Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Current mood: Contented
Current song: Aqua - Barbie Girl
Currently reading: A Clash of Kings - George RR Martin

Okay, I'm finally getting around to writing this, exactly 2 weeks after my surgery. But hey, from the content of my procrastination post, are you really surprised? So, yeah... again, this is going to be quite long, and really only worth reading if you really care about my life. And since the one person who I knew would have read this more than likely won't now, this really isn't for anyone but myself, I guess. Which is fine by me.

So, like I mentioned the last time I spoke of all this, the whole surgical ordeal started with a shower and a MRSA wipe down the night before. It wasn't too bad, despite the fact that I had no idea what I was doing since they forgot to give me the instruction sheet. So I just wiped down my arms and legs with the damp, sticky cloths, focusing most on my right knee. I figured that was the most logical course of action.

Then came the big day. The normal process of any surgery is to come in 2 hours before you're scheduled. Which meant I was at Lutheran Hospital at 6am. I had scrubbed down a second time with the MRSA wipes and was all changed into my hospital gown when the nurse came in to get a urine sample. Well, seeing as I had just gone to the bathroom at home right before getting there, I had no urine left to give. The nurse explained that I should have been informed about the urine sample the day before during my confirmation phone call. Well, I hadn't. Strike two, Lutheran. Fortunately, I had just enough in me to get their tests done, and I was finished with surgery prep by 6:30am. Then came the waiting. I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything past midnight, so during my waiting around time, my stomach was in knots due to a combination of hunger and nerves. Thank goodness my mom was there to keep me calm.

Soon enough, 7am hit; iv time. I stressed to the nurse about a hundred times how I had very difficult veins, so they could inform the anesthesiologist before I even got down to pre-op. The nurse was accommodating, in that she applied some numbing cream to the two veins I insisted they should try. She was not accommodating, however, about the whole "informing the pre-op people" part I stressed so much. As soon as I got downstairs, a nurse approached me.. not the iv specialist. Instead of yanking my hand away and immediately demanding the doctor, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. Of course, that turned out to be a mistake. Instead of going for the vein I pointed out on my left hand, the one that had been nicely numbed, she chose a different vein in my hand, much farther over.

One long stab, and she shot right through the vein. I'm pretty sure it must have been the look on my face that made her back off so quickly, or maybe it was the fact that she took her own liberties and then failed so miserably.. I'm not sure. But she quickly pulled the needle out and proclaimed she would not be sticking me again.

In comes the anesthesiologist... but not my anesthesiologist, the one I requested, the "specialist." Apparently he was busy, so their other guy came over instead. The first thing out of my mouth: "try this vein, the one where the cream is." He takes my right hand, and I was so relieved... until he starts feeling the exact same vein the nurse attempted in my other hand. I tried to rectify the situation yet again, by explaining that he had the wrong vein. But apparently, when they strapped the tourniquets on, my good veins weren't popping up well, and I guess even doctors don't feel comfortable going after a vein that isn't bulging. So he goes for the wrong hand vein... and punches straight through it, just as the nurse had.

By this time, another nurse had joined the group, as well as the specialist finally, all crowding around this mystery vein case. The doctors go for the doppler machine to look on my right arm, while the two nurses use the good ol' fashioned method of tapping and feeling around my left arm. All the while I'm getting desperate, still trying to ask why the hell they aren't going for the veins I told them to, the only ones I've ever had success with.

The second nurse thought she found a vein in the elbow of my arm, where most usual iv's are given, and much to my dismay, attempted to stick it. Nope.. shot through it again. Surprisingly enough, even after 3 painful sticks, I wasn't tearing up at all. I was, however, breathing much more rapidly, and subsequently all my veins began to tighten and shut down. Not to mention I passed my scheduled surgery time and they had to bump someone else ahead of me. I think the good anesthesiologist sensed that they were running out of time, and must have thought "hey, maybe we should actually listen to her." Still unsure, he dragged the doppler down my arm to my wrist... and oh look, he found a vein on the screen. The one I had pointed to all along. One very long stick later... and the iv was successfully placed. Four people, four attempts, four different veins.

I really wanted to yell "SEE? Why didn't you just listen??", but I was too relieved and exhausted. But man was the whole process frustrating. Go back and read my post about getting my blood drawn. Same situation! Had these people just listened to me the first time, we could have avoided all this mess. Strike three, Lutheran.

Anyway.. after all that, the rest of the surgery actually went quite smoothly. I remember being wheeled into the OR, then the next thing I know, I'm in the recovery room. I believe it took a little less than an hour to complete. I remember being extremely tired when I woke up, and a huge shot of pain through my leg... but 4 doses of morphine took that all away.

The rest of my stay at Lutheran was pretty pleasant. My mom stayed with me most of the day, as well as a friend who nicely brought me flowers. Markos came over later that evening to chill for a bit too, which was really nice. I tried to watch Glee and Raising Hope, but ended up falling asleep. Thank goodness for the internet! There was a strike four that I'm not going to really get into details with here... but it involved an extremely snobby and stubborn nurse, an incorrectly written chart, and a bedpan. Sleeping was no problem, even being woken up every 3 hours for checkups, since I was happily drifting through vicodinland.

The next day was much better. Physical therapy came to assess me in the morning, and I got the same pt girl I had for my last surgery. She remembered me immediately. =] Getting out of bed to walk around felt so great. After that, my doctor came in for his 5 second checkup, and a bit later my mom came back. As soon as my knee was re-dressed (including the freaky process of yanking the blood drain out a of large hole to the side of the incision.. yes, I have pictures), they started my discharge papers. By around 1 that afternoon, I was saying goodbye to my incredible roommate Deanna, my nurse, my nurse's aid, and even the awesome cleaning lady who did more fun gabbing and gossip with us than actual cleaning. That night, I climbed the 15 stairs to the second floor in our house to get to bed, and it was cake.

So despite the numerous strikes against poor Lutheran, overall I would say I still actually had a very good surgical experience. Recovery-wise, things have been a dream. In my 2 weeks post-surgery, I feel much more recovered than I had felt during my last surgery, I think due to the fact that the right side is my dominant side, and much stronger. Hopefully that means physical therapy, which I should be starting in 2 more weeks, will be a breeze. Tomorrow I get my stitches out and hopefully get to be rid of my immobilizer as I start to bend my knee and re-learn how to walk properly (that actually is quite a difficult task).

The only major bummer about the whole thing is that shortly after my surgery, I had another crappy event happen to me (which I won't be getting into), causing me to put a similarly painful memory onto this surgery as I had the last. So I will always have good memories to these major surgeries, but also a painful memory to each one as well. But that's where my title comes in... I felt much emotional pain this past week, on top of my physical pain, but that's life. The good thing is that I didn't allow myself to suffer. I didn't let my knee stop me from still enjoying some of the things I love to do, as much as I didn't let my sadness consume me and stop me from enjoying life as well.

Well, there's my surgery story. I may have left out a few details, but now I'm exhausted from all the typing, so I'm stopping here. Check back for possible add-ons and tweakings at a later date. And I'll write another post tomorrow night or thursday about the stitches removal process. At least this time it won't involve iv's.


  1. Hey, I read all your posts and I care about your life! Glad your recovery is going well!

  2. [I would have stayed with you all four days. The doctors wouldn't have been able to remove me from your bedside, I assure you]