I wake up, and it seems like any other Monday. I need to make sure all the groceries and supplies that have been gathered over the weekend are put away. I need to dust and vacuum and make sure the bathroom is clean. I need to make a list of daycare food and activities for the week according to the weather. Around 7:30am my first child arrives.
The weather is nice today, so it will be a playground day. On these days, we draw and play games, eat breakfast and play until our whole group has arrived, then we head off for a morning at the playground.
I need to be at Roger Williams Hospital at 11:30am, so Alex takes over playground duties for me. By 10:00 the kids are all sunscreened and ready to go. I give Alex and Sara a big hug and they head off to their playground adventure.
Ayla and Chauncey are on their way over, we are going to have a convoy to the hospital. I get the bag that I have packed, not sure how long my stay is going to be. If it is laparoscopy it will be quick, just a day or two. If I have more extensive surgery it will be longer. I don’t want to have to watch tv all day, or be bored, so I bring knitting, books, colored pencils and paper.
In rummaging through my stuff I find a pair of scissors that belong to the church office. We laugh about the scenario that must be going on there upon finding the scissors missing. Bedlam for sure! I ask if we can drop them off on our way in. It will kill some time I say. Really, I am feeling guilty that I have them. I hate it when I can’t find my scissors.
Finally, I can wait no longer. We pile into two cars. Ayla follows us to 1st U, and Steve goes in to return the scissors. We drive across town and arrive at Roger Williams Ambulatory by 11:00, half an hour early. We go in anyway. I sign in and settle down in the waiting area. They call me within minutes.
I am not sure whether or not I give hugs to my kids or just hurry in. I hope I gave hugs.
I realize that from this point on, things suddenly become harder on everyone else. I am going in, and know what is going on with me. They all get to sit in this waiting area, and just wait.
As soon as we walk in to the admitting area, a fire alarm starts blaring, a strobe light starts flashing. Did I do that I ask? The swinging doors to the admitting area are marked with a large sign, “OPEN THIS DOOR FIRST” Did I open the wrong door?
The receptionist waves that thought away with her hand, and motions for us to sit down. She is sitting just behind a wall, able to block out the strobing light. We are seated perpendicular to it, and it flashes in our eyes. A recorded voice comes over the loudspeaker. “Fire in the second floor stairwell, fire in the second floor stairwell, it repeats.
The receptionist sighs and continues on with her work, starts asking me questions. I wonder how she can just ignore this and carry on. I realize it must happen often. Finally the alarm stops and the all clear is given. It was a false alarm.
My medical and insurance information is recorded, and Steven and I are ushered into another area behind more swinging doors. We are shown to a room with a recliner for me and a chair for him. I wonder about using the bathroom.
I am given a bundle of clothing and instructed to put them on, and to put my street clothes in the large, clear plastic bag they have provided. Everything must come off, right down to socks and underwear.
The johnny they have given me is thick, and warm. It is a light blue with almond shapes that have brush stroke lines on them. Without glasses I imagine they are foxes jumping. When I put my glasses on, I am disappointed. They are just plain ugly. I put on the gray slipper socks, the kind with the non skid backing. They are one size fits all, but are still a little big on my size ten feet.
They ask me if I still get my period which I do. They then tell me they need a urine specimen. I know there is no pregnancy going on here, Steve had that taken care of long ago, but they need to see for themselves. Besides, I still do need to pee.
As I enter the bathroom, I take a look at myself in the mirror and laugh. I look like a mushroom person from some video game. It turns out that I didn’t really need to pee, it must have been nerves, but I manage to eek out enough for their test.
When I get back to the room, I have Steven take a photo of my mushroom hat for the kids out in the waiting room. We also tell them that the pregnancy test has come back negative.
Things seem to move right along at first. There are people in and out of the room asking my height and weight over and over again. They come in for temperature, blood pressure, oxygen levels. After a short while though, it all stops. We sit and wait.
We see my surgeon, and this is exciting. He comes in, asks about how I am feeling, and how the weekend went. He tells me he has a few operations ahead of me, but I am in the lineup. He’ll see me in a few hours.
We decide we are not in our own television show here, we are in his. He’s House, with the action packed schedule, curing all the ills in the world. We are just a plot vehicle. We might get our names in the credits. Our kids out in the waiting room are even worse off. They won’t even get listed.
Some time later anesthesiologist comes by. Dr Connley. He’s got regular scrubs on and this crazy red white and blue Harley Davidson surgeons cap on. He’d very nice. He asks about my understanding of the operation, about medications or reactions to medications. There are none. He explains what will happen, how they will slowly creep up the anesthesia, how I will feel like I don’t care about anything, drift off and then slowly wake up. I understand all of this and am good with it. He asks if I have any questions about anything, we chat pleasantly and he goes off promising to see me soon.
In hindsight, the wait was really long. Hours long. Getting there early wasn’t helpful. It seemed like after a while the nurses were embarrassed to look at us we were there so long. It felt weird. There was this one nurse who would go to the desk from time to time, and look our way, when I wished she wouldn’t. She looked like she was having a terrible day, and I hoped she wouldn’t talk to us. After a while though, she was the only one looking my way.
Finally the anesthesiologist comes back. It seems he and Dr. Lentrichia were talking during one of their other operations and decided an epidural might work best for me. I remember these from childbirth options, but never had one. He describes the process to me, which sounds fine to me, so I agree. Of course there is paperwork for me to sign.
As soon as he is done, as if waiting in the wings for him to leave is another anesthesiologist. She pretty much repeats everything the other guy has just told me and gets me ready to go.
A nurse comes in and tells me to say goodbye to Steve. We hug and kiss, and he goes out into the waiting room to join the kids.
I go to the bathroom even though I haven’t had anything to drink since last night at 10:30pm. It is around 4:00pm now. I climb on board my bed and off we go, to the other side of the wall.
Here, there are people covered in cool inflatable blankets to keep them warm. Most everyone is asleep, but there is so much activity going on.
They pull a temporary curtain to the end of my bed for privacy, and get me a little stool for my feet. It looks like a milking stool. The grumpy looking woman from the nurses desk comes over and stands in front of me. I need to arch my back just right so they can insert a needle and then a tube between one of my vertebrae. The grumpy woman holds my hand and tells me I can lean into her while I arch my back. I put my head against her belly while the line is inserted, and very quickly they are done. I ask the nurse her name. She tells me it is Robin, but that no one ever remembers her.
They wheel me to the OR, and I must be having the I don’t care drug, because I don’t. I look around the room, see the big lights overhead and a bookshelf with glass doors past my feet. I see faces obscured by masks, but no one I recognise. Dr Lentrichia comes into view and says hello. Someone starts fiddling with the lights, and I am out. I don’t remember a thing until they are wheeling me back to recovery and I hear someone saying my name. I open my eyes and I am back in recovery room where I had the epidural. There is no one left, I am the only one left, just me and a nurse named Ann. I ask for Robin and find out she went home already.
I don’t remember how long I was in recovery, but it doesn’t seem long. Dr Lentrichia comes in and tells me he has spoken with my posse out in the waiting room. It seems a bunch of friends have joined my familythere, and they are eating lasagne that my sister in law has brought over.
He may have told me what was going on at this point, but I don’t remember. I must have still been feeling the effects of the I don’t care drug. Somehow I get to my room. I can’t remember who was with me, or how, or whether I changed beds. I do remember Ann taking out my catheter. I don’t think she thought it was the best idea.
It turns out Steve was with me in the recovery room, giving me water sponges for my dry mouth, and listening to me tell him the same Robin story over and over. He tells me we took the elevator to the fourth floor and I chatted with the nurses. When we arrived at my room, two nurses and an orderly easily and quickly lifted me over to my room bed. I only have the faintest memories of these events, and at this point, I think they are more Steven’s than my own.
I remember feeling happy when my children file into the room. They tell me of their wait, of coloring in a Curious George coloring book, of taking trips to the gift shop and playing games. They tell me about all this, but I don’t remember much of it, only after it is repeated days later.
My family stayed a few hours while I settled in. After they left, I had my first challenge. Going pee. I had a catheter during the operation, and apparently once they take it out, you don’t just start to go pee again. My nurse helped me over to the toilet and we ran warm water, and put my hands in the water and I tried to relax enough to go. Nothing seemed to work. The nurse was not too concerned, and explained that it often takes a little while for things to start working again after an operation and catheterization. She set a goal of going by 4am.
Steve wanted to stay in my room, so a reclining chair was found for him, and a blanket. He stayed beside me all night, holding my hand and giving me water from the sponge lollipops I was allowed to have. It was so reassuring to have him there.