{the life} Totally Tubular

by Rachel on May 13, 2012

This morning, there was a large, loud noise as the massive pile of magazines, empty JELLO containers, pill bottles, 7UP cans, and saltine cracker crumbs on my bed appeared to come to life. The pile shifted, crunched, and rattled until finally, I emerged from under it, groggy and lacking the sort of perfect skin you’d expect from someone who has been sleeping for three days.

Well, sort of. But you get the picture.

I’ve pretty much been a hermit since my surgery on Wednesday, but I’m finally starting to feel human again (and, to be honest, I have to feel human again, as I’m planning to go back to work tomorrow).

The Surgery

Eric and I got to Memorial Hermann at 7 AM on Wednesday morning. I met with multiple doctors and nurses and answered the same questions over and over: Well, I’m really really hungry, but other than that, I’m fine. No, I don’t have any drug allergies. No, I don’t have any questions. No, I haven’t had anything to eat or drink since last night around 8 PM. Yes, I’ve had surgery before; the anesthesia made me throw up several times. I was stuck with some needles (which I swear is the most painful part of surgery, all the IVs!) and Eric and I hung out for a couple hours, reading magazines and playing Words With Friends. I was decked out in my hospital finest: tie-in-the-back-gown, white thigh-high compression stockings (“I’m pretty sure I saw these for $40 at American Apparel the other day,” I told Eric), and slouchy hospital socks.

Surgery got under way around 9:30, not too far behind schedule. It was supposed to last an hour or so. I wasn’t nervous at all. The last thing I remember was being transferred from my bed to the operating table and having a mask placed over my face.

The Impatient Patient

When I came to, I was in what I call the recovery queue — a room with a bunch of beds where they take patients immediately after surgery to come to before they go to a recovery room. I was told that morning that I’d be in the queue for about an hour and then I’d be moved until a room until I went home later that day. I woke up with a very sore throat (something I’d expected) and I couldn’t see straight (not expected). Somehow, I had the wherewithal to peel off the small anti-nausea patch they’d stuck on me before the surgery, which the anesthesiologist had told me needed to be removed if I experienced blurred vision. Then I just went back out of it again.

This went on for some time; I’d come to for a few minutes, but then I’d just fall back asleep immediately. Because of this, I had no concept of time or how long I’d been there. It wasn’t until hour three that I even had the wherewithal to croak, “Hey…wtf?”

And that’s when they told me that, OOPS SORRY THERE AREN’T ENOUGH RECOVERY ROOMS BUT YOU’LL BE GETTING TO A ROOM SOON, WE PROMISE.

You’re on this? Aight. I passed out again.

I kept waking up because there were repeated loud crashes recovery queue — you know, the kind that makes everyone in the vicinity think, Oh shit, something is broken. A crash would startle me awake, I’d think, What happened? Fuck…I’m still here?, and then I’d get nauseous and fall back to sleep again.

Finally, around hour 3.5, I came to enough to wheeze, “HEY…seriously…I’m still here?!??”

Yes, they said, apologizing. They didn’t know why I’d been there for so long. It’s just that there weren’t any rooms. They didn’t know why. They were going to get me into a room as soon as possible.

ANOTHER CRASH. 

“Can I at least have my phone if I’m going to be here for a while?” I croaked. I was hoping they’d say no, that I didn’t need it because I wasn’t going to be there much longer, but the nurse returned a few minutes later with my phone. Bummer. I texted Eric (who had been in the waiting room since before my surgery even began) some version of “Is this real life?” and then fell asleep again. I kept falling asleep mid-text. Until the next large crash.

Eventually I was with it enough to sort of keep up a texting conversation with Eric and I started to get frustrated with my situation. I hadn’t seen my doctor yet. No one was really attending to me, so I wasn’t doing the things I needed to do to recover so I could actually leave. I overheard a nurse making calls and talking to other people about the fact that I was still there; she kept telling me that she didn’t know why I didn’t have a room yet, but she was working on it.

And I really think she was working on it. Still, every time someone came into the room, I’d think they were coming to take me away…but they were coming for someone else. “I feel like the kid whose mom forget to pick her up after school,” I croaked. Because I did. Everyone was getting picked up except for me, even those who came in after I did. I felt like I’d been forgotten. I could tell it was getting late. My doctor had probably gone home for the day.

CRASH. 

“There are a lot of crashes in here,” I finally said to the nurse. I had been in there so long, I felt like I had a special bond with the nurse that entitled me to more information. Every time I heard a crash, I assumed a patient was being dropped or two hospital beds were colliding — which was adding to my impression that this was the Worst Hospital Ever — so I figured I’d just ask her about it.

“Yeah,” she said. “He keeps forgetting that that phone is attached to the wall and keeps walking away while talking on it.”

I don’t know who “he” was — some absentminded nurse, I guess — but I liked my idea of bumper beds a lot better.

I felt so, so shitty. As predicted, I was incredibly nauseous. I felt like I was going to throw up, but I think the anti-nausea drugs they gave me kept me from actually throwing up. Being in a state of “I think I’m going to puke” for hours is not fun. I knew the #1 thing I had to do before I could go home was urinate, so I asked for some water and started drinking. But even though I was drinking a lot of water, more than I even felt like I could stomach, there seemed to be a major disconnect between the water I was drinking and my bladder.

Even though my doctor was long gone, he had talked to Eric immediately following the surgery and told him the good news: I was still totally tubular! Once they got in, they discovered that I didn’t have a hydrosalpinx after all; my pain was caused by two cysts that were growing on my left fallopian tube. (Even though all abnormal growths in the human body are somehow described in terms of a fruit market, I still have no idea what size cysts they were. From looking at the pictures, I’d guess somewhere between a pea and a grape.) At this point I had resigned myself to the fact that my tube was a loser and needed to go; I had accepted that I was semi-infertile. That I’m likely a lot more fertile than I thought was pretty big news!

Finally, after five hours in the recovery queue, I was taken to a room. It wasn’t a recovery room; it was actually a pre-op room. The nurse had been smart to suggest they take me there, as those rooms were all empty now, but it was tiny; it didn’t have a bed in it, nor would my bed fit into it. I was transferred from my bed into what I can only describe as a “hospital recliner,” which wasn’t very comfortable. Finally, though, I had Eric there. And poor Eric, who had been sitting in the waiting room by himself for nearly seven hours, finally had someone to talk to.

Now I just had to empty my bladder and we could go home.

The Princess & the Pee

If only it were that easy. I sat in my recliner and drank cup after cup of water. Where was all the water going? It was disappearing into the abyss or I was stockpiling it for the coming frost…I don’t know, but it wasn’t coming out. After about 30 minutes, the nurse took me to the bathroom to try to go. Again, there was a major disconnect between my brain, body, and bladder. I wanted to go, I felt like I was going to go, but…nope. So I stumbled back to the recliner to choke down more water and wait.

I really didn’t expect to be in such bad shape. After my breast reduction surgery, I don’t remember being in much pain or discomfort. I was nauseous and throwing up, but I don’t remember my incisions hurting that much. But this time? I felt awful. I just…hurt.

I was very concerned with trying to drink water, trying not to throw up, and trying to stay awake. All I wanted to do was close my eyes and go to sleep, but I knew that would delay my successful trip to the bathroom. After more than an hour in the recovery recliner, the nurse was checking her watch and said they might need to look at other options — like inserting a catheter, or having me stay the night. My reaction was very similar to Tim Meadows’ in Mean Girls when he shouts “I DID NOT LEAVE THE SOUTH SIDE FOR THIS.” I would have been fine with staying the night if that had been the plan from the beginning, but I didn’t spend five goddamn hours in that recovery queue only to have to stay the night in the hospital when all was said and done. I wanted to lay down so badly, but I wanted to do it at home. I was going to go pee.

Eric and I took a walk around the floor, hoping that would help me go. No dice. The hospital floor I was on was totally deserted; it was just a bunch of nurses standing around. Standing around waiting for me to pee, pretty much. Talk about performance anxiety. We returned to my room and waited. Thirty minutes later, with the words “insert a catheter” heavily on my mind, we took another walk. After a few minutes of waiting and praying, I was able to go. I have never been more relieved to relieve myself.

The Recovery

Once I had gone to the bathroom, things moved pretty fast. I got dressed and put on a giant pad; then I was given my discharge instructions (“Do not put ANYTHING in your vagina for two weeks,” the nurse said, and then went on to list a bunch of  Things I Am Not to Put In My Vagina For Two Weeks), put in a wheelchair, and sent on my way. I was still super nauseous, and that I made it home from the hospital without throwing up in Eric’s new truck was seriously just an act of sheer willpower. Once we got home, I stumbled straight to bed; as soon as I was horizontal, I started to feel better.

While I slept, Eric went to CVS to pick up my pain meds, JELLO, and maxi pads. It was his first foray into pad-buying, and I really appreciated it. He was just great this week — he took care of the dogs, prepared my meals, kept me entertained, made sure I was taking my medicine, and was just my Person. I didn’t doubt that he would be great, but that he was so great — especially when I didn’t have my mom or my grandma, like I’m used to in these situations — was really comforting. This week was definitely a, “Yup, we’re getting closer to being ready to be married” kind of week.

I don’t remember my recovery from my breast reduction surgery being too hard I took my pain meds and slept a lot, but I don’t remember being in a lot of pain or discomfort. I wasn’t expecting this recovery to be very painful or difficult but…I was wrong. It was. It still kind of is. I didn’t expect a “minor” surgery to be so exhausting, but it was a lot worse than I expected.

Ultimately, this surgery felt like getting a new fuel pump put in your car. It’s a big hassle and it costs a lot of money, but at the end of the day, you just don’t feel that good about it because it’s not really like you’re going through all that for some major improvement; you’re going through all that to get your car to…work like it was supposed to work. At least with my breast reduction, I was going to feel new and improved when all was said and done. In this case, the only thing I have to look forward to is…not feeling so shitty on a regular basis. It’s frustrating to feel like your body (or car) has just let you down and caused you a bunch of unnecessary pain and suffering. If you’re going spend that much time and money, you at least hope you came through it with something to show for it: a nicer car, a kid…maybe new abs?

Oh well. I’m on the way to being healthy again and I have two healthy tubes in tact…I’ll get over the fact that I still have the same old abs.