Tuesday, August 26, 2008


No matter how much we prepare, we're never ready for the blows life throws our way. I thought I had my program together before surgery. I did at home, at least. But I sure ran into the unexpected at the hospital.

My surgery was on August 21st. Everything went well and in fact, healthy tissue was used from the left side to help reconstruct the right breast. They deemed it safe enough to use. Everything went really well until I ended up in the recovery room. It took nearly 4 hours to get into my room. A private room. I thought I would be good to go.

Not so.

Dispensing pain medication is difficult in hospitals. The on-charge nurse had me set up to have a dose of morphine alternating with a dose of percocet every 2 hours. Perfect pain management. However, it requires the nurse to show up with the pills and to hook the vial of morphine to the IV line. She didn't show up at all for hours at a time.

A few things that surprised me:
  • The chest muscle pain was atrocious. I couldn't move my arms past waist height or push myself to a sit or even to recline. It was excruciating.
  • They capped off my IV line as soon as I moved into my room. It was used to dispense meds but not fluids.
  • I had a catheter, which I expected but they expected me to go to the bathroom on my own within 12 hours, which was next to impossible without proper pain medication.
  • Blood pressure and IV's cannot, under any circumstances, be taken in the arm where lymph nodes have been removed. I was surprised I wasn't given an arm band for my right arm saying "NO IV, NO BP." Quite a dangerous omission, especially because I had to tell every nurses aide exactly why I couldn't have my BP taken in my right arm.
  • Everyone in the hospital must absolutely have an advocate! Whether it's a family member or friend, the care isn't adequate with nurses alone.
Recovery is a thousand times faster with proper pain management. I ended up staying in the hospital for 3 days, Thursday night until noon on Sunday. This could have been avoided if I'd been cared for properly. Proper care is more than checking BP and temperatures. I saw my nurses maybe twice that first night. I was beyond myself when my doctor showed up at 7:30 the following morning. He told me that if the pain medicine didn't get dispensed properly, to ask for a pain pump.

I ended up requesting that by lunchtime. The nurse at the time felt the need to remind me that I was one among many and that my pain was probably less than the other folks on the ward. I reamed her out, told her to quit patronizing me, and that I wanted a pain pump if she couldn't deliver my meds every 2 hours like she was supposed to. It was ugly.

In addition, my veins started collapsing so I went through a second IV installation. I argued with her about it hurting, she said it was fine, then lo and behold, a bubble appears below the skin. To say that these people wouldn't listen to me, my irate husband or my livid mother is the God's honest truth. Pride was more important than my comfort.

It finally got under control with my pain pump. I could dispense as I saw fit and I had a wonderful nurse Friday night. Hilda was great. She did something that really surprised me. She said she wanted me to tell her what operation I just had. I asked her if she had read my chart. She countered with, "I'd rather hear what you have to say about your surgery and how you're feeling." She was great.

I felt thousands of times better when I woke up Saturday morning. My biceps were less tense and boy, was I pleased. Dumb as it sounds, I was certain I would never be able to sit up on my own again. We decided that I would stay one more day because I just couldn't imagine trying to get in and out of my own bed when I was hurting do bad.

I had a visit from my plastic surgeon Saturday and he said women typically go out of the hospital within 24-36 hours after double mastectomies. Of course, that's with proper pain management. He told me I could stay as long as I wanted and he gave me the power to decide when I wanted to be released.

Two more IV lines later (all in my poor left arm and hand), I had had more than enough. I asked for my pain meds and antibiotics in pill form and blew outta that popsicle stand Sunday morning before noon.

I was SOOOOO happy to be outta that place!!!

1 comment:

Patrick said...

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