Third Time’s A Charm (A Surgery Trilogy)

Astute readers may have noticed that the 30 day blog challenge kind of petered out at day 23. The whole surprise surgery with a Wordcamp presentation on top kinda derailed my best laid blogging plans. As soon as I got through all my obligations, I pretty much collapsed and let everything else go. In fact, this post has been sitting in my draft folder since August.

I was pondering if I should even publish this post, and why I keep writing about my personal health troubles on the Internet. Aside from saving me the need to repeat myself over and over, I’ve noticed that almost without fail, every women I talk to about fibroids has either had them or knows someone who had them. One friend told her family about her fibroids and found out that every other woman in her family had had them, but she was the first to say anything.

Sharing our stories helps other people to know they’re not alone, and this issue is unbelievably common (and hereditary!). So hopefully, this information helps someone else going through this issue.

This is what I hope will be my last health update for the year (until I start writing about trying to get back in shape since this year has involved a pretty severe lack of elevated heart rate).

If you’re just tuning in, you can catch up here:

Our Story Continues…

After finding an unpleasant surprise during what was supposed to be a simple IUD extraction, Dr S ordered an MRI for me to find out What Was Really Going On.TM If you’ve never had an MRI (I hadn’t), that’s the one where they stick you into a really small tube for about an hour while really loud things go on around you. Everyone who found out I was having it done said the same thing: “Don’t open your eyes!”

I showed up for the test and the tech was no-nonsense sort of guy, but nice enough. My MRI was ordered with contrast (dye injected into your veins) so he put an IV in my hand. He didn’t exactly butcher it, but once again, I wished that Jess was there.

He offered me a choice of earplugs or headphone with music. I chose music and asked if he had any Motown. He did. The headphones were enormous and did a good job blocking out the clunking of the machine.

I did open my eyes a few times, and immediately saw why people advise against it. I’m not claustrophobic, but the walls were RIGHT THERE. Mostly I just enjoyed the music. The tech would talk to me through my earphones and keep me updated. The imaging sessions were usually 3-5 minutes each but there were a lot of them. A couple of times I had to hold my breath for up to 20 seconds.

I did find until about 15 minutes to go when my music suddenly switched from Rick James Superfreak to some sort of easy listening station. That’s when the walls really started to close in and time started to drag. I suffered through it and a little while later, I got to escape. Later I asked Jess if that tube expands for folks who are bigger. She said it doesn’t, they just squish people in there. No wonder people need Xanax to get through it. I’m a pretty small person and I didn’t have much room at all in there.

MRI Results and The Case of the Missing IUD

The next day was my pre-op appointment with Dr S for the scheduled surgery on August 20th. I had needed to reschedule my MRI from Tuesday evening to Wednesday afternoon in order to make another commitment. I made sure to tell them that I needed the results by Thursday at 12:45 for my appointment and they said it would be no problem.

So of course when Jess and I arrived to see Dr S, the MRI results had not arrived and in fact, had not even been read by the radiologist! Dr S’s medical assistant did some pretty heroic badgering via phone to get them to track someone down and read the results and then talk to Dr S about them.

The MRI wasn’t as helpful as Dr S would have liked. She said that my fibroid was both on the outside and the inside of my uterus and seemed to be growing through the uterine wall. But most of it was on the inside. And since she had gotten rid of a lot of it (she previously guessed two thirds, but lowered that after seeing the images, there was a lot of cruft floating around in there from all the cutting the week before.

The UID was nowhere to be found so we could only conclude that it was probably expelled during one of my many hemorrhaging sessions (#rentalcargate perhaps?). Just to be absolutely sure, Dr S sent me across the street to get a flat xray film (MRI’s are not set up to look for plastic). The xray tech didn’t see anything either.

A horrible thought occurred to me. “So what were you all pulling on the two times I came to get my supposedly embedded IUD removed?” I asked Dr. S.

“That was probably the fibroid,” she said.

Let’s all ponder the horror of that together shall we? SHUDDER.

Since the fibroid was mostly on the inside, the plan was to downgrade the planned surgery from a robotic myomectomy to a hysteroscopic myomectomy. That means instead of getting five incisions with the robot, Dr S would just go in through my cervix like the previous two times and finish the job from the inside. She’s fairly confident that doing this successfully will relieve my symptoms, which is really all that matters. Lots of women have fibroids and don’t do anything about them because they don’t suffer any symptoms. If I can get back a normal life without nighttime diapers for bleeding, I’ll be thrilled.

There and Back Again

Tuesday morning, I got up at 5am for my last chance to take in liquids. My surgery was moved from 11:30am to 1:30pm which meant that much more time for me to starve. No matter what your surgery time, they always tell you not to eat anything solid after midnight. But since my OR time was later in the day, the nurse said I could drink up to 8 hours before. Which is how I found myself in the kitchen, pounding down 48 ounces of water in 20 minutes.

Any hope of sleeping after that was crushed by the inevitability of having to get up to pee every hour. At least Jess could have slept blissfully on, except that at 5:30am, the battery on our smoke alarm died and began that infernal beeping that is probably one of the tortures in some level of hell. In the end, I took one for the team and went down to the garage to get the ladder and take the battery out.

A short time later, I got up and spent an hour running all the errands. I had to pick up antibacterial soap, which they like you to shower with before showing up, plus more diapers for the post-surgical bleeding that I assumed would occur. And Jess needed gummy bears, but sadly, they were out. All this got me out of the house while Jess had breakfast, a pleasure I wouldn’t be allowed for another 24 hours.

At 11:30am, we showed up to check in for my third procedure this year. You can tell you’ve had too many surgeries when everyone starts to recognize you. The volunteer that works in the waiting room took a good look at us and asked, “Were you ladies here about a week ago? Well then you know the drill.”

The nurse who came to collect me, was the same one who prepped me last time, and also remembered us. Nurse M. She’s been a nurse for 40 years and she told us great stories about having been one of the first people to ever have an outpatient procedure. They sent her home so drugged up that she didn’t remember a thing. She had a word or three with her doctors about it afterwards.

Nurse L was also helping and said she might put in my IV.

“Well let’s talk about that,” I said. I have really been wanting to have Jess put in my IV one of these times, but hospital CYA wouldn’t allow it. Still, never hurts to ask. After that Nurse L disappeared and Nurse M came back to put in my IV. My left hand was still sore from the previous IVs so she went for my right wrist, which Jess said was her favorite. She did a little pre-numbing and the actual stick was as smooth as anyone could want. Later Nurse L admitted that finding out Jess was an IV nurse sent her running scared. That happens a lot, which is why we usually don’t say anything. Of course nurse M was unfazed, as it’s certainly not her first time at the rodeo.

Meanwhile, Jess was on the other side of the bed, holding my hand and leaning into me. Turned out she was just trying to mooch some heat from my heated blanket. And here I thought she was trying to be supportive. But it was pretty cold in there.

After all the pre-op niceties were taken care of, there was a lull. Yet another nurse came over to the bed. After looking at my chart for a moment, she then looked up and stared at Jess for a long time. Finally she said “I know you.”

Jess used to work at Good Sam and they had worked together on the same unit. They proceeded to have a reunion at my bedside and catch up. Eventually, she turned her attention to me. “Oh sorry, didn’t mean to forget about you!” I admit I had been feeling a little neglected. She didn’t have much to say, but let us know that Dr Suzuki was helping on another procedure and she didn’t know exactly when she would be done, but they would keep us posted.

After that, Nurse T, who was my post-op nurse last time, came along. She was floating between pre and post-op, helping out wherever needed. She too, remembered us well and we chatted for a few minutes. Aside from the fact that I was starving and about to be cut on again, it was really not that unpleasant.

Eventually, I got a visit from the anesthesia team, and the OR nurse. Finally Dr S herself showed up. “You should eat something,” I told her. “You gotta keep up your strength.”

“I”m always eating,” she said. Only then did I notice she was still chewing the last of something. She checked my chart, and my consent form and asked how I was doing. “Any medical changes?” she asked.

“I’m really hungry,” I replied. She laughed and said she’d see me in the OR.

Finally, the OR nurse came back to take me away. She gave me my shot of Versed and I kissed Jess goodbye.

This time I actually remember the trip to the OR. There was someone in the elevator with another (empty) bed, and my nurse had to back me up to let her out. We got to our floor and I remember complaining about how cold it was and saying something like, “You really don’t believe in heat down here do you?”

Then I was wheeled into the OR. There were huge lights overhead. They weren’t on yet, but I assumed that’s what they were. She placed the bed next to the OR table and had me scoot over. The table was split in half like a magician’s table and as I reflected on what that meant, I understood why they drug people with a forgetting cocktail before they brought them in. But it was a passing thought and I didn’t really have room over the drug to be truly concerned about anything. I scooted around as instructed until the nurse was happy, and then she started placing monitoring pads on my chest.

After that, Dr D showed up with his magic syringe and I was outta there.

Rough Re-entry

I woke up (for generous values of the term ‘awake’) in PACU (Post Anesthesia Care Unit) with Nurse C. Since I was now an old hand at this, I was able to respond to requests and answer questions (using my words!) like a champ. Nurse C asked about my pain level and I think I said it was a one or a two. She asked if I wanted an Oxy(codone). Sure, why not?

I left the world for a while longer, and then I heard Nurse C tell someone she was taking me back to short stay before she got busy with another patient.

So the next thing I remember is reuniting with nurse T (my favorite). And it seemed like Jess showed up soon after.

That Time I Stopped Breathing Every Time I Fell Asleep

I got hooked up to all the monitors and Jess let me know that Dr S said things went very well and she felt she got about 90% of the fibroid and that there’s actually a cavity in my uterus now.

Then I fell asleep again. But every time I did, my pulse ox monitor set up an awful cacophony of beeping because I stopped breathing completely. My involuntary breathing reflex was suppressed because I got ALL THE NARCOTICS after my procedure. When Nurse T ran down the list it included Fentanyl, Dilauted and that ill-advised Oxycodone.

For the next hour or so, we settled into a routine: I’d fall asleep and stop breathing. Alarms would sound. Jess would poke me and order me to breathe and cough. My pulse ox would go back up to 97-100% immediately. One or two nurses would come over to check on me. Repeat.

At one point I heard Jess tell Nurse T that I was making progress because I was waking myself up when I stopped breathing. The truth was that I would hear the first alarm beeps and think Jess is going to be mad! Breathe! Cough! 

Nurse B asked if I felt like I could take a field trip to the bathroom across the hall. Among the qualifications for going home are peeing and breathing on your own. I guess since I wasn’t doing one, she figured we could work on the other one. And also that getting up and moving might kick start my nervous system into breathing more reliably.

I sat on the edge of the bed and immediately felt nauseas. That’s when the nurse looked and we found out just how many narcotics I had no board. I made it to standing and walking, taking along the little blue barf bag just in case.

In the bathroom, I released liquids alright, just not from the end we were hoping for. I generally handle anesthesia well and I’ve only been queasy from narcotics once, so I knew I must be pretty high. I certainly wasn’t feeling any pain, but I would have traded a little discomfort for keeping down all the fluids and crackers I had just had.

Back in bed there was at least improvement on the breathing front, but I was still pretty out of it. It was late by this time and Jess was worried I might have to be admitted. After a real rest, I woke up again, feeling a little more chipper. After a successful bathroom trip, I finally felt ready to go home.

Nurse T fetched my clothes and my bag and Jess helped me get dressed and went to get the car while I was wheeled out to the front door in a wheelchair.

When I got home, I still wasn’t able to hold anything down so I gave it up and went to bed. The next day was a little more successful on the eating front and I was on the road to recovery.

This post is part of the thread: 2013 Battle With Fibroids – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

1 Comment

  1. You may also find yourself having to explain your choices to skeptical audiences. Be prepared for questions and doubt in unexpected places, including from fellow nurses. “I have gotten some very blunt remarks about how I won’t be as successful or as prepared as someone who did it the ‘right’ way,” says Jennifer Vitti, an Alternate-Entry Nurse Practitioner Student.


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