Thursday, December 22, 2011

The surgery

I arrived at the surgical center at 530 and signed in. Around 630, I was brought into the back, changed into a hospital gown, and given an IV line. I was asked the same questions repeatedly by several different folks, all for the purpose of verifying that I was the correct person, and that I was getting the proper procedure. What is your name? What is your birthday? Who is your doctor? What procedure will he be performing today? Eventually my surgeon stopped by to say hello, and I was wheeled into the operating room. I hopped up onto the operating table and...
     ...that's it. That is all I remember. It's not unusual for someone that was administered general anesthesia to experience post-operative anterograde amnesia. In other words, I lost some time from even before the anesthesia was administered. I have no idea how long I might have been up on that table and conscious before they knocked me out. I can't remember. 
     Also, I had no dreams that I can recall. It seemed as if no time passed at all before I woke in the surgical intensive care unit. My throat hurt a bit. I was fidgety and unable to get comfortable at first. I was wearing a cervical collar that made it difficult to lie down. Eventually I slept. I stayed the night in the hospital and was discharged the following day.
     I was under the impression that the symptoms in my arm would be relieved instantly upon decompression of the nerve. I am not sure why I thought that. After doing a bit of research I see that it takes awhile for the nerves to heal. I have been told to be patient... and that it will eventually get better.
     I had a huge purplish and yellow gash on my neck that was swollen and ugly. My esophagus was swollen on the inside from being intubated, and on the outside from being held to the side by tools during the surgery. Swallowing was pretty difficult for the first week. They gave me Vicodin for the pain. It worked fine, but the side-effects were displeasing enough that I stopped using it after only a few days. I was up and about very quickly. I took walks around the neighborhood with my Mom. Sleeping was not so easy. I had to wear the collar and it made all the other muscles in my back tense up. It was difficult to get comfortable. I found that hot showers really helped me to loosen up in the morning. 
     For the first week, I spent most of my time wrapped in a blanket and propped up with pillows reading kindle books. I whizzed through The Hunger Games Trilogy in less than 9 days. I ate a lot of yogurt and macaroni and cheese. I helped my parents make some decisions about new electronics for the house. I got them set-up with Wi-fi, a new PC, and a home theatre system.
    I got to attend two different holiday parties. The nice people at the pharmacy were kind enough to put a label on the side of the Vicodin bottle that says "Alcohol intensifies the effect of this drug". I'm glad I read the instructions! My neck brace was a great conversation starter. After a few cocktails the answers to "what happened" would change with each individual. "I'm a rodeo clown, big ass steer gored me in the jugular" or "bungee cord snapped" or "ate a bunch of mushrooms and dove into an empty pool". There was no end to the fun.
    After two weeks I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon. He told me I could take off the brace, and that I was cleared to drive. I stuck around for a few more days before heading back to Las Vegas in search of work and the associated funds necessary to sustain my life.
    I am feeling better every day. I hope to start physical therapy soon, so I can work on rebuilding the muscles that I lost to atrophy. I look forward to being healthy again. Here's a nice snapshot of my new hardware.