Surgery Day - April 9, 2008
Hello all and thanks for your concern, prayers, and kind thoughts!
We were told to report to the hospital at 11:30AM for a 1:00PM starting time. I was to be the doc's third from last surgery that day. We arrived a few minutes early, got questioned and processed and paid (a little). Then we went to the Ambulatory Care Center, where they showed us to a semi-private cubby. The room was nice, with a personal cable TV, phone, recliner, and window. It was overcast with snow flurries in SLC yesterday, but we occasionally saw sun. Vicki, my outptient nurse, was most excellent and sympathetic. She instructed me to put my clothes in the closet and don the hospital gown and special socks (with rubberized traction soles). Then she came back and got me comfortable on the gurney, elevating the back like a deck chair, and covered my exposed legs and feet with a blanket. She offered to hook the gown to a warm air source. I thought she was kidding, but they really have those now to help you stay warm. I was comfortable as is, so I declined. She took and recorded my temperature (normal) and blood pressure (overly elevated) a couple of times, and asked me several questions about the last time I ate/drank anything and if I had taken any pills recently. Vicki went to check the schedule, and they were ahead, so we were bumped up to 12:30. By that time it was almost noon. I had brought tunes & headphones and a pile of reading materials for the long wait, but for only half an hour I didn't need them.
I decided that it would be better to use the time for relaxation. My "New Age Guy" buddy had thoughtfully emailed some instructions for deep-breathing self-hypnosis for relaxation. I used the time to modify the regimen into something like a more Christian-ized version to try. I don't believe I made it to semi-trance, but I do think it helped relax me a lot. My blood pressure dropped from high 170s to 150 or so, and pulse was also higher than usual, but not racing. Kathryn said I looked flushed, probably because of all the oxygen and being under blankets in a comfortably warm room. She lovingly tried to massage the heat out of my head, and that was also quite helpful. Both hypnosis techniques are described on THIS PAGE. For those who would like more details, please refer to the two related links in the USEFUL LINKS area on the bottom left side of the page.
After 40 minutes we were bored enough to try the TV, which had both KSL and KBYU for your Mormon fix (in a formerly Episcopal hospital), plus all the other locals, a couple of music-only feeds, and the hospital channel which advertised a full service Subway deli, just outside the Ambulatory area. Unusual that there were no Spanish channels. I had no solid food since 8:30PM the night before, and no liquids since 4:30 that morning, so the smell of the deli was semi-torture, though Kathryn found it to be unsavory. At 2PM they announced that they were behind - Duh! And that there was one person still before me. So Kathryn, who had packed herself a lunch, went out to the cafeteria to eat. I told her to just stay and eat there in the room, but she felt it would be cruel. About 15 minutes later they came in and announced they were ready for me. I asked them to double check to be sure they weren't grabbing me instead of the guy before, but my number was up. Nurse Vicki very kindly went and found Kathryn and she accompanied me and the orderly for a push stroll through the hospital. They directed Kathryn to the waiting area and me to a holding area. I was there at least half an hour, listening to docs and nurses talk to others behind other curtains. Everyone else but one was much worse off than I was and quite fearful. So no matter how bad things are, there's always time for a proper perspective!
Dr. Hopkins the urologist came in first. He looked relaxed and said some cheery things, for him. He asked if I had any questions. I asked if HE was feeling good, had lunch, etc. He laughed and said no, but he'd slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night. I just said to take his time, do it right, and be gentle. He advised me that he was going to do chemo for an hour or two after surgery, and it would require special handling to empty the catheter for the next two days. He also mentioned there was a 10-15% chance the bladder wall would be nicked, and if so there would be no chemo - since they didn't want it leaking into the abdomen. This was the first I'd heard about that possibility. Then I followed my friend Mike's advice (which had been reported to and wholeheartedly seconded by Kathryn) and asked him to make sure not to cut off anything I'd be wanting to use later.
Next came in the OR nurse, a nice fellow who asked me 20 questions or so. Then Dr. Smith, the anesthesiologist, who was very good, answered all my questions, and was also cool, calm, and collected. Dr. Smith and the nurse wheeled me into the OR where I slid onto the table, hooked up the IV, and all went black. I awoke in recovery an unknown amount of time later and spent another unknown amount of time having temperature and blood pressure monitored while in a semi-dream state. I discovered, much to my annoyance, that I was not getting the "chemo bake" because my bladder had been nicked or perforated in surgery. Furthermore the catheter would have to stay in a full week instead of two days! I was taken back to the Ambulatory ward where Kathryn and Nurse Vicki awaited, and tried to calm me down. Kathryn informed me that the urologist had visited her after surgery, and he told her he had removed all of the two tumors and he felt they were probably non-invasive. That's a testimony to how cute she is, since the doctor rarely makes such statements! My anger had subsided by the time Dr. Hopkins came in and gave me some last-minute instructions for care, and I got dressed, wheelchaired to the car, and driven home. Nurse Vicki had given me TWO Lortabs (narcotic codeine), so there was no pain or discomfort that I could feel. I got a ton of useful advice from Kyle, the Ambulatory Ward CNA, who had been through this procedure himself. I think Kyle's advice was the most valuable of any I received for getting through the recovery period.
For those readers who may be curious about details of surgery, recovery room, cleanup, and the first night, they rate about 8 out of 10 (where 10 is max gross-out), so they are relegated to this BACKUP PAGE.
Posted by Steve Kelley