This post follows directly from Part Two…
My reluctant driver friend arrived at the designated time with the pillow as requested. He got out and helped me into the car as I’d warned in a text message I would likely need.
We set off.
He asked a few questions about why I wasn’t in an ambulance today as it appeared to him I should have been. I did not know the answer.
We sat in silence most of the way. Very unusual for us as our friendship was always easy, conversational and connected. He did show concern when I winced over bumps or breathed deeply during a sharp turn, and that was a relief. Maybe he was just tired.
We arrived at the hospital and he pulled into a parking space near the front entrance. I asked if he wanted me to pay for parking, he said it would be fine without paying. So we entered the hospital and went to administration.
As I was checking in and the lady was asking me questions he leaned over and said, “If you don’t need me, I think I’m going to go, I don’t want to get a ticket.”
“Sure,” I replied. He’d not been much support or comfort so far and I was too scared about the impending surgery to support someone else. He left.
The administration lady was talking to me and I’d missed what she’d said, I asked her to repeat it.
She gave me directions, “up the stairs, or take the elevator one floor, then take a right and report to the surgery nurse.”
Note: surgery nurse is my version of the actual words she spoke; I don’t remember what she called the section. I did have to report to someone and I came to think of them as surgery nurses, so…
I took the elevator. The thought of stairs brought back the thought of falling and I had to fight the swooning feeling that arose.
When I arrived in the section, a nurse approached me and I told her I was checking in. She shuffled me straight into a corridor with little change booths set up with curtains as their closures.
“What is happening?” I asked.
“Take off your clothes and jewellery.” She replied.
“I um…” was I in the right section? Why was I to go naked?
Out of a sack she pulled a hospital gown, some socks, paper booties, and a paper hair hat.
Oh. OK not naked. That’s right, I’m here for SURGERY! The word played like a skipping record in my mind…surgery, surgery, surgery…I was terrified.
“I might need some help.” I said to her, as I did my best to hold back tears of fear, pain, and now a little frustration at once again being unable to undress.
I took off my scarf and cardigan; she took them from me, folded them and placed them in the now empty sack.
Then she looked at my tank top, “why would you wear that? Only things that can button and be easily removed… Aeyeyaya…” she said.
Yes, she actually said “Aeyeyaya…” complete with ellipses, which I believe stood for something like “stupid girl” or “I hate my life”!
She seemed angry and I was so very fragile, after the morning with my friend being so cold and distant, my arm that had started to feel as though the bones rattled again, and the terror of surgery while being alone at the hospital, tears started forming.
I actively thought to myself, “I will NOT cry!” Fearing that one tear would begin a flood that I would be unable to stop.
So I angrily said, “It was ALL I HAD!”
“Tsk. Never mind girl, let’s get this off then.” She replied with a hard sympathy now creeping into her voice. She cared but she was stern too.
Gently we removed the left strap, but bumped my arm while pulling my elbow through, my bones rattled inside, I screamed, my body spasmed and I had to deep breath to try to relax the muscles that were not helping the situation at all.
Every muscle that relaxed by my will, tugged at the bones in my elbow causing more pain and more cries (ok, they were screams).
The woman now looked concerned. It was hard to explain. I guess they see broken bones all the time, and a regular break is not so painful as I was expressing it to be.
So when I screamed in that instantaneous way, it surprised everyone.
Through breaths I told her, “dislocated elbow, dislocated elbow.” I felt it needed repeating.
“Ok,” she said, “we’ll go slower. Take your time.” She reached out and touched my face then stroked my hair. The gesture was so motherly it brought tears again to my eyes.
If I’d had a caring present mom, it would have been at this moment I would have loved to have buried my face in her warm soft shoulder and bawled my eyes out. I was tempted to do that with this woman.
Instead I turned away while she helped me pull down my yoga pants. This left me standing with just my knickers and nothing else.
She held up the gown and fed my bad arm through first. I managed to get through this part with only some heavy breathing; I was determined to stop with the screaming. My throat was beyond dry and I needed to drink something desperately.
Once I was tied into the gown, she put socks on my feet and then the little paper booties. Took my jewellery off and put it all in my hand bag. Then she put my hair into the paper hat.
The rest of my clothes, shoes, and bag went into the sack.
“I’m so scared.” I told her, “I am scared of the surgery.”
“It will be ok child,” she said, “we will get you something to make you relax. Come.”
I followed her into a ward. On the left was a room filled with large chairs, on the right were beds. The right was darker, like the lights had been dimmed.
She led me to the chair and propped me with pillows.
I overheard her talking to another nurse explaining that I have severe pain when moved and that I am anxious. She said she was going to get me some pills.
I tried to get comfortable on the chair, but the arm of the chair was too high, or too close, or just in the wrong damn place and I couldn’t make it work.
Every movement caused more moving and grinding in my elbow. I was in pain, discomfort, and breathing heavy again to try to relax my now spasming muscles.
I cried out with a sharp pain during a movement that occurred when I tried to calm my body down, and stood up.
The second nurse came and told me her name was Ali too and she asked me if I was OK?
“No. I can’t sit. I can’t, it’s too much pain in the chair, I can’t sit.” I said. I was learning that repeating myself seemed to help the point across.
She went and talked with another nurse.
There was a large nurses’ station to my left with at least eight or nine nurses in attendance.
The third nurse, who became like my personal nurse for the day and by far my favourite, came over. She asked if I would be more comfortable propped up in a bed.
The first nurse came back with the pills and the three of them walked me to the bed.
They lowered it so I could get in, and then raised the back slightly. Manoeuvering my body into position caused the bones to move and grind inside my elbow and caused me to scream out several times.
I was so exhausted.
Only 2 hours sleep in 20 minute increments since 6am the day before, almost zero food, intense muscle spasms and pain, and all the damn screaming. I was exhausted, drained, had not much left.
When I was sufficiently propped in the bed and able to relax my arm a little, they gave me some pills to swallow with a small cup of water, which I gulped down gratefully.
Then they told me to put another little pill under my tongue and let it dissolve slowly.
This was Ativan.
I’d heard people joking about how nice Ativan was and I was hoping for relief. To be honest I didn’t notice the difference. I still felt scared about the surgery and I was still in pain. Perhaps less anxious or panicked, but I was not all that impressed with the results. I’d been hoping for a miracle!
The bed I was in was directly to the right of the nurses’ station and I could see all the way through. There was no one else on this side of the room and the lights stayed dim.
I dozed in and out of sleep for several hours.
Someone was wheeled past me in a hospital bed, then another. This side started to fill up. It was the post-surgery side. Ahhh… that made sense.
The nurse checked on me every so often, though she could see me clearly from the station.
Eventually, I asked for more painkillers and to go to the bathroom. The nurse actually came into the bathroom with me and stood in case I needed help. At this point I declined the help, but later during a particularly nasty muscle spasm that rattled my bones like a rain stick, I did need help to my utter mortification.
Once back in bed my day progressed much as it had. Painkillers every few hours, watching the comings and goings of the ward, and occasional kips (short naps).
Later in the day, the doctor came. A young looking cute doctor actually.
I had so many questions, but he talked so fast and didn’t give me the opportunity to ask anything then walked away. It was a blur.
Another nurse came to see if I was OK and I asked her some of the questions I wanted to ask the doctor.
“Why didn’t you ask him?” She said in an accusing tone. “He was just here!”
My patience left with my exhaustion and I replied, “Because he didn’t give me the opportunity to ask.” I’m sure it was no more than a whisper but it felt like I was shouting.
She left me again, with no answers.
It felt like an hour or more passed and I didn’t care, I just wanted the surgery done and this to be over so I could go home.
A friend was going to pick me up, not the same one that brought me, and I was ready to be gone.
My original nurse came to tell me that they would not get to my surgery today because of an emergency that had just arrived.
She asked if I could come back tomorrow.
I told her that I could not. That I was relying on friends to drive me the hour and a half to and from the hospital and that everyone I knew was working tomorrow.
She went to consult with other nurses.
I saw the girl who had been sitting next to me when I first arrived in the seating area being wheeled by me into surgery.
I remember feeling angry.
She was just sitting there all day, no enormous pain, no screaming, and she was going before me? Shouldn’t it be the person who is in the most pain goes?
The nurse came back and told me that they would try to find me a room for the night, but I might have to stay here with them in this ward. She said the last part as an apology.
To be honest, I was happy as could be where I was. I could see the nurses’ station from where I was, which meant if I needed anything I could signal, and I was comfortable so long as I wasn’t moving. All was well for me.
I did have to tell my friend not to pick me up tonight, so they got me my phone and I texted. She said no problem and agreed to pick me up the next afternoon, same time as we’d planned for this day, around 4pm.
Another hour or so passed. Then they came to take me to the ward where they’d found me a space.
I remember thinking, “Well, this might be my only chance to spend the night in a maternity ward, so that’s something.”
My sense of humor dark.
The room was big, huge actually and only held two beds. The one flagged as mine, right next to the bathroom and a large window, and the one to the left of the doorway, which was occupied with another woman.
Her curtain was drawn but I heard her voice talking to her nurse as I arrived. She also had a window.
Getting me into the bed was painful as I had to sit up, jarring my elbow, and – of course – screaming in pain. But once I was there I was calm again.
The new nurse told me she would make sure I got some dinner.
Dinner? That meant I could eat AND drink!
“Water?” I asked, almost begged, “Could I get some water please?”
She laughed then replied, “Of course!”
But then she came back with a needle and put a drip thingy in my hand. Then connected me up to fluids.
“Water?” I asked again.
She told me she would get it. And eventually she did.
It was the most amazing sensation ever, to be drinking water again. Cool water, iced water. I drank it all in one go, and asked for a refil. She did oblige and then told me to sip it from now on.
I asked about TV, but apparently the technician just left for the day, it was now about 5pm. It was all good; I probably didn’t need it anyway.
Food arrived not too long after the water. Ham steak, mashed potatoes, beans, plus apple juice, crackers, cantaloupe, and cookies.
I’ve never liked ham steak but choked some of it down. The beans and potatoes were good though, and the crackers, fruit, cookies, and juice delicious at this point!
Then it was time for another dose of drugs. They asked me how I was doing with them and I said they only worked for about 90 minutes out of the four hours.
So they started to give them to me every three hours. Still there was about an hour and a half with no coverage. Those minutes were tough.
I told her frankly that the pain was not going away and the waiting for the next dose was hard.
She went away and came back with a shot she was going to give me through the drip thingy.
Once administered my whole body relaxed and the pain – FINALLY – went away. I felt great. Amazing even.
Such a relief.
For about an hour I was relaxed and calm, pain-free and content.
Then, all of a sudden I started to get the sweats, hot, seriously hot, I threw off the covers and my socks, then I got the chills, extreme cold, then the sweats again. I felt dizzy, sick, nauseated, I pressed the buzzer.
She came in, I told her what I was feeling and that something was wrong. She asked if I was going to vomit. I didn’t think so but wanted to pee.
She helped me to the bathroom and I peed. I felt a little better, but then walking back to the bed, I sat on the edge and got the hot/cold sweats again, the room swam, black spots appeared, I was going to pass out.
No! I was going to vomit.
“Vomit!” I managed to say before it arrived in my mouth. I clapped my good hand over it as she grabbed the garbage can beside my bed.
I hurled into it. Emptying all that I’d eaten and drank in the past few hours.
Once empty, she helped me settle, then took the garbage can away.
She returned with some water and arrowroot cookies. At midnight I would be unable to eat or drink anything.
She suggested I try to eat and drink them.
I ate the cookies and drank the water, they were heavenly at this point. The nauseated feeling left me.
She told me we would go back to the pills from this point forward but we would try every three hours instead of four. I was grateful for that.
Bathroom breaks were becoming increasingly difficult. My arm was pretty swollen and hard to move at all. Every movement cause the rattling of the bones, which caused screaming and heavy breathing on my part.
Each time I needed the bathroom I had to have a nurse help me because of the drip. I couldn’t manage to wheel the drip thing while holding my arm also.
During the night I overheard one of the nurses talking with the other lady in the room, who I’d almost forgotten and now felt embarrassed that she’d had to share a room with a screaming, moaning, vomiting woman! From their discussion I learned she’d had a hysterectomy. I remember thinking that it was kind of cruel to have her in the maternity ward after such a procedure.
In the morning, first thing, the nurse came in and told me I was first up on the surgery roster and was to be taken down.
This time I had no booties or little paper hat – both had been discarded sometime the afternoon before – and it didn’t seem to matter. Maybe they are only to amuse the ward nurses?
They took me back to the ward I’d been in the day before, to the same bed location. They’d told me I would have a different doctor than yesterday and I was a bit relieved, he’d been too abrupt for my liking.
The new doctor came soon after to talk with me before the surgery. I noticed he too was young and attractive. Interesting criteria for bone surgeons!
He told me that I would not be able to drive or work for at least three months.
Wow. That was longer than I’d imagined.
He would get me a doctor’s note for work, he’d said. He also gave me instructions to call his office to make an appointment in two weeks so that I could have the staples out.
He asked me if I had any questions.
Tonnes, but I couldn’t think of one of them at the time.
He left, and the nurse came back and asked me to immediately walk to the surgery room.
Fear gripped me. Where was the Ativan now?
I stalled asking for a bathroom break. She wheeled my drip in with me and then left me alone for a moment.
Alone in the bathroom, I tried to pull myself together. Surgery will fix the pain, and I will be fine. This is why we are here after all.
I came out of the bathroom and she walked me to a door and when we went through it was a large surgical room with two staff in scrubs and hats and gloves already. The doctor was not.
The nurse who walked me in left. Then another nurse told me to get on the bed in the middle of the room and lie down.
There was no back rest this time. I cried out in pain, and then when the nurse tried to move my arm to rest on this metal table that stuck out to the side I screamed, and screamed. My body spasmed and I had a hard time relaxing.
He tried to calm me, the nurse who’d moved my arm, but I was inconsolable for a few minutes. Eventually, I calmed, my arm relaxed, he put a pillow under my elbow and left it across my body.
Then he went to do something in preparation for what was next.
There were three people milling about the room doing their pre-op preps, and I had never felt more alone.
For the first time, I started crying.
Tears leaked from my eyes and into my hair.
Fear, pain, exhaustion, lying in the surgery room feeling so alone and sorry for myself, it was all too much.
“I’m so scared,” I whispered, ashamed and feeling as broken as my arm.
People were moving about the room, coming and going, I wondered when it would start, when I would be knocked out.
I couldn’t wait to be knocked out.
I remember thinking, “If I die on this table, I am ok with that.” And then acknowledged the peace in that thought. I was willing to die on that table, and it felt like a relief to imagine.
The anesthesiologist arrived and gave me something. This time I was conscious of my eyes getting heavy and closing.
When I woke I was back in the recovery ward. A nurse came to me and gave me some water to sip. She told me the doctor would be by soon.
A different nurse came back with some cookies and more water. She told me they would be moving me back to the maternity ward soon for the day.
I asked about the doctor.
She wasn’t sure, but they had to move me soon.
Which they did.
I spent the rest of the day in the same maternity ward room as I’d been in the night before. I don’t remember eating anything else that day, although as I was being discharged I did ask for some more cookies.
At around 3pm, the physio came and gave me a pamphlet with exercises to start in two days (two days was she crazy?), and a sling to wear. She reminded me to make an appointment with the surgeon in two weeks to have the staples out.
Then she left.
My ward nurse came in and I asked her when I would see the doctor? She told me that I wouldn’t see him for another two weeks.
Huh? I was told I would see him when I was still downstairs right after surgery!
She shrugged, and told me that she doesn’t know of anyone seeing the doctor after surgery.
I had questions.
So I asked her. What about the staples, in the past I haven’t healed fast with stitches and would it be different with staples? She answered that if the staples came out and I wasn’t healed they would stitch me. I asked about bathing, she told me no showers or baths until I see the doctor again, that the bandaging could not get wet for fear of infection.
I actually remembered having this same conversation with the nurse earlier that day after the surgery, I guess I was still groggy at the time and I’d forgotten.
I told the nurse I didn’t have the name or number of the surgeon. She looked at my bracelet and told me the name of the surgeon I was supposed to have the day before. I explained I had a different surgeon today and I couldn’t remember his name.
She said she’d look into it.
Then my friend arrived to pick me up.
The nurse came back with the doctor’s name and phone number on a post-it.
She helped me get dressed, and suggested my friend go across the road to the pharmacy and get the prescription I’d been given filled. She would call ahead notifying them it was ok for her to pick them up for me.
So that’s what she did.
I finally left the hospital around 5pm for the drive back to my home town 90 minutes away.
The drive was ok, the pain in my elbow was no longer bone rattling and didn’t make me scream.
There was a whole new level of pain though from the surgery. I was a bit scared of the drugs wearing off. But had a bottle of water and the pills in my hand if need be.
I was to alternate the narcotic drug with Extra Strength Tylenol for pain management for the next few days, then just the Extra Strength Tylenol after that.
My friend, Karen, who picked me up from the hospital was staying the night. I’d been told by one of the pre-surgery staff that I needed to have someone stay with me for the first 24 hours after surgery or they wouldn’t do the surgery.
When we arrived home I sat on the couch a little bit dazed. My arm was warm and the swelling was intense. I don’t remember pain so much as the pressure from swelling and the heat.
The heat in my arm was intense.
I’d had ice-packs throughout the day at the hospital, so we mimicked that at home with ice double-bagged in ziplocks.
Karen cooked us some dinner and that was hugely appreciated. She slept on the couch with Greyson and I managed to sleep propped up in my bed for most of the night.
The next morning Karen made me some breakfast, also greatly appreciated, and then headed out to pick up some essentials for me.
- Large Soft Ice Packs! She got two huge ones and those were life-saving over the next four weeks.
- A ice bag. One of those cute puffy ones with the screw top that you fill with ice. Looks like something out of the 50’s? Loved it. Also a life-saver over the coming weeks.
- Cans of ginger ale, and of club soda. I was not feeling so good, the drugs – I think – were making me feel nauseated and both drinks settled me enough to eat a little.
- Bread and milk and easy-bake frozen pizza.
She left that afternoon and I was now on my own.
It was a little daunting.
…see after the surgery post next week…
Warm smiles and Love,