Disclaimer: My account of my surgery and the days following are very candid. Please read with caution.
The month of May moved by very quickly, as it does for most teachers. With summer eagerly anticipated by the students, the last push to get any remaining material in, and final assignments to be graded, it can become quite hectic. Thus, I was busy grading, making my final exam, and preparing to say goodbye to a great group of students. It kept my mind off of my upcoming surgery, although I was not very nervous. My expectations were based off of my first surgery experience, which as I had said here was not very difficult. However, I was soon proven to be very wrong.
Preparations for this surgery were vastly different from my first. My first surgery required that I not eat anything after midnight. This surgery required that I maintain a liquid diet the entire day before surgery. Halfway through the day I was to begin my cleanse, drinking glass after glass of water mixed with Miralax. It was about as pleasant as you could imagine. By the time I went to bed at about eleven o’clock at night I felt utterly exhausted. Five o’clock came early that next morning as I again continued my cleanse, this time with two enemas. My body was as cleaned out as ever and I was pretty miserable about the entire experience.
Jonathan and I had a forty-seven mile ride up to St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick that morning. I didn’t say much during the hour and a half ride, just listened as he sang along with the songs playing through his iPod. Perhaps it was the lack of energy, perhaps it was the envy I felt as Jonathan enjoyed a nice cup of coffee from Wawa, but I was feeling down. Reality was setting in that I was having surgery that morning and I became nervous. I wondered how it would all go, wondered what time I would get home that night, and even wondered if anyone knew that it would make me really happy to have freshly baked cookies that evening.
We arrived at beautiful St. Peter’s University Hospital by 8:30 am. Friendly security guards welcomed us at the front desk and instructed us to walk through the atrium, filled with comfortable furniture and a Baby Grand piano. This is a hospital? This is nicer than most houses! Soon I was taken back in to the surgical waiting room where I put on a gown and was hooked up to an IV. I put my hair in a ponytail and covered it with the gauze shower cap I was given. It was becoming so real. Laying in my hospital bed I stretched and squirmed as I waited to be taken back to the operating room.
Surgery was delayed a bit from my ten o’clock start time, as Dr. Beiter’s first surgery went longer than planned. However, I only felt concern for Jonathan at this moment, as I knew that would mean that we would be getting home later than we had planned. Despite the fact that I was undergoing surgery, I could not help but feel badly that I was putting him out in some way, making him wait all day while I was in surgery and recovery. The guilt nauseated me.
Finally, Dr. Beiter came in and told me he needed to check on things in the OR and then we could begin. It was time. I kissed and hugged Jonathan and for the first time, I felt like crying. I was scared to leave him and scared that he wouldn’t be with me the whole time. Of course, I knew he couldn’t be in the OR, but still, I longed for him to be there those last few minutes before I was put under. Soon a nurse came in and walked me out of the room, leaving Jonathan behind to watch me clutch the back of my hospital gown so as not to moon anyone as I walked by.
I walked a short distance to the operating room. Waiting inside were Dr. Beiter, an anesthesiologist, and two nurses. They all greeted me warmly and explained what they would be doing as we prepared for the surgery. Boots were put over my feet and ankles to keep my blood flowing, warm blankets were draped over me to keep my body temperature from dropping in the cold room, and the general anesthesia was pumped in to my IV. In a few seconds my veins ran hot with the anesthesia and I began to feel sleepy. I closed my eyes and awoke five hours later, free of my endometriosis.
Image of laparoscopic surgery
I awoke in pain. The comfort of seeing Jonathan’s face washed over me, but sadly, it did nothing to ease the discomfort I felt. My entire abdomen, from my breast bone to my pubic bone, ached. It felt as though I had someone sitting on top of me, constricting my breathing, stabbing my insides. I cried. The nurse offered Motrin to take the edge off. I could have other medication later. Now, it was time to get me out of my bed to try to go to the bathroom.
I remembered this. If I wanted to be discharged I would need to show them that my kidneys were still functioning properly and that I could urinate. With all of the fluids that had been pumped in to me, I really needed to go. But I couldn’t. I cried as I tried to sit on the toilet. It was excruciating. The nurse held me as I leaned back, almost lounging on the toilet as I prayed that I could go. She turned on the water. Nothing. She left to give me privacy. Nothing. I pulled the frayed, red string on the wall that signaled that I needed a nurse. She came back and scooped me up, allowing me to put all of my weight on her as I struggled to get back to my bed.
As my nurse tried to lay me back down I felt a gush from my right side. The fluid. Dr. Beiter had covered all of the areas that had been infected with endometriosis with gauze and then put a special wash over it. It was coming out of my incisions. Bright pink and red fluid, almost looking like blood entirely, poured from my side. I cried in pain and in fear. It wouldn’t stop. Then the left side. More blood. It trickled down my side, around to my back, soaking my gown, my sheets, my bed. One set of sheets, then two, then three. I was going through linens faster than they were available. I couldn’t keep doing this all night. The nurse spoke to the doctor who wanted the fluid to come out faster.
She went and got a weighted vest. Twenty pounds. She placed it over my torso, covering the incisions, forcing out the fluid, creating waves of shock and pain that caused me to see stars. This is not what I had imagined. This is not what I wanted. Yet I did this to myself. I chose this for myself. That is what made it so awful. My surgery was elective. It wasn’t life-saving. I would have survived, albeit in pain, without it.
Hours passed as I laid in the recovery room, unable to go to the bathroom. The harsh realization that I wouldn’t be going home that night set in and I became scared. What was going to happen to me? When would I feel better? The pain was so great, yet I was unwilling to take anything stronger than Motrin for fear that a more substantial drug would cause me to become nauseated and vomit. I knew that would be too painful to handle, so I kept up with the Motrin and bathroom breaks until finally, it was time to move to an overnight room.
It was late in the evening and visiting hours were long past over. Jonathan was told he had to leave. My heart broke as he left to go home and I was left there alone. I knew I had long hours ahead of me and I didn’t want to face them without my constant supporter. However, I had no choice. I moved to my room and was met by my new nurse and her solution to getting me to go to the bathroom: a catheter. My legs shook and I wept, crying out because of yet another, foreign pain. When would this end?
I had two more days of this misery. I wasn’t allowed to take anything by mouth, so no food or drink. Getting up to go to the bathroom lead to a fainting episode, resulting in Jonathan being kicked out of the room and a team with a crash cart came barreling inside. The bacteria in my gut went so crazy due to the heavy amounts of fluids that I had a dozen bouts of diarrhea a day. My entire body swelled to epic proportions due to the fluid and lack of movement, even parts of my body that I didn’t know were capable of swelling.
As I laid in my hospital bed I truly wondered if I would die. My incisions bled on and off, so much so that there was the chance they needed to open me back up. I could barely move, the pain was so great. Only after day three was I allowed to eat again. Only after I finally agreed to take a pain pill was I allowed to go home. The experience was terrifying, excruciating, and so amazingly worth it. If I had known the immense joy and love I would feel in just a few months time, my pain would have seemed nonexistent.
More to come on my recovery and my next steps to conception!