S-Day and my Circle of Angels

May 14, 2015

I didn’t sleep well the night before and knew I wouldn’t given that I was going into major surgery and had never been in a hospital before yesterday for anything more than a sprain. My mom and JJ arrived around 7am-my nurses wheeled me down to the 4th floor to prep around 830am. As they were wheeling me to the elevators, my mom says, “Maybe we can get that French press today, JJ?” (Please look at later post for the full story regarding the French Press.) I lost it on her, saying, “Mom, I am going into MAJOR surgery and all you can think about right now is a fucking French press?!?!?!” She became tearful and apologized, stating that she must just be “nervous.” Yeah, I thought, I am fucking nervous too, and I don’t need this shit right now. The sweet nurse interjected and began saying things that were meant to be calming- I think attempting to diffuse the tension between my mom and me. As I got to the 4th fl and began prepping, I discovered that my surgeon would be late due to his first surgery going over time-wise. I had no qualms with that- I wasn’t ready for this major surgery regardless.

As the time approached for me to be wheeled away again, I said my goodbyes with tears in my eyes, not knowing when/how I would come out of surgery. Now in the surgical room with a team of people around me prepping in their own ways for my surgery, the anesthesiologist put a mask over my face and confidently stated, “We have this!” as he put me off to sleep. Before I lost consciousness, I recall praying to each and every person I knew and loved who has died, asking them to stand around me in that room while I underwent major surgery. I asked God that he guide my surgeon’s hands and keep me safe. I fell off to sleep with each of those people in my mind, standing watch around me- a circle of angels-protecting me.

My first memory of coming to after the surgery entailed me asking the nurse in the ICU what time it was. I couldn’t really see the clock on the wall well given that I am nearly blind and didn’t have my glasses/contacts in. I surprisingly asked, “Is it only 1130am?” to which the nurse replied, “No, it’s 830pm.” I recall thinking, “How could this be?!?! I went into surgery around 1030am and it was now 10 hours later?!?!?!” What seemed like minutes later my mom, JJ, and our good fireman friend, Paddy, came into my room. I was so happy to see them and recall telling them all how “lucid” I was. I then reportedly threw my pillow off the bed, stating that I wanted them to bring my pillows from home because the hospital pillows “fucking sucked.” According to JJ that is as far as I embarrassed myself under anesthesia. Shortly after coming into my room, however, my family and friend were asked to leave as my blood pressure was high and continuing to rise due to too much stimulation.

I remember attempting to swallow my saliva later in the evening when I was actually more lucid. For some people who undergo this type of surgery the nerve for swallowing can either be damaged or strained such that swallowing is very difficult or in rare cases impossible. I remember being very concerned about this ability as soon as I started really coming to. I felt a wave of relief wash over me as I was able to successfully swallow my saliva without much difficulty. Immediately following surgery and upon being able to ask the nurse the time, I was also relieved to know that I could speak, as prior to surgery I had a significant fear that my vocal cords could be damaged on my right side and my functioning as a psychologist would be impaired as a result. I think this was my biggest fear given how passionate I am about my career. I remember falling asleep that night (with the aid of morphine) feeling very thankful that everything had gone so well. I just didn’t understand why my surgery had taken so long….

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