Thursday, January 08, 2015

Less toys than I expected in Surgical Day Care...

I am not fond of rules, I seem to always break them...nor do I tend to follow instructions to a tee, I improvise a lot...but after I printed off the ANTERIOR CRUCIATE LIGAMENT RECONSTRUCTION REHABILITATION PROTOCOL from the ReBalance website, I read the 20 or so pages line for line and took notes, used a highlighter, and bought the appropriate supplies.  

I guess I should have printed them out a lot sooner, but I chose to do it the Sunday before surgery so as not go into full anxiety attack mode.  The next day, I tried to do everything I normally do, I biked to bootcamp, bootcamped, biked back.  Then I had a bit of a panic, not knowing what condition I would be in the next day, and I called up Mama Spitfyre and went emergency grocery shopping.  We bought tonnes of veggies and I made a huge vat of Spitfyre Chipotle Chili.  Okay, I may be ready to actually do this.  There was food in the fridge and the freezer, my husband had the rest of the week off to play nursemaid, and all I had left to do was scrub my entire body with a rather scratchy sponge (with plastic nail brush neatly attached and pink surgical soap built right in)...oh and wash my hair.  Done and done.

The next morning, I had to do the same thing, save the hair wash...with a brand new hive-inducing rough sponge on one side and nail scrubber on the other, smothered in gooey, hot pink, antibacterial goodness.  Great, I was squeaky clean...with an afro and a lovely red rash all over my bod.  Did I mention no moisturisers, deodorisers, or hair products allowed?  I tried to drip-dry my hair in ringlets, it worked...kinda.  Anyway, that didn't matter, as I piled all my hair up on my head and threw it into a fun bun (using a rubber elastic with no metal), and I may have straightened my bangs.  I can't relinquish all control, after all...I'm a rule breaker, right?  So why not look somewhat presentable with just a hint of "lunatic newly escaped from the asylum."

After a very quiet car ride to the Royal Jubilee, we parked the car on the fourth floor of the parkade, and I skipped down the stairs...relishing ever flight.  I took Stéphane's hand and asked for the directions to Surgical Day Care.  A lovely volunteer lead us up to a nondescript waiting room, gave my name to someone out of sight and instructed us to hang tight.  In my INNA NINJA t-shirt, jeans and jacket, I waited.  There were people with take-out coffees all over the place, damn them...damn them and their non-fastingness!  I may have even fantasised, just a little, about Tim Horton's coffee.  You know you're delirious when...and I have to say, surgical day care has far fewer toys than I expected.

After half an hour or so, Nurse Ratched called my name...I got up and followed her zombie-like to the door of doom.  Then I realised I hadn't said goodbye to Stéphane, so I turned around and motioned for him to come over.  
"Oh my gods, I forgot to kiss you...and say goodbye, or see you later or whatever!" 
A rather dramatic Hollywood kiss ensued in the middle of the waiting room...followed by some sappy, lovely dovey words.  I half expected the waiting room to erupt into applause, it was that good.  The nurse then told Stéphane to go home and he refused,  
"I'll be here waiting until you're done." 
5-6 hours, that's what the surgical notes said...good luck with that, Stéffi.  What a guy!
I passed through the door and was asked to take off my clothes.  I told the nurse to at least buy me dinner first; to my surprise, she laughed, and gave me a very sexy blue gown and equally stylish blue robe to match.  It's at this point that I realised I still had my purse which was packed with books, magazines, my MP3 player, phone etc. etc. etc.  I put my clothes and purse in a blue drawstring bag, did up my robe, popped on my fancy blue foot bags (slippers) and threw back the curtain.  To add insult to injury (literally), the nurse promptly weighed me in.  What am I a jockey?!  I'm short enough, maybe she sensed my horsey background?!  Anyway, it wasn't weigh-in Wednesday, but she didn't know that.  156 pounds of nerve-wracked Spitfyre.  Great, still up...despite my best efforts.  And I'd been fasting since the night before.  Now what?!

Deep within the bowels of the Royal Jubilee there are rooms upon rooms for waiting.  I was asked to hop up onto a very generic hospital bed, then I was asked questions such as this:
Who are you?  What is your birth date?  Where do you live?  Who is your doctor?  What procedure are you having done?  Which leg has the torn ACL?  Do you have any allergies?
Wow, I thought that maybe they would have written all this stuff down.  Okay they knew the answers, but I was asked these questions by no fewer than 4 different people.  The original nurse, another nurse, the anesthesiologist, and finally the orthopaedic surgeon.  I must have aced them all, because I wasn't sent home.  The anesthesiologist asked if I had any other questions...I asked him if his accent was South African, he said yes and then let me be.  Not a chatter, got it.  Dr. Jacks asked if I had any questions, I said no, and he autographed my knee.  Interesting.  I wonder if it'll be worth something someday.

Then I was moved...moved from waiting room #2 into waiting room #3.  This one was without the privacy curtains and came with Christmas cracker style hats.  NOOOOOO!!!  I straightened my bangs!  How am I going to look in this weird see-through blue gauzy shower cap?  Well, maybe I can wear it like a beret.  This room was much more fun than the last, people were coming and going and we seemed to be playing musical beds.  The guy to my left needed more room so I was moved closer to the woman on my right, then they wheeled in someone else and I was moved into the middle, and he was put in my place.  I think it was rather appropriate that we played a few games in Surgical Day Care, there were no toys after all.  I shared my disappointment about the lack of toys with my neighbours, which I think lightened the mood.  It ain't that much fun waiting in line to be put to sleep and sliced open.  We all started talking after that, and when the nurse came back to wheel me away, he told me it was nice to see everyone in such good spirits.  I'm not sure if it's appropriate to tell people to "break a leg" in the hospital, but I like the sounds of it better than "good luck" so as I was wheeled away I wished my bedmates well.

Next stop was the O.R.  Oooohhh, the room where the magic happens.  I wheeled into the brightest and coldest room in the world and was promptly parallel parked next to a thinly mattressed tiny table.  Wow, I'm glad I lost all the weight, the last time I was on the slab I was sorta oozing off the edges a bit.  Who knew one of the benefits of weight loss would be comfort in the operating room.  I shuffled off the gurney and onto the platform and was introduced to two nurses.  Ever the Chatty Cathy, after some small talk Laurie and Tyler asked how I sustained the injury and I went on nervously about my love of taekwondo, and how I couldn't wait to get back at it.  Seriously, as much as I love front snap kicks, I could really go for a spin hook kick every now and then.  Believe me, I'm deadly when faced head on, but move to the side...and well, that's why I'm about to get this operation.  My BFF, the South African, then poked me in the back of the hand with a giant needle.  Well then, I guess we're getting this show on the road.  I was asleep before the surgeon even arrived from what I remember.  No counting backwards, just a mask placed over my mouth (so I could breathe pure oxygen) and my coughing into it because I couldn't get any out.  Breathe deeply?  How?  More like suffocation.  I called for help, something changed, and I took a deep breath.  Next came a giant shiver of medication that shot from my hand all the way up my arm, and I was out.

I woke up in tears and convulsions apologising for my shaking and crying.  It made perfect sense at the time, the nurses just went with it.  "Honey, you've just come out of anesthesia."  Oh, right.  This is where I wish someone had recorded my weirdness.  Oooohhh look at those pretty lights!  Sob, sob, sob.  I started talking total nonsense, I was laughing, crying and complaining about the cold...and telling tales of my life as a ninja.  They swaddled me in more thin blue blankets, and soon I was travelling down the hall again.  Well, that was fun.  Wait, I can't feel my leg.  Quick check.  Yep, it's still there.  That's good. 

Lying in recovery room one, I started to feel the after effects of the anesthetic.  The weird acrid taste in my mouth and up my nose, and nausea.  My new nurse asked me how much pain I was in.  Quite a bit but I'm a big girl, I can yoga my way out of this.  I started practicing box breath, inhale for a count of 5, hold it for 5, exhale for 5, hold it for 5 and repeat.  Apparently, it reduces anxiety, slows heart rate, and gets you smacked in the shoulder in this room.  
"What are you doing?" asked the nurse. 
"I was attempting to control the pain with my mind...yogic breathing." I responded.  Duh.  I was still quite out of it obviously. 
"Don't be a hero Suzie, we can give you more pain killers.  Would you like some?  Also quit that breathing, it's making it look like you're stopping breathing every now and then, which is of course what you are doing,"  she said thoughtfully.
"Yes please, to the painkillers.  I'll do yoga later."

After all, it was going to be a long day, and this was only the first stage of recovery.  Everyone told me there were going to be good drugs, but I guess I always felt like taking pain killers was a bit of a cop out.  Why not figure out what is ailing you and fix it in a less medicationy way?!  This is not how I feel about vaccinations or antibiotics, by the way, I do what the doctor tells me...I take my full course or get shot in the arm.  But painkillers are different.  After all, I didn't want to be anything like a celebrity addicted to prescription medication, slurring words on camera in some terrible reality show.  But, I was in a lot of, fill 'er up please, nurse! 

I can't remember exactly how long I was in that recovery room, all I know is following that dose of medication, I needed a quick dose of Gravol as I suddenly felt nauseous.  I did not want a repeat of what had happened after my gallbladder surgery.  No one likes projectile vomiting, especially not hospital staff.  Come to think of it, I think they kept me overnight after that incident so they could torment me with Gravol suppositories.  This time I was given the does via my IV, thank gods.  After that, in and out of consciousness I went, wanting to sleep but also just wanting to get out of there.  The drugs weren't helping.  The more I took the longer I would have to stay, that I knew.  And where was Stéphane anyway!?!  A different nurse came over to me and told me I looked familiar.  I told her I blogged for the Times Colonist, and did the Health Challenge in 2013...and this was the reward for my active lifestyle.  Haha...okay, not really.

Being in recovery at the hospital is like waiting in line at Disneyland, as soon as you think you're nearly done, you go through a door or turn a corner and there is so much more line ahead of you.  After stage one, I was moved to another area with beds radiating off a nurses' station.  Oooohhhh...each bed gets curtains on either side for fancy!  When I was brought in, a nurse introduced herself and told me that they were going to administer some antibiotics through my IV.  She propped my bed up so that I could take some pain meds orally, and then I never saw her again.  I waited.  I was now almost upright in my bed, so sleeping was out.  I would have preferred to nod off, but instead I listened.  I listened to the guy next to me giving a Tim Horton's order to a significant someone.  I listened to other people in the room snoring, I listened to the tick tocking of the clock.  It was after 5, I thought I was supposed to be done by now.  Also, I was soooooo thirsty.  I hadn't eaten or had anything to drink for 19 hours.  I flagged someone down and asked for a little bit more water.  There was a sippy cup left by my bedside that had previously delivered a 1/4 cup of water to wash down some pills.  Um, do they know I can drink more than that?  Afterall, I drink up to 4 litres of water a day normally!

She gave me half a glass of water.  I drank it in one go.  I was parched!  I tried to flag her, or anyone, down again shortly after and it took a while...eye contact was being avoided for sure.  The guy in the bed next to me was happily chatting away to his friend and munching on his Timmy's.  When I finally got someone's attention, I asked for more water and when I was going to get my antibiotics.  More than an hour had passed since I had been talked to...and I was bored senseless, and THIRSTY!  A new nurse brought me some water, went away, came back, and started administering the medication.  Finally, I asked her when I was going to be released.  She told me not until at least 7 or 7:30PM.  Hmmmphh.  
"When can I see my husband?" I asked.
"When you're released," she said.  
Seriously?  All this lying around and waiting in an uncomfortable position for someone to give me antibiotics and another 6 ounces of water and I can't even see my husband who I told to go home, but he probably didn't, knowing him.  Well, what about...
"Excuse me...excuse me...(finally got her attention again) may I please have my purse?"  
"Well, I guess I'm going to have to look up where it is then."
Um, yeah, I guess.  Why is this such a big deal?  
"It's in locker number 9," I told her.
Fortunately, I remembered the number I was told first thing in the morning...and after anesthetic and all those drugs.  Woot!  I may not have had any company, but I was about to have a mobile phone, 3 magazines, 2 books, and an iPod...let the games begin and let several hospital selfies be taken!  When the nurse returned with my bag, she plopped it directly onto my right leg.  At least the local anesthetic was still in full effect.  What the heck is wrong with this place?!  I will definitely not be making more reservations.  Disappointing food and drink selection and terrible customer service!  Luckily, it gets put on my country's tab when I leave.  Is there a comment card I can fill out?!?

As it turned out, Stéphane did go home, after repeatedly asking when he could see me.  Apparently he sat in the original waiting room until they closed it - I guess surgical day care is just that, once the kids are all picked up, everyone goes home.  So he went home too, and at 7PM the nurse told me I could call him and get him to pick me up.  Hoorah!  Freedom!  

I carefully climbed out of bed and into a wheel chair, easier written than done - oh so happy to have enough arm strength to be able to lift my body weight up without too much problem.  The nurse wheeled me to the elevator, we descended 5 floors then crossed the main concourse.  I could see our red Honda Fit (appropriate now, but ironic at first) pulled up right in front of the automatic doors and Stéphane's smiling face getting my crutches out from the back seat.  He wasn't in shining armour, or on a white horse, but he might as well have been.  I was so happy to see my Prince Charming.  The nurse pulled me up right next to the car and I was able to shimmy myself into the passenger's side.  I thanked her and we were off...I started to regale Stéphane with my tales of the hospital.  He responded with his own side of the story.  Then he told me that he had already bought the pain killers that I was prescribed.  My hero, indeed!  Even if parts of our experience seemed to be a total gong show, we were both well...and on our way home.  

It had been a very long day. 

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