Monday morning came, with the empty stomach and raw nerves that come with surgery. Aaron helped me to the car and the entire drive there I was a nervous wreck. I was facing one of my few big fears: Anesthesia. The only other time I had gone under was when I was 14 and had my wisdom teeth removed. I only have brief flashes of severe shaking and delusion. I effectively lost two days of conscious memory. My body had not reacted well. I had no desire to ever repeat it, and yet, here I was. We entered the almost empty waiting room 2 minutes late, filled out paper work, and waited. Waiting is the worst. Aaron took a pre-op a picture of me with a nervous, fake smile on my face. I just sat waiting with this black electronic pager in my hand- like they have at the Olive Garden. As if I was waiting for soup, salad, and breadsticks. The pager came with instructions. "When you are paged, follow the blue line through the double doors." I hate hospitals. I was waiting for them to stamp a number on my forehead before they knocked me out. I hadn't even met my surgeon.
The pager buzzed with flashing lights, and I suddenly craved greens in vinaigrette. Aaron paced along side me as I crutched along the blue line into a tiny room where my vitals were taken and I answered a few more questions. I followed the nurse to another room with a hospital bed, where I was given instructions and left with Aaron help me. Strip down to your undies, put on the gown (why do they call them gowns? Seriously. They are the furthest thing ever from glamorous!), put on the funny hat, put your belongings in this bag....
I was briefed... very briefly. This should only take two hours. It should be pretty simple.
I was asked if I had any concerns.
Yes... yes I did.
They wheeled me into a little room, where after more waiting, an IV was placed in my hand. Then I finally met my trauma surgeon, Dr. Chardack, as he bustled in to talk over my concerns, seeming flustered by my silly need to chat. I had so many questions about the procedure, but I got the feeling that he didn't have time for that.
"It's fine. We'll need a couple of pins and maybe a plate, if that. Oh, and by the way, do we have permission to use cadaver bone chips to graft if needed? That way we don't have to take bone from your hip."
Um, yes.... yes you do.
He began to bustle away again, but then turned back to me and said, "Oh yeah. I need to mark your leg for surgery. I envisioned the bandages being removed and him drawing out dotted lines where he would cut and marking spots to avoid. Maybe making a note or two. Instead he uncapped a marker, pulled back the very top of my bandage, and wrote "YES" below my knee. "Gotta make sure we do the right one!" He quipped, and hurried out of the room.
A short while later the nurse informed me that we couldn't start yet. There was a Life Flight helicopter on its way in and they needed to keep the OR clean and ready just in case it was needed to save the patient's life. It was hard to be annoyed by that. I sent up a sincere prayer for the poor soul in that chopper.
After learning that the OR was not needed, my anesthesiologist came to talk over my concerns and soothe my nerves. He was kind and understanding. He reassured me, and promised to monitor me very carefully as well as add Zofran for nausea to my IV before he brought me out of anesthesia.
Just a little more waiting for me, and then as we wheeled to the OR, Aaron was left to keep vigil while I slept. More waiting. Poor guy.
I came to in fuzzy bits of color. When I finally became aware of my surroundings, I was in yet another room. Aaron was beside me and the nurses were busy moving me to the new bed and settling me in. My gown came open and Aaron heroically snatched at it to protect my modesty. I had my first solid thought and voiced it loudly, "Where is my underwear?!"
Aaron held up a tied-off clear plastic bag containing my panties. "They just handed it to me," he said with a shrug.
I felt like barfing. I told the nurse so and she upped my Zofran. Sometime later the doc came in.
"Hey so that took longer than anticipated. It was kind of a mess in there."
I was too out of it to ask direct questions, but I remember him saying something about call for an appointment in a week, take meds, ice it, elevate as much as possible, keep it clean, keep it dry, and don't even think about putting weight on it for 8-12 weeks.
I don't remember much else except for the horrible feeling of my heart sinking into my queasy stomach.
When he left, I turned to Aaron. "How long was I out?"
"Around four hours."
The nurse, Brenda said I could go home as soon as I felt like it. Use the bathroom and get dressed. I crutched down the hall to the bathroom after Aaron helped me re-tie my glamorous gown so my naked bum wouldn't traumatize the other patients. As I moved, I noticed that I felt all squishy and lubey... down there. Yes, there.
I closed the bathroom door with wide eyes. What on earth had happened in that two extra hours of unconsciousness. The moment I began to pee, an answer I never thought I'd be grateful to know dawned on me. A catheter. They had had to place a catheter. Suddenly IHC was a little less creepy and suspicious.
When I returned, I asked the nurse."Did they have to cath me, Brenda?"
"Oh yeah, they did! Because of how long the surgery took. Did they not tell you that? Were you kind of freaked out?!"
Yes... yes I was.
Aaron helped me dress very carefully, and he and Brenda got me into a wheelchair and out to the car.
My stomach was a ravenous mess. We picked up In-n-Out protein-style for the whole fam and took it home to our poor, sick children.
Home. Food. Meds. Sleep. Gifts?
Katie had left me a girly spa care package.
Mark had posted to all of the Trail and Ultra Running community about my surgery and I had scads of well-wishing messages and encouragement from friends and strangers alike. Neighbors and friends showed up with dinners, cards, and gifts. My heart was overflowing, and my eyes acted in kind.
Friends came to clean my house. Cindy came at a minutes notice to change my bandages. Katie came to keep me company. I think for an entire week, I was a duplicitous sobbing mess of drug-induced euphoria over the kindness and love that I was inundated with, and the pain, despair, anger and denial that came in the time between the meds wearing off and kicking in again.
The healing had begun in theory. But I had no idea what lay in store for me in the next few months. Physically, emotionally, mentally.
It's one of those things you can't understand until you go through it. If someone had tried to tell me. I would never have believed them.
To be continued...
Next up: Aftermath: The horrid and wonderful journey of endless tears and not a single step