Friday, February 19, 2010

I Survived!

I awoke on a gurney in a small room with yellow, cinderblock walls, unable to breathe. Two nurses sat in the room opposite me yelling at me to relax and that I was only making it worse. I gasped at them, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” They kept telling me, “You’re making it worse!” Then my years of yoga kicked in. I concentrated on my breath, slowly took a 3 count inhale and then exhaled to the same 3 count. After several of these breaths, I got my racing heart under control and I realized I had survived my surgery. I had no feeling from my ribs down to my thighs. I was wearing a hospital gown with blood all down the front of it. Once I started breathing normally, I passed out again.

I woke up in a hospital room with an oxygen tube going up my nostrils and a shunt going in my left wrist and another one in my right arm. My husband was standing at my side. He showed me color photographs of my pre-op internal scenario. He said, “Look, the tumors really had an extensive bunch of veins. They choked off the blood supply to this one ovary. The Doctor said she’s sorry but she had to remove it along with most of your uterus.” I gazed at the photos and saw what looked like a rotten egg surrounded by thick ropey veins and large wet-looking masses. These were my dead ovary and the tumors that had taken up residence in my body. It was horrifying to think I’d had these blood suckers inside me. I felt nauseated, hit the pain pump button and passed out again.

The shunt in my right arm was attached to a bag of fluid and I also had a button I could press every 15 minutes that injected pain medication into that side. I don’t know why I had a shunt in my left wrist but it had a bunch of tubes coming out of it, too. People in lab coats came in every two hours to look at my incision, poke and probe at my belly and to adjust my dressings and medication. Other people came in and took my vitals, drew blood and encouraged me to eat. I was so nauseated; all I could get to stay down was some jell-o. I really thought it would hurt so bad to throw up that it would be better to lay back and stay nauseated. I was also afraid that vomiting would open my stitches and I’d have guts all over the room.

The entire staff that looked after me at Prentice Women’s Hospital were wonderful. I know they had a lot of other patients to look after but they were attentive, kind, gentle, and very professional. I spent 48 hours in their care. The nicest part of my stay was that the Hospital had a “spa” TV channel that showed beautiful scenes from nature during the day and a star map at night accompanied by relaxing music. I miss that and wish that I had it at home. It was so serene.

The day I was discharged, just as I was getting dressed to leave, there was an announcement on the local news that a masked gunman had been seen entering the building right next to the hospital and the entire Northwestern University campus was on lock down. Never a dull moment in the life of a Diva! Carl wheeled me out to the car and the whole street was choked with Chicago Police, Campus Security, and frightened people. Frankly, at that moment, I didn’t care if somebody shot me. I just wanted to go home and lie down.

The first week was extremely difficult. I had an incision that went from hip to hip across my abdomen and a second incision just below my belly button. The larger incision was stitched closed but still felt like I was wide open. I also had a drain which consisted of a long plastic tube inserted into my groin with a ball at the end about the size of a hand grenade. The drain used natural vacuuming action to suck the fluid and blood that remained inside me after the surgery. I kept having anxiety about accidentally pulling the drain out so I kept it pinned to my night gown. Every four hours or so, I had to go empty it and measure the fluid to make sure I was healing properly. It was really gross, blood and yellow liquid. I also had to be bandaged and I’m not supposed to use my abdominal muscles for eleven weeks after the surgery, which made getting in and out of bed and the shower a real chore. Thank God for my husband! Carl took family leave from work and has been here 24/7 taking care of me.

My Doctor told me to get up and walk every day with a goal of 1 to 3 miles by the end of week 2. This is very challenging, especially in Chicago in February with the snow and cold. So the first two weeks I was limited to walking in my apartment. Last week we got in the car and drove to Home Depot where, aided by an empty shopping cart, I did 2 laps around the perimeter of the store before running out of energy. I am now intimately acquainted with the outside aisles of Jewel Osco, Home Depot, Menards, and Lowe’s. I do my couple laps, come home, and fall asleep for hours.

I have also been too tired to do more than read a few emails. When I tried to get some work done, I actually fell asleep at the computer! But I really appreciate hearing from you. After Hambone mentioned my situation on his Blue’s Party radio show (90.9 FM WDCB, Thursdays from 10pm to Midnight in Chicago), I received lots of nice Get Well wishes. My friend, John Schram, sent me an Edible Arrangement. I loved it! Shelly Rosenbaum sent me beautiful tulips. Thank you to everybody who emailed, called, sent cards and flowers. It did my spirit a world of good to know that people were thinking of me and praying for me. Even my Agnostic friends sent prayers to the universe. I’m deeply touched and gratified.

I couldn’t have gotten this written without the help of my friend and associate, Cassie Soliday. Now I’m going to let her post it while I take a nap!