Home again, Flanagan! Ya, I don’t know where that saying came from either, except that my Mum used to say it every time we got home from somewhere. It was as vital a saying in our car growing up as “put your clicks on or this is where the parade was. *laugh* Childhood memories are great.So. I’m home. Whew. I’m home and alive. Really, the best two things I could wish for. First of all, I’d like to send love and thanks and hugs and chocolate to my wonderful Nurses at 6th South. For them to wait on me hand and foot, even when I was difficult was a testimony to amazing. You ladies rock. Seriously.

To Dr. Chang. Thank you are two words that get the general meaning of what I want to say to you, although they are only a drop in the barrel. I am forever to remember you as the man who saved my life.

So, Thursday, Lily picked me up at 5am and we drove to Victoria. It was early, although I barely slept, too anxious. We arrive at the hospital. We go upstairs to the 6th floor – I felt like I had walked onto the set of House. There were hardwood floors as far as the eye could see. And not that fakie hardwood. Hardwood like my parent’s house (minus the lines) and even hardwood designs in the hallways. There was soft lighting on the Nurses’ Station who when the elevator opened they all turned and smiled at me at the same time. I was completely overwhelmed. I was then taken to my private room which also had hardwood. It also had a beautiful rocking chair, a day bed, my bed, a huge bathroom and marble counters around the sink.

I can’t make this up guys! It also showed a gorgeous view of the park outside the hospital as I was on the 6th floor. I cannot get over the beauty and hospitality of this place. I definitely didn’t feel like I was in a hospital. So about 10 mins after I came in, my wonderful Nurse came down with a computer on a cart and asked me a bazillion questions, took my vitals, weighed me ( I was down 8 pounds in the two days previous) and handed me my operation gown and socks.Now, for those of you who have never been fat I have something to share: Hospital gowns, never, ever, ever fit. They are always left gaping. Okay so I’m worried, I don’t want to sit around for 2 hours getting ready for surgery showing everyone my naked body – the front view too! But I do as she asks and put it on. I’m shocked when it fits. In fact, I could wrap it around myself 3 times! Finally, somewhere that knew how to deal with us. Finally.

Over the course of the next three days I would hear various staff from the hospital say how 6th south got special treatment and this floor was not only prettier but also that the staff here was trained specifically to treat you like you were the Queen of England. Boy did I luck out. God Bless Texas (at least in this area). Next I get shots, she’s telling me what they are for and I finish her sentences. I have researched every single part of this procedure. I’m not one to go in blind. I get the heparin in my belly to prevent blood clots and something stoma behind my ear in patch form to help with the nausea later. I also get an IV with a PCM pump. A PCM for those of you that don’t know is a Pain Control Machine. It allows me to administer my morphine by the click of a pump that is attached to my IV. I was thinking “finally, no more having to hit the call button when I’m in agony.” Boy was I wrong. After she left, my OR nurse comes in. She asks me to get on the table/bed and covers me in warm heated blankets. MMM good.

At this point, I was biting back tears saying goodbye to Lily who sat with me there for 2 hours and got up at 4am to drive me. As I was wheeling down the hallway, Miss Nanette (the head of that department) called to me by name and wished me luck and said she’d stop by in a few hours. She called me by NAME. I felt like I was a person and not some number going through there. So down we go in the elevator, we pass by rooms and rooms of stainless steel equipment and my nervousness grows with each step.

Finally I’m rolled into the waiting room for surgery. A beautiful OR assistant comes over, introduces herself and starts me a different IV since mine had seemed to stop working (this happened three times over the course of the three days, I have bad disappearing veins apparently). She was so gentle it didn’t hurt a bit. The Anesthesiologist comes in and says “Hi Kelsey, are you ready for your cocktail?” This breaks my tension and nervousness right up and I laugh and say, “please”. He gives me something to relax and then I see the man of the hour. Dr. Chang walks in in scrubs and asks how I’m feeling. I just smile as again I’m biting back tears, which he can tell and says everything looks great and “wow great job on the extra eight pounds, you’ve given me so much room to work this is going to go great!” which again helped ease the anxiety. At this point, things get pretty fuzzy. The clock on the wall is directly in front of me and I watch the seconds tick past and finally I’m moving. We go into the operating room and I see the tools, the cameras, and about 10 people smiling. I scoot over onto that table and lay back, as the anesthesia takes hold I remember saying, “please don’t let me wake up during this okay” and I’m out.

Fast forward three hours. I wake up in recovery. I don’t remember alot except for the male nurse over me with a United States Marine Corp layette around his neck saying “miss, please stop crying, we’re going to give you something for the pain.” I don’t remember the pain but if I woke up crying, I guess there must have been some. The next thing I remember is waking up again in my room with 3 nurses in there telling me to sit up a little so they can put a pillow behind my back and take my blood pressure. Dr. Chang comes in and gives me what looks like a picture of intestines, says the surgery went perfectly and that he’d see me later and I’m out again.

The next time I wake up, I’m feeling the pain so I hit my PCM for the morphine. Probably every 20 minutes I hit the machine for more. It’s weird to describe now but I remember telling my nurses that on the 1-10 scale, my pain was hovering around 8-9. The morphine keeps knocking me out but each time I wake up, I have to pee. SO the nurse helps me up and out of my oxygen tube, my leg compression things (which are these things that they put around your calves that blow up and then deflate and are heated so you don’t get blood clots) and when I finally get into the bathroom, I’m nearly in tears because no matter how long I sit there, I cannot pee. I remember asking the nurse to please call my parents because they must be worried and strangely enough I only can remember my Dad’s cell phone number. Back into the bed and machines are constantly beeping and waking me up. I feel like I can get no rest. More morphine. Pretty soon my nurse is distressed. Each time I fall asleep, my oxygen level falls drastically and causes that machine to alert and thus I’m not getting any sleep. Pretty soon I’m extremely nauseous and shortly after that the migraine hits home. I can’t open my eyes, the morphine has stopped working, I’m in absolute agony. I lay there crying, trying not to because it makes the migraine worse. My nurses are unsure what to do. Finally they realize that I’m having a reaction to the morphine. Because I’m pumped full of the stuff by that point, they want me to get up and walk the halls to help the gas pain (when they do my bypass laparoscopically , they blow your belly up with Co2 gas which causes pain if it doesn’t get released and unfortunately mine was not coming out except in occasional hiccups.) So up I get and walk, my belly is hurting, my head is hurting more and I feel like I’m about to vomit at any second only there is nothing to vomit so it’s heaving. I do one lap and collapse on the bed. I’m exhausted. The nurses come in yet again and give me an oral pain medicine which thankfully does the trick quickly but by this point it is 7am and I’ve had a sleepless night.

Fast forward to the next day at 2pm. I finally wake up feeling rested but still in pain in my belly. This is mostly gas pain and not surgery pain since you can’t really feel your stomach. They urge me to walk so I walk but the gas will not work itself out. I get up every two hours and do 2 laps around my floor. The walking feels good and when I get back into bed, I just fall right back asleep. When I am awake I’m using this breathing device that helps my lungs stay strong and also sipping on water. One sip makes me feel full quickly so it’s a slow process. I was overjoyed the afternoon that they brought in chicken bullion. Finally something with taste. I measure out my one ounce and sit there sipping it for an hour. One ounce of liquid in one hour. It was insane. But I felt good. The pain was still there but it was manageable with the oral pills.

Fast forward to Saturday. I wake up feeling sparky pain under my rips. The gas bubbles are having a party and then suiciding on my rips. Good, finally getting out of my belly. The pain is still there but I’m dealing. I can finally pee too! A miracle. Xray comes in to do my upper GI, to be sure that there are no leaks in my pouch and small intestine around the internal incision sites. So a lovely woman named Petunia comes and wheels me down into the “freezer”. It was hellaciously cold in there. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long and I get taken into the Xray room. They make me drink this liquid they say tastes like Kerosene. DISGUSTING. I nearly vomited right there. Then I stood up against the xray machine and watched this fluid go through my new stomach (called the pouch) and into my small intestine. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking at but they took a bunch of pictures and I was sent back upstairs. A few hours later, the on call surgeon came in to tell me that I needed to have another upper GI xray. He said there was potentially a problem so he wanted to look again. Down I go, more disgusting liquids and this time 3 people in there watching it go through. They determine that nothing is indeed wrong and I’m sent back upstairs with a pouch so full I thought I might puke on the way up. My pouch only holds two teaspoons of liquid at this point and drinking like 6 ounces of this nasty stuff was really too much.

Fast forward to discharge time. Sara and Lily arrive and it’s home again time. Whew. I made it. I was feeeling good and the drive home was nice. We had a 4 hour run around at Walgreen’s over my meds but in the end Donna the nursing supervisor at the hospital came through and got me what I needed. And finally around 9pm that night, I was home, snug as a bug in a rug in my own bed.
So thats my surgery story. Boy it was long. Took me nearly a week to write it all out. Through it all Dr. Chang has been my #1 supporter. He called me at 9:40pm on Saturday night after I was worried I couldn’t swallow the large pain pills I was prescribed. He reassured me I would be okay and said to call him anytime, no matter what time, no matter when.