The long awaited day had finally arrived! On Tuesday, February 19th, it was finally time to undergo the much anticipated stomach surgery that would allegedly fix my chronic acid reflux. To say I was excited would be an understatement. I’m so sick of being sick that I wasn’t even nervous, just hopeful. T-Rex Mom had driven up from Florida so she could
be the official back seat driver of the surgery team help nurse me back to health, and she was definitely more nervous than I was. Apparently, she didn’t want me to die. We were supposed to arrive at the hospital by 7:40 am, leaving an hour and a half to do all the necessary tests and paperwork before surgery began at 9:10. For reasons I don’t entirely understand, I can never remember where this hospital is despite the fact that I’ve been to it about 40 times. It’s near two different interstates, and I always mix them up, so of course, we got off on the wrong highway and arrived at the hospital about 15 minutes late. My mom was freaking out, but I couldn’t get too upset about it because quite frankly, every time I go to a doctor’s office, I wait for hours upon hours no matter how early I get there, so I figured 15 minutes wouldn’t kill anyone. Um, wrong.
We got in and immediately, it was a whirlwind. We went to registration, did the quick pre-op check up, and then all of a sudden they were telling me we had to go right now because the surgeon was running early and wanted to get going as soon as possible. I’m sorry, WHAT? When, in the history of life, has that ever happened? So they got me outfitted in my fancy gown, asked me for my name and date of birth about 8,342 times, and before I knew it, it was time to go. First, I had to get the world’s most asinine IV placed right next to my thumb in an area in which I did not even know I had a vein. This will become important later.
They wheeled me into the operating room and asked me some more questions, all the while telling me that they had given me some medication that was going to work any second now. I started getting a little freaked out because I wasn’t feeling woozy or anything at all. Then I started having all these internal panic scenarios in which I somehow woke up during surgery and saw all the cuts and stuff, but before I knew it, I was completely passed out. We skipped straight past woozy and directly to unconscious, apparently. Before I knew it, I was in the recovery room. I know y’all were hoping for some good anesthesia videos, but I am sad to report that my mom and AJ were not allowed in the recovery room, so I don’t have any. The good news is, I recognized this early on and became determined to remember as many of the conversations as possible.
Just in case you’re interested in seeing what the surgery looks like, here you go.
The nurses in the recovery room were trying to plan a social outing, so I helpfully offered suggestions. They took my suggestion for the happy hour restaurant I suggested based on my rousing approval of the spinach and artichoke dip. My nurse mentioned that she was trying to lose weight, so she wasn’t eating too much spinach dip anymore these days. I asked her if she was running, and she mentioned that she had recently looked up the Couch to 5k program, but was intimidated to try it. That poor woman. She had no idea what was about to hit her.
So in my still drugged up state, I start telling her allllll about the virtues of Couch to 5k, and how I started running using it and I recommend it to everyone, and omg now I run marathons every month, and by the way, do you know how far a marathon is? And girl, you’re going to need some shoes, no, not just any shoes, real running shoes from a real running store. You don’t know where any are? Allow me to tell you. I think her mind was sufficiently blown, because she started telling all the other people that came over to check on me, and then they started asking me questions about running. I like to think that I was the perfect combination of hilarious (thanks to the drugs) and informative, but it’s really hard to say. Nonetheless, she wrote down everything I said, and I was very impressed with myself when they finally rolled me into my room to see my mom and AJ. They got to hear all about my gospel-spreading too.
So you’re probably noticing a few things in my post-op photo. 1) My luxurious hair 2) The fact that I’m holding the world’s most worn teddy bear and 3) The fact that it appears I came back from surgery approximately 7 months pregnant. The hair thing is just my daily reality, so I have no further comment on that. As for the teddy bear, that’s Stitches, and I got him when I was 8. I fell off a bike that was way too big for me while attempting to fly down a hill while on vacation, and I smashed my faced all up into the road and got knocked unconscious and nearly hit by a car. My dad was back home working and couldn’t be there, so he sent me that bear, which I have kept ever since. My mom brought it up for me from Florida knowing he would bring me great comfort after surgery, and it was a great surprise. As for my immaculate conception, that’s partially because there’s a pillow on top of my stomach under the blanket and partially because they filled my whole abdomen with air during the surgery. I’m going to tell you right now that it’s not my best look.
The pain after the surgery was pretty bad, but it got worse as the day went on. I’m not much of a complainer, and I don’t like to make a big deal about pain in particular, so I just didn’t really say much. My mom kept trying to force me to drink apple juice and chicken broth, since I was on a clear liquids diet, but it hurt to swallow and I could only drink the tiniest amounts at a time. They were giving me morphine every 3-4 hours, but it didn’t do much to take the pain away. Unfortunately, I metabolize pain medication really fast, so it never puts me to sleep and most of it doesn’t even help. Always careful not to give the appearance of being a drug addict, I didn’t even bother asking for more medication because I knew it wouldn’t help. The nurses seemed surprised every time they came in and I was still wide awake. This basically went on the entire night. They would come in every 2-3 hours to take my vital signs and check on me, and there I was – WIDE AWAKE. My mom went to bed around 11 or so, and she had her own little bed since I had a sweet private room (ok, fine, everyone had a private room), so I couldn’t keep the tv on. So I just laid there. Wide awake. Checking my phone over and over again and hoping that someone would post something interesting on Facebook. Reading every article on CNN. Catching up on all the latest celeb gossip on People.com (as if I was ever behind).
When the night nurse came in around 1 am to give me morphine, it burned a lot more than usual. She commented on what a stupid place it was for an IV, and I agreed. After she left, it kept burning, and I had my mom help me out of bed so I could go to the bathroom. In the light of the bathroom, I realize that my whole hand is swollen and painful and something is clearly not right with this IV. So Beverly the night nurse became my new BFF when she came back and moved my IV to a much more appropriate place on my right arm, which didn’t hurt at all. Meanwhile, she and my mom are discussing how to get me the appropriate kind of pain medication, since clearly the stuff they are using was not working. The problem is that I’ve had a lot of pretty major injuries and several surgeries, so I know what medication works for me and what doesn’t. There is not a single pain medicine on the market that puts me to sleep or makes me feel even the littlest bit loopy – not Percocet, Vicodin, Oxycontin, any of it. The only one that touches any kind of pain I have is Dilaudid, which unbeknownst to me at the time, is apparently the strongest pain medication on the market. One of the earlier nurses had told me that I would be sent home with a prescription for Percocet, and I basically told her not to bother even having the doctor write it, because it wouldn’t work and I wouldn’t even waste my time taking it. I told her that in my previous surgeries, the only think that worked was Dilaudid. Apparently this raised big red flags because only drug addicts request this type of medication. Well, how the hell was I supposed to know? I just know what works for me! So my mom, who is an ER nurse, was discussing the situation with all of the shift nurses, trying to explain to them that I just metabolize medication really quickly. I mean, I had 6 maximum doses of morphine in 18 hours and I didn’t even come close to falling asleep. I was awake the whole night! Who does that? Not to mention, I feel like the fact that I’ve run 30 marathons (which my doctor knows) would be pretty strong evidence that I’m not a drug addict, but maybe I’m wrong.
For awhile, we weren’t sure that I was going to be able to leave the hospital on Wednesday because my abdomen was still so bloated, but the doctor decided we could leave a little before lunchtime. My mom also managed to rally everyone on the floor and convince my doctor that I did in fact need Dilaudid and would not be abusing it, so I got my wish. It was still super painful for me to get up and down, sit up, etc, but she made me do a walk of shame around the hospital floor because she insisted that moving around would make me feel better.
It did not make me feel better, but I have to do what my mom says. When I was finally emancipated from the hospital, they drove me around in a little wheelchair that looked a lot like those grocery carts they have for kids that are shaped liked little cars. It was pretty sweet. AJ had requested that I take some of the extra pairs of hospital socks for him because
he has no fashion sense he is a sock hoarder and they seemed really warm. The hospital was a little bit like a hotel, because they gave me a tote bag for all my clothes, extra socks, a pillow, and a whole bunch of other stuff. AJ even commented on my “awesome view” while he was visiting. Did I mention they had a huge menu of room service food and you were allowed to get an entree, two sides, a drink, and dessert for FIVE DOLLARS? Yeah. So AJ and my mom enjoyed that while I enjoyed my diet of clear liquids only – water, apple juice, and chicken broth. Yum!
Yesterday after I got out of the hospital, I was still in a good bit of pain, but today is much better. I can’t really sit up straight for more than about 5 minutes, but I can move a little bit better and the pain is subsiding. It’s kind of funny, because people keep asking me if I’m super hungry, but I’ve never been less hungry in my life. It’s kind of a relief, actually, since I’m always starving. I got bumped up to a “full liquid” diet today, which means I can have liquids that are not clear- hooray! I won’t be back to eating normally for about a month, but I can handle it. Also, I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments about when I’ll be able to run again, and I have to tell you that yesterday, just the idea of running made me want to die. The pain was so bad that it seemed unfathomable to even consider the idea of ever running again. Today, though, I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and while it’s still a long way away, I know I’ll be back at it before I know it.
Thank you so much to everyone who called, texted, facebook messaged, posted, etc and has been so supportive during my recovery! I won’t be back to work for awhile, but I’m working from home and trying to get stronger each day. In the mean time, I’ll be existing on a steady diet of liquids and very soft foods for the next month or so and trying to get my bionic stomach healed. In case you were wondering, my 5 incisions are in the shape of a pentagram. Which I’m pretty sure is the mark of Satan. Coincidence? I’ll let you be the judge.
Leave a comment: What type of exciting liquid items should I be eating/drinking while I recover? I’m pretty sure my undying love of broccoli and cheese soup is going to die here in a couple weeks.