Wednesday turned out to be both the best and worst day for me at the hospital. I woke up Wednesday morning after a somewhat less than decent night of "sleep". I struggle to call it sleep because I think my dozing in and out over and over had just as much to do with the pain medicine as it did with the fact that it was night time.
My goal for Wednesday was to ditch as many of my needles, meds and poles as possible. I wanted to be released on Thursday and knew that my chances would be better if I wasn't hooked up to anything. At this point my main issue was that I was not able to read. To clarify, I still possessed the skills to read but was unable to clearly see anything close up. Words in books or on a screen were incredibly blurry. I mentioned this to every nurse and doctor that came to visit me and none of them offered any comfort. Seems like I may have been the first person to ever have this particular complaint following surgery. Otherwise I wasn't feeling too bad. Pain was at about a 3 out of 10 on the pain scale and I was only experiencing mild, intermittent nausea (which was way better than I was expecting).
First to go was the catheter. Don't need to go into too much detail on that one but was happy to be able to pee right away all on my own. Sometimes, I had been told, it take a few hours for the bladder to wake up and remember how to work after being connected to the catheter.
Next to go was the pain med pump. My little buddy had been good to me over the past 24 hours but I knew I needed to say goodbye and switch to oral meds if I had any hope of getting released on Thursday. When disconnecting the pump, the nurse realized that the skin around my IV site was pretty swollen and blotchy. She immediately disconnected all of my tubes and took out the IV. I was slightly worried about that part of my arm but secretly happy to be rid of all of the tubes. Unfortunately I celebrated too early because I was quickly informed that I had to have an IV for my entire stay and that they would need to poke me again somewhere else.
Long story short...it took 5 different "attempts" (stabbing and digging around with the needle) and 3 different nurses to finally get the new IV going. Ouchy.
Ok, some of this sounds bad but really I was feeling great. I got to spend time with my family and friends and even my son was able to come visit me for a little bit. I didn't take any naps and was adjusting well to the oral pain medicine. My only other drug was an anti nausea medication. I was getting up and walking regularly and was getting pretty pumped for my chances to go home the next day.
I was still having a lot of trouble with my vision. A lot. It got to the point where whenever I looked at anything up close it felt like I was looking at it with my eyes crossed. In the early evening, when all but my mother had gone home, the donor coordinator came in to check on me. She asked if I still had the anti-nausea patch behind my ear from before surgery. Turns out that is what was causing the vision issues. The nurses took off the patch and I thought I was in the clear. Within the next 10 minutes I started having quite a bit of trouble breathing. I have always had some breathing issues but this was really scary. Not only was I having trouble taking deep breaths, but each breath felt like I was being stabbed in the chest and stomach. I sounded really wheezy and felt incredibly awful. My mom was trying to get the nurses to help me but they were stumped. I felt like I was drowning and was starting to panic especially since the nurses were just kind of staring at me. I think the gas they pumped into my stomach during surgery must have shifted up into my chest and shoulders or something. I was crying and trying to tell the nurses what was wrong between strangled breaths. Ugh. After what seemed like forever but was probably only 5 or 10 minutes the pain lessened and I switched to slower, more shallow breathing which helped. Then I think they gave me a shot of something to calm me down because I got really sleepy right away. That was by far the worst part of this entire ordeal.
After all of that drama, I had a terrible night of sleep. I was sore and nauseated. 48 hours after surgery I still hadn't really eaten anything other than broth and a few cubes of jello. I was drinking a ton of water and my routine became: painfully get out of bed, painfully walk to the bathroom, painfully get back in bed, sleep, repeat.
I'd say the worst of Wednesday was still only about a 6 out of 10 on the pain scale (not including the breathing issues). I knew ahead of time that the day after surgery was supposed to be the worst day but at the time that didn't make me feel any better. My next post will combine Thursday (not much happened) and Friday (lots of things happened). I know I'm already forgetting several details (I know I took a shower in there somewhere) but I'm happy to be able to write this down to remind my future self what it felt like.
I was planning to write about each day in the hospital as it happened. That did not happen...not even close. I can summarize by saying that my time over the last several days was both better and worse than I expected. I'll start with the morning of surgery.
Tuesday morning my alarm was set to go off at 4:00am. I was able to sleep only 3 hours Monday night/Tuesday morning and woke up before my alarm. My very sweet yet very sleepy husband drove us to the hospital for our 5:30am check in. They took me back immediately for labs. The hospital in New Jersey needed some more vials of blood. After the vials were drawn I was told to "guard them with my life". My blood and I went back to the waiting room where we were pretty quickly escorted to another building by a hospital concierge. This lady took us right and left and up and down and kept us well informed every step of the way "ok everybody, now we will be getting OFF of the elevator". We made it to yet another waiting room. They called me in for a urine sample and to take my vitals. I was told I had the best blood pressure of the day so far. When it was time for us to go back to the pre-surgery area I was briefly concerned when I just saw a giant room of empty hospital beds. Another concierge asked me to put on a gown and take off everything else. Thankfully, he motioned to some privacy curtains that I could pull around the bed.
It was a little after 6:00am at this point and within the next hour I spoke with several nurses, the anesthesiologist, the donor coordinator (she took my well guarded vials of blood), the nephrologist and two surgeons. Oh, and my mom also showed up. They all asked me for my full name and date of birth and why I was there. The surgeon signed his initials along with the word "yes" on my left side. I was hooked up to an IV and was very grateful for it to be connected to my forearm instead of my hand. The donor coordinator made a little speech about how my surgery would result in 4 people getting new kidneys that day. At this point my mom and my husband and I all said goodbye and gave one last hug, This was the only time I got a little nervous. The nerves didn't last long because almost immediately after saying goodbye to my family I was given what they referred to as a "margarita" in my IV. I felt it immediately and felt very calm while being wheeled to the operating room. I remember the ride to the room and a few sentences once I got to the room but then I was out.
The next thing I knew I had the strong urge to empty my bladder. It occurred to me that surgery must be over and that I was now probably fitted with a catheter. I wasn't able to keep my eyes open but I could tell that my husband was by my side and I needed to let him know that I didn't know how to use the catheter. I found out later that I told him this several times in a row before switching to the stance of "the catheter is the easiest part". After surgery my husband, my parents and one of my friends were all able to come visit me in the recovery area. I knew they were there but I couldn't keep myself from falling asleep mid-conversation. I would chat with them, fall asleep and then wake up a while later asking the nurse to please call my family to come back to see me. This went on for quite some time until I was coherent enough to understand that they didn't have any beds available up on the 14th floor and that I would have to just wait until something opened up. After being told I would likely be in the recovery area for around 2 hours I ended up spending almost 6 hours there. I wasn't feeling any pain, just incredibly sleepy.
Finally a bed opened up an a guy with the nickname "big sugar" wheeled me up to my new room. My family and friend were up there waiting for me. I remember them telling me it was ok to keep my eyes closed. I think I took another quick nap and then finally felt a little more aware of my surroundings. I still was not feeling sore or nauseated which were my two biggest fears. I was amused hearing the stories from my husband about talking about the catheter over and over and was very thankful to have everyone there. One by one my visitors went home until it was just me and my mother. She agreed ahead of time to spend the night with me. I ended up walking around the 14th floor twice that evening and felt much better than I expected. I had a catheter, a pain pump, IV fluids and a heart rate monitor on my finger. I kept asking the hospital staff when I would be able to get rid of that stuff. The first night I slept a lot but only in short bursts.
If you haven't yet picked up on the foreshadowing, my hospital stay did not end up being all kitties and rainbows. I'll update you on the rest of my stay soon. Thanks to those of you that were checking in on me. I was able to read your messages and texts and emails and they were all very encouraging.
Last Wednesday was my final appointment before surgery. I was scheduled to meet the surgeon at his office for a 2:00pm appointment. I arrived super early (as I normally do) and ended up waiting well over an hour to see him. Whilst in the waiting room, I was entertained by a man who fell asleep and was snoring loudly. Once the nurse came to fetch the sleeping guy he awoke with an exceptionally loud snore and the nurse laughed and asked him if he was taking a cat nap. Since the doctor was running so far behind, I can see why that dude fell asleep.
This was the one appointment that I had no idea what to expect. Would he be doing a physical? Did they need a blood or urine sample? Would he be marking me up with a sharpie to show me where the scars would be? Turns out it was just a chat. Dr. Arnold looks like he came straight off the set of Grey's Anatomy. He is younger and cooler than I was expecting. (Sorry to all the surgeons out there that I wrongly stereotyped as being old and frumpy) He even has a cool guy haircut.
Dr. Arnold explained to me what would take place during surgery. A new bit of information I learned is that this will be a robotic laparoscopy. Meaning that instead of Dr. Arnold controlling the laparoscope arm things, he will be controlling a robot and the robot will be controlling the laparoscope arm things. In my mind I was immediately imagining an 80s sci-fi silver boxy robot with a scalpel but I'm fairly certain it's a bit more advanced than that.
The surgery portion will only take about an hour and a half to two hours. I was surprised by this because I was told it would be more like 3-4 hours. He said that time window also accounts for getting me anesthetized (I had to look up the correct spelling of anestheized) as well as getting me "positioned on the table". I will be lying on my back when the anesthesia is administered but according to Dr. Arnold, they will then take 10 to 15 minutes to position me for surgery and I'll end up laying on my right side bent all funny on the table. Nobody wants to think about themselves being flopped around on a table while unconscious and nudey but oh well.
Dr. Arnold was super helpful and answered all of my questions. My appointment with him lasted about 20 minutes and then I was on my way back home. The one question I forgot to ask was what kinds of patients will be on the floor where I am recovering? Since there are only 1 or 2 kidney transplants a week, it's not like it will be a floor full of kidney donors. I know nurses are all superheroes and can do anything but I was curious about what types of patients they were used to treating on the 14th floor. I asked the donor coordinator and was happy to hear that the 14th floor is for transplant patients and that it houses liver and kidney donors and recipients.
With only 2 days to go until surgery I am still feeling great about this whole thing. I have been blessed with friends and family that are all very supportive and encouraging. I even received a call this week from a friend who is being tested to donate a kidney to someone they know. Their decision has nothing to do with me but it was nice to have a buddy who might soon be going through this whole process too.
I am off of work tomorrow and planning to spend the day packing, doing laundry, cleaning the house and drinking a lot of water. My plan is to document as much of my time in the hospital as possible but it may happen a few days after the fact depending on how I am feeling.