My surgery was described to me as an “open subtotal colectomy with ileostomy takedown and an omentectomy with the construction of an ileal reservoir.” Say that five times fast.
I don’t really remember the exact moment I woke up. I think I just slowly came back to consciousness. The first thing I actually remember was being in my hospital room and being really confused. Anesthesia seems to have that effect on a lot of people when you first wake up. However, each time is a little different. If I counted correctly, this was my tenth time undergoing anesthesia.
Upon awakening from my medically induced purgatorial state, I was probably as thirsty as I had ever been. Nevertheless, I was limited to only ice chips. Might as well have been Guantanamo! Kidding. I was that thirsty though. I’m pretty sure I asked the nurse for water every single time they asked if I needed anything. Even though I knew the answer, I wanted to make sure they were aware of my current situation. Apparently, I’m not shy. Shocker. After realizing how thirsty I was, I recognized I had all kinds of tubes hanging out of me. It was the craziest thing. I couldn’t move without feeling like something was going to get pulled out or tangled up.
I had six tubes either taking fluids into my body or draining fluids out of my body. SIX! I don’t remember talking about any of those things with the surgeon beforehand, except the IV. Oh well, what can ya do at that point? I just sat there, dumbfounded, and explored what was going on with my newfangled body.
So, I had the fishing line (epidural) in my back and it was all taped up. I had a tube (NG tube) that went through my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach. The NG tube was meant to keep everything out of my stomach so that I wouldn’t become nauseous and have to deal with any vomiting after a huge incision in my abdomen. I have to say that even though it was really uncomfortable, I do appreciate that kind of forward thinking. Furthermore, I had a drain hanging out of the left side of my abdomen. Literally, just hanging out. It was weird. At the end of that drain was a collection bubble that seemed to be filling up with blood and other neat bodily fluids. Mildly unsettling at first glance. Traversing to the other side of my abdomen, I had another drain that was ridding the incision of whatever bad stuff wasn’t supposed to be there. Yes, that’s the technical description. To my greatest satisfaction…I woke up with a catheter. Hope I don’t have to deal with that again for sure. The sixth and final bodily invader was just the IV. It was really weird to have that much stuff hanging off of me. I felt like I couldn’t move without getting tangled, which was pretty much true.
I was looking rough…to put it nicely.
So…that was a pretty interesting first two minutes of consciousness. Then, I recognized that the ostomy bag was gone. Although I think it may be the most overlooked part of this surgery somehow, I am ultimately thrilled to be back to “normal.” Cue happy dance.
Unfortunately, the incision was heavily bandaged up so I didn’t get to inspect that for quite some time. The biggest thing I noticed was that they started and ended lower than I had thought they were going to. And, it was a really long incision. Also, there were three incisions.
So, I’m sitting there, half delirious, chomping on ice chips, wondering what the hell just happened, hopped up on both IV narcotics and the epidural, not the slightest bit hungry, and immediately telling myself that I can get out of this place faster than they think. I tried as hard as I could to tell my mind to do all it could to heal myself. Maybe that’s stupid, maybe it works. At worst, it does nothing but provide some amusing entertainment. After all, it’s not like I could really get up and dance. However, Saturday morning they convinced me to get up and walk around a little bit. Emphasis on little bit. No rest for the wicked.
Honestly, the first two days were kind of a blur. I don’t really remember doing much of anything. I don’t think I really watched much TV. Mostly, I just slept off and on. Let me remind you, hospitals are not for sleeping. SO. MANY. BEEPING. NOISES. And, the nurses are obligated to check in on you every hour, which makes it tough to string together much sleep.
Once Sunday rolled around, they started yankin’ tubes out. Bet your Spring Break wasn’t as much fun as mine! As soon as they got that NG tube out of my nose/throat/stomach, I immediately felt way better. Also, Sunday was the day that I finally got to see the incision in all its glory. It was as gnarly as I expected. I counted 37 staples and about 15 stitches. It looked like either a railroad track or like I was hit with the world’s largest baseball from a 200 mph fastball. Take your pick.
By the end of the day Monday, all that was left from all the tubes was the pinwheel drain on the right side of my abdomen, which didn’t come out until a week later. At this point, I was feeling pretty good, up and walking around multiple times a day, and hoping I would be sent home.
Monday marked the fifth day of not eating. Actually, I think I had a Popsicle or two. So, let’s say 300 calories in five days? Wasn’t fun. I tried to order some food through the hospital. I think I ate two bites and didn’t touch the rest of it. My appetite has been slowly coming back since I got out of the hospital and is something that I am still struggling with. I get so full whenever I eat anything that it’s pretty painful and uncomfortable. But, I’m working on it.
One of the biggest problems I had, while I was in the hospital, was all of the gas that was left over from the surgery. So, the nurses decided to give me something to help with all the gas moving around in my stomach on Monday night. I had taken it just before a couple friends came to visit. After about an hour, I started to feel miserable. The gas was worse. I was nauseous. Then, the vomiting kicked in. FOR FIVE HOURS. At about 2am on Tuesday I had finally gotten past it, only for the nurse to come in and tell me that they were really sorry and that they didn’t realize the fact that the side effects of the gas busting medicine were nausea and vomiting. You should try vomiting with 37 fresh staples and 15 fresh stitches holding together a brand new 7 inch incision on your abdomen. It’s absolutely ideal. Obviously, I was really frustrated at this whole predicament. However, once I woke up the next morning, was feeling back to normal, and was told I would get to go home from the hospital that day, I got over it pretty quickly.
They told me Tuesday that I would be getting out of the hospital that day and when would only be a matter of waiting for the doctor to come up and give the final OK. Well, that didn’t happen until about 5:45. Patience is not really a virtue of mine. I was real damn happy to walk out of that hospital and finally get some fresh air. I held my head out the car window for like forty five minutes after I got in the car. We made it back to Columbia about 8:00 on Tuesday and I pretty much immediately posted up in the hospital bed that I had waiting for me in the middle of the living room at my new place.
All that was left to do was to sit there and heal while I waited to go back to the doc the following Monday to have my post-op check-up and go over the pathology report.
You never want to hear the doctor start off by saying your pathology report was “interesting.” Talk about gut-wrenching…
I’ll fill you in on the results soon.