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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Happy Anniversary Surgery

Monday, September 9, was our fourteenth wedding anniversary. We didn't do anything wild or fancy. We just hung out at home and relaxed, and thought about what wildly crazy gifts we'd give each other if we ever won the lottery. Hey, dreaming is free, but a beautiful yard with ponds, fish, streams, and waterfalls costs a lot. Especially when you have to buy a house and front yard as well. We also spent some time pondering what tomorrow, Thursday, September 12, will bring. Trent will be having his nineteenth surgery in our fourteen years of marriage. Yes, you read that correctly. I won't swear as to the accuracy of that number; I may have forgotten something, so the number could be higher. You think I am joking, but I'm not! Three months after we got married, I experienced the first spousal surgery, which was for a problem with a spinal disc. It was also my first experience with "if things can possibly go wrong, they just might do so." It was supposed to be an outpatient surgery, so of course he ended up being hospitalized for a few days. You see, during the course of the surgery, someone nicked the membrane that covers the spine and holds in the spinal fluid. This made a stay of a few days a necessary thing. 

This was also my first experience with unusual hospital roommates. I am sorry to say that we discovered that the gentleman in the next bed had a brain tumor. Hey, doctors may pull the drape so you can't see, but you can still hear. I felt bad for my moments of thinking he was odd, when it was clearly the tumor at work. But what else are you going to think when someone is talking to your husband about whether or not he was on the cattle drive? And when you come to the hospital in the morning and you are told the fellow in the next bed has been painting the room-dividing curtain? With his own poop?

It was also at this time that I discovered that I was a great patient advocate. Before his surgery, one of his doctors told him that if he had to be admitted, they would make sure he had an IV with on-demand painkillers. Naturally, the nurses didn't see this anywhere in his chart. I very calmly told the nurse, "He was told that he would have on-demand painkiller, and he will have it." It wasn't very long before the IV was wheeled in, on-demand painkiller and all. I also was there to make sure that he received all of his usual medications, since we were told they couldn't be brought from home. I thought for sure the nurses would end up hating me, but the way they felt was completely the opposite. When I apologized for being a pain, they told me that they were thrilled to have me there. Not only could I help take care of Trent, but I could help them with his care as well. They wished all patients had someone with them like me. After all, I knew him, and his medications, better than they did.

Actually, it's kind of funny when Trent has doctor visits and they go over his medications to make sure that the information on system is current. When Trent and I first got married, he had all of his pill bottles in a plastic tray. He would go from bottle to bottle, taking out the medicines he needed to take that morning or evening. Well, that system didn't last long with me around. We got a couple of weekly pill boxes and I began the routine of filling up a week or two of his pills at one time. Since I do this, he sometimes loses track of what he takes, or what day he takes once-weekly medications. So when it's time to do the rundown on the medications, either I answer, or he looks to me for the head nods or head shakes or the whispered, "That's on Tuesday mornings. The other one is on Friday nights."

I've also gotten to be pretty good at wound care and other post-surgical stuff. Last year, Trent had a lower-abdominal incision that got infected. He was feeling pretty awful, and his abdomen was swelling, painful, and hot. We were waiting for the return visit to the surgeon to see what was going on. One day, I made a wonderful chicken soup for lunch, but Trent didn't want any at the moment. As I was eating a bowl, he went into the bathroom, and then looked for something in the closet. "I feel like I'm peeing on myself. Could I be peeing on myself?" Actually, no. His incision had politely opened up to let some of the infection drain. My brain kicked into hyper drive. I helped Trent get to the bathroom, and got him sitting on the edge of the tub so that the ickies could go in there. Then I scooped up the dog and shut her in our spare room, because dogs love to get into icky stuff. Then I cleaned the goo off of the carpet, and finally, manipulated Trent's abdomen to get more of the ickies out. I bandaged him, put him to bed, and then finished my soup like nothing had happened. What a pro! 

Trent actually ended up having a second surgery to clean out the infection. He felt so good afterward that he convinced his post-op nurse to dial me from the recovery room. He gave me detailed instructions to go downstairs to the cafeteria for him. But not cafeteria number one, cafeteria number two. And he wanted a roast beef sandwich. Not just wanted, needed. He was starving. I went to cafeteria number two and got him his sandwich, which he all but inhaled when I brought it to the recovery room. The nurses got a kick out of the whole situation, and were pretty indulgent, so that was cool.

So tomorrow is surgery number nineteen. We have already wondered whether we will have a pre-op team that we know. Kind of funny to go to a surgery, and all of the staff know you. Will the pre-op nurse be the same lady who brought leftover Pad Thai for lunch the day Trent had hernia surgery, the same one who gave us aromatherapy before kidney transplant number two? Will his anesthesiologist be the same tall man who was a resident during the hernia surgery, and also recognizes our faces? We shall see. And the purpose of tomorrow's surgery? Trent has arthritis which has caused his thumb to actually be forced out of its joint. So they will be doing a joint replacement, but an all-natural one. The arthritic end of the bone will be removed, and a slender length of tendon from Trent's forearm will be coiled up to created a new joint for his thumb to sit in. Pretty cool, huh? He will be in a splint that expands and contracts in reaction to swelling, and in ten days he'll get a cast. And with luck, and pain pills, he'll probably sleep through the worst of the post-surgery pain. Whether he does or not, though, I'll be here to ease him through it!