I'm gonna warn you right now ... this post definitely falls into the category of TMI. So if graphical descriptions of surgery gross you out or you're offended by discussions related to passing gas, you might want to keep on surfing, because I'm not planning on leaving out a single detail of what I've been through this week. NOT A SINGLE ONE.
First, a little background info ... I saw my GYN, the fabulous Dr. P, back in August for my yearly exam. She thought my uterus felt a little "boggy" and sent me for an ultrasound. A healthy, normally functioning uterus should measure in the vicinity of 8 x 6 x 4 cm. Mine was 12 x 7 x 10 cm. We should do a biopsy, she suggested, to rule out any possibility of something cancerous growing in there. It was negative, and with a new school year beginning, I didn't feel inclined to really deal with things at the moment, so I put my "boggy" parts out of mind as best I could until school was out.
The only problem was that while I was busy trying not to think about it, my uterus kept on growing. And started mashing on things like my colon and bladder. I ran into a former coworker sometime during the winter who was recovering from having a hysterectomy, and I decided that was EXACTLY what I needed. Melissa was only three weeks out from her surgery and looked absolutely fabulous. Knowing how many doctors frown on performing unnecessary hysterectomies, I started getting my sales pitch ready for Dr. P. I was really gonna help her see why my situation definitely was in the "necessary" category.
As we moved into spring, my symptoms were really getting annoying, so I went back to see Dr. P in May. We needed to do another ultrasound, she said, and the second one showed my baby box to now measure a whopping 14.8 x 9.0 x 14.1 cm. For you non-medical people who don't think in metrics, that's approaching the size of a football. And, yes, it absolutely FELT like I had a football in my pelvis.
Turns out, I didn't have to use my sales pitch on her at all. She was suggesting surgery at the same time the word "hysterectomy" came out of my mouth, and I left her office with a date on the calendar: Tuesday, June 17.
The presurgery festivities began the day before when I followed the doctor's orders to eat a clear liquid diet all day. That worked fine for breakfast, but by 11 a.m., I really found myself craving a sandwich (or something besides chicken broth and jello) for lunch. But, being the rule-follower that I am, I stuck to the plan all day. The real fun began around 7 p.m. when I drank the requisite 10 oz. of magnesium citrate. Just getting that fizzy stuff down was a real chore. I found that if I drank it through a straw placed as far back in my throat as I could stand it without gagging, the taste didn't bother me so much. And if I alternated swigs of mag citrate with Dr. Pepper, it bothered me even less.
About 90 minutes later, the party in my intestines began. There was some rumbling and some grumbling followed by SEVERAL rapid trips to the restroom. And then some more rumbling and grumbling. And MORE rapid trips to the restroom.
That made for a pleasant night, but I really hadn't planned on sleeping much anyway, because I wanted to be SO exhausted by the time I checked in at the hospital at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday that perhaps I could sleep through all the presurgical stuff. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that the hospital folks wanted to re-ask me the 93 questions they'd already asked at my pre-op visit eight days earlier, and sleeping through five nurses asking me to please state my name and date of birth would not be an option.
Once on the surgery unit, the hospital staff wasted no time getting me fitted in a backless gown and paper booties. They were all very nice (for the most part) until I raised the question of exactly why I needed to be sedated with general anesthesia.
"Of COURSE you have to be sedated," one nurse told me.
"Well, duh," I replied, trying hard not to roll my eyes. "My question was why do I have to be completely out? Doctors perform C-sections every day using an epidural, so why can't I have my uterus taken out with an epidural?"
She looked at me as if I had suddenly started speaking Chinese.
"You ... you ... want ... to be ... AWAKE ... for your surgery?" she sputtered, as if no one had EVER made such a request.
"Yeah, why not?" I replied.
"Uhh ... because it's just not done THAT WAY," she said, still giving me the look.
"Oh." And just because I really wanted to horrify her, I added, "I was really hoping to watch."
I can't even begin to describe the look that comment got.
Dr. P came in, and when I told her how sad I was not to be able to observe the surgery, she offered to take pictures for me. She didn't think it was weird at all that I might want to see with my own eyes the football that had taken up residence in my body and caused me untold agony. "I would want to see too," she said, patting my hand reassuringly.
I awoke several hours later in the most pain I have ever felt and mad as a hornet that the surgical staff allowed me to awake in such horrific pain. It only took a couple of minutes to locate the button for my morphine pump, and I started pushing that thing like crazy. Never mind that it's programmed to deliver the blessed medication every so often, I pushed it several times a minute just because I could.
Wednesday morning dawned, and I felt FABULOUS. Really. Although I only cat-napped for 20 minutes at a time throughout the night following surgery, I got was up at 6 a.m. Wednesday ready to take a shower and walk the halls of the hospital. Perhaps she might let me go home on Thursday morning if I could just show her how amazingly well I was doing.
Thirty seconds into the shower, and I was rethinking that plan. The hot water, blood loss, lack of food, and everything else all swirled around me, and I would have fainted in the shower stall were it not for a shower bench to catch me. I didn't even get to shampoo my hair, the dizziness was so bad.
Once I recovered from that experience (about four hours later), I did get up and do some walking, still holding onto hope that the next day would bring my discharge papers.
Unfortunately, by Thursday morning, I had developed a hematoma at my incision site, and she took out all my staples to pack the wound. (After only one meal of solid food, I was back on a clear liquid diet again. Serious bummer.)
Now, in case you've never had any experience like having a large abdominal wound packed, let me just tell you, IT IS NO WALK IN THE PARK. The cavernous sides of the incision smiled hideously at me, and I was certain I saw my spine hiding down below all the bloody tissue.
The business of packing and redressing went on THREE MORE TIMES. Each time, I would hold onto the sides of the bed and pant like I was about to give birth to a 12-pound baby. Sometimes the nurses would even have to tell me to breathe, because I would forget. The pain was that bad.
In the midst of all this packing and redressing, the cheerful nurses would stop by to ask if I had "passed gas". The answer was always no. It hurt too much to cough. I couldn't imagine the pain of trying to pass gas. And why did they care so much?
Late this afternoon, Dr. P stood over my gaping abdomen and proclaimed that it looked "beautiful". I peeked once again just to see what had changed, and it still looked like a big bloody hole to me.
"You're ready to be sutured up," she announced, and the sweet nurse Marilyn lined up instruments and suture material and created a little mini-OR right there at my bedside.
I watched as she injected lidocaine and then methodically brought the edges of the cavern together with Vicryl, tying each knot perfectly.
"You would have made a great seamstress," I commented.
Half an hour later, the wound did indeed look much better. I don't know that I myself would have described it as beautiful, but I was pleased that Dr. P had proclaimed it so. And more pleased when she handed me a stack of instructions and prescriptions and sent me home.
And just because I know all of you would be disappointed if I didn't share a picture of my oversized boggy uterus, here it is in MOST of its glory. Apparently there's a pretty impressive fibroid hiding out on the backside. Dr. P said when she pulled it out, it made a loud sucking sound. Neat, huh?