My first real memories of post-surgery came on Tuesday. I woke up as I was being wheeled to Lahey 6 central room 01. By the time I was settled in my room I was somewhat coherent and at least aware of my surroundings. There to greet me, again, was my head nurse Denise. The first question she asked me was “What is your pain level?” In a lot of hospitals now they use a 1-10 point scale to help better manage patients pain. I had to think about it for a second “6? no, 7”. “Press the green button” she said. This was my introduction to a PCA (patient controlled anesthesia) pump, a magical green button that you can press whenever it illuminates in order to release medication to ease your pain.
The next questions were “How do you feel? Is this about what you expected?” I said I felt ok and that it was about what I expected, but in my head what I thought was “IS THIS WHAT I EXPECTED!? You said it would feel like I got hit by a truck, but it feels like I got hit by… oh ok, yea this is about right then.” In all honesty there is no way to describe the pain you feel those first few hours of consciousness. Everything is wrong, everything hurts, and to top it off suddenly you’re too weak to do things like sit yourself upright. Man, that was a weird feeling. When I was an athlete a lot of my life was about building core strength. So when you suddenly wake up one day and can’t move your own legs to the side of the bed, it’s an odd sensation. At the time it was miserable. Thinking back now though, it was certainly worth it given the trade off.
Tuesday was the first day I really remember visiting with family. Mom, Shara, Jake Groom, and Aunt Gloria were all there. I’m sure I wasn’t very entertaining. I think I fell asleep about every 30 or 40 minutes. I do remember at one point Shara discovered a program on my TV called “Puppy Party”. It was exactly what it sounds like. A quick push of the magic green button and all those puppies equals hours of entertainment. It was early evening when my nurse came in to give me meds and check vitals. Seemed pretty routine until she said “Alright, time to get up and go for a walk”. Ha, good one. A walk. Sorry I had surgery yesterday. As it turns out she wasn’t kidding. She helped move my legs to the side of the bed, then helped get me standing and soon I was half pushing half leaning on my IV drip as we made a half lap around the recovery floor.
A day after surgery and I was walking around. That’s amazing to me. The human body is just absolutely incredible in the things it can do. The best part of walking around was that I walked to dad’s room. Even though people told me he was doing ok, I really wasn’t settled until I saw him for myself. Seeing him made me feel much better. The first time that he walked to my room I felt I could finally relax and breathe. From there things went pretty quickly. Soon I’d figured out a way to sort of throw my weight and push off the bed to get up on my own. I was moving around a little better and starting to feel somewhat myself. Although apparently I wasn’t completely myself because a few weeks later Shara told me “Well, mom and I knew you felt pretty terrible because you weren’t even flirting with the nurses.” So apparently this is how my family measures my health, how much I flirt. Which personally I find preposterous and ludicrous, and it hurts me deeply. Thursday the docs came in and told me I’d be released on Friday. Again my first thought was that they must be joking. I wanted to say “Don’t do it, I feel terrible!” I was still only eating apple sauce and jello. I felt better, but I wasn’t ready to be out was I?
I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised. After all, they told me before surgery that they kick the donors out as soon as possible. They’ve found the longer you stay in the hospital the more you act like a patient. As it turns out they knew what they were talking about. Friday I was discharged. I was feeling pretty good. I walked myself out of the hospital. Partly because I was feeling up to the challenge and partly because I can be a little bit proud at times. I hate showing weakness. When the doors opened to the outside and I walked into the sun nothing could have made me go back to my hospital room. That fresh air was the best medicine I’d had all week.
All in all my hospital stay was rather unremarkable, but I’m thankful for that. When it comes to hospitals, boring and routine is more than alright by me. After being discharged they have patients stay in a nearby hotel to make sure everything is ok before you go home. The hotel is nice because it gives you some semblance of returning to normal life, while also providing comfort in knowing you’re just minutes away from medical professionals. That weekend (might have been more like the first week?) I was visited by several close friends. Dan came the first night and admired my scar while listening to my stories as I tried to fight sleep. Becca visited and brought gift baskets full of entertaining little games, inside jokes and books for both dad and I, just like the teacher she is. Lisa came with cookies and stayed to make dinner for me and my mom, who was exhausted by this point. Meghan and Leigh took me out to dinner and we ate, laughed, and reminisced about summers of old spent at IDEXX.
As is the reoccurring theme in this story, loved ones were there to take care of me when I didn’t deserve it and had nothing to give in return. I’ve forgotten a lot of details about what happened after surgery now that we’re almost 3 months out, but I’ll certainly not forget all the people who were at my side as I recovered. Even this past weekend a group of friends gave me a welcome back party (I’d been back for almost a month, but its the thought that counts) and card which made me a little more emotional than I expected. In my eyes my friends are sort of like the PCA I had in the hospital. Life comes and goes and my personal pain level fluctuates on a scale of 1-10. One day I might feel like a 1 and seemingly the next my heart hurts like its a 10. In those times though it always seems like one of my friends is there illuminated at my side saying “hey let’s get that down to a 7”. I don’t know your struggles, and I don’t know your pain level or if there is someone at your side trying to help. If not this is me saying “I’m illuminated for you, lets talk.”