What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
A very special author's note: As requested, I wrote this while under the influence of the good drugs from the hospital. It turns out that when I'm high, I tend to use the word "nifty" a lot. Sorry.
As one of those sorts of people who likes to be ridiculously organised, I went over my list and checked it twice when I prepared for surgery. I duly packed a glasses case and nothing else since that’s all I was told to bring and the hospital made a point of telling me not to bring valuables. I also removed all my piercings, which made me feel unexpectedly naked; as a tattooed person, I’d think I’m never truly naked, but I felt oddly vulnerable with all my piercings out.
There was a brief moment of panic on Twitter when I learned that I wasn’t supposed to wear nail polish, so I hastily stripped it. Then I went out to game night with friends and had a light dinner, which was actually a great way to spend the night before surgery; instead of sitting around my house worrying, I played Picture Line Picture and laughed and drank tea.
“If I die on the table tomorrow,” I joked, “this wouldn’t be such a bad last memory.”
No one else seemed to find this as funny as I did.
I showed up at the hospital bright and early on the day of my surgery and was met by Sue, a very outgoing nurse who took me through what felt like miles and miles of paperwork, including consent for a transfusion and an extremely long checklist. She informed me that she used to work in OB, where there was even more paperwork, which makes me wonder how babies ever get born because my outpatient surgery paperwork took like an hour.
This isn't even all the paperwork I had to sign.
Once the paperwork was done, she set me up with an IV and fluids, and taught me a nifty trick for making IV lines stop itching: Wrap the patient’s arm in a warm towel1. She also told me that I totally didn't need to remove my nail polish because the technology has improved, but she appreciated my thoughfulness.
I affirmed multiple times that I was there for a bilateral tubal ligation with surgical bands before an anesthesiologist came to meet with me, going over another checklist and giving me yet another consent form to sign.
He told the nurses to prepare the ominously-named “cocktail” and then I waited for my circulator to show up. Like everyone else, she had me tell her what I was in for, went over a checklist with me, and asked me to sign something. Then she hooked me up with some Versed and anti-nausea drugs (that would be the cocktail) and whizzed me off to the operating room, where she helped me transfer to the table and I stared at the ceiling for a bit.
One thing I appreciated about each stage of the process is that people told me what they were doing to me, why, and where. Especially in the OR, where I couldn’t really see people, it was helpful to have the anesthesiologist telling me where he was and what he was doing as he hooked up a pulse oximeter and heart monitors. He also gave me oxygen, making sure I knew that the mask just contained oxygen and nothing else.
There was also a momentary pause in the OR while everyone admired my tattoo, and I think Dr. Thorough came in and said hello, but I’m not entirely sure, because the anesthesiologist also said “OK, we’re giving you the propofol2 now,” and then I woke up in recovery.
I’m pretty sure something happened between the propofol and the recovery room, but I couldn’t testify as to what it was, beyond noting that I woke up with some nifty bandages. The first word out of my mouth was a croaked “water,” and the recovery room nurse told me that as soon as I was stable, I could move back to the outpatient unit and get hooked up with some delicious delicious water.
Check out my sweet surgical site, you guys.
She also checked on my pain levels, and I noted that I had some left side pain but it wasn’t that severe. Apparently they’re big on pain management over at MCDH because she gave me some fentanyl anyway. Three seconds later: left side pain? What left side pain? Five seconds later: The world has come over all colours!
I think I asked for water again because I was kind of confused, because she reminded me again that I couldn’t leave the recovery area until I was totally stable.
I concentrated very, very hard on stabilising my vital signs at that point, let me tell you.
Though I may sound like a raging hippie when I say this, I tried using ujjayi breath to keep my oxygen sats high and blood pressure stable, and it worked. In fact, it worked so well that she thought the monitor was broken because my vital signs hit the right place and stayed there, so she manually checked my vitals and then she kicked me out.
She might also have kicked me out because I was babbling nonsense, I’m not actually sure.
Down in outpatient, Sue met up with me again and promptly gave me cranberry juice, water and percocet. Nifty! She was immensely chuffed by my vital signs and called my ride home to let her know I was more or less ready to go, before having me sign my postoperative care instructions. Why they waited until I was high for this part, I’m not entirely sure. I kept trying to read the form after she explained it and not being able to finish sentences. Lucky they let me take it home, eh?
Check out my preoperative and postoperative signatures:
Preop on the left.
Dr. Thorough also dropped by to tell me the procedure went very well, and to show me a nifty little drawing of my innards3. I oohed and aahed over the drawing, but I would like to note that Dr. Thorough should probably stick with surgery, not graphic arts.
My ride showed up right as I needed to pee, and with her help I tottered to the bathroom. I perched somewhat awkwardly on the toilet, clinging to the rail, while she watched me pee. We were both rather impressed by the amount of blood that had accumulated on the pad the hospital wedged between my legs, and Sue came by and brought me a pair of nifty4 hospital underpants and another giant pad to wear home.
After slithering back into my clothes I was wheeled out to the car to be driven home, where I pretty much promptly passed out, occasionally emerging from my stoned state to gaze blearily around and then pass out again.
I was surprised, after being warned about high pain levels, to find that they were pretty low, unless I sat upright. I could lie down or stand with reasonable comfort, although standing wasn’t so awesome for long periods of time, and while I noticed some bloating from the carbon dioxide in my abdomen, it wasn’t unbearable. Some people experience severe chest and back pain after surgery when the gas pushes against the diaphragm, but I didn’t, and I also didn’t have a serious anesthesia hangover because my anesthesiologist didn’t use an inhalation anesthetic.
Everyone responds to anesthesia and surgery slightly differently, but for the most part, everything went very smoothly for me. One of the most annoying aftereffects was the sore throat from the intubation5, followed by the burning sensation upon urination when I visited the bathroom the first few times, courtesy of the catheter used to drain my bladder in the OR.
Dr. Thorough explained the procedure in such detail that I was prepared for all these things and knew what to expect, which helped a lot both with managing anxiety levels and being able to handle post-surgical recovery. Having support from the hospital staff was awesome as well; they were all extremely professional with me and very focused on my needs as a patient. Their meticulous attention to detail in terms of making sure I knew what was going on and why at all times was amazing.
Now, all that's left is healing up...and the post-op followup to make sure everything went as planned.
I'm sterile and I know it.
1. Sue had the warm thingie hookup, let me tell you. She also draped me in a warm blanket before and after surgery, and was very good about checking on my comfort level to see if perhaps I needed another warm towel. Return
2. For the record, it felt slightly cold going into my IV line. And yes, I thought of Michael Jackson. Return
3. Alas, no video or images from the procedure itself. Return
4. Not. Return
5. Although an inhalation anesthetic wasn’t used, the anesthesiologist needed to intubate to secure my airway in case of emergency. Return