I woke up this morning and shook off my crappy night of dream-riddled sleep. My husband and I attempted to have a calm, normal morning (which is a bit of a farce the last few days) for the kids. But I think they were fine and managed to get ready for school and out the door on time. I took care of a few things I wanted to get done before tomorrow and got ready for my 10am registration appointment with the hospital. I drove there by myself sort of in a daze and realized I probably shouldn’t have pushed everyone away who offered to come with me this morning. Still on autopilot when I finally arrived, I pulled in the skunky old parking garage and began circling for a spot. If I wasn’t anxious enough about the whole situation, the fact that the ceilings seemed to be only five feet high finished me off. I drive a Honda Pilot, not an overly tall vehicle but not a small one either. And in any garage with low ceilings, I have that cringing feeling whenever I drive under a concrete beam that it’s going to nail the roof of my car. Or least take off the luggage rack. This garage was so old that the beams looked to be covered in stalactites, or at least those free-form Biscuit drop biscuits we all ate as kids. Long story short, it was gross. But I trudged on, nailed nothing with my car, parked it and took the elevator to the first floor.
When I got there, I checked in with the receptionist and she told me to take a separate elevator to the fifth floor. Naturally, I walked into the elevator and pressed the ‘6’ button. I stare at the keypad as it started to ascend and realized my mistake in time to avoid extra elevator travel. When I got out on the fifth floor, I checked in with the receptionist and waited for their insurance person to get me registered. After we were done, there was more waiting. Next, I was called by the staff person who was responsible for explaining all of my surgical instructions as well as the terrifying consent forms. She asked where my husband was as he was required for this part. Crap, I had told him not to come. A quick phone call remedied that problem and he was there about fifteen minutes later. I don’t know what I was thinking. I should’ve had him there from the beginning. There’s just so much to go over and remember.
We signed everything mindlessly until we got to the Thorascopy/Thoracotomy Risk form. I found some of the information listed here to be a little frightening and others interesting. Here I share with you some of line items that jumped off the page at me.
10-15% of thorascopies are unpredictably converted to thoracotomies. Come on, 85-90%!
Nerves are always compressed between the ribs during chest surgery and will cause pain or numbness for four to eight weeks post-operatively. Crap. Four to eight WEEKS?
Chest tubes are necessary to drain the air space left in your chest and must remain until all air leaks have stopped, and only then can you be discharged, normally 6-10 days. My husband and I both did a spit take on this one, which was weird because neither of us was actually drinking anything. NORMALLY 6-10 days? When we asked about it, we were told that this “normal” range typically applies to older patients who are not in the good health that I am in. At this stage of the game, they are hoping and expecting that I will be able to have the chest tube removed earlier than this “normal” prediction. Crossing fingers on this one.
The overall risk of death is 1 to 3% when removing lung wedges, lung lobes and other chest masses. Well, yes, that number is very low but, you know, it would have grabbed your attention, too.
We glossed over everything else about possible hemorrhaging, infection, respiratory and pulmonary failure, nerve damage, chronic pain, fluid leakage, renal failure, myocardial infarction, stroke, paralysis and coma like champs. Once we were done, there was more waiting … this time for the anesthesiologist … or maybe it was the nurse anesthetist. I have no idea. Like everyone before her, she asked a million questions about my medical history in an effort to avoid any problems tomorrow. She explained that I will be given anti-nausea medication as soon as I arrive (at 5am!) and they will begin prepping me for surgery. She said the procedure takes about four and a half hours and that, once it was over, they will bring me to ICU and attempt to wake me, at least a little, as soon as I get there. Things like when I leave ICU for a regular room, have the chest tube removed, get to go home, etc. all depend on what type of surgery is performed (which will be decided on the table) as well as how I’m doing afterwards. All signs now indicate that things will be textbook case and I will be fine. I like those signs. They are my friends.
After we finished with the anesthesiology consultation, there was more waiting … this time for my lab work. They asked me what I’ve had done lately. I figured my response of “blood work, chest x-ray, EKG, CAT scan and MRI, all in the last two weeks” would have been enough to dismiss me and enable to go home … but no such luck. The blood work and the chest x-ray both need to have been done in the last seven days. So, off we went to see the nurse who couldn’t have been nicer but provided me with the most painful blood extraction of my lifetime. I know I had previously awarded this title to my MRI tech but this one topped it. The problem seemed to be my “tiny, rolling veins.” We tried … and tried …. and tried … and finally got the vein. But then, she needed to call in an extra nurse to push on the vein because it was draining too slowly and she was afraid she wasn’t going to get enough blood. By the time it was done, I was, too. And I told my husband that I would likely be taking a little anti-anxiety medication later today. (I don’t know why I’ve been fighting it really.) After the blood work, I had only to take a few more chest x-rays. Sure, all of these x-rays are slowly killing us but they sure are a walk in the park compared to the needles.
Now wound up like a top, I walked back to my car with my husband, thrilled to be leaving but as anxious as I’ve been since all of this mess started. And very happy that my wonderful friends were literally waiting for me with a cheese tray at a friend’s house to eat and dish and just chill out for the rest of the afternoon. (Thanks, ladies. It was both delightfully relaxing and delicious.)
It’s now the witching hour. The kids are home and toiling through homework. Dinner is looming and I still have to pack my bag. (Does anyone have any suggestions on what I should pack?) And there are several other little details I want to take care of before tomorrow. And, yet, somehow I feel this post still isn’t the last you’ll hear from me today. Writing not only chronicles everything for me but it also provides the greatest relaxation I’ve found so far. I think it forces me to process everything systematically and sensibly. And I need as much sanity as I can get my hands on right now. Though as the clock ticks and the meds permeate, you can likely expect typos, word misuse and other craziness in my ramblings. Enjoy the rawness.