Saturday, September 17, 2016

What Surgery Was Like

"Your first surgery?!  At age 54? You are a super human being!"

I heard that a number of times in this process.  It's nice to be called a super human being.

So this is my wide-eyed walk through my first and hopefully last surgery, which might be kind of TMI like LBJ showing off his scar to the press.  He also had gallbladder surgery, but obviously it wasn't laparascopic like mine.  Yikes.

I told myself ahead of time that surely if I've had two wisdom teeth pulled out and 5 babies pushed out, I can do this.  Here's what I found out:

How gallbladder surgery is like childbirth:
1. You know it's coming up and no one else can go through this for you.
2. You shouldn't read up ahead of time on possible complications.
3. You move slowly afterwards.
4. It's nice to have someone bring you tea and toast.
5. At least you get to keep your socks on.

How gallbladder surgery is not like childbirth:
1. Your fears are only for yourself and not for a baby.
2. Right up until you lose consciousness, you could decide to not do this after all and walk out the door.
3. You sleep through the worst parts.
4. You get to sleep a lot afterwards.
5. It's much easier.

My biggest fears:
1. That I would be awake but paralyzed during the surgery. [It happens.  I read it on the Internet.]
2. That I would wake up with a permanent headache like my friend's sister did over 30 years ago. [According to the Internet, that happens to plenty of other people too.]
3. That it would be scary to be anesthetized.
4. That I would have sleep paralysis, waking up.
5. That I would say crazy embarrassing things as I was waking up.
6. That the doctor would say, "Actually, we pulled out your gallbladder and there weren't any stones left in it.  Oops.  Too bad."
7. That I would react to anesthesia like my sister did, and barf uncontrollably afterwards.


All my life I've been afraid of the wrong things.

The scariest part was when the anesthesiologist held a mask to my face to breathe into and out of, right after I lay on the operating table.  The mask had a triangular shape made of a puffy plastic tube, meant to make an airtight seal on my face.  I had that panicky feeling I get when my face is in water [no, I'm not a swimmer] and I jerked my head and yanked the mask off.

The anesthesiologist was a very understanding woman who told me that if I hold it on myself, it won't be as scary.  I still had to deliberately talk myself through each breath, but it worked better, and about four breaths in, I was completely out.

I didn't wake up during surgery.

I didn't have to deal with nausea at all.

Nor did I wake up with a headache.

Actually, I had a very hard time waking up.  It was like the deepest of Sunday-afternoon naps, where you just want to sink down into the blissful sleepiness and stay there.  I was somewhat aware of Paul being there and getting briefed on my medications, and all of a sudden they wanted me to get up and go home.

What??  Noooooo.  I think I mumbled, "I ..." but they wouldn't let me.

So there was no danger of me saying loopy things, because I could barely form words.  I came home and was steered into bed, where I slept and slept until evening.

Not letting me sleep was the only way they were unkind at the surgery center.  Otherwise, goodness.  During the pre-op I put on this gown with what looked like a vacuum cleaner attachment ring at the side.  Then I sat back in a recliner and the nurse tucked a blanket around me and then attached a vacuum hose--it looked like--to the gown, but it blew warm air in.  Oh my word.  I should see if I can buy one on ebay for cold winter evenings.

I asked the nurse if it's like a vacuum cleaner where you flip the switch and it sucks air back out, but she didn't find that amusing.

The doctor told Paul that everything went exceptionally well and that my being a smaller person made the process much simpler.  He also said they sent the gallbladder off but will give me the stones at my first visit afterwards.

I thought: Why would they give me the stones?  Maybe I can line a little succulent garden with them.

Ben and Jenny are off backpacking in the Wallowas in Eastern Oregon. Paul and Emily are taking very good care of me.

Quote of the Day:
"One slip of the scalpel and you could be delivered."
--my brother Fred, on the risks of gallbladder surgery


  1. when I had my gall bladder surgery everyone was telling me how amazing my "stones" looked but when I asked to see them nobody could seem to find them...grrr....they were MY stones afterall and I couldn't see them...

  2. I am sitting here laughing aloud to myself at the thought of buying your warming blanket on eBay!! Glad surgery was successful, and happy to hear your sense of humor was unaffected! Blessings as you continue healing!

  3. Wow, this is just great! I'm so glad this ordeal is over for you and that it wasn't as bad as you had anticipated. Here's a little "frame" in your account, though, that struck me as so funny that I just sat at the computer and laughed for a moment before continuing. You wrote:

    "Then I sat back in a recliner and the nurse tucked a blanket around me and then attached a vacuum hose--it looked like--to the gown, but it blew warm air in. O my word. I should see if I can buy one on ebay for cold winter evenings."

    Well, yes, wouldn't that be wonderful? Again, it was a blessing to me to read your candid response to the experience, graced with humor as usual; and I'm happy for you that this is over and you won't have any more of those painful attacks.

  4. I have been a nurse for 28 years, and I can tell you that number six never ever happens. I think it's a Dr rule. "Never say 'your appendix was fine but we took it out since we were in there anyway' ".

  5. I had this "fear" (not really a fear) that if they ever put me under, I would never wake up...I would just dance off into heaven and never come back. In 2012, when it ws time for an operation on my left eye, my retinologist wanted to completely put me under because my breathing would be more stable, so I would not move more, and it was going to take a long time, and the local that he had given me for the surgeries ont he right eye would not hold long enough. At the time, I was 50 and had an 11-year-old son and just was not ready to go away and never come back. i debated long and hard and saying yes to that surgery was the hardest thing I had done up to that point--courage wise. But I did it, and coming out of it, i was sooooo sick. The pain in the eye was horrid afterward--way worse than it had been on the other eye, and the nausea was immense, and it was awful. But shortly after that I broke my ankle in 3 places and had to have surgery to put hardware in to help it heal and I was not afraid to have that surgery....but again, coming out was awful and I was hit with a wall of pain in my leg where they had cut it open....horrid. And because it was "emergency" surgery, I had not talked wth the anesthesiologist ahead of time an they gave me fentanyl which made me dizzy before they put me out (with an IV--whihc puts you out instantly--no masks for this gal!!) But when they brought me out, they gave me fentanyl for the pain in my leg and it made me not be able to breathe....and not car that I wasn't breathing. Last November I had appendicitis and had an urgen appendectomy laparoscopically...I asked them not give me fentanyl because I react badly to it, and it was easiest surgery...they gave me some kind of inhaler at the end, and I woke up ON THE WAY to recovery, while I was still in surgery or at least in the hall on the way and all I could say was, through my tears of joy--I still hve that teenage boy to raise--was "Thank you, Jesus!!" over and over...I was sobbing by the time I got into recovery and the nurse there asked what was wrong and the person wheeling me in said, "Oh, she's just happy." It was the easiest surgery ever....they did keep me overnight since it was late and I think I might have had half a pain pill...but other than being tired, it was really easy and easy to wake up from and no grogginess or pain or nausea....I'm not sure how long my surgery was, less than an hour, i think.... I'm not afraid anymore...I just need to stay away from fentanyl and other narcotics....

  6. I would very much like to see a picture of that succulent garden.

  7. Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm glad it was successful and you are in the post surgery healing mode now. I, too, had surgery this week and enjoyed the gown with warm air experience. Thanks be to God for medical advances and bodies that heal.

  8. oh, you are so funny and heartwarming! I bet my mom would adore one of those warm-air dresses, too. SO GLAD you went through this surgery so well.

  9. "You could be delivered" ha ha ha
    My six year old got to chose chapstick in a fun scent to rub in her mask, but I can see how it would be scary to have to have it on your face, no matter how pretty it smelled.
    She also tried out the gown that warmed up with the tube, but she ended up not liking because it was too hot for her.

  10. The best post ever.. How can you make it awesome like this? Thank you for sharing ;)
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