Breathing Again

Aside from July 21, 2010 being my 9-year-wedding anniversary, it was also the day of my sinus surgery. I did not get the traditional wedding gifts of pottery and willow, or the modern one of leather. Instead I got a supportive husband and a ride to the outpatient surgery center. After gathering my things and getting Sophie ready, we loaded into the car and drove to the surgery center. Bryan dropped me off for my 7:15 a.m. check-in, while he got back into the car and drove Sophie to her daycare.

I check in at the center. They take my paperwork; review my insurance, all the formalities you’d expect. Then before long, I was escorted by the first of many nurses to my pre-op waiting room. The entourage of nurses I had during labor and deliver and recovery was nothing compared to this group. The first one barely spoke and I hoped she was not the nurse who would be escorting me during the entire procedure. She weighed me in kilograms, which I was hoping would suffice until she switched the reader to pounds. Then she took my blood pressure and temperature, told me to pee in a cup, and gave me my hospital gown, slippers and hair net to change into.

Nurse #2 came in to set up my IV. Let me say that it hurts to have an IV stuck in your hand. But they’ve gotta go where the veins are, I guess.

Nurse #3 comes in to give me an EKG. For those of you that have never had one and don’t watch medical shows as much as me, that’s an electrocardiography that checks your heart function. She said I was too young to have high blood pressure. I’m sure this was a compliment, but not really what one should say when you’re taking one’s blood pressure and EKG. I’m not a medical expert (and I don’t play one on TV), but somehow I think that type of comment could make me feel self-conscious and raise my BP. The good news is that my EKG was great.

Nurse #4 was one of those funny types who thought she was quite entertaining. After telling me she alerted the doctor that I’m here, she then said she alerted the media to my presence (cute, but no). She then proceeded to ask me the same questions that each proceeding nurse did as well – did I know what procedure I was having done; did I have a ride home; did I eat or drink anything today; and was I allergic to any medication. I was beginning to think that these nurses needed to review my chart before asking questions when she then explained to me that these questions were to test me to make sure my story stayed straight. Apparently I passed. I knew they couldn’t have been that dense.

Funny nurse #4 was quite knowledgeable about the surgery and had only nice things to say about my doctor. She fastened my wristbands to me and said the anesthesiologist would be here soon, as well as the doctor/surgeon. At that time, Bryan arrived and the nurse explained to him what to expect. He’d wait in the lobby and would be given a “tracking number” to view my progress on the screen in the lobby. The screen details all the stages that a patient is in – surgery, recover, ready for family, etc. It’s like Twitter, only for surgery patients. Next thing you know, we’ll be able to get these updates sent directly to our smart phones.

Then the anesthesiologist comes in to ask me about my medical history and explain anesthesia. Bryan began lamenting that he should have been an anesthesiologist in order to make $300,000 a year. My doctor then came in to answer my last-minute questions and said we were ready to go.

At that point, Nurse #5 – the surgery nurse – arrives to escort me to surgery. I kissed Bryan good-bye and accompanied her to the operating room. I waited until the very last moment to relinquish my glasses since I’m blind as a bat without them. I lie on the operating table and the anesthesiologist is waiting. The room was freezing. And this is from someone who is always warm. I start getting anxious and then…

I was waking up in the recovery room. Waking from anesthesia is the most surreal experience. It’s like you know your body is there, but you’re mind is elsewhere. You can’t feel anything, but things and voices around you are starting to trail in. I don’t remember feeling any pain when I first woke. My mouth was so dry that the nurse was giving me ice chips to help. Then I started to see Bryan make his way toward me. I think I started to cry as he stroked my shoulder. That’s when I started to realize what was going on and I began fully coming out of the haze.

Once I was a bit more alert, I ate and drank some water, nibbled as best I could on Saltines, and they took out my IV. The nurse reviewed the post-op instructions with Bryan. My doctor came by, said the surgery went great, and they removed quite a bit of debris from my right sinus. Not sure why, but that seems to be the only thing that stuck with me about what he said. Apparently I kept asking Bryan if everything went okay.

Bryan helped me change my clothes before pulling the car around front. The nurse escorted me into a wheelchair and to the car. The drive home was a haze. I don’t remember much of anything except going inside. The next thing I know, Bryan’s helping me into bed, where I would spend the next 24 hours. My mom came over that afternoon to watch over me when Bryan drove to get Sophie and daycare and pick me up my requested Chinese food (won ton soup is a family staple for sickness and surgery). Bryan pointed out that between driving Sophie to daycare, back to the hospital, driving me home, driving back down to pick up Sophie, pick up Chinese, and then drive back home, that he put on 140+ miles on the car in one day. Ouch! No wonder our gas bill is so high.

The next two days pretty much consisted of me in bed sleeping, barely eating, and trying to rest with my head piled three pillows high. I didn’t expect to lose my sense of smell and taste. I’m not surprised given that’s what happens when I have a sinus infection; but wasn’t prepared for it either. Even now (five days later), it’s only back intermittently.

When I did venture out of bed and attempted to walk up or down the stairs, I was so exhausted I’d end up falling asleep again. I did manage to watch two of my all-time favorite Disney movies on TV (not at once), Freaky Friday (the original – no Lindsey Lohan for me) and Candleshoe. I didn’t even make it onto the computer until late afternoon Thursday. Quite a rarity for me to be away from e-mail, Facebook, blogs and the Web for that long. Even some of my friends and colleagues commented they were surprised they didn’t hear from me for more than a day. But honestly, it was the furthest thing from my mind.

One thing that’s become quite clear in the sinus surgery recovery is that I can’t hack vicodin (or codeine-containing products). Not wanting to be a hero, I decided to take my vicodin like a good patient after my sinus surgery. Yet even after taking a vicodin, I felt horrible. I slept a bit, but I’d wake with a raging headache. But I kept taking the pain killers throughout the day hoping for some relief. Yet the entire day of my surgery was filled with a raging headache, inability to urinate, and such a dry mouth. I was sure this was all an after-effect from the surgery and anesthesia itself. But it just kept getting worse.

Then I remembered the time I took a prescription codeine cough medicine and I wake with a horrific headache. I stopped the vicodin the next morning and within a few hours, I felt so much better. Codeine is just not my friend. Seriously, I don’t know how Dr. House did it all those years. At least I know I’ll never be a narcotic addict! Sadly though, there’s not much else I can take to alleviate the pain because most pain relievers are not allowed post-surgery. So I just rest and try to do the best I can.

Sophie adjusted pretty well to post-surgery mommy. I prepared her by saying that I was going to the doctor to get my nose fixed and I would be very tired, and daddy would be taking care of her. She was very concerned about my nose and wanted to be sure I had a Band-aid and watched intently as I began my sinus rinse routine. She even brought me a cup of water for my nose. She’s been a good little helper.

The outpatient surgery center called Friday to check in with me. Although the questions I had for them could not be answered by the caller and I was told to call my doctor. So not quite sure why they called; this was a case of customer service actually being a disservice. If I could make a recommendation, I’d suggest the doctor’s office do the post-operative follow-up call.

My recovery over the last five days has been mainly rest. I did read The Help during my recover — fabulous book! Needless to say, I’m pretty exhausted after attempting any activity that’s more than reading and watching TV. This morning Bryan and I took Sophie to her dental appointment and then went to Starbucks. I nearly collapsed on the couch when we got home.

I have some intermittent pain and throbbing in my sinuses, usually worse when I wake up from resting. My right side feels a bit more swollen and blocked than the left. And I still can’t taste or smell completely. But through all this, I can definitely breathe better! I’ve noticed a significant improvement, which gives me great hope! I have my first post-op doctor’s appointment this Friday to see how things are healing. Other than that, I’m slowly recovering and resting.

My problem during these times is that it’s hard for me to be fully unavailable and completely resting. I often start feeling somewhat better and then end up over-doing it by cleaning, cooking or what-not. Then I feel miserable the next day. So I’m really trying hard to rest my body and give my sinuses the attention they need.

And on that note, I’m going to lie down as I’m now pooped!

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