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02 January 2013 @ 07:23 pm
operating room four  
it's strange to wake up surrounded by internists.


especially when they are smiling at you.


we arrived at 6AM on NYE. they took me back into prep, which was bustling when i first arrived and then practically empty after the first ten minutes. the administrators were taking down the christmas decorations. i took yet another pregnancy test and changed into a gown. the tech installed the IV port, smoothed a warmed blanket over my lap and let ben come in and sit with me while doctors and assistants and nurses came by to explain things to me and have me sign forms. everyone asked me my name. everyone asked me my birthday. everyone asked what i was having done. almost everyone asked when i'd last consumed food or liquid. i assume this is a thing.

i sat in my partitioned booth on a reclining chair with my heated blanket in my lap. a little girl in braids and scrubs walked by on the way to her own prep booth. we looked at each other as she passed, only knowing one common variable in our plans for the day. ben and i talked about the doctors, about the other patients, about the episode of buffy we'd watched the other night, about mystery science theater. i watched the clock tick past eight thirty, the scheduled time of my surgery. eventually the assisting RN came in and told me it was time to put on my hair net. ben gave me a kiss and a hug. we shared i loved yous. "i'll see you soon, okay," he said. i nod, uncertain. the little girl looked up with concern as i walked past her, then turned and asked her mother something i couldn't hear.

now i'll always wonder, i thought.

the nurse walked me down a long hallway with lots of windows i was careful to not look into directly. she repeated back from her walkie that we were headed to operating room 4. there were posters, wall murals with cartoon bears. i asked her if they had fewer patients today, because of the holiday. "about half," she said.

i wondered if i'd say anything strange as i was going under. the nurse laughed. "we always like that," she told me, in an affectionate way. we walked into the OR.


the table is narrow and they brace you in and strap you up from all sides. everyone talked, to me, to each other. pop music played softly in the background. the room is surprisingly cold. like a meat locker, i think. well, of course.

the nurse velcroed each leg into circulation wraps, to prevent clotting: "it's part of the spa program we have here," she joked. the wraps filled gradually, one side, then the other, drawing air in from the bottom, each compartment one after the next; then they'd deflate and vibrate and start again, like living things. i didn't like them, at first.

the anesthesiologist said she was starting my pain meds; she said that i should start to feel pretty good real soon. things soften and warm. the surgeon squeezed my shoulder and looked down at me, smiling. "you ready to do this?" everyone is my friend, suddenly, and i can appreciate why: i am putting my life in the hands of these gentle strangers. then i am simply grateful that they hadn't put the table lights up, yet. then the oxygen mask. then nothing.


the first thing i saw when i came around in recovery was my surgeon, lightly touching my arm and telling me the procedure was "textbook." everything went smoothly, my parathyroids were fine, the surrounding nerves were fine, and it hadn't been necessary to remove any additional tissue. he said i did extremely well. ben says it took about 4 and a half hours.

recovery rooms are not the happiest places. across the room a boy moaned and clung to his father. the man next to me wanted his wife and a coke. people kept saying that i seemed to be coming out of it well, and after twenty minutes or so they brought ben in so he could sit with me and spoon ice chips into my mouth while they still had me hooked up to the monitors.

whether or not i was 'coming out of it well,' everything from that first couple hours feels slurred and queasy. my throat hurt like photographs of a dead loved one. the RN laid a pan on my chest as she wheeled me to my room and said, "it doesn't look like you'll need this, but just in case." after they moved me to the bed, i looked at ben in earnest delirium and informed him, "you know this boogie is for real," because really, what else could i say? jamiroquai didn't quite bridge the connection for us, unfortunately, though ben may not have understood. my throat could barely hold the weight of my voice.

i was able to use the washroom by myself, but the rn or tech had to come in the first few times to unhook me from everything and spot me to the door. i did not remotely like the sensation of putting my arm down to push myself off the bed, that first time i stood, and not feeling like my arm could bear weight.

ben and i watched buffy and xena on netflix (i think) then fireworks over the harbor on television at midnight. i start out 2013 with cancer in a hospital room on narcotics. maybe things get better from here.


overnight my calcium levels weren't stable and we had to stay a second night at the hospital. yesterday around this time they'd just told me this and i was miserable, then nauseated, then nauseated and miserable with this horrible IV port still stuck into my left hand. the OR is arranged around the assumption that most patients are right handed, according to what i was told when i begged the woman who was prepping me to please put the port in my right hand so i could write in my journal that night if i was feeling up to it. i mean, i've come to terms over the last couple months with the fact that there's only so much you can do around the whole handedness issue with healthcare, and the last thing i'd want to do is throw my surgeon off his game because i'm laid out on his table backward, but man, us lefties sure get a raw deal, sometimes. i've had a little bit of cramping in my left hand since the port finally came out around 10:30 this morning, but i think i'll be able to write longhand again. world of difference between even the first two signatures i made on the release forms.

they kept feeding me supplements and checked my levels again around 5AM (six needle entries for bloodwork, one in my hand for bloodwork, three needle entries in my belly for anti-clotting meds, and two in my other hand from the IV: my new nickname would be "the human pin cushion." every time i'd turn away or close my eyes and try not to think about it, afraid i'd drop or puke or finally just explode into a world of needle intolerance. one of the entries bruised rather badly; there are gray stains butterflying inches out from my right elbow. lesson one from cancer: needles suck, but life goes on.)

all the internists came in the room before dawn to tell me i could go home. and tap my cheeks, and ask me if my lips felt numb, and peel off the plastic bandage over my neck (the most painful part of the experience besides the bruising from the breathing tube, which, like a lot of thyroidectomy patients, i assumed was actually from the incision, which hasn't hurt too badly, hmm.) you might be able to see the faint pink halo around the scar - that's from the bandage. i asked ben (he stayed by my bed both nights, updated facebook, called relatives and served as my voice while speaking was difficult) if i'd cried out while they were pulling off the bandage, and he said i didn't - he then wondered why the one doctor felt compelled to take it off when my surgeon had said to keep it on until tomorrow. i thought about that and said, "you know, i think i'm glad the doctor did it. because in front of them i had a little shame. if you or i had to do that tomorrow, there probably would have been screaming and trauma."

because really, enough with the screaming and trauma.

happy new year.
carinda: foot tateeyore_grrl on January 3rd, 2013 06:21 am (UTC)

may it all be healing and good from here.

and gentle hugs.