Oww! Oh, the pain!
Okay, I’m carrying on a bit. Surgery was nine days ago. Checked in with the hospital at 5:15 am and prepped for surgery by 7 am (booties, hairnet, and airy hospital gown). Met all the nurses, anesthesiologists, and finally Surgeon before anything really happened. Had one IV flowing into the back of my left hand (the nurse even shaved off the hair there), an oxygen monitor on a left hand finger, pressure cuffs on both ankles (a comfortable, warm weight), and heart monitors stuck across my chest and around my left side. The heart sits off kilter in the chest’s left side, so the monitors wrap around it, so to speak. Carle has my wedding ring and wallet.
This time, I’m wheeled back into the bowls of Surgery, not out into the hallway and down to a specialty room. The air is cold. I’m cold. My bed is maneuvered through hallways until I’m thoroughly lost and all turned around. Of course, my friendly neighborhood anesthetist has given me a shot of goody juice through the IV and I’m loopier than I realize. I vaguely remember the bed stopping in a room with all kinds of neutral looking gear sitting around. However, nothing beyond that.
I wake up in Post-Op. Carle’s there. Once I’m awake enough to tell Nurse my name, birthdate, and what hospital I’m in, they wheel me up stairs to my room. Mr. Transporter leaves me out in the hallway while he moves things around in my side of the room before the bed is maneuvered into it. I’m awake enough to move over into the room’s B bed. About this time, I notice I have two IVs flowing into me! When did I get the second one in the back of my right hand? Before I have time to dwell on this, I feel a familiar tug at my center. Oh, yeah, the Foley catheter. Jolly good fun, that. Pressure cuffs again wrap around both ankles. I’m awake enough to remember these are to help keep blood moving in my lower extremities, since I’m tied to the bed five different ways and not likely to go anywhere soon.
“Hello, Mr. New,” says a pleasant woman to my right. “I’m your Nurse for this evening. Dinner will be around soon. I’ve heard the rattling of the cart down the hall.”
Dinner? What happened to breakfast and lunch? “Oh, okay,” I say, bright as ever. “I do feel a bit hollow, I guess.” Honestly, I’m not sure of anything at his point.
“Later this evening, Mr. New, we want to get you up out of the bed. For a little walk, is all. If you need anything, just press the button, here. I’ll talk to you a little later.” She bustles off to attend to other, more needful patients.
Carle and I engage in small talk. She finds the phone and positions it so I can reach it if needed. She also finds the TV remote and shows me how to work it. She has a lot more hospital-patient experience than I do. Nevertheless, I’m learning. Joy of joys, dinner is served. I have to admit, it smells good. But after all of the moisture in each mouthful is sucked away, what’s left tastes like powdered cardboard. Yuck. This is when I notice I’m extremely interested in anything liquid. Carle’s had a long day, so she heads for home.
“Hi, Mr. New, I’m your Anesthetist, how do you feel?”
I want to say I feel with my hands, but I don’t. “Okay, I guess. How do you feel?” I think I smile at her.
Anesthetist laughs. “Oh, I’m fine. I need to check your drain.”
“Your body cavity drain we installed during surgery. It helps remove any excess fluid from the surgery site.” All business like, she pulls the hospital gown out from under my right side. “Oh, dear, it’s leaking.”
A foot-and-a-half length of bloody, plastic tube leads from my side to a clear plastic, bloody bulb laying on the bed.
“I’m applying some deadening ointment to your skin, Mr. New, so I can sew the skin tighter around the drain.” She does so and waits for a few minutes before prodding around the drain with her gloved fingers. “Feel anything?”
“Um, no.” I’m very big on conversation.
“Good. Now, a little bit of sterilization,” she wipes something on the site, “and some sterile sutures.” She takes out a sterile pack from her white lab-coat pocket and peels back the cover. In no time, she makes two stitches in my side. I feel nothing. “There, that should do it.” She squeezes the plastic bulb, lays it back on the bed, and tucks my gown back around me. “Have a good evening, Mr. New.”
I consume the ice water in the bedside canister and all three fruit drinks in the little cup dispensers they come in. Apple, Orange, and Grape. Later that evening, Nurse tells me the “cotton mouth” feeling is a leftover effect from the anesthetic. It will wear off.
Sometime later, Surgeon appears at my bedside. “Mr. New, how are you feeling?”
“Fine, best I can tell. What are you still doing here?” The wall clock displayed seven in the evening. “Shouldn’t you be home?”
Surgeon grins at me. He’s still wearing scrubs. “Since you are my healthiest patient, I saved you for last. I’m on my way home after I check on you.”
“An anesthetist was recently in here. She was very concerned about the drain leaking.”
Surgeon sighed. “I told them not to worry about that. Yeah, it will leak a little. That’s why I have this towel here underneath it.” He pulls up the gown to show me. “Nice stitches, though. I expect it to leak, but it’s no big deal. It’s only to pull excessive fluid buildup from the surgical site and will be removed tomorrow before you get discharged.” He squeezes the plastic bulb. “This provides suction to pull out the fluid.” He tucks the gown back underneath me. “Okay, Mr. New. You are doing fine. You’ll be sent home sometime tomorrow—with the Foley catheter installed. Because this coming Monday is a holiday, I will see you in Clinic on Thursday, instead. The Foley will be removed then.” He grabs my hand. “See you then.”
“Okay, Surgeon. Go home. Get some sleep.”
Later that evening, both the nurse and her aide assist me out of the bed. “We’re going for our little walk, Mr. New.”
“Oh, okay.” Nurse has an arm on my back, keeping the gown closed (a thoughtful person, is this nurse), while I concentrate on using the walker they’ve thoughtfully brought to me. Both ankle cuffs are missing. Either Nurse or the aide is handling the IV tree and the Foley catheter bag. I shuffle out to the hallway and turn to the left, like I’m told. The Foley catheter tugs at my middle. We mosey along the hallway until Nurse tells me to enter another room.
“We’re placing you into another room, Mr. New.”
“Okay. Why?” She told me but I don’t remember the answer. For that matter, I don’t remember much of anything else from that night. They get me into the bed (this one had an overhead trapeze thingy, which came in handy for shifting my position, as everything at my middle hurt). They arrange everything, and the ankle pressure cuffs reappear.
“Call us if you need anything, Mr. New.”
“Okay.” I down the ice water in the canister.
Someone is screaming. Oh, it’s the silly IV machine. The bag has run dry. I press the call button. It is late into the night.
“Yes, Mr. New?”
That was quick. “The IV machine is hollering. It needs another bag, I think.”
“Be right there.” Click.
A male nurse popped into the room right quick with another IV bag full of whatever they were flowing into me. “There, Mr. New, can I get you anything else? Water, fruit juice?”
“Actually, both, if you don’t mind,” I say. “I’ve still got that cotton-mouth feel.”
Immediately, he iced and filled the water canister and poured me a cup. Darned if the cold water didn’t taste heavenly. Within minutes, he had three fruit-juice cups sitting on the bedside table.
“While you’re awake, Mr. New, let me take your vitals (blood pressure, temperature, and pulse) and I’ll measure your Foley output.”
The next thing I remember was the smell of breakfast. It’s morning. Carle walks in as I’m eating my scrambled eggs and toast. Later on in the morning, a few of my co-workers drop in to see how I’m doing. One of them is amazed to see I’d had breakfast. He’d had the same procedure about a year before and felt too nauseated to eat anything. Mr. Cast-Iron Stomach, he called me. I guess everybody’s different.
The ankle pressure cuffs disappeared sometime during the night. The oxygen monitor clipped to my finger went away this morning. The IV in the back of my right hand came out this morning also. Never used after surgery and filled with heparin, it was kept as an emergency fluid route, in case I went downhill.
Before lunch arrives, Nurse comes in, removes the last IV and gently pulls out the drain in my right, lower abdomen side. She tapes a sterile gauze over it. She moves around to the other side of my bed and pulls a ten by four inch baggy from a coat pocket. She moves the gown off my left thigh and attaches the baggy thing to my Foley line. “There, Mr. New. We are discharging you. Have a nice day.”
I’m sent home with an extra Foley night bag and some extra day bags.
“How does Burger King sound? Char-broiled burgers, French Fries?” Carle’s driving and I can’t resist.
“Sounds great, babe. Just get me home. I’ll eat anything.”
Carle buys lunch and whisks me home. I’m stiff and sore and hang on to the overhead hand grab the Trailblazer is equipped with whenever the pavement changes, which is most of the way home. Slowly but surely, I make it to my recliner. Using my arm muscles, I lower myself as gently as possible to the seat. Man, oh man, I never realized how comfortable this recliner was. For the next eight days, I pretty much stay there. If I can make it from the recliner, to the kitchen or the bathroom and back to the recliner, I’m doing fine!
The recliner has become my new best friend.
Over the next eight days, I position two foldup dinner tables next to the recliner. These hold my laptop, tablet, cable remote, and cell phone for easy reach. Carle has stacked my favorite movies near the player (the Harry Potter series, Star Trek, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Duck Dynasty, Dirty Jobs, and various others. Over the next four weeks, I find several of these on cable, also.)
On the ninth day past surgery, Carle drives me to the Urology Clinic. The Foley catheter comes out today. This is something I’ve been looking forward to—and dreading. Last time I had a Foley, it’s removal was painful. After the usual niceties, Tech gets down to business. Carle leaves the room.
“Okay, Mr. New, drop your pants and lie back on the table.”
I do so. I’m really dreading this. I don’t tolerate pain too well.
“Deflating the internal balloon and disconnecting the walk around baggy ….” Tech fiddles around with things down between my legs. “Now, I’m pouring some sterile water into your bladder, Mr. New. Hold it as long as you can, but let me know when you really have to go.”
I lie there, complacent as a pig in it’s mud puddle.
“Um, gotta go, I think.”
“Okay, Mr. New. Here’s the urinal.” She puts the urinal between my legs. “Grab hold, Mr. New.” I grab the urinal with both hands and feel some pressure inside my middle as Tech slowly withdraws the catheter. “Pee, Mr. New.”
I do. Gladly. Geez, it feels good to pee like a man.
“Okay, Mr. New. You’re doing fine,” says Tech. “You can get dressed now and I’ll send in Surgeon.”
She leaves the exam room and Surgeon pops in.
“Okay, Mr. New. You are doing exceptionally well. You’ll be glad to hear that pathology reported the margins of your prostate were negative, meaning the cancer had not grown beyond the organ, and now it is out and gone. One problem done away with.” He hands me a printout. “These are some instructions for the rest of your recuperation. Remember, no heavy lifting. You can lift food from the table to your mouth, but nothing else. No mowing the yard on your rider mower. With the Foley out, I expect you to start feeling immensely better. But don’t push it.”
“How soon can I start driving?”
“As soon as you can come off those narcotic pain killers I prescribed, you can resume driving. Take over-the-counter painkillers instead. Things you normally use for headaches or general muscle aches. Also, I’ve already sent to your pharmacy the antibiotics you wanted to head off any urinary tract infection. See? I do remember some things. You thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, guess I did.”
Surgeon chuckles. “Okay, then. One important item: make sure you do these exercises three times a day.” He taps the printout. “More, if you’re so inclined. They are called Kegel exercises and they will firm up the pelvic floor muscles. The muscles that help you control urination. Wear Depends until you are back in full urinary control. I expect you’ll have little trouble during the day when you’re awake and conscious. However, you’ll definitely need them when you’re sleeping for a while. Possibly, even by the time you go back to work and resume your normal activities, you’ll want to wear the Depends. Now, I don’t want to see you until three months have passed. Okay? That will be early December when I’ll expect to see you again, Mr. New.”
By the following Monday, I’m driving. I’m still stiff and sore, but the pain is easing off on an almost daily basis. All the bruising along my right side has disappeared. I’m able to bend at the waist more and more. I can actually bend forward to stand up, without the assistance of my arms. I still sleep in the recliner, as I’m not quite able to stretch out flat on the bed, nor can I lie on my side, just yet. However, I expect that to come along later. Hair is growing back from where it was shaved off. Shaggy rug, here I come!
Final Report: Prostate excised (cancer removed). Bladder tumors (cancer) appear under control due to BCG treatments. Return to Surgeon for another Cystoscopy exam in three months.