I'll Be Home in 2 Days, Mom
Photo: I posted this photo above on Twitter a few days ago. I amuses me to no end. My husband told me, "DO NOT PLANT CROCUSES IN THE LAWN." I've never been very good at doing what I'm told. I won't spend further time on the photo since today's post is so long.
In February of 2008 I had a hysterectomy. For the sake of brevity I'm going to start this story with my checking in to the hospital. I wasn't really nervous. I was only going to be in the hospital for a couple of days, and my mom had flown up from Florida to make lots of chicken soup for when I got home. My best friend, Wendy, was in charge of everything at home--my mom, my dogs, etc. So I really didn't have a care in the world.
I had a lot of discussions with my surgeon about the operation. He preferred to do a laparoscopic procedure because he thought his patients did better and recovered faster. He couldn't do it vaginally because of an odd tilt to my uterus. I asked him how many he had done laparoscopically--lots--and what the risk of complication was--less than 1%.
So I was happily wheeled into surgery and drifted off to sleep peacefully. The next thing I remember was lying in a bed in a hospital room with my surgeon leaning over the bed. Also at the bedside was my friend, Wendy, and my mother.
Surgeon, "We had a problem in the operating room."
I just looked at him. I understood what he was saying--sort of--but couldn't figure out how to speak.
Surgeon, "You're going to be okay, but I accidentally cut into your bowel. I had to call in another surgeon and you were on the table for 4 hours. We did a bowel resection. I feel terrible about it, but you're going to be okay."
I just nodded that I understood. I reached down to feel if I had a colostomy bag.
"No, you don't have a colostomy," he said reading my thoughts.
Let me stop here and say that I am not mad at my surgeon, and I feel really lucky. These are all the reasons I feel lucky: I believe that I had a great surgeon who had a bad day. I have learned since that he called in another surgeon immediately when he saw what he had done, and the best general surgeon at that hospital was on call that day and on the surgical floor. I didn't have to have a colostomy--which is not uncommon with a perforated bowel. He recognized right away that he had perforated the bowel. People can get very sick and die if it's not noticed immediately that the bowel is perforated. He owned up to it right away. He didn't act like it was nothing or was someone else's fault. He was sick about it and visited me several times per day throughout my hospital stay. I got excellent care in the hospital. That may be in part because they were worried about who was going to get sued and in part because of general embarrassment over the situation. I don't care what the reasons were; I was just happy to have more specialists in and out of my room every day than Carter has Little Pills. While the experience was not pleasurable, I felt lucky then and still do now. So let me tell you about some of the funny parts.
My boyfriend (now husband) was living in Vancouver and I was in Calgary. Wendy kept in touch with him.
Wendy: "I'm going to get you a phone. He wants you to have a phone."
Me: "I don't want a phone."
Wendy: "He wants you to have a phone."
Me: "I don't need a fucking phone. If he wants to talk to me, tell him to bring his sorry ass to Calgary."
Wendy: "I'm getting you a phone."
I hardly used that phone at all and thought it was absurd to have it. What he never understood was that unless both me and the phone were in perfect positions I couldn't REACH THE PHONE or GET TO THE PHONE before it stopped ringing. If I was in the bathroom--a 20 minute trek by itself--forget about the phone. I could have been 2 feet away and the phone might as well have been in China. If you're in the hospital for anything serious, DON'T GET A PHONE.
I had a giant incision--they open you in a hurry in an emergency--and felt crummy. I wasn't allowed any food or drink by mouth for several days--normal practice with intestinal surgery. My favorite part was the little button I could push for morphine. Any hospital guests that got on my nerves, click click, and they disappeared behind a fog. Click click. I miss that click click.
Dealing with nurses was hilarious.
Nurse: "We're going to get you up and around today. You'll feel SO MUCH BETTER after you're moving around."
Me: "I don't want to."
Nurse: "Oh yes, SO MUCH BETTER."
Me: "I'm not going to feel better. I'm going to faint. I'm not ready."
She gets me out of bed, and then I faint.
Nurse: "Well, I guess you weren't ready."
Me: "I told you so."
Every day I had a parade of people in my room all day: specialists, doctors, residents, and med students. The script was always the same.
Doctor: "How are we today?"
Me, "We're great. Never better."
Doctor: "Can I see your incision?"
Me, "Sure." with gown already waving in the breeze.
Doctor: "How's your pain?"
Me, "Pain is fine. But I feel like shit. Here, let me save you some time. No I haven't had a bowel movement; I haven't passed gas; I haven't had anything to eat or drink and I still feel like shit."
Doctor: "Well I think you're doing great!"
Me, "I'm glad somebody thinks so."
Here's a conversation I had with my college-age daughter on the phone:
Rachel, "Hey Mom, how's it going?"
Me, "Oh pretty good, honey, don't worry."
Rachel, "What do you do all day there?"
Me, [chuckling], "I look out the window. I sleep a lot. I throw up every 8 hours when they hang a new bag of a certain medicine that makes me sick."
Rachel, "Don't you get bored?"
Me, "No honey, I don't get bored. I don't feel well. I'm in a hospital."
Rachel, "Have you met any good peeps? Have you made any friends?"
Me, "No honey, I haven't made any friends."
Rachel, "Is there anyone you could play scrabble with?"
And so on.
The day before I was released, I got a new roommate. This was an older woman who was not the sharpest tool in the shed. The curtain remained closed between us. Conversation between her and her nurse:
Nurse, "Have you been on heart medication for long?"
Her, "I think so. Maybe. Maybe not."
Nurse, "What's the name of the heart medication your doctor gave you?"
Her, "It starts with a D or an R or a P."
You can't make this shit up. It makes me laugh just thinking about it. There were other things that are harder to recreate. Suffice it to say that humor can be found anywhere--if you are open to it. This post is quite long enough; I had better stop now. I hope you enjoyed it.