggled for awhile, and finally forced out--and again, NO EXAGGERATION--precisely, and I mean precisely, two and a half drops of pee. The nurse was literally trying to vacuum the sides of the container with her little eye dropper, and she managed to get JUST enough to do the test (and yes it was negative, thanks for asking).
As soon as she gave me the results? I went to the bathroom and peed like a champ. God, I suck.
Anyway, eventually they walked me to the operating room, and I said goodbye to Torsten, which felt sad, and I don't remember much from there. I remember that people were rushing all around in the OR, and that it felt like a scary, intimidating place. I remember the anesthesiologist telling me that I'd fall asleep soon, but I don't remember counting backward from 100 or anything. And the next thing I knew, one of the doctors was wiping my face and telling me I did great and I was being wheeled to the recovery room. A nurse was asking me questions and I was giving answers, but I wasn't really aware of what was happening. It was like, I heard the question, and I heard the answer, and the answer was correct and relevant, but it didn't feel like I was the one answering. Does it hurt? Yes. Where? Throat. How bad on a scale of 1-10? Four. And so on. All accurate, but I have no idea how I was able to answer them so automatically. Cool little brain feature, huh?
I asked for Torsten but they said they didn't want to bring him in until I was stable and comfortable. I saw that it was one o'clock and tried to ask what the hell had happened during my surgery, because I had been told that it was a short procedure that would be over by 9:30, but nobody would tell me anything. I knew that Torsten must have had an update from the surgeon, but they wouldn't let me see him. In retrospect, those five hours must have been incredibly sucky for Torsten and my family. I know how badly it sucks to sit there waiting for someone you love to come out of surgery, and five hours is a lot to wait, especially if you know that they've encountered some kind of complication. At least I got to sleep through it, you know?
Oh, and also? You know how general anesthesia causes some people to feel nauseated? It turns out that I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. And my neck hurt like crazy, all different types of pain, stiffness plus the incision plus some other bizarre feelings that I couldn't really identify, including one that felt like I had something tied tightly around my neck, which I did not. I was very uncomfortable but the recovery room was super busy and I was too groggy to do anything to get a nurse's attention.
Finally someone came over. They tried one nausea med and it didn't work. They upped my dose of morphine and that was very nice. They gave me another nausea med and it worked, but it knocked me out FLAT. The nurse was like, "In a minute you're going to feel very sleepy," and DAMN, she was right. I could barely open my eyes and barely whisper. They put a little vomit tray on my chest in case I had to puke, but I couldn't lift my head so it wouldn't have been much use. Good thing I didn't end up puking. I kept asking for Torsten and they kept saying I couldn't see him until I was in my hospital room, which might not be for hours, depending on when a bed opened up.
Luckily, I was only in the recovery room for two hours. Then they wheeled me up to my actual (lovely, private) room and then Torsten was there in the hallway and I was so happy to see him that I almost cried. I was still very out of it from the anesthesia and the nausea medication. They let me put on my own nightgown, which I appreciated. I had to pee into what they call a "hat" that is suspended over the toilet so that they could measure my pee. I hadn't peed in over nine hours, and had taken in quite a lot of fluid through my IV, so I really had to go, but the pressure thing got to me again and it took me about fifteen minutes before I managed to pee.
Then I got into bed, totally exhausted and in pain, and Torsten told me what had happened. Apparently the enlarged gland that was visible on the ultrasound and the parathyroid scan, the one they thought was the problem gland, was actually totally fine, but they didn't know that until they took it out and the lab tests came back unchanged. So then they had to widen their original two-centimeter incision to six centimeters. Torsten didn't know that at the time; I found out later from the surgeon. And I am not happy about it. I haven't seen it yet, but I am not looking forward to it. It was supposed to be a little, tiny, barely-noticeable scar, but now it isn't going to be.
Anyway, when they opened up the incision further, they found the real problem, which was a different parathyroid gland (there are four altogether). They removed it and stitched me up and that was that. The biopsy and blood tests came back normal, so the problem appears to have been solved. And I'm very glad for that, even at the cost of a scar that's three times the size it was supposed to be.
And also? I've learned something about myself: I am not very good at being babied. I was actually apologizing to the nurse for being nauseated. I kept telling people I was sorry that I needed them to do this or that for me. I batted Torsten away when he tried to help me unplug my IV so that I could go to the bathroom. I was grumpy at him for trying to raise and lower my bed for me. Apparently, I LIKE doing things for myself, even when I'm in no condition to be doing them.
So, in conclusion: My scar is triple its original projected length, waking up from general anesthesia sucked, and I am now out two out of four parathyroid glands. But the surgery appears to have been successful, and that's the most important thing. Also, a clear liquid diet (thanks to anesthesia-induced nausea) is a great way to stick to your daily allotment of Weight Watchers points. Inhaling a packet of peanut butter Ritz Bits as soon as you're allowed solid foods? Not so much.
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