The day started with the radio alarm going off at 4 a.m. and the feeling I'd christen the day with a good vomit. Just nerves, didn't vomit. Brushed my teeth, threw on my most comfy uniform, panties, my purple velour sweats and a little white cotton t-shirt. Pancake and Waffle were still sleeping, that deep happy baby sleep knowing no harm would come to them today.
Muffy on the other hand was wondering why she got such a good scrubbing last night, and yeah, I folded and shaved my legs. I was only thinking they might shave Muffy and give me like a free Brazilian or something so I might as well do the legs and then I'd be pool ready.
Husband and I left the house in the dark, and as we backed away, the headlights lit the house for a second then back into shadow. I thought about what if I don't wake up from surgery, and that was the last time I saw my house. When you've gone under more times in one year than you ever did your whole life, this stuff creeps in. I think about those things now. There was a great news anchor at a local San Francisco station, named Pete Wilson, who was a fixture in the Bay area for over twenty years. He went in for a routine hip replacement at Stanford Hospital, no less, and had a massive heart attack and died on the table. He was 62.
As Husband drove in the dark, I thought about my life and what if I didn't wake up. I wasn't thinking about how much money I don't have in the bank, or the projects around the house I've been wanting to do. I didn't think about the pile of clean laundry at the foot of my bed that needs to be put away, or the stack of magazines waiting to be donated to the Cancer Center. I wasn't worried about the garage that needs a good cleaning and organizing, and probably a lot donated. I wasn't thinking about how much I weigh, or my boobies, or missing my long hair, or the box of brownies I've been meaning to make.
I thought about my boys, sleeping soundly in the house, and what their life would be like if Mommy didn't come home. I thought about Husband, how lost he would be without the little blond who has been at his side since he was a teenager. I thought about my doggies, and the Doves who rely on me. I thought about the little pots of flowers that are the welcome at our door. I thought about the snow village I put up every Christmas, and always let the boys sprinkle the fake snow on the scene. I thought about the best Thanksgiving dinner ever, the one I make, with my secret stuffing and gravy and my Mom's pumpkin bread recipe. I thought about my friends and the people I love and who love me, and the kind strangers who have come to love me and who I now carry in my pocket. I thought about the world, Debbieless, without all my trademark touches, mostly about giving and needing love, in a big way.
We arrived at the hospital just before 5 a.m., all kinds of people waiting at the locked front door not knowing what to do. I stepped up and pushed the call button for security, and told him there was a party waiting for him at the front door. All of us nervous people waiting outside a hospital at 5 a.m. laughed.
I got checked in, went through hoops, up to my room, got naked, put on the paper gown and the stupid non-skid socks, and jumped into bed. I kept thinking I had to pee. I did a couple times. I had to remind the nurses checking me in about my lymphedema risk in the left arm. No pokes. No blood pressure. Not no how not no way in the left arm. They still forgot till I reminded again and made a sign and got me a wrist band.
Time to start the IV. Oh baby, come to Mommy, I felt like the lady in the old Mervyn's commercial, OPEN OPEN OPEN, please oh veins, open big and wide and gush like oil for Mommy. Husband told nurse all about my hard stick problem. She didn't take any chances, wrapping my arm in a wet compress and wrapping that in a plastic sheet. She gave me a numbing shot just in case she had to poke around a bit. Sometimes those numbing shots are way worse than the poke.
Before I knew it, she was in. A nice little tender spot on my inner right arm near the elbow. Not so bad. It wasn't much later they came to wheel me in bed down to the OR, and that's where Husband and I awkwardly kissed goodbye. It was not a good kiss if it had been our last.
The anesthesiologist, young baby face he was, came in to do his greet, give me the risks, and tell me he was going to put a little something in my IV to make me sleepy and relaxed. I was looking forward to being all tipsy and compliant by the time I got to OR. I thought about one of my Sisters, right before her surgery in this condition, and when they asked her name she said dreamily "Paris Hilton." I noticed through corridor after corridor under bad flourescent lighting, and into a room that was cold as the walk-in produce fridge at Costco, I was not getting happy or sleepy or frisky. In fact, my arm hurt like hell. Like burning painful hell.
They helped me scoot from hospital bed to OR table, and I started to tell them about my arm when they lifted my gown and saw it for themselves. It had swollen bigger than a softball at the injection site, and was growing. The masks circled me, "Looks like the IV has infiltrated." When an IV infiltrates, the substance that was supposed to be flowing through your vein has entered soft tissue, and starts dumping out in your body. It causes major swelling in the area, and a whole lot of discomfort, and is basically useless.
The anesthesiologist was anxious, annoyed and was hoping he could save it. It was obvious the nurses disagreed. "Look at her arm. We need to start over."
He agreed but seemed to be a whole lot more concerned about the inconvenience to his busy schedule than worrying about his patient laying there on the table. My Lady Doc came in to see if we had the show on the road, and they told her they'd have to start a new one. She patted me and gave me a sweet you poor baby smile. "Ok I'll let them do their work, and I'll be back."
Dr. Boy took out the IV, then hurriedly searched for a new spot. Next he went to my hand. Poke. Nuttin. My inner wrist. Big poke. Twist it till it burns. Nuttin. I can't tell if this guy was late for his tee time, or just anxious he was going to have to MacGyver a hard stick like me.
He jumped over to my left arm and starting examining it. That's when I started to get pissed.
"You can't use that arm. I'm a lymphedema risk. That's why there is a neon pink band on my right wrist that says USE THIS ARM ONLY, FUCKING ASSHOLE." Ok I didn't say the eff A part, but I did the rest, and the eff A in my head.
Then he starts mumbling about how a lymphedema alert is a soft contra-indication, somethin, somethin, somethin, and I'm thinking this is nuts and this guy wants to use my left arm. Where's my lymphedema therapist when I need her? Where is my Susan G. Komen advocate? Where are all my Sisters?
What the meow?
I tell him no. Then he starts nervously telling me it's either that arm, or it's my feet or my neck. Which is it gonna be? My blond brain, ok my platinum brain, starts cursing like a sailor with VD.
Dr. Lady comes back in the room. Dr. Boy starts telling her "the patient does not want me to use her left arm and..." It was like he was telling on me to teacher. And by the way buster, this patient's name is DEBBIE.
Dr. Lady was upset, for me. "Ok, I am thinking maybe we just need to abandon ship here and try again next week. Your right arm is your best bet, and that was blown. Let's give it a chance to rest, go on your trip (I forgot to tell you Robin is marching in Disneyland this coming Friday with the Middle School Band), or if you want to get it over with, he's going to have to use your feet or your neck and it's not going to be pleasant and you will be awake when he tries. Or I guess we could do a local inside your vagina, but I can't guarantee your comfort level with that. It's your call."
Hell if I was coming back. I'd spent weeks in agony just to get my ass on this table. No. Just do it.
Dr. Boy was riled. Look, I don't think this guy is just some egomaniac asshole, he hasn't had enough years as an anesthesiologist to age into that. I think he was flummoxed and there is nothing that a man doctor hates more than when things don't go as planned. I'm telling you, my experience is that female physician's know how to wing it, work with what they got and what comes up, and they don't make the patient feel bad because of it. This is not the first time a man doctor's ego came up against my uncanny ability for the glitch. He starts checking my feet, and moving them around with no care or sensitivity. I told him I had neuropathy in the right foot. He said it probably wouldn't affect anything, but he'd look at the left.
"There is just nothing" he said. "I'm going to have to use your neck." He asked the nurses to get him an ultrasound, so at least he'd be able to see the veins.
I laid there on the table and saw a little banner float down over me. It said "On this 4th of April, 2011, let the record show it has been confirmed by the Cancer Camp World Records that Writergirldreams can be counted as one of the bravest, toughest menopausal mermaid bitches on the planet."
He put the cold goop on the right side of my neck and pressed the magic wand in, I was looking towards the screen and saw the white gray lines of veins in there, mine. He didn't even have to say what was coming next.
"Get ready for the stick. It's gonna feel like a bee sting."
Stick. Stick. Pressure. Pain. Trouble breathing. Eyes watering. Stick. Pressure. Pain.
I started to cry a soft little cry knowing I could not move. Nurses in masks on either side of me held me tighter. One adjusted her mask. She hurt for me.
He stopped for a minute.
"Are you ok?"
My voice broke and I whispered. "I, I, I'm just sick of this shit. I've been through a year of hell. I'm sick of this shit."
He gave me a minute. The room was silent. A nurse said "You are doing good Debbie, you are doing really good." Did you hear that Dr. Boy? She called me by my name.
He continued. I have decided that every anesthesiologist as part of their medical training, should experience an IV in every possible area a patient might have to get an IV. And let's start with the neck.
Stick. Pressure. Stick.
If I had a loaded gun laying there on the table next to me, I would have reached down and grabbed it in my lymphedema hand, pointed it at my head,
then shot Dr. Boy. You know, nothing fatal, just so he'd need an IV in his neck.
This is my neck when I got home and took my first look, and Robin counted 12, count em, 12 needle marks.
The nurses were hesitant, but one of them finally said "Would you like us to call Dr. So and So who is over in cardiology right now, and ask for his help?" Dr. Boy got a little upset and said something like "He's doing a such and such procedure now" and continued knifing me in the shower.
Just then another man in a mask appeared in the room and looked over the situation. Dr. Boy said something about doing some kind of kit on me, I guess something to get the thing in there and hold the place so he could then put the needle in. I thought new man was going to step in, but Dr. Boy got it.
All in all, this process took almost an hour. Dr. Lady had told Husband in the waiting room that there was a delay, and he knew in his gut exactly what had happened. Just like with my BLM surgery. Right before I fell asleep, I heard Dr. Boy say "Well, that was quite a rough ordeal for everyone in the room, but mostly the patient. You are a real trooper."
"You're damned straight" I heard myself whisper, "one tough bitch. Wanna see my boobs?"
When I woke up, I could tell Muffy was bleeding, but it wasn't so bad. My neck really hurt, and my arm was absolutely huge.
|That ain't a thigh, that's an arm!|
I woke up in recovery no problem, as far as the waking and the breathing, but the neck and arm were in bad shape. It wasn't long before I was back in my room in the short stay unit, and soon after discharged.
As Husband drove home, the adrenaline and anger started to build in me. When I got home and got in bed, huge right arm held above my head, Muffy bleeding, and neck feeling like it had a hangman's noose cinched tight around it, I had such adrenaline and fury I think I could have thrown a car. I started venting to Husband about the day, but often he gets defensive and angry when I do. I think he feels so powerless, to hear me recount all this agony and not be able to help me. I know it must be tough to listen to.
I could not believe I had to fight to keep my left arm from being used, and was angry at myself that when Dr. Boy started to have such trouble, why didn't I say "I need another guy. You're done."
I thought about all the patients that don't speak up; I thought about all the times I did, and all the times I didn't or not soon enough because I didn't know MY RIGHTS. When do you stop the show when the job they are trying to do for you is becoming torture? I felt so angry today. So angry. So angry. At myself.
Then the text messages and the tulip kisses started coming in, and I ate something and felt better, and rested awhile and felt better, and took an Ativan and felt better. I have about a dozen Ativan left. I counted.
Oh my goodness, in telling you all about my ordeal today, I didn't tell you the most important part. Dr. Lady spoke to Husband after the procedure, she said everything looked really good and beautiful in there. She suspected that what the ultrasound picked up as a large thickening was actually the result of some anatomical quirk of my uterus. It is heart shaped. Where the two halves come together at the top, lining meeting with lining makes for an extremely thick spot, but upon examination, she said there was next to nothing to cut or scrape away. She did take some samples to make sure there is nothing suspicious on a cellular level, but seemed very positive that this could be
much ado about nothing.
Muffy is doing well, sipping a milkshake and reading Soap Opera magazine, while on the last period she'll ever have. They did trim her up nice, but ruined the effect with all the orange iodine staining me everywhere. Now she looks like a baby pumpkin, all ready for Easter. My neck and arm not so good.
Later, when I told the Senator about my day and my heart shaped uterus, he said "Happy Valentines Day."
Happy Valentines Day everybody.
Love. Love your life. Love your peeps. Love. Love. Love. I love you.