On the morning of December 2, 2021, Dan and I arrived at Northside Hospital around 5:20am. The hospital didn’t even open its doors until 5:30am. My surgery was scheduled at the earliest possible time that day.
We checked in with the receptionist in the first waiting room. After waiting for maybe 5-10 minutes, a woman called us back to a small office. I signed some consent forms. She gave me my hospital ID bracelet and some paperwork. Then she escorted us to an elevator and directed us where to go next.
We arrived in another waiting room. It was surprisingly crowded for the early hour. I handed my paperwork to another hospital employee. Dan and I proceeded to wait again.
A nurse called my name. She directed Dan to move his car to another parking lot. She also gave me a hospital mask to wear instead of my pink mask, which Dan took with him. Then she led me to my pre-op hospital room.
Preparing for Surgery
The nurse took my vitals–temperature, blood pressure, blood oxygen level. Then she gave me a hospital gown and socks, plus a bag for my clothes and shoes.
After I changed my clothes, multiple medical professionals were in and out of my room. I can’t recall exactly how many talked to me and prepared me for surgery. I can’t even guarantee they were all nurses. They’re all a jumble to me. For simplicity, I will refer to them as nurses.
In addition, while I remember everything that happened prior to the anesthesia, I don’t recall the exact order of events. I did use the bathroom multiple times, clearing out that little lingering diarrhea from the prep.
I had to give a urine sample, which was difficult since I hadn’t had any clear liquids since about 11pm the night before.
One nurse provided me with antibacterial cleansing cloths. We worked together to wipe down my entire body to minimize the chance of infection.
At some point, Dan returned. He took possession of my bag of clothes and shoes. He stayed with me until my medical team wheeled me to surgery.
The IV nurse came to start my IV. I have excellent veins, but she screwed up. The pain was terrible. I started feeling lightheaded. One of the nurses removed my mask so I could breathe more easily, and another lowered the bed. I’ve never had a panic attack before, but this felt like a panic attack to me. Apparently I lost all color in my face.
After I felt better, the IV nurse successfully inserted my IV on my other arm.
Someone from the anesthesiology team confirmed my medications, my prior solid food, and my prior liquids.
A nurse applied a bunch of monitoring stickers to my body. I also had a blood oxygen monitor taped to my finger.
I received some IV meds to help me relax. Once I was ready to go, someone told Dan where he could wait for me.
My medical team wheeled my hospital bed to an elevator, and then to the surgery room. Dr. Schertzer was waiting for me. She told me the procedure would take about 90 minutes.
That’s the last thing I remember.
Recovering from Surgery
I woke up in a recovery room. Curtains surrounded my bed, giving me a small amount of privacy from the other patients also recovering from surgery.
Dan was there, with my hospital bags. He gave me my comfort items, two stuffed animals and my mom’s ancient skirt that served as my baby blanket.
I don’t remember much else.
A nurse gave me ice chips.
I slept a lot.
I sent out updates to friends and family that I was okay.
Dan and I waited longer than expected for a private room. Eventually a room became available, and my medical team again wheeled my hospital bed to the room that would become home for a few days.
Dan unpacked my things. Eventually he left for home, since he could only stay until 9pm.
I slept a lot.
Played games on my phone.
Nurses woke me up to change my IV bags. They woke me up to take my vitals.
I was so out of it that I didn’t even realize I had a catheter until a nurse emptied my bag. I think it was Friday morning when a nurse removed my catheter.
I’ve shared what happened the day of my small bowel resection surgery to the best of my recollection. Obviously my recollection is hindered by the effects of anesthesia. The medical vocabulary in this account comes from my own understanding as a patient. It may not be accurate.
I also want to emphasize that even though my overall surgery was successful, I have lingering trauma from the painful, failed IV insertion. In fact, I believe I have mild medical PTSD related to IV insertion, initially caused years ago when I was still on Remicade. That was the first time I experienced a painful, failed IV insertion. Since then, I have felt anxious and afraid during all IV insertions. I relax my body and take slow, deep breaths whenever I need an IV, so my stress doesn’t make the situation worse, but mentally I’m still a wreck.
If I’m watching a medical show, I close my eyes when needles come out. If I accidentally see a needle, I have to cover the veins on my arms to feel safe. I’m honestly doing that right now between typing out paragraphs.
Medical trauma can happen to anyone. Understandably, patients with chronic illness can develop PTSD, especially because we are more likely to experience medical trauma.
I don’t share any of this for pity. Rather, I’m asking for compassion and understanding, not just for me, but for anyone with a chronic illness.
My next post will cover the rest of my hospital stay. My previous post explains the medical tests and treatments I’ve had over the last 7 years.