Home again, Flanagan!
I don’t know where that saying came from, except that my Mum used to say it every time we got home from somewhere. It was as vital a saying while growing up as “put your clicks on” or “this is where the parade was”. (BIG LAUGH)
Childhood memories are great. I wrote this all down knowing I would want to remember every minute and hoping that it may help others to know what they would face. Whew. I was never so happy to be Home and Alive. Really, the best two things I could ever wish for. – Kelsey Payuma, Admin for Bariatric Eating Support Groups on Facebook.
I send a great deal of love and thanks and hugs and chocolate to my wonderful nurses at 6th South. For them to have waited on me hand and foot, even when I was difficult, was a testimony to their being simply amazing. These ladies rocked. Seriously.
And to Dr. Chang – THANK YOU are two words that convey the general meaning of what I would like to say to you, although they are only a drop in a very very large barrel. I will be forever grateful and will remember you always as the man who saved my life.
Lily picked me up at 5am and we drove to the hospital. It was early, although I barely slept a minute that night as I was too anxious. We arrived at the hospital, made our way to the 6th floor and I immediately 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 and even inlaid hardwood designs in the hallways. There was soft lighting on the Nurses’ Station and when the elevator opened they all turned and smiled at me at the same time. Genuine smiles, not 4am smiles and I was completely overwhelmed. I was then taken to my private room which also had hardwood a beautiful rocking chair, day bed, my bed, a huge bathroom and marble counters around the sink.
I can’t make this up guys! I had a gorgeous view of the park – I cannot get over the beauty and hospitality. I definitely didn’t feel like I was in a hospital. Ten minutes after I arrived, my Nurse wheeled in 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.
Here is an FYI for those of you who have never been fat: Hospital Gowns, never, ever, ever fit. They are always left gaping and I was worried that this one would not offer an exception. I did not want to sit around for 2 hours flashing my vast naked body! But I shrug it off and do as I am asked. I was shocked when it fit, in fact I could wrap it around myself 3 times! Finally, someone has had the forethought and kindness to know how to deal with *us*. Finally. That small act of caring meant more to me than almost anything in my world.
Over the course of the next three days I would hear various staff from the say that 6th south got ‘special treatment’ and this floor was not only nicer but also that the staff here was trained to treat you as if you were the Queen of England. Boy did I luck out. God Bless Texas!
Then came a series of shots, with the nurse telling me what they were for while I finished her sentences. I had researched every single part of this procedure. I’m not one to go in blind on anything. I got the heparin shot in my belly to prevent blood clots and a patch behind my ear to help with nausea that I would likely feel after surgery. I also got an IV with a Pain Control Management Pump. It allowed me to administer my morphine by the click of a button attached to my IV.
After she left, my Operating Room Nurse came in. She asked me to get on the table and covered me in warm heated blankets. Mmmmmm, a big warm comforting hug.
At this point, I was biting back tears saying goodbye to Lily who sat patiently for two hours and who got up 4am to drive me. As I was wheeled down the hallway, Head Nurse Nanette called to me by name, wished me luck and said she’d stop by in a few hours. I felt like a person and not some number going through there. En route from the elevator, we passed rooms filled with stainless steel equipment – my nervousness grew with each step.
My trip came to halt as we arrived in the waiting room for surgery. A beautiful Operating Room Assistant introduced herself and started a new IV, since mine had stopped working (this happened three times over the course of the three days, as my weight has created undo stress on my tiny veins). She was so gentle it didn’t hurt a bit.
The Anesthesiologist appeared, “Hi Kelsey, are you ready for your cocktail?” This breaks the tension, I laugh and say, “please”. He gave me something to relax. Then Dr. Chang walked in and asked how I was feeling. I smiled as this time I was biting back big glub glub tears, which he could not help but notice. He calmed me by saying everything looked great and “wow great job on the extra eight pounds you lost! You’ve given me so much room to work, this is going to go great!” Thanks Doc!
From this point, I remember little as it grew fuzzy pretty quickly. Onward to the operating room where there were gleaming instruments, cameras, huge overhead lamps and ten smiling people. I gracefully scooted from gurney to OR table and lay back as the anesthesia overwhelmed me. I remember saying, “please don’t let me wake up during this, okay?” and then I was out.
I woke up in recovery three hours later. I don’t remember much other than a male nurse with a United States Marine Corps cord around his neck, hovering over me saying “Miss, PLEASE stop crying, I am giving you something for the pain.” I don’t remember the pain but was too confused to know for sure. The next thing I remember was waking in my room with 3 nurses around the bed who asked me to sit up so they could put a pillow behind my back and take my blood pressure. Dr. Chang came in and showed me what looked like a picture of intestines, said the surgery went well and that he’d see me later… 3… 2… 1… and I’m out again.
I woke up to pain and once my mind could focus, I felt around and found my button for the morphine. Every few minutes I would hit the machine for more as I could not grasp the reality of time. It’s weird to describe now but I remember telling my nurses that on the 1-10 scale, my pain was hovering around an 8-9. The morphine kept knocking me out, but each time I woke up, I had to pee.
The nurses would have to help me up and out of my oxygen tube, my leg compression machine (which are these heated leg sleeves they place around your calves that blow up and then deflate so you don’t get blood clots) and when I would finally get to the bathroom I would sit and cry because no matter how long I would sit, I couldn’t go.
I remember asking a nurse to please call my parents because they would be worried and strangely enough I was able to remember my Dad’s cell phone number. They’d help me back into the bed where the machines were constantly beeping and waking me up. I was not getting any rest. More morphine. More morphine.
At one point my nurse seemed to be distressed. Each time I would fall asleep, my oxygen level would drop dramatically enough to cause one of the alarms to go off and wake me up. Then the nausea wave would wash over me and my head felt as if it were being squeezed as a migraine hit. I could not open my eyes, the morphine did not seem to be working and I was in absolute agony.
I was laying there trying to not cry because it would make my headache worse. My nurses were unsure as to what to do for me. The finally realized that I was having a reaction to the morphine. Since I had been pumped full of the stuff, they got me up to walk the halls to both metabolize the morphine and the gas from the surgery. (when they do a bypass laparoscopically, your belly is blown up with Co2 gas to separate your organs. This causes pain after the surgery unless quickly absorbed and unfortunately mine was not coming out except in occasional poots of gas.) I got up and walked, my belly was hurting, my head was hurting even more and I felt as if I was going begin heaving at any time. I could do a full lap around the nurses station and would collapse on the bed. I was totally exhausted but I was too foggy to help myself.
The crowd of nurses arrived once again and gave me an oral pain medicine which thankfully did the trick – by this time it was 7am and I had been up all night.
I woke at two in the afternoon, feeling rested but with the pain still in my belly. This was mostly gas pain and not a stomach pain since the nerves had been cut so you could not feel the actual surgical site. They urged me to walk so I did but the gas will take much longer to work itself out. Every two hours, I got up from bed and did 2 laps around my floor. The walking felt good and when I got back into bed, I would fall back into deep sleep. When I was awake I was encouraged to use a breathing device that helped my lungs stay strong and I also began sipping on water.
One sip made me feel full quickly before slowly dripping to another place, so it was a slow process. I was overjoyed the afternoon that they brought in the *gasp* chicken bouillon. It is hard to explain but it was good to finally taste something. I measured one ounce in a tiny cup as shown, and for the next hour I took tiny sips until it was gone. One ounce of liquid in one hour. It was insane. But I felt good. The pain was still there but was manageable with the oral pills.
The next day, I woke up feeling sparky pain under my rips. The gas bubbles were having a party and then to suicide on my ribs, but it was good that they were finally getting out of my belly. The pressure was still there but I was more able to deal with it. I could finally pee too! A miracle. The Xray team arrived to do an Upper GI – standard procedure, as this makes sure that there was not a leak in my pouch or small intestine around the internal incisions.
A lovely woman named Petunia came in and wheeled me into “the freezer” to wait my turn. I had to drink a liquid they told me up front tasted like kerosene. DISGUSTING. I nearly vomited but held it down while I stood up against the Xray machine and watched the fluid flow through my new tiny 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 before sending me back upstairs.
A few hours later, the on call surgeon came in to tell me that I needed another set of Xrays as there could be a problem that he wanted to look at more closely. Back downstairs for a repeat, and to drink more of the awful liquid – his time my Xrays were in front of an audience of three. Once they determined that nothing was wrong, I was sent back upstairs with a pouch so full of yuk, I thought I might spew it on the way there. My pouch would only hold a few teaspoons yet I had been overfilled with ten times as much of contrast liquid.
Time passed quickly and soon it was time for them to discharge me from the hospital. Friends Sara and Lily arrived – time for me to leave.
Whew. I made it though bariatric surgery. I felt great and the drive home was uneventful. We had a detour of a four hour run around at Walgreen’s pharmacy over my meds, but to her credit, Nursing Supervisor Donna cut through the red tape and got me what I needed.
FINALLY, it was 9pm and I was home and snug in a bug in a rug in my own bed, without the beeping of machines. I feel into a peaceful deep sleep.
Through thick and now thin, 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 said to try and reassured me that I would be okay and said to call him anytime, no matter what time, no matter when.
That is the blow by blow story of my surgery. It took me nearly a week to write it all down as more bits would pop into my head and need mention. It’s quite similar to that told by my bariatric surgery friends, in other hospitals, other states, but for a few minor details. I hope it calms and gives you peace before your surgery. Knowledge is power.