Dec. 9, 2015
I’d like to say “I was wheeled into surgery and dreamt of Paris.” Or perhaps, this Plum Tart.
Truthfully, I don’t remember a thing. “I was wheeled into surgery and a “second” later, I woke up in my sunny, private room (all of the rooms are private on this Orthopedic and Urology floor) on the 3rd floor of Miriam Hospital.” As the Nurses took out the oxygen tubes from my nose, I looked around at what I would be living in for the next 5 days or so.
Not bad. This TV was HUGE!!!!!
I looked over and I could make out people looking at me. I knew it was probably my family and close friends but my head was fuzzy and it was such a blur.
Obviously I was under an anesthetic haze. Conversations were heard but not made out.
Time meant nothing. It seemed like the minute they got me on my bed and took out the oxygen and got me hooked up to my IV fluids and pain meds, they told me I had to get out of bed! Again, it was all a blur, but I distinctly remember my first Nurse; Sherry (one of many fabulous Nurses that took care of me) saying to me: “Ok, Jen, we’re gonna get out of bed now and have you sit up in the chair!” “Yea, right” I thought. I still had a chatheter in, the tubes and wires a jumble around me. The audience looked at me with a little bit of worry and a lot of encouragement. “I just want to sleep. Please go away.” words I thought, but could not express. Sherry sits herself on my bed, the Nursing Assistant pressed the button to make my bed rise (as if that would make it easier!) (“UGH!! Put it down! UGH!!”) Someone got the chair ready, “Ok, here we go!” Says Sherry firmly, but kindly. Friends, I have to say, I just wanted to tell her to Fuck Off! but gosh darnit, she looked at me with such a kind face and said very quietly, but full of encouragement: “You can do this Jen!” “Damn, guess I gotta get my ass out of bed.” “Breathe Jen!” someone said. A very very important statement for all of you out there recovering from surgery or recovering from an injury or just plain sick. BREATHE!! Seriously, we tend to forget and hold in our breaths. Not good. BREATHE, BREATHE through the pain. It will make movement easier.
Woosh, I made it. Not really sure how, but willpower could have played a role. Oh my goodness I wanted to pass out and throw up at the same time. Thank god my friend Pernille was there to wipe my face over and over with a cool cloth.
I find it funny that I packed 2 bags for the hospital. In 1 I had, clothes and toiletries, in another I had about 6 sections of the NYTimes, a book, a magazine and a folder of blog stuff.) I did not touch any of it but my toothbrush!! You’d think I was going on vacation. Thank god for that humongous tv. I could not carry on a full conversation let alone concentrate on a book or blogging.
Another funny thing, before I went in for surgery, I told friends, “Ok, if you want to visit, you will have to sneak me in some good coffee from 7Stars!” Ha!! That is so very, very, funny as this is all that was “On The Menu” at Chez Miriam during my stay at this posh home away from home. Ice-Chip Soaked Sponge Lollipops. They are all the rage in foodie circles.
Some friends brought things better than coffee. First off was their company. It was nice to have someone to talk to. There is only so much of Food Network one can take (Guy Fieri is on that channel way too much!!). Some visits were a complete surprise! Which was really, really nice. My friend Lisa brought me some cool nail polish.
Katy brought me magazines, fancy ginger ale and gourmet saltine crackers. She knows me so well. She also delivered a get well packet of way cool foodie magazines and a broccoli cookbook from Jan at my fave kitchen store: Stock Culinary Goods
That “comfy” bed grew to be very uncomfortable in no time. I think they do that on purpose as I was supposed to be moving around as much as I could tolerate. Gotta get the bowels moving/functioning. That handy catheter had been taken out my first morning. What a drag man. When getting into bed, you are strapped in, well no not really…. My legs were actually wrapped in a contraption that was plugged in and squeezed the legs off and on to prevent blood clots. While I understand why…it proved to be annoying. Just getting up to go to the bathroom was a production. I had to press the button for the nurse; “Hello, can I help you?” The front desk (which BTW was right outside my door!) answered…..”YEA< I GOTTA PEE!.” I did not actully say it like that, but I certainly felt like it. Friends, please don’t wait till the last minute. Don’t we tell our kids the very same thing? No I did not have an accident, but gosh I almost did! I soon learned the nurses do NOT come right when you need them. It takes a bit, they were very busy. Once they came, I had to have my legs unwrapped, then gather my cords and get help with the IV pole and then carefully walk to the bathroom. Once done, I had to call the nurse or the assistant back to help and measure my urine (I peed into a basket in the toilet). I know, that sounds so very glamorous doesn’t it? Want to be a nurse?
Bright and early at 6:30am, my nurse comes in and takes my vitals, gives me a Heparin shot and checks my med and fluid levels. Sometimes, afterwards, I’d fall asleep, only to wake up a short time later to see Dr. Lauren Bakios, a first year Urology Resident, sitting by my side. That first morning, it seemed like she was the God
fathermother, sitting quietly, till I awoke, ready to tell me something profound. Really she just wanted to check my incision and see how I was feeling and to tell me what my goals were for the day. She was young, but confident and serious and caring. She visited me every single day I was there! On my last day, I asked her if she ever had a day off. She chuckled……
I couldn’t just look out the window all day or watch Ina Garten cook up a feast for her ever-adoring hubby. I had GOALS!
In order to achieve the ultimate goal of going home, I needed to get up and go for daily walks around the ward (floor?). At first I needed help. One of my daily nurses or the very awesome nursing assistants helped me walk. I had to take that darn pole with me and try to stand up straight. Gosh the things we do everyday that we take for granted! Like walking. It was so hard at first, but I had to check off the boxes on my wipe board!! Oh that hallway was so long.
At first I just walked to the elevator, then the window and eventually all around the floor, passing some really terrific photographs of local Providence and Rhode Island sites. It was Hannukah, so the Menorah’s were lit as well.
One of the more memorable walks was when Dalila helped me. She was so very kind and sweet. We walked ever so slowly and carefully and I asked her where she was originally from as I did not recognize her accent. “Liberia” she said. “Oh! I said, did you come to America to get away from the war? “No, I actually moved to America before it broke out, but my children were there during the war.” She went on to tell me that her children made it out of Liberia safely and came to America to join her. She was so “proud of and impressed by” her children’s ability to move here and move beyond the memories of the awful experiences during the war and make a fresh start for themselves here in America. Her daughter for example, went on to attend Medical School and is now a researcher in a lab! I have to say, maybe it was the narcotic medicine I was on, making me super emotional, but Delila was delightful and had me in tears by the end of our walk. Did I mention that she held me up the entire way? I know maybe we should not play favorites, but I had my favorite nurses and nursing assistants. Delila was my fave assistant. One morning, she came in and helped me get ready for the morning. She gave me a new johnny, with fresh hot soapy cloths to wash up with. No what she did? Washed my back! Such a small gesture, but it was so comforting and warm and soothing. I was probably on my 3rd day of residency at Chez Miriam. My hair was oh so greasy, glamorous. Moving was still tentative, so to have someone not only help you wash up, but then put lotion on your back?! Simply wonderful and kind. Perhaps you could say it was part of her job, but not everyone did it.
Dr. I was a welcome sight. Like his residents, he came to see me just about everyday (Sunday he was off). He was always with his red cup full of hot chocolate, wearing his wide waled corduroys, his Doctor’s coat, with the sharpies, and his well worn LL Bean boat tote. After examining me, he made sure to remind me of my goals. “Listen, Dr. I, as much as I LOVE these lollipops, I was wondering when I can eat or drink?” “Well” he said. “I need you to pass gas a bunch of times first.” “I’m burping alot!! Does that count?” During surgery my belly area was pumped full of gas. Pretty sure I looked pregnant. I felt so huge. Anyway, said gas needed to come out. “No, I need you to fart freely” Ha!! He did not really say that, but that is what he meant…….Gotta find the humor in this serious situation, right?
On my first morning, I was resting in bed, and someone knocked on the door. It was a gentleman and he had a bouquet of flowers! What a welcome sight. My wonderful Step Sisters sent me the most beautiful bouquet. Made me smile through the pain(press the button!).
During my stay I was lucky enough to receive even more flowers from work, family and friends. The Nurses and Doctors said my room was like a beautiful garden and smelled like it too! It made everyone smile including me.
My youngest daughter Zoe, drew me a beautiful picture for me to look at everyday. A get-well card that changed and got bigger, everyday.
My 3 little cheerleaders (Zoe and her 2 BFFs) came to visit regularly. I know it was rough on Zoe (and her friends) to see me on those first few days. It can’t be easy to see your Mom in bed, hooked up to an IV and not talking much (a rarity for me!!) and clearly being physically in pain. She was worried I would not make it home. However, I looked better each and every day. A big part of that was due to such great support from the girls and my friends and family. In between visits from my friends and family, I kept up my walks, graduating from the walker and having help pushing the pole around, to just me pushing the pole. I was so proud when I could tell my Doctor’s that I walked 4 times!!!
As proud as I was that I was able to get up and around without much help , I dreaded some of the work I had to do. Like using this contraption.
Some of the nurses either did not ask me if I used it yet or did not quite know how to use it. It is to build up your lung strength and capacity. Something super important after any kind of abdominal surgery (even after a C-section). I have asthma so this is a very important but difficult task for me. You have to breathe in slowly, hold it and then slowly release. You do not want the round disc to be in the frowny face area. One of the nurses came in and told me that I could breathe up to any number. However….Dr. Brito came in one day early on and pushed that yellow line right up there. “This. Is where you need to be. ” he stated, pointing to the yellow line, just under 1500. “You’re kidding me right now Doc! That is way too hard and hurts!” “No, not kidding Jen, its important. you need to get your strength up in order to go home.” UGHHHHHH. I also wanted to tell him to F-Off but he too was so kind and earnest, I did not have the heart.
Every morning at least one of my Docs (Dr. Bakios, Dr. Rocker, Dr. Brito and Dr. I) (and sometimes all of them) reminded me that in order to drink and eat safely, I needed to pass gas……One day, towards the end of my stay…..I got out of bed and “Let one RIP!!” I seriously have never been so happy to fart so long and loud. I called my nurse in and proudly told her my great news. “I farted!!!” Sounding just like a 6 year old. She promptly took some notes and promised to let me know if I could start drinking water. What were they worried about? Your body not being able to keep anything down and reflexively throwing it up. Let me tell you, throwing up was not going to be an option considering coughing hurt like brimfire and holy hell.
Finally, on Saturday, after 3 straight days living on IV fluids and sponge lollipops, I was granted a lunch of liquids! I started with lunch and was only able to manage water and broth. The picture above was dinner! Oh friends, let us have a conversation about hospital food and nutrition. Not tonight I mean, but a good long discussion about it at some point. This tray irritated me. I have not had anything to eat or drink in days, my system probably is not gonna be able to handle much. Here we have sugar, sugar, sugar and more sugar. Oh and some caffeine. As much as I love coffee and
need love to drink it everyday, I could not today. Oh here is some more sugar in case you need some for your tea, and salt! For your broth which is probably salty enough! Also, what a waste right? Who in the world would have all of this? You know they will just throw out what I don’t touch.
The broth hit the spot,
but did not last long in my body. It was an unpleasant experience that did not get me excited for solids the next day.
I was happy however, when the Nutrition Assistant, (the folks who deliver the food to the rooms) came in the next morning, delivered the Sunday paper and sat down to go over my menu for the day. “Oh good!” I said. “Let’s see what you’ve got.” He sat down with the menu on his clip board and started naming off my choices, strarting with breakfast. “Scrambled eggs, french toast, bagel with cream cheese, oatmeal, juice, coffee, tea etc..” “Oh my goodness.” I stared at him blankly. “How about I bring you a variety?” “Ok,” I said, “I’ll take scrambled eggs, toast and oatmeal. Oh and coffee please!” “Lunch?” He recites off various sandwiches. Everything just sounded too heavy and too much. So I opted for Chicken Soup. “Ok, now dinner, here are your choices…..” All I could here was macaroni and cheese and more dishes with gravy and cheese and lots and lots of heavy dishes. “Dude, I’m discouraged. I have not eaten in days. My sensitive, slightly lactose-intolerant body is not gonna be able to handle macaroni and cheese or salisbury steak and gravy and mashed potatoes!” I think he felt bad. I also think he is good at his job as he went off menu for me! “Well, Jen, I can offer you grilled chicken or grilled salmon, some steamed veggies like green beans and maybe some rice?” Love this guy. I ordered the salmon, green beans and rice. I appreciated the personal approach to my nutrition.
Sunday, my last full day at the hospital (Or at least I was hoping it was)!! Time for breakfast.
Sigh, I managed a sip of coffee and toast. The eggs? I normally love scrambled eggs, but on this morning, the smell alone made me gag. I covered them up quickly. I quietly ate my boring white toast (I was actually happy just to eat) and managed a small sip of coffee and that was it. Next up, LUNCH>
Not bad Miriam Hospital cafeteria, not bad at all. I managed to keep it all in too! Progress.
Zoe came by to visit and had to check out my bed while I was walking around my room.
Dinner arrived. I almost forgot to tell you I had a salad with my entree. The Nutrition guy gave me my requested oil and vinegar (also not on the “menu”), and personally mixed it together before he brought it up.
The salad was delicious. No iceberg lettuce in sight! My entree was also delicious. The salmon was a tad bit overcooked, but still very tasty. I was happy and ate it all.
Monday morning arrived. After my nurse came in, I got up and moved around and let a big one rip. I happily announced it to Dr. I when he came in. In addition to passing gas, another prerequisite to going home, was to have a “successful” bowel movement. A challenge that I eventually accomplished. He said, he would talk to the nurses and have them keep checking me all morning and that I could most likely go home. Dr. Brito came in later on and talked to me about going home, and I asked him a bunch of questions like why did he choose Urology? He let me know he did not want to be a general surgeon. He wanted to the opportunity to follow a patient from diagnosis to surgery to post op to full recovery. Full care from beginning to end. I also told him how impressed I was that there seemed to be so many female Urology residents. He said within his group, it is about 50% women. WOO HOO!!
Ah, time to go home. What a week. So many experiences. Constant beeping of the pole ( the empty IV bag, or the battery was low) and waiting for the very busy nurses to come in. Having my IV position on arm changed 3 times due to extreme pain and discomfort. Edema on my hip from the oh so uncomfortable v-shaped bed. All in all, the stated negative experiences were few and far between. It was an experience made all the more manageable, by the awesome staff on the 3rd floor. All of whom I would like to thank:
Dr. Joseph Iannotti, Dr. Joseph Brito, Dr. Katie Rocker (you do ROCK!), Dr. Lauren Bakios. You all were very patient with me answering all of my questions and explaining my surgery in plain english, and what I need to do to get better.
The Nurses and the Nursing Assistants who hold everyone up. You are the strength of the floor and you are all awesome in your own ways. Kat, Kate, Kiara, Liz, Kara, Alexa, Aimee, Sherry, Rachel, Matt, Dalila, Brittney, Jenn and Leara. Big smooches and very special thanks to my faves Sherry and Dalila who came in to give me a big hug and say goodbye as my Parents and I were packing up to go.
All things considered, I had a very postive experience at The Miriam Hospital and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.