Thursday, December 17, 2009

The hospital.

They wheeled me into the OR, a large bright room with a lot of marked equipment everywhere. In the middle, a small bed on wheels - my destination. The doctors pushed my bed up to the little bed and helped me transition over, trying to avoid unintentional separation of beds at the same time. I didn't lay down to start off with. I needed the epidural first.

I heard every word spoken in the room. I saw bins - some closed up with labels on them (mostly of surgeon's names), and some with little scissor-like things with small sponges hooked on the ends. I saw a lot of bright lamps directed at the centerpiece of the room - my new, temporary bed. I was going to be the show! There were two large flat screen televisions on the wall - so I guess there were cameras somewhere - but those were most likely on the ends of some small tubes and wires that would eventually be inserted into me. I had some welcoming exchanges with people (nurses?) behind masks.

Wait a second! I am remembering way too much of this - recognizing too much!!! This isn't what I wanted - I don't want to remember any of this at all! I became a little panicky.

My legs hung off one side of the new bed. I was asked to lean over this pillow that had been placed strategically on a wheeled metal cart as to position my back for the placement of the epidural. A nurse stood on the other side of the cart to prevent it from moving (and keep me still I think).

The nurse placed her hand on my right shoulder. It was comforting to me. I told her so when she began to remove it - she replaced her hand there and it stay for the remainder of the epidural placement.

The doctor was tapping on my back a lot and it was hurting. I told him that with the Cushing's, my back is extremely sensitive to touch - that I sometimes couldn't even handle a simple hug. He changed tactic and pursued something less painful.

The epidural was placed and we moved on to the intubation.

The doctors had given me a horrible tasting topical for my throat and mouth before we entered the OR. It numbed me up pretty well - and I am sure it helped.

My eyes were closed for the intubation, but I could remember hearing the doctor describe to another doctor what he was doing as he was doing it. Because they use an alternative method to intubating me, and we were at a teaching hospital, the method was described probably to a resident. Before I knew it, the intubation was successful and I don't remember anything after that until I woke up a few hours later in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit.

The surgery was over. Yay! It wasn't even really the surgery that I was afraid of to begin with (see my post from December 11th). Why worry about the stuff you won't have any memory of?

Thinking about how things in life work - as I do regularly - I can relate my experience with the intubation and epidural placement directly to my life (and to a Rolling Stone's song).

My greatest fear going into this surgery was the intubation and epidural placement. I have had bad experiences with both before and didn't want a repeat. I didn't want to remember having to go through those again. I asked the anesthesiologists to knock me out as much as possible so I wouldn't remember. They did try one new tactic (the topical for my throat), but other than that, I think I was more awake and aware this time than last. Not what I had been asking and hoping for at all. (If it were up to me, I would had been knocked out the night before at home with some kind of medication, after which an ambulance would had picked me up, taken me to the hospital where I would have surgery, recover completely, and be returned to my own comfy bed at home as though nothing had happened.)

So, how does this relate to life? Well, in the words of the Rolling Stones "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometime you may just find you get what you need." I didn't get what I wanted, but I got what I needed. I asked to not remember, but I remember very clearly. I got what I needed because I learned an important lesson - one that I couldn't had learned any other way I don't think. The power of communication.

By being so awake and aware, I was able to communicate comfort and pain; I was able to understand what was happening to me as it was being explained to another. My fears have been alleviated. Instead of avoiding these experiences and tossing them into the "forever feared" bin of my life, I have had the opportunity to embrace them and redefine their place in my life - no longer feared, but understood.

I am not sure what my future holds (are any of us?). What I do know is that all of the experiences in my life are accumulating like a great snow storm from which I will pluck the flakes and put them together again to somehow help others. Each snowflake in my stormy life has purpose and meaning - I am sure there is a higher purpose for each one in my future.

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