I started getting nervous when, being handed a tube of soap, I was also given a page-long set of instructions on how to bathe with it.
The soap was an antibacterial rub to kill the germs on my skin and to reduce the chance of infection during my laser surgery. Three weeks earlier, I had been diagnosed with gallstones, and my inflamed gallbladder left little choice but to have it removed.
The day before my surgery, I had a pre-op screening where I was given the soap as well as pre-op instructions and routine testing to make sure I was healthy enough to go through with the surgery. I learned that I would use the soap twice; once that evening and once in the morning before reporting to the hospital. I couldn’t use the soap on my face because it could cause damage to my eyesight or hearing. I also had to wear clean clothes after showering, and I couldn’t use lotion or deodorant.
In addition. I couldn’t eat or drink anything past midnight, and I couldn’t wear colored fingernail polish. My Dad explained that this was because they monitor my fingers to see if they are turning blue during the surgery, or as he put it, “to see if you’re dead yet.” I stayed with my parents through this deal. After the surgery, I knew I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself (let alone my cat) and my parents were willing to help out. Anyone going through this surgery will have to have someone to look after them for at least a week. As one coworker told me “Be a baby.” If you try take care of yourself too soon, you can rip out your stitches and cause your recovery time to be longer.
Every time I went through a round of questions, I was asked if I had a living will or Power of Attorney. This, of course, did not make me nervous at all.
After passing all the tests and signing all the forms, I was told to be at the hospital at 6 a.m. the next day.Since I had to get up early to take my complicated shower, I wanted to go to bed at 8 p.m., but at 7:38 I got a call from the hospital’s billing department to tell me my out-of-pocket payments for the surgery would be $3,000. Without insurance, I would have had to pay $14,000, which is more than a year’s salary for me right now. I tried to put the money out of my head as I went to sleep.
Day of Surgery
I showered, then my parents brought me to the hospital at 6 a.m. I probably looked like I had the worst fashion sense in the world. in my sloppy ponytail, by baby-blue sweater and Barney-purple slacks that were too big for me. Through the three gallstone attacks in February, I had lost 12 pounds.
After checking in, I left my parents in the waiting room while an aid led me to the surgery prep area, where I took off my clothes to don an even more fashionable paper hospital gown. The nurse arrived and hooked up a blow-dryer looking hose to my gown to blow heated air into the gown and keep me warm.
The nurse also started my I.V. and told me that she had gone through this procedure herself. I asked, “How long was it before you could eat real food.”
She responded, “A couple of hours after I got home. I was starving.”
My own stomach was growling at me because of my missed breakfast, but somehow I doubted that I could eat within a few hours of surgery.
After being prepped, the staff said they would let one of my parents stay with me until it was time to go to the operating room. My mother stayed with me first, then after 30 minutes, she switched out with my father. During all this, I got a new group of tests: blood pressure (137/76–yikes), glucose and oxygen levels. Staff also asked if I had any tattoos or body piercings, and told me to remove any jewelry.
The doctor checked in with me, then the two anesthesiologists came by. They asked if I had any caps or bridges or dentures that might interfere with the anesthesia.
At some point, the word “catheter” was used, but I tried to block that out of my mind.
Around 7:30 a.m. a nurse told me it was time to go.
I was wheeled into the operating room, and the anesthesiologist asked me if I had picked out a dream for the surgery. When I said, “no,” he told me I should think about going to the beach.
One nurse shouted out, “If you’re going to the beach, I want to go with you,”
Then, the anesthesiologists told me to start counting backwards from ten. I remember getting to six….
I woke up in the recovery area around 9:45 a.m. My memories here are much more sketchy. I was very disoriented, I kept running my hand over my face, though I don’t know why. My abdomen was in pain in several places, and dimly remembering that I was waking up from a surgery and since I was in pain, that should mean that the surgery was over. I remember the new nurse asking me if I wanted more pain medication, which I asked for. I was also dimly aware of a blood pressure cuff on my right arm, and two cuffs on my lower legs that were pressurizing out of sync, probably to prevent blood clots in my legs.
After a while, my parents were brought in, and my mother said “Well, what are we going to do with the rest of the day. You’ve wasted half of it already. Let’s go shopping.” She was kidding, of course, but I was too out of it to play along.It was about 10:30 a.m. when I was released. The surgery itself was an hour or less. I spent almost 2 hours trying to wake up from it. Then, I was wheeled out to the car in a wheelchair, and my parents took me home to finish my recovery.