I had my second ankle surgery today, and amazingly, it when far better than the other one. My throat is a little sore and I’m still a bit “out of it,” but more or less everything went fine….except when the physician giving me the primary physical noted that my heartbeat was slightly elevated and that I needed to have it looked at. But honestly, all that has to do with is sheer nerves. I would imagine that anyone’s heartbeat would be a little irregular prior to surgery. No matter how minor it is, there’s no telling what could happen in the operating room. For the past week, I’ve been plagued by nightmares of waking up in the recovery room minus my left foot, while the nurses tried to explain what had happened. If anything could cause an irregular heartbeat, I would say that is more than sufficient.
Having now undergone four ankle surgeries, I have the entire system down:
First the arrival at registration where they ask for anywhere from two to four hundred dollars up front, depending on one’s insurance, and the woman prints off the initial plastic bracelet. It has my full name, age, date of birth, the fact that I’m female (if that wasn’t initially evident), and my doctor’s name.
Then up stairs to the family waiting room, where they ask you who you are with and give you a rundown of the situation. If the doctor has anything to tell you, he may come out and talk to you prior to the surgery.
Then you go back to pre-op, where a nurse goes through your entire medical history: allergies, heart disease cancers, etc, and then makes you take a pregnancy test, regardless of what you have to say. Then you strip down to your underwear into that oh-so-ugly hospital gown that I’ve never managed to tie in the back by myself and once you’ve changed, your family or whoever you brought with you is allowed to come back and sit with you. The most nerve-racking part about the pre-op part is listening to everything else that’s going on around you. There’s something discomforting about hearing ALL the nurses complaining about just how tired they are or how ready they are for the weekend to come. It kind of gets me worried and all I can think about is how I would go lax on job, especially when I didn’t want to be there (hence the rapid heartbeat). It’s also unnerving listening to the nurses go over the same questions with other patients just a curtain away from you. Why do I know that the guy next to me is married, has had ACL reconstruction, a hernia operation and a vasectomy? Because he was loud and proud with all of his information. I suppose I am the type of person who just does not want to know about everyone else’s problems…Anyway, normally once the nurse leaves to grab my parents, I take that opportunity to pray, because really, you have no idea when you will be able to do it again. I didn’t today though. I guess it slipped my mind, as shocking as that seemed, but I did pray in the room just prior to surgery, as well as sang church songs to myself.
Once your family greets your in your beautiful gown, you get a moment to hand them any valuables, like the cross I never take off for example. Though now that I think about it, why would they need to make you take off something like a cross prior to surgery? I would think that if there was anywhere that I would need one, it would definitely be during a surgery where there’s no telling what would happen once the anesthesia knock me out cold.
After some time with your family, the nurse takes you back to the “other” pre-op area, where everyone is exceptionally clean and wearing scrubs and those surgical hats. Here is where you meet some of the nurses that will be in the operating room with you as well as the resident and the anesthesiologist. A nurse will administer the IV drip, which for me, has always hurt badly and even hurts more than my freshly operated foot following the surgery. From my own horrible past experiences with nurses taking blood, I know it is absolutely necessary for them to put the IV in my hand rather than anywhere else. I’ve decided that I’ve had enough of nearly passing out while nurses dig around in my arm searching for a vein that had just slipped out of sight, that the claim was just there a moment ago. One time, the initial nurse tried, then another nurse, the one of the doctors in the area and then finally they had to bring out a nurse from the neo-natal ward to administer my IV. Needless to say, I want to do everything in my power to keep from having, yet another disaster in pre-op.
The nurse starts the IV and the finger heart monitor, and you start to meet the others while you wait. Today, my heart really began racing when my doctor asked on which foot we were operating. Now, every nurse, doctor, whoever, you will meet prior to entering the operating room will look at your plastic bracelet and constantly ask your name, date of birth and on what they were operating, so this was not unusual for my doctor to ask me this, but when he looked at my x-rays and then looked back at me, I admit I got scared. He’d been given the information for my right foot and there was a bit of confusion, since my surgery time had been changed about four times before today. Fortunately, everything got straightened out, but seeing that the expression that not everything was going as planned in your doctor’s eyes, does tend to cause a bit of stress.
When I met the anesthesiologist, I was given this anti-nausea patch behind the ear, because I had also had enough for vomiting profusely due to the anesthesia. Miraculously, it has worked perfectly up to the moment. Should I ever have to go through this again (and hopefully, I won’t), I fully plan to ask for this patch again. Today was the first time, I’ve come to 11:00PM the night of a surgery and still feel fine, sans vomiting! (Oh, damnit! I missed Law and Order!)
Anyway, then comes a bit of a wait depending on how many surgeries your doctor has in front of you and the prep time required for your own. Sometime in there, they give you a little something to relax you a bit and before you know it, you are being wheeled down the hall into the operating room.
The operating room has never failed to be overwhelming for me. First of all, it is so bright in there, it is nearly blinding. It’s also freezing and regardless of how long those hospital blankets that they keep coming at you with are, you will definitely feel the cold of that room. The nurse and the resident will wheel your bed right next to surgical bed and have you move yourself over the stationary bed. Then, the spread your arms out across these posts that slide out from the surgical bed and they come at you again with the warmed blankets, while sticking you with the circular disks they use to measure your vitals. Once they do all this, (someone took my glasses, but I really don’t remember at which point) they come at you with the face mask.
Now, for the past surgeries they’ve asked me to count backward from ten, but for this one and the one I had in September, they just placed the mask over my face and I was out within five seconds. I prefer not having to count because the lower you get before passing out, the more stressed you get that the anesthesia isn’t actually working and you’re going to feel the whole thing.
When you wake up in the recovery room, you know that some time has passed, but it does not register immediately. It feels like you just closed your eyes for a second and then ended up in the recovery room. I’ve had all types of experiences waking up in the recovery room, from kicking people the foot that they just operated on, to feeling it absolutely necessary to get out of that bed. What is always a constant for me, is the thrashing. I wish I could explain, but when I wake up like that, I just thrash my head from side to side until I can get a grasp on my bearings. This time there was just a little thrashing, but the last time, I actually had a few nurse holding me down as I struggled in the recovery bed and attempted to rip the oxygen wire they had going under my nose from my face. The last time I also discovered I had a type of sleep disorder, where I nearly stop breathing while I sleep. They kept having to wake me up to get my oxygen back up over 90. This time, they had to wake me a few times, but it was not nearly as bad the previous.
When the nurses are satisfied with your vitals, they ease you into a wheelchair and to the post-op area where they help you get dressed and give you a little something to eat, since you haven’t had anything to eat since 8pm the previous night. Your family greets you hear and they give you any pertinent instructions before easing back into the wheelchair and to your car so you can be driven home. I’ve always had issues staying awake for any length of time while in post-op, because I really can’t sleep prior to surgery. I just feel like there’s something else that I’m missing or forgetting and sleep never occurs.
I’ve gone through this surgery thing far too often and quite frankly, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Hopefully, this will be the last aside from something like childbirth….
Oh well: Here’s praying!