The hysterectomy story: An adventure in two parts

Surgery day 2: December 1

charlotte and nancy before hospitalCharlotte at 11:26am (Facebook)

Today, my favorite lady in the world goes in for another surgery. Hopefully it will be the last!

Love this picture of us from a couple years ago. And love you mama. Just be strong :)

Killing time in pre-op
12:20 to 12:44pm: Documenting the thrill-a-minute time in pre-op
December 1, approximately 12:20 to 12:50pm

Getting the IV placed was really painful this time — in part because the nurse needed to insert a fairly large-bore catheter into my vein, but also because the position on the right side of my left wrist wasn’t that great. (The IV would later cause some problems, detailed below, and that spot would also turn out to be the only place that still hurt two weeks post-op.)

Once I was prepped, my doctor, the urologist and anesthesiologist all stopped by. As before, I had two requests of the anesthesiologist: please tell me when you’re going to knock me out, and noted that opiates like Dilaudid didn’t work for me, so I would need something else. (I mentioned that Tramadol and Toradol seemed to be helpful.)

The da Vinci Surgical System.
Hal, aka the da Vinci Surgical System for robotic hysterectomies

Surgery started at around 1pm. I remember being wheeled to the operating room, and moving myself on to the table. Once I was in position on the foam pad on the table, they put a plastic mask over my nose and mouth, and told me they were going to start putting me under… and that’s the last memory I had for several hours.

I do know that right before the gynecological oncologist started her procedure, a urologist put little things called stents in my ureters. Basically, these are slender straws they slide into the tubes that run from the kidneys to the bladder. In my case, they helped give the ureters form and shape so it was easier to keep them out of the main surgical field so they didn’t get nicked or cut. (Apparently, ureter damage during a hysterectomy isn’t an uncommon issue, and often requires another surgery to fix the damage.)

From a medical perspective, it’s a very basic procedure — guided by a camera on a cystoscope, they go up what is colloquially termed “the pee hole” into the bladder and slide the stents into place.



Since this little task was completed by a fairly handsome doctor, I was glad to be completely unconscious, because it would have been pretty mortifying otherwise.

Charlotte at 4:11pm (Text to family)

Well… the hospital just called me, and they are having complications, unfortunately. They aren’t able to even provide a estimate as to when she will be awake, and they said they would call me once an hour to update me on their progress. Ugh. It’s a secondary surgery that was following a major surgery. It was supposed to be quicker, less down time, less invasive, etc. But now I am really not sure.

December 2 at around 9pm

I finally became aware of my surroundings at around 9 that night, when my daughters came to visit. I was in my room, but had no recollection of how or when I got there.

The pain was so bad, I could hardly bear to open my eyes. I pretty much had a hissy fit when I woke up enough to realize that I was hooked up to a Dilaudid pain pump — which, as I thought I’d made very clear before surgery — doesn’t work on me at all.

December 2 at 7:50 am: My daughter sleeping
December 2 at 7:50 am: My daughter sleeping

I begged for anything else (my younger daughter admitted later that it sounded like whining) and was told that, for numerous reasons — including stress on my organs, amount of bleeding, etc. — there was nothing helpful they could give me until the next morning at the soonest.

And then they told me: The robotic/scope part of the surgery didn’t go as planned, and the doctor had to go in abdominally — meaning an eight-inch incision low on my belly — to get the work done. 

Basically, I was fresh out of surgery, with three incisions through skin and muscle (the main surgery site, and two smaller cuts where they had attempted to use the robotic equipment), and all I had was an ice pack on my very swollen abdomen.

My girls fixed me up with some lavender essential oil on a damp facecloth, and, to hear them tell it, it knocked me out. Really, though, I was just trying to get lost in the scent so I could move my focus away from the mind-blowing pain.

I tried to sleep as much as possible. I knew that would help with healing, minimize the pain, and get me minutes closer to getting some real meds.

My oldest daughter spent the night with me, and since this room had a proper sofa bed, she was actually comfortable this time.

 

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pixelated surgical incision
December 2 at 7:54am: The very swollen surgery site, as seen from my vantage point, with the incision at the top and my hand at the bottom of the image
December 2 at 7:54am

At some point, my doctor came in and explained that the surgery had been a lot more complicated than they hoped.

There was lots of scar tissue and abdominal adhesions that my body had created in response to my surgery a few months before, which ultimately had made it impossible to do the surgery laproscopically.

All that mess also meant the doctor had to have me on the table about two hours longer, as she had to work her way through it without cutting into things like blood vessels, the bladder, ureters, intestines and all that other fun stuff tucked into my midsection.

I wasn’t upset, and wasn’t even really surprised. I was just glad she had been so careful, and was skillful enough to work around whatever problems she found.

December 2: No visitor

Charlotte on December 2 at 5:08pm (Facebook)

A little more improvement today as of this morning. Still lots of pain, and we are hoping it will be resolved soon. I’ll be back there tonight after I am off work, might stay overnight, depending on how she is feeling.

a hysterectomy story - myria jello and broth

December 3 at 8:53am (Facebook)

Day 4 of juice, jello and dog food broth. Getting a little old. Lol



I was still in a lot of pain, and could do very little about it. I was also so bored — but the boredom combined with the discomfort meant that I couldn’t manage to amuse myself for more than a couple minutes at a time.

Despite posting occasional updates for friends and family, I was completely out of sorts: I didn’t want to read, listen to music, go online. I snapped a few uninspired pictures from my limited vantage point (below), then gave up and decided to just try to sleep some more.

hospital room photography
December 2 at 7:48am: Hospital equipment and other fun
Nancy on Wednesday, December 3 at 2:07pm (Text to family)

Just talked to the doctor. There were lots and lots of bowel adhesions and lots of scar tissue, and she ended up having to take out my right ovary only. I get to start on real food now – starting slowly – and should be able to go home tomorrow.

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instagram-hospitalWhen the blood flowing out of my bladder finally slowed, they removed my catheter (and, at the same time, the stents). A relief. 

For the next 18 hours or so until I went home, I explored the thrill of repeated bathroom visits. Hey — it killed time, got me mobile, and relived some of the bladder pressure. These mini-excursions and trying to find a comfortable position for my aching back were the only things I felt like doing.

Peeing blood clots felt really bizarre — but wasn’t accompanied by much pain. It was, however, kind of scary to see the toilet fill with blood every time I used it. (Fortunately, that cleared up in a few days.)

December 3 at 8:54pm

Had a minor event with the IV in my arm. They have been using it to administer various medications throughout the days. For some unknown reason, it stung and burned when they administered some Benadryl to help me sleep — something I had been given intravenously a couple times before.

A few minutes later, I noticed the veins in the immediate area were red and inflamed and it felt like a little rash.

Nobody seemed especially concerned, and since I was due to be discharged the next day, the nurse removed the IV from my arm entirely, but warned me I might need another one put in.

December 3 at 8:54pm - Rash from TV meds
December 3 at 8:54pm – Rash from the IV meds

The effect only lasted half an hour, and I never did figure out the problem. (It may have been a localized histamine release reaction to IV meds and/or repeated use of the IV port… but of all things to cause such an effect, I’d have expected an antihistamine to be at the bottom of the list.)

Thursday, December 4 at 10:08am

I ended up going home mid-morning — several hours ahead of schedule. I was feeling pretty good, and the doctor and nurses were surprised at how mobile I was. (I actually scared a nurse a little when she turned her back for a moment and I walked over to her more quickly than she expected.)

On that note, I do want to say that every single person I encountered at the hospital was nice, and made me feel very comfortable. That goes even for the random people who wandered into my room because they were lost.

While my daughter and I waited for my final discharge paperwork, she wanted me to look like I was making an escape. The fact that I was even up for taking these pictures speaks volumes, I think.

leaving the hospital

Saturday, December 6 at 8:29am (Facebook)
scope incisions december 7
December 7: My bikini modeling career was over before it even began! The laproscope incisions healing.

I am back in front of my computer! And I’m going back to bed in a minute. ;-) But will be back on later!

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I feel a thousand times better today – and it’s been improving almost hourly since coming home. So nice to be able to control my meds and sleep and environment and food. It was only Tuesday that I was somehow getting from moment to moment, occasionally thinking how living in that much pain would be completely unbearable.

A big THANK YOU all for so much the love and wishes and vibes and support!

Sunday, December 7 at 8:14pm (Text to family)

Just to tell you – doing much better today/this weekend. Pretty much since [my youngest son] showed up! Took pain meds just now for bed but only had them at 11am (then before at 4am). So much better!

Monday, December 8 at 3:03pm: My first time out of the house!
Monday, December 8 at 3:03pm
December 15 at 5:08pm (Facebook)

Two weeks ago right now, I was having surgery — and while I know I’m still healing (and not yet up to speed), just want to take a moment to really appreciate how completely lucky I am not to have any real complications or actual pain at this point! :D :D :D

As I had after the first surgery, this time around I seemed to heal well, and quickly, too. I felt strong, and came to really and truly appreciate how health (and living pain-free) is a gift. It makes everything else so much easier to manage when you’re not healing or hurting all the time.

All that my body had been through, and how well it recovered really made me appreciate it more than I probably ever have. Over the years, I’ve spent so much time wishing I was thinner or taller. That I didn’t sunburn so easily. That my hair wasn’t so fine. That I had earned fewer stretch marks during pregnancy.

Now, though, I am a little surprised to find that I’m much more grateful for it just being the way it is, and am determined to keep it as strong and healthy as I can.

December 18 at 9:44am (Facebook)

Just saw the doctor — pathology on stuff removed during last surgery came back clear! Nothing strange or malignant. :-)

Although the surgical pathology report on my cervix and the one ovary showed only good news, I will still need to see the gynecologic oncologist every six months or so for the next few years (at least) to make sure everything stays clear.

Despite a really eventful six months dealing with all of this, I actually feel like I’ve been pretty lucky so far. And though I knock wood as I type this, for the next decade or so, I’m going to go to my checkups and otherwise do my best not to worry about what might happen.

And if something comes up at some point in the future, I have already been fortunate enough to see that I have love and support from family and friends near and far, online and off. With that knowledge, I hope to be able to just take it day by day, and to really savor the happy and healthy moments as they come.





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