The day has come and gone and I can hardly believe that it actually happened. It is true; I am sleeved! It has now been five days and I finally have the energy and the concentration level to sit and write this. Until now, I have been in a fog of pain medication, emotion and exhaustion. Thankfully I am on the mend today, but the surrealism continues.
Tuesday morning, my husband (Michel) and I arrived at the hospital 25 minutes early for my appointment at 7:30. We decided to go downstairs to get him a coffee and I sat and held his hand. I was confident in the abilities of my surgeon, but I could not fight the urge to savour every moment as though it was our last. Returning to the 6th floor, we entered a dreary grey-blue hallway that would be our purgatory for the majority of the day. We made ourselves comfortable, despite the plastic upholstery, and amused ourselves in our many attempts to decipher the large painting hanging on the opposite wall. Our favourite guesses included a whale with a neon green milk-moustache and Marg Simpson in a sun visor (incidentally, these guesses also led to some silly conversation about the possibility of foetal alcohol syndrome amongst whales off the coast of Great Britain and probable sourced of neon moustaches; but I digress) . The surgeon arrived on the sixth floor and spoke to each of the patients. Apparently there was an emergency that he would handle first and then he would be making his way through the list. He told me that I could drink some water but to avoid eating. His prediction was that I would be in surgery just after lunch. It was difficult to judge just how many people were having bariatric surgery, as the waiting area also included osteopathic patients and, possibly, plastic surgery patients. Nevertheless, I was too edgy to read and so I sat and waited, and waited.
After several hours I began to feel quite guilty about keeping my husband occupied all day, when I knew that he had a major deadline at work. I sent him away to the cafeteria with his laptop and said that I would call when I was told to change into my “ghost suit” (two hospital gowns, white surgical stockings and slippers). Patients were being invited to change about once an hour and soon it was my turn. I had been told that it would be another three hours before my surgery, so I was quite surprised when the nurse asked me to change. I called Michel and he came running. Unfortunately, the original estimate was correct and his return was quite premature. In the end, I waited until four o’clock before I was brought up to theatre. It was quite a long wait considering I was not allowed to eat from 2 o’clock the night before.
The team was very kindly and welcomed me into the operating theatre with much affection. I had a nurse assigned to me who held my hand as I waited to be called by the anesthetist. Dr. Cousins, the anesthetist, greeted me with “Hi Sweetie,” and I knew that I was in good hands. There is just something about his candour that put me right at ease. It is obvious that he loves his work and his patients. We made a joke about how he was going to send me off on a magic carpet ride as I stepped up onto the bed. Funnily enough the bed decided to go gliding across the room at that very moment and we shared a big laugh about how my journey had already begun. They connected all of the monitors and made me feel comfortable.
My blood pressure was very high. Generally, my blood pressure is in the normal range, but as I lay on the table, I could not get my blood pressure to go blow about 199/110. Scary high. The nurse said not to worry and that she had seen plenty of higher numbers, but I knew that my blood pressure was much higher than they would have liked. It was odd, however, because I didn’t feel especially stressed or frightened. I guess the body experiences trauma in many different ways. Originally, the surgeon had said that the operation would take about 45 minutes and that I would be under for an hour and a half, but in the end, I was away for over four hours. Apparently, the nurse administered some blood pressure medication and waited for it to take effect before the operation and then they kept me longer than usual for post-op observation. I don’t remember a thing.
I was wheeled into my room where my husband was waiting for me. I don’t remember the journey down the lift to my room, but I do remember being very happy to see Michel. Visiting hours were over, but the nurse allowed Michel to stay for half an hour to talk to the surgeon and hold my hand. I was quite sleepy and, although I would have loved it if Michel could have stayed all night, I really just wanted to sleep. I wasn’t in any real pain, but there was a feeling of weight on my chest. It was not unbearable.
Several hours later, the nurses woke me to give me some medication and asked me to walk around and use my spirometer. Oddly, I noticed that my iv had fallen out of my arm and there was blood all over the side my bed. The nurse re-bandaged me and said that the phlebotamist would be along to fix the iv. I was quite hazy, but I managed to do four or five laps of the floor. I returned to my bed and slept several hours before the phlebotamist arrived. He reattached my iv, but, not five minutes later it was out again. I was told that I would have to wait until morning to be reconnected.
At seven o’clock I wasn’t feeling too hot. All of the other patients were getting up and walking around, but I did not have the strength to pull myself up. I tried to use my spirometer but I could not breathe deeply without pain. The nurses came by to change my bed and I complained of pain. I sat in the chair and they said they would bring me some pain killers. I returned to my bed and tried to sip a little water when I was overcome by nausea. I grabbed the cardboard bowl on the hospital table and filled it with vomited blood and blood clots. This time the nurses told me to sit still. I felt considerably better and the surgeon came by to check on me and he ordered another bag of fluids for me (the nurses were going to cut me off but I complained that I was dehydrated). I sat and stared at the wall for most of the day. I enjoyed my room-mate’s company, but I was too tired and in too much pain to focus on anything.
I barely drank any water and only managed a few sips of tea during the first day. At six o’clock I was feeling a bit better and Michel came to visit me. We went for a walk and I felt the urge to use the washroom. I opened my bowels and was shocked by the amount of blood. I told the nurse and returned to my bed. The pain in my gut was quite unbearable by this point. Michel was quite worried. A doctor came and examined me and said that she was no too worried but that they would keep me under observation just-in-case. The nurse brought in a commode and told me to call her if I used it. I was very frightened and emotional by this point. I cried on Michel’s shoulder and could not stop apologizing to him. He told me to stop being silly and that this was happening to me, not because of me. He held me for a few more minutes before getting kicked out. My dear room-mate Brigitte came over and hugged me after that and we both cried.
I nurse came in and helped me change into a new gown. I went to bed, but when I was awoken for my middle-of-the-night walk, I once again felt the need for the washroom. Blood again. Yvonne, the night nurse, was very kind about it and helped me to feel comfortable. She also gave me a new iv with some anti-nausea medication, fluids and a heavier pain-killer. At this point I learned that my only pain-killer for the last 12 or 15 hours had been paracetamol (acetaminophen). I couldn’t believe that! From then on I made sure that I was given the good stuff.
In the morning I spoke to the surgeon about my “episode” and he assured me that he had analysed the sample taken and that it looked like I was voiding “old blood” and there was no bleed. He said that provided my blood pressure remained stable (it was fluctuating — thanks stress!) I could go home. I told him that I felt uncomfortable going home and that I was very afraid that something was wrong. Thankfully, he and the nurses agreed that I could stay an extra night if that made me feel better.
All day long the nurses and doctors treated me with extra kindness. I was on of the only remaining patients and I got a lot of attention. Everyone stopped by to chat with me. I passed a restful night.
Friday morning I felt more like myself. By early afternoon the pharmacy had sent up all of my drugs and the doctor had stopped by to give me the good news that all of my levels were stable and I was free to go. I called Michel and, after waiting about an hour, he was there. He had taken the extra time to tidy our flat so that I would come home to a less stressful environment! He had even washed the sheets and made our bed. I love him.
It has now been another couple of days and I am feeling much better again. I am still taking codeine, but only half a dose, morning and night. I wouldn’t sign up for another sleeve any time soon, but I do not regret my choice.