Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Post Surgery Report!

I went in for hip replacement surgery at Naval Medical Center San Diego (Balboa Hospital) on Wednesday, November 13, 2013.

I admit to being a bit yippy about the whole thing. Despite the relative success of the hip injection I had, which suggested my hip really was a problem, I was still worried. Worried it wouldn't work. Worried the pain would be worse. Worried something else would go wrong and leave me more crippled than I already was. Still, there was no going forward from where I was. If I wanted improvement, I had to take a risk.

My dear friend from church, Suzette Southfox, came with me to the hospital. She had offered on Sunday, and I found it felt like a good thing. Not to mention that my mother (who could not do so) was relieved at the idea of someone being there. I decided to drive myself to the hospital, as my husband was coming home the next day, and he wouldn't be happy if he didn't see me before going home. As the air port is closer to the hospital than home, if the car was at the hospital, my mother could pick my husband up and bring him to the hospital.

I was tense. I was nervous. I was practically a raging bitch.

I was the second case of the day, so I didn't have to be at the hospital until 9am. I showed up on time, which resulted in a very long wait. I learned later the patient before me had a complication which extended the time of surgery.

By the time I was finally taken back, Suzette had to leave the hospital for family obligations. But it was okay. She had been with me through the worst part, the waiting. Honestly once they gave me the Versed they could've told me they'd be amputating my arms and I wouldn't have cared. Suzette's calm and easy presence got me through the worst of it.

One of the funny things (well, funny in a rather weird sort of way) that happened was the placement of the epidural catheter. Evidently the ligaments in my spine are so hard, it was extremely difficult to get the needle through. I wound up laying on my side for almost 45 minutes while the tech tried to get the damn thing in. All the shoving pushed me several inches across the gurney. But I didn't care. I had Versed on board. And I am silly on Versed. It takes my normal level of inhibition and makes it zero. I was threatening the blood pressure cuff. I was saying the strangest things. It was all I could do to keep myself from wiggling around, and the only reason I could was being reminded every 10 seconds.

By the time I was wheeled into the surgical suite, it's a miracle I wasn't singing show tunes. I saw several smirks under the masks as I made weird remarks. That surgical team sure has a story.

If the anesthesiologist ever asked me to start counting, I have no memory. I imagine if he did, he said, "Okay, Valerie, start counting back from 10....Oh."

I awoke in the recovery room, shaking uncontrollably. My first conscious action was to check the clock. It was nearly 6pm. I'd been in surgery over four hours.

The tech overseeing my recovery of course thought my shaking was shivering. He threw a blanket over me, which I promptly tossed off. I hadn't quite found my voice yet, so had to give answers with nods and head shakes. He asked if I was cold and I shook my head. I tried to control the shaking, but realized there was little point in doing so.

Shortly after I regained consciousness, my neurological status was checked (all was well) and the epidural pump was started. I awoke able to feel my legs. I left the recovery room dead legged.

By the time I arrived in my room, I had gone almost 24 hours without eating. I was starving. I had also missed dinner. A simple meal was delivered, but I had neglected to holler about being gluten free and the question had not been asked. The result was a meal I couldn't really eat. I pulled the meat out of the bread and ate that, and ate every other thing I was able to. I did tell my nurse about my gluten restriction.

In the morning, I was delivered a gluten free. Unfortunately, the Navy's idea of a gluten free diet is to simply not deliver anything with gluten in it. So, when the meal was pancakes and eggs, I got... eggs. The result of this was an unsustainable lack of calories, especially considering the circumstances.

After breakfast, my nurse arrived and removed the epidural catheter. Over the next few hours, I slowly regained feeling in my legs.

The day after hip replacement surgery, it is customary to get the patient on their feet. When the physical therapy people arrived, I couldn't yet feel my legs. Despite the predictions of the surgical nurse during the class I attended prior to surgery, I was worried they *weren't* going to get me up because I couldn't control my legs.

As it turned out, I had just enough control over my legs to get up. I was excited about the whole process. It was a little funny, though. Standing in the walker, I had to keep a careful eye on my right leg, or it would buckle. The PT people encouraged me not to look down, but if I looked up, my leg just crumpled. I was able to change into my own nightclothes, but that was as far as I got. Due to a serious deficiency of caloric intake, I got lightheaded pretty fast. I had to sit down.

The deplorable conditions in the food department resulted in a call to arms. My family came through big time. By the time lunch arrived, I had eaten enough to feed the average family of four, and I still kept stuffing myself.

When PT arrived the second time that day, they expected I wouldn't be able to do much, based on my earlier performance. I knew what the benchmarks were for getting to go home. I had to be able to make a lap around the ward. So, I got on my feet, and that is exactly what I did.

My surgeon visited that night. When he heard I'd already made the lap around the ward, he told me I could go home if I could do stairs. So the next morning, I did stairs.

In the end, rather than four days in the hospital, I spent less than two. I was home less than 48 hours after I had gone into surgery. By day four, I had given up using the walker altogether. On day four, I made it to the top of the driveway to get my newspaper with the assistance of a cane. By the end of the week, I had walked half a mile. Within a few days after that, a mile. By two weeks, I wasn't even using the cane. At three weeks, I was back up to walking two miles a day.

I awoke from surgery with a profound sense of regret, not knowing what the outcome would be. In the end, I could not be happier to have taken this particular leap into the dark. I am back to riding. I have decided to aim for doing the Virginia City 100 in September.

No, I am not known for doing anything halfway. 

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