I went to the hospital on Wednesday at noon, advised by the head nurse that my doctor was running behind schedule and it would be futile for me to come in at ten, as I was originally instructed. Three and a half hours later, I was finally given a bed and wheeled from the same-day-surgery unit to the OR waiting unit. Billy was kind enough to capture the moment on his camera phone, catching an oh-so-flattering shot of me in the uncomfortable bed as I was wheeled around. But thankfully he snapped the photo before they had a chance to outfit me with the fashionable blue hairnet I would be required to wear in surgery.
I was asked by every nurse, doctor and aide what my birthday was and what I was there for, a sort of pop-quiz for the future patient. After rattling off my birthday, military style, I said "Laparoscopic Bilateral Ovarian Cystectomy," in the whiny sort of tone that comes with telling people the same thing over and over.
"Possible Open," the nurses added.
"Yeah. Possible open." Did they have to remind me?
Each uniformed hospital employee that visited my bedside, inserted an IV or asked me questions, also seized the opportunity to jab at me about my Surgery That Wasn't the week before. "Ah, so you're the girl who left us last week," said the tall anesthesiologist as he made his way to my pre-op bed.
"Not my fault," I said, adjusting my hairnet and trying to maintain some semblance of dignity. "You guys held me up. I couldn't eat for over 12 hours. That, my friend, was torture."
"We're glad you didn't wait," he said, checking my currently installed IV. "We didn't get out of here till after midnight as it was. And, this time, don't worry. We'll get it done."
"I hope so. I don't want to be wearing this fancy hospital gown for nothing." I covered my exposed ass cheek and smiled.
They wheeled me then into the OR, where a blast freezing air hit me like a gunshot as we rolled through the door. They suited me up with inflatable leg warmers and what looked like swimmies that wrapped around my arms to prevent blood clots during surgery. They talked to me, keeping me calm in the face of my procedure. "You're so calm," said the masked nurse to my right. "Most people are freaking out right about now." I couldn't see her mouth behind her hospital-blue surgical mask, but I could see the kind smile in her eyes.
"Well, I'm just ready to get it over with."
It was true. I was ready. I didn't even think about crying or worrying in all my time in the waiting room, in the bed, alone, or as they wheeled me from place to place. I just felt like I was one step closer to being done. Thankfully.
The pace around me wasn't hurried and urgent, just purposeful. They made me feel that I was in capable, calm hands. They spoke to me as they prepared my bed, my gown, my drugs. "The medicine is going in," I heard the anesthesiologist say from behind me. I felt the burn of it as it flowed into my arm, then I looked up at the OR lights. I watched them go from sitting perfectly still right over my face, to dancing pirouettes and figure eights above my head. One eye closed, then the other.
I woke up hours later to the sweet faces of the recovery nurses. "Did they have to cut me open?" was my first groggy question to them.
"No sweetie," replied the nurse closest to me. "Just three little incisions. That's it. Everything went really well." She smiled and brushed my hair back from my face.
I was so happy, I cried.
After I spent roughly a half hour giggling, crying tears of joy, and telling the nurses that they were the best nurses ever, they rolled me through the narrow corridor that led to the elevator that would take me to where I began, same-day-surgery. We picked up Billy and my mom on the way, and they rode with me on the elevator.
"The doctor said everything went really, really well," my mom said from the foot of my bed. Billy held my hand as we scaled the floors of the hospital, until we heard the ding that released us into my final recovery locale.
"The nurses here are the best," I said. "I'm going to write a letter."
"I just wish all of the patients could be like her," giggled the nurse as she pushed me out into the unit.
I disregarded her comment and forged ahead. "I'm hungry. When can I eat?"
"You're hungry already? That's great," the nurse chirped, heaving my bed through a hall. "We'll get you something, don't worry."
I felt absolutely no pain, sitting there in that bed as one nurse released me to another. The new nurse came over to me, glass of water in hand. "So I hear you're hungry already?" She set the Styrofoam cup on the half-table reaching over my bed, my body. "Well, I took the liberty of ordering you a little dinner already, so you and I are on the same page. Drink this water, I'll bring you some food, and as soon as you pee, you're free to go."
I couldn't drink the water fast enough. Though the pain was non-existent and the nurses were incredible, I wanted nothing more than to get home. To get in my own bed and sleep. I ate the salty turkey sandwich she gave me, drank all the water that my mom and Billy could bring, and finally decided that I should go to the bathroom.
I went to get up, forgetting the openness of my gown and the absence of underwear. "Maybe," Janet, the nurse said, rushing in front of my exposed nether regions, "we should get these two to give us some privacy." She nodded at my mom and Billy.
"Who are we kidding?" I said, motioning to Billy to grab my underwear from the bag I brought. "They've both seen it."
And Billy, I think, helped me into my underpants. Or it could've been my mom. Or the nurse. Or the janitor. I'm not sure exactly. All I know is, they somehow made it on to my body, and allowed me to walk to the restroom. I didn't care that the back of my gown fluttered open with every step I took. I didn't care about the way I looked, the way I walked. I just cared about getting out. But I couldn't pee yet.
For the next two hours I took frequent, hopeful trips to the unisex bathroom. I exited to the rush of the toilet flushing, calling out as I opened the door: "Don't get excited. Still nothing." The nurse wanted to go home just as badly as Billy, my mom and I did. She was waiting for me and one other patient to go. And rather than admitting us, she stuck around, crossing her fingers for us, hoping we'd all be able to go home soon.
"I have your discharge papers all ready," she said as she strolled to my bedside. "When you pee, you can go. So just let me go over this with you quickly. No driving for 24 hours. No working out for at least a week. No sex." She looked at Billy, then back to me. "Okay? No sex. For a week. Okay?"
"Got it," I said.
"Nothing inside you for a week. No tampons, no toys..."
"OKAY," I said, letting out a nervous laugh. It was one thing to be naked in front of my mom and boyfriend at the same time. It was quite another to discuss the use of toys in front of them. I thanked God that my father and brother had left the hospital when my doctor told them everything was fine.
"No lifting," she continued, undaunted. "Stairs are okay, and it's better if you try to get up and walk from time to time. Drink a lot of water, and leave your bandages alone till Friday. Keep them clean and dry till then..."
"You mean," I interrupted, "that I can't shower till Friday?"
"Yes. That's what I mean."
I crinkled my nose. Great, I though. I get to be bandaged and stinky. Awesome.
She went through a litany of things I should and should not do, then capped off her speech with the good news. "We've got some drugs for you, too."
"Will they be as good as the ones I'm on now?"
"No. That's the really good stuff. But we've got some other good stuff for you to take home."
We sent Billy out to pick up the controlled substance that would get me through the next few days. We hoped that I'd pee by the time he got back. I didn't.
They moved me to another room, Billy brought me more water, we waited.
Finally, I rushed from the bathroom, elated. "Does just a little bit count?" I excitedly asked the nurse.
"Yes it does! You're free!"
We dressed me and declined the use of a wheelchair. We got me out to the car. "Can we stop somewhere and get me something to eat?"
"Of course we can, baby," Billy said from the driver's seat. "Anywhere you want."
We settled on Arby's. I ate my Beef 'n' Cheddar like it was my first meal in a month. We headed home.