Sunday, June 3, 2012

On Facing Surgery

Tomorrow I am having robotic laparoscopic surgery for a mass. It is causing pressure and discomfort.

How do I feel about having an operation? Better than I have before, but not so great. Let me explain...

My first time having anesthesia, I was ten. It was oral surgery. I remember being given square blocks of rubber to bite on in the dental chair, my arm being strapped into a metal holder, looking up at a big bottle of clear liquid labeled Sodium Pentothal and a long tube that connected that bottle to my arm. The next thing I remember is hearing the characters on the T.V. show 'Three's Company', slowly coming to and realizing I was not dead. Joy overcame me. Eventually I went home and recovered with my family.

My mouth being what it was, I had oral surgery twice after that. Once for extra teeth, and the other time for wisdom teeth at sixteen. I didn't phase me. I was nervous, but had good experiences and support. What meant the most to me at the time, was that my teeth were given back to me in a little plastic treasure box. I still have those teeth today.

The worst surgery is the one that came next: pituitary adenoma. There was something growing in my brain, giving me headaches. For some reason, that totally freaked me out. I had to go to a big university center. I remember talking with the anesthesiologist in the pre-op clinic about having some signal or code to indicate that I was actually awake. He saw my earnestness, and smiled, and shared that my neurosurgeon had actually worked on HIM, and he was okay.

It was the wait that was unbearable before that surgery. I tried alcohol, shopping, tears, journaling, going on a trip to the snow which I love, but nothing could take away the fear I had for going through this surgery. And afterwards, I was shocked at how I walked IN to the hospital on my own power, but had to be wheeled out after five days in house as an inpatient.

Slowly I learned how this was a gift to let me take some time to adjust my perspective on life. To take walks gently around the neighborhood. I lived in Berkeley at the time. I had two dreams, one to go work at Chez Panisse and become a famous chef. The other was to follow my childhood dream to be a doctor.  Here I am with you today--guess what dream won out? Not to say that I don't wish I could have had BOTH dreams come true, but I am genuinely happy with my life and how it turned out.

In a belly dancing class I tore my anterior cruciate ligament. I was a surgical intern at the time. I wore the brace for nine months, often whacking my good leg with the bulky brace by accident in the process. I never figured out if it was better to wear the brace inside or on top of my scrub pants. It was miserable! I got my surgery, knowing I had to have a repair to stop my knee from going out on me when I stepped off a curb or was in the grocery store. And to stop wearing the brace! I recovered well, and got back into ballet, my true love in dance. Getting my life back was one of the profoundest miraculous events, for I had resigned myself to never dancing again. Being let out of that prison truly gave new life to my soul.

Because I brushed like, too often, when I had braces on my teeth, I ended up needing periodontic care as an adult. While I was an anesthesia resident, I had a graft done at the periodontist's office. That was scary, and I tried to do it just on valium alone because they use a cocktail of things to put you to sleep that made me afraid I was not going to breathe. The valium wasn't working. They  asked, 'do you want to go all the way out?'. I said yes. Everything went fine. But my husband at the time, was a nurse. We knew the post-op for this would hurt. So he placed an i.v. at home, and dosed me with toradol i.v. I felt NO pain! For that I was working it to my benefit, applying what I knew at work to have a better recovery.

My last operation was cesarean section. I was ready to go home to Jesus by the time I was cut. Labor was awful! I never felt any pain, and healed up nicely.

I also had a root canal one day when I was pre-call as an associate professor. It was hard to schedule it, and those hours before work were the only ones that fit. I took no pain medicine, and worked a full overnight shift on Trauma and OB, supervising residents. It hurt like heck, but to survive we all do what we have to do.

I share my experiences with you, out of a selfish reason: I think doctors who have gone through surgery are better at taking care of their patients. My stomach is so sensitive to anesthesia I have to take toast and tea for three days following an anesthetic. Guess who's patients never throw up after surgery? That's right! I was so miserable that I figured that one out to help MY patients. Who threw up flat on her back in a c-section, wondering if she would aspirate right then and there while giving birth? You got it! Me! So who has the driest suction canister in the OR on L&D? Yes! I figured that one out also. Who is the best with the most anxious, neurotic, controlling patient in the Pre-Op Holding Unit? Good old Reiki Doc, that's who! I was bawling my head off while waiting for neurosurgery when I was twenty-five, in the flimsy gown hearing the other patients getting their hair clipped off in the other pre-op beds next to mine.

So what about this operation ahead? I got to pick my team. My surgeon, anesthesiologist, scrub tech, circulating nurse, and RN-first-assist. That helps to cut down on the fear of it. It is a luxury those of us that work in the OR have. I have to be honest with you--the tech who usually works on the robot is a male. I just couldn't face him knowing he had worked with my--'modesty'--the whole case! I told him why I picked a lady for that, and he understood. And he teases me about it, and it still makes me blush.

I was worried about my 'appearance'. Some people really go to town on their grooming, with landing strips and waxing and all. I spoke with my circulator, because I didn't want to look bad 'down there'. She reassured me that 'no one would care' and that 'in our day no one "landscaped" anything so not to worry'. It helped. As my surgeon says, 'we all look the same under our scrubs'. If you are having surgery, and are worried about how your body will look while you are sleeping, know that it is okay. Our surgery teams have seen just about everything. Unless we are working on a body part specifically, the more 'modest' ones are typically covered while we work in the OR.  Even in a c-section we hardly see the breast because the gown is never taken off the patient. It is okay.

I color my hair, so I made sure I covered my roots today, so they would not show. Anesthesia sees the head. And I packed a little bag with what I would wear to the hospital, a couple books, lotion, and my tooth brush. I got a Hello Kitty bag to cheer me up.

My greatest worry is for my son. I am a single parent. Although I co-parent with his father, my son and I are close. He will worry, and want to see me. But they do not let children in the surgical ward at the hospital. It will feel so long until I can hold him in my arms when I get back.

I am thankful for the robotic surgery, and the skills of all my peers. I feel the healing power coming through all of them. I never noticed how talented they were until I realized I would have to be going to them for my care. I am impressed at all of our skills from this perspective.

I have also put myself on the Reiki Healing List and the Divine Peace Healing Lists of my friends. I know I am in Divine Hands, and thankful for this peace of mind and comfort that Light brings.

I will do my best to let you know how things go. In the meantime, if you don't mind, and if it resonates with you, please pray for me in your heart. I am most grateful for your kindness in this respect.


Reiki Doc