Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Surgery

The surgery is done and my mother is recovering.

This has been the most difficult thing my mother has ever been through. She has handled it with amazing grace and positivity and her strength is absolutely amazing.

Friday we arrived at the hospital at 8:30. They took her to nuclear medicine to scan her lymph nodes to determine which would stay and which would go. She went back around 9am and the scan took about 45 minutes which seemed to fly by. My brother, father and I sat and waited. We would be doing a lot of that over the next 14 hours. By 10am she was back with us and we walked to the fourth floor where we would spend most of the day. Around 11:15 they took her back to the pre-op area to prep her for surgery. Slightly after noon we were asked to go back to see her before she goes for surgery. She had already been given a few doses of meds which had her very calm. A few tears were shed, I love you's were said and we soon found ourselves back in the waiting room where we would be for the next nine hours.

We tried to pass the time with books, games, electronic devices and television. Around 2:30 the breast surgeon came out to let us know that the mastectomy went well and she only had to remove three lymph nodes - one from the right and two from the left. She believes the nodes were benign but it would be confirmed with pathology. Naturally, our hope is that the cancer had not spread to the nodes - so we are still waiting but going with the idea that they were benign and she won't have to undergo aggressive chemotherapy.

Now we had to wait for the longer surgery - the reconstruction phase. We watched the hours tick by and around 5:30 we started to get a bit antsy. At 6:20pm the plastic surgeon found us in the waiting room and explained that surgery was complete, the implants, filled very little, were placed and she did very well through surgery. She was in recovery and we would be allowed back to see her very soon. Relief. It was done! We would be able to see her! Finally!

At 7pm my dad was allowed to go back to see her. My brother and I were just arriving back from grabbing a bite to eat. I immediately went back to see her. She wasn't feeling well coming out of the anesthesia. She was nauseous. The meds they were giving her to fight that were causing her to be drowsy. Her body temperature had dipped down, so they were warming her up. But, oh sweet relief, the surgery was over.

The next few hours were a bit intense. She wasn't moved to her room from recovery until nearly 9pm. My only complaint was if it was going to take that long, a family member should have been permitted to stay with her. Once on the floor, we were told we would have to stay out of her room until they "finished" - but again, being the patient advocate that I am, I firmly believe one family member should have been permitted to be with her at that point. I've worked in hospitals and I know that the decisions to exclude family are often made by nurses that just feel family will be in the way. I "get" not wanting a throng of people in a patient's room while doing assessments; however, one family member isn't going to be in the way and may actually be of assistance. But, I digress. That truly was my ONLY complaint with her care throughout the surgery and hospital stay. She had AMAZING care.

That evening was rough. For anyone ever facing this with a loved one, please know, after surgery they will always be grumpy and short tempered. They don't feel well. They are often in pain (perhaps not intense pain due to drugs) but the pain IS still there. They are hungry. They are thirsty. They are fighting to stay awake but keep drifting. They are frustrated. They itch. They feel cold. All of the above was true for my mother and it was certainly true for me after having surgery. So before getting annoyed or taking anything they say personally - step back and realize that this is the typical reaction after surgery and it will pass.

I stayed the night with her. Around midnight she really wanted a cup of coffee and some food. It had been 26 hours since she last put anything in her stomach. I made a run to McDonald's, as the hospital was no longer serving food, and I purchased their oatmeal, a large coffee and a peanut butter cup McFlurry (she wanted ice cream as her throat hurt from the tube). Once she had coffee and food, she felt much, much better.

She was a bit alarmed that she couldn't move her arms very well. But with a little reassurance that it was perfectly normal and soon she would be able to lift her arms, she felt a bit better. We giggled a bit about my feeding her ice cream and oatmeal - naturally making a bit of a mess with it and her - but it felt good to giggle a bit.

We both finally fell asleep a little after 1am. The night went smoothly, her pain was under control and by morning she was feeling weak but much better. The surgeon came in to talk to her while I was out grabbing more coffee. He told her she could go home!! Her nurse came in and said the goal would be 11am and sure enough - by 11:30 we were waiting on an orderly to bring the wheelchair.

Getting home was exhausting but she did well. I asked her what sounded good for dinner and the choice was lasagna, so that's what I made. She has JP (Jackson Pratt) drains which I go over twice a day to empty. This morning she was able to shower with some assistance, which made her feel so much better.

Each day she progresses towards normalcy again.

I write this much detail, as if anyone else is facing a similar circumstance, they at least know what to expect. I'm going to save the emotions for another post, as this one has grown extremely long. But there is another emotional aspect that really needs to be shared.

But for now, friends, I'm ready for sleep. Good night. :)

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