The End of My First Week at Queens Emma Clinics in Honolulu
The first couple of days in the hospital are vivid memories. I remember meeting all the doctors who would take care of me. I can recall how the OBGYN team came in the next day. They were all women. Something I am sure I would have noticed 20 years ago. And most of them were young. Not that youth is a dictatorship of skill set, there is something to be said about lived experiences. You know the saying:
“Seen it all. Heard it all. Done it all.”
No matter what, I would put my trust and faith in everyone who entered my hospital room.
Now we waited.
I did not have to wait long. They scheduled the first surgery: a thrombectomy which would remove as many blood clots as they could find for Friday. The first of two. They would perform this surgery first to see if it would help my leg reduce in size and swelling. It did not.
The doctors estimated I would be in surgery for a little less than two hours; it was almost three. I had no problem with the pre-operation questions or needle sticks, but when they push your gurney down the cold halls sometimes you wonder if this is it. Will you open your eyes again?
When I did open my eyes, the nurses greeted me.
They had numerous questions. I could barely think.
This is the post-operation drill you almost never see in the movies or on television.
Can you tell me your name?
Where are you right now?
Are you in any pain?
Do you feel sick or nauseated?
Have you passed gas? My favorite. But this says a lot to them about how well you are recovering from surgery and how your body is adjusting.
How to Tell if You are Healing or Not
Well now, as you know, a good sign you are recovering and doing well is if you have passed gas in 24 hours after your surgery. Your normal bodily functions have to return or otherwise there could be more complications and your healing could be slowed.
My recovery from the DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) was slow. Even the doctors had no idea why the swelling persisted. They were concerned and I could tell.
The attending physician and my hematologist determined I was ready for my big surgery: the hysterectomy. It was scheduled for Monday, August 8th. The only reason I remember this, my sister-in-law's birthday is on August 8th. I thought this would definitely be a bad day to die.
Any day, at 54 years old, would be a bad day to die.
The next day, I felt better but not healed. Healthwise, I was fine. I could think on my own. I could breathe. And I had an appetite. When I got up to go to the bathroom, I was reminded I was not okay. The leg felt like and looked like an inflated balloon. When I stood for too long, I could feel pain from my toes to my buttocks. This pain was not going away.
After another day of salty pizza with too much sauce and not enough cheese and lots of fruit, they said I was ready for the hysterectomy.
Those days blend together. I slept a lot, but never felt rested. The new techno beds and the pads they kept under my bottom just in case, were to blame.
“Just in case of what?” I asked.
“In case you bleed. Or you can’t make it and have an accident.”
I looked at her like she was crazy and insisted she take it off. “It keeps me from getting any rest,” I nagged.
She did as I asked and not a day later, I had an accident. I stopped wearing my undies and just let it all hang out. I was mad and she was miffed, but they never forced that bottom cover on me again.
Lose Your Vanity
In the hospital you have no other choice. Your butt is just there for all the world to see. Lucky for me, I never lost my strength in my arms, and I was able to hold the gown closed 99% of the time. I walked myself to the bathroom every chance I could and even managed to brush my own teeth every once in a while.
I wiped my body down daily and when they offered, I turned them down letting them know I had done it already. They only had to wash me down twice, both times before a surgery.
My huge regret, my hair. I wish I would have invested in some leave-in conditioner and gel because when I say my hair was a HOT MESS; I mean it. It was near the end of the second week and days before going home that I was able to stand on my foot long enough to wet my hair and throw it in a ponytail. Lord, I looked rough.
Lesson learned: if you can’t take it with you, deal with what you have, make it work. This is only temporary. Or at least, that is what I told myself.
What did this hospital stint teach me? I could go a day or two without a shower and not kill anyone. I could go a day or two without conditioning my hair and not kill myself.
And I am not as strong as a woman as I think I am if I can’t go commando when needed.