From the minute the EMTs dropped me off at our local hospital, I knew I was expecting surgery for my broken bones. There wasn’t really a question about it. The ER doctor consulted with the ortho on duty and the only thing keeping them from operating right then and there was the obscene swelling.
I don’t spend a lot of time at the doctor. My last surgery was almost eight years ago (a tonsillectomy), and so I felt very overwhelmed when expecting surgery this time. Both my gallbladder removal and tonsillectomy were more planned and less pressing, so it was less of a big deal, but this has been completely life changing.
Today, I’m sharing the experience.
Once I knew I was expecting surgery, I went with the orthopedic surgeon to whom the ER referred me. We did some cursory research to make sure I was in the best hands, and we were fortunate that our hospital of choice works with one of the best orthopedic groups around. They work with a lot of athletes, too, and that was important to me.
I met with Dr. S a few days after my trip to the ER. He reviewed the x-rays and medical records (since they were connected, the ER was able to digitally send everything right over), and we agreed on an “Internal Fixation,” with screws affixing one bone on one side, and a plate and screws affixing everything on the other. Could I let everything heal on its own? Yes. However, this would greatly increase my recovery time and my risk for arthritis.
Obviously, there are no guarantees, but I’m down for faster and fewer risks. We all felt comfortable moving forward asap.
PACE (Preoperative Assessment Communication Education)
Our PACE appointment was scheduled just over 24 hours prior to my surgery. We met at the main surgical center, although not where my actual procedure was scheduled (just next door).
The purpose of this appointment was to review financials, medical history, procedures and labs in advance of the surgery. All in all, it took about two hours. Even though we were ready and expecting surgery, we needed to all be on board.
First, I had to fill out a rather extensive medical history and check in with our payment plans. Mr PugRunner took care of the financials and deposit in advance, so that sped up the process.
We met with a nurse, who recorded my height, weight and vitals. With that done, we confirmed the actual procedure as well as chatted about my medical history. For me, this was quick. I have birthed one child, had two prior surgeries (gallbladder removal and tonsillectomy), have no major medical conditions, take no regular medications and “suffer” from allergies to ibuprofen and adhesive. The nurse made note of all these things, reviewed procedures over the next 24 hours, and took two vials of blood.
The Night Before
I had an entire folder of instructions regarding the night before preparation. The first rule was to remain calm.
Per directions, we washed all the bed linens and I took a complete shower and washed my hair. They wanted my pores closed so no shaving. Two-three hours after my shower, I had to do a complete wipe down from head to toe with pre-packaged antiseptic wipes. Then it was into clean pajamas and into bed for as good a sleep I could manage.
The Morning Of
Since I was having general anesthesia, I was cut off from solid food after midnight. In the morning, my cutoff for liquids was 8:45am for a 1:15pm procedure. I could have water, black coffee, apple juice or cranberry juice, but that was it. Yes, friends, I was hangry. There was no way of avoiding it, however.
I was also not to take another shower. I couldn’t use makeup, lotions or deodorant, and I had to remove all jewelry or anything loose. Nothing fancy on surgery day.
At the Surgery Center
We arrived at the surgery center at 11:15, per instructions. Two nurses took me right back to get me started. They asked me to confirm my name, birthdate, and the procedure I was having. I needed to give a urine sample (no matter how many times you tell them you’re not pregnant, they still want to check), so we decided we could just do all the prep in the restroom.
Fortunately, I have zero shame and the nurses, M and B, were super sweet. They helped me undress (everything off for a two hour surgery), do another scrub down with a second set of treated wipes, and get into the hospital gown. I gave my sample, and then had to swab out my nostrils with antiseptic swabs and use an antiseptic mouthwash.
They helped me to a bed and set me up with an IV. I have really terrible veins, and B struggled. I clenched my jaw while she worked (I know it’s hard and I hate to make the nurses nervous when I know they’re trying), and M told me it was ok to say “ow.” She took over and placed the IV in my opposite forearm.
At this point, they invited Mr PugRunner to come back and wait with me. This was probably the hardest part of the day – just sitting in a bed, waiting on and expecting surgery. I was hungry and nervous and that didn’t improve as the moments passed.
Transition + Anesthesia
At about 1:10PM, M and B wheeled me to the other side of the surgery center. I had to give up my contact lenses, which rendered me close to blind. Mr PugRunner was allowed to stay long enough to meet the ansthesiologist, Dr. M, and say hello to Dr. S. The doctors asked me (surprise) my name, my birthdate and the procedure I would be having and Dr. S marked my right foot. Guys, I was so emphatic that we were working on my right leg because I read too many ridiculous things online about incorrect surgeries.
Dr. M. started me on some Versed to calm me down (my heart rate was creeping up again) and we decided to do a pain block in my leg. The benefit to this was ensuring that I had close to no pain when I came to, and reducing the amount of time I was on pain pills after.
The entire process is done via ultrasound, which is cool. Dr. M had two entry points: one to the right of my right kneecap and the other on the inside of my right thigh (only the two most sensitive places to get a needle, am I right?). He worked in tandem with M to maneuver the needle and deposit the numbing agent. It was pretty uncomfortable, so one of the assistants came to stand by my head to talk me through it. I’m not a complainer, and it was noteworthy how in tune the team was with my emotions. I’m sure they deal with it all the time, but I think it’s so important that they recognized when I was getting upset and moved right in to distract me.
Off To the OR…
Things really sped up at this point. One of the assistants worked on unwrapping my now numb leg and got it in position. They put the surgical cap on me (with bad jokes about a party hat) and it was time.
The team wheeled me into the OR, and I remember being so anxious again. S appeared out of nowhere and I kind of feel like her entire job was making sure I was comfortable. She held my hand when they put the mask for anesthesia on my face and rubbed my arm a bit. I didn’t like being on my back, with the bright light and knowing everything was happening around me, but I was out in minutes.
Waking Up + Recovery
Apparently, I had a pretty aggressive wakeup after my tonsillectomy, but this time, it went perfectly. I was disoriented for a few seconds, and also a bit queasy. The nurse alerted Dr. M. immediately and he added another dose of Zofran to my IV.
Since I couldn’t see, I asked the recovery nurse, A, if she could get my contacts: I knew that vision would help, and she was happy to comply. I’m at pro at putting them in with no mirror, and felt so much better once I had full vision. A asked if I thought I could eat and I about kissed her. Yes. Yes, I could. The nurses had brought in Chick-Fil-A for lunch earlier, and I got to smell it the whole time I was waiting.
In order to get food, I had to be moved from the bed to a recliner. The transfer was fine. I didn’t need much help, and was actually relieved to be sitting up. A offered me graham or animal crackers (I chose animal) and water, juice, Coke or Diet Coke. Diet Coke never tasted so good, friends. At this point, Mr PugRunner was allowed back, and this is the part where he got emotional.
Once I had something in my stomach, it was time to go home. Mr PugRunner helped to the bathroom so I could back in my regular clothes. I had great mobility, considering.
On our return, Dr. S. came to check on me and announced everything a success. Discharge was fairly easy: it was more of the same rest and elevation, as well as plans for pain management. I got prescriptions for pain medication, more Zofran for anymore queasiness, and a battery operated cooler that pumped ice water through a tube into a splint to help with swelling.
I was so ready to bust out.
All I wanted was to get home to shower, and then eat all the things. I was warned to stick to clear liquids and broth, but I was ravenous and decided it was worth the risk. The chips and salsa and fajita rice bowl were everything I dreamed of and more.
All in all, I had a positive experience. Obviously, I wasn’t thrilled to need or have surgery, but it was a means to an end and just part of an unfortunate accident. There was a lot to navigate, both mentally and logistically, and I’m grateful we were able to make everything work out.
Every day I’m getting stronger, and at this point, I am very much ready for my post-op appointment on Monday. I want some of my energy and independence back and I want to bee able to enjoy at least some of this season with my family. My emotions have been very up and down: I try to stay positive but I can’t deny there’s been some sadness, anger and even depression in the mix.
This, too, shall pass.
I think the hardest part is behind me now, and I can start to focus on the brighter days ahead. Fingers crossed for good news on Monday!
How have your medical/surgical experiences been?
How are you getting everything done this holiday season?