Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I would have preferred retail therapy

Mayo Clinic opened a new space at Mall of America last week that caused lots of buzz.  It's called "Create Your Mayo Clinic Health Experience" 

Last week, I sort had my own "Mayo Clinic Health Experience," except it involved surgery instead retail therapy.

Alas, I gained a patient's perspective last Monday (8/8) when I had my gallbladder removed laproscopicly laposcropicaly thru little incisions. Perhaps because of my job at Mayo Clinic, I looked at everything differently. And hopefully, I wasn't too annoying for the staff asking them lots of questions.

It was obvious that the surgical team did not receive my list of likes and dislikes and scheduled my surgical call time for 5:45 AM. Did I mention that I am not a morning person? Even worse for my sister who was coming with me since she lives out in Mantorville and had to come and pick me up.

My surgery was at Saint Marys (SMH), which sort of surprised me, and others, since I thought most day surgeries are done out of Methodist or Gonda. Unfortunately, being at SMH would come in handy later.

The admissions lobby actually has que lines for checking in that have your check-in time on the stanchion - 5:30, 5:45, 6:00. Don't know if they change them later in the day. They pointed us over to the waiting area to be called and we hadn't even been there for a minute, when my name was called.

We went up to Joseph 1. (if you don't know SMH, it has various wings named for Saints or Nuns) I think it was a former patient floor instead of a pre-op area. Just felt like an old hospital wing. (Not that that's a bad thing)

I was given a hospital gown and robe to put on. Not bothering to read the directions, I put the gown with the opening in the front not the back. I figured the surgery was on the front part and having it open in the back didn't make sense. The nurse, of course, informed me that I would need to turn it around.

I hopped into the wheelchair and she took me through a maze of hallways to the real pre-operative center. All pre-operative areas I had been in before were private little cubicles. This one reminded me of a large service station. There were spaces for about 20 people to get prepped for surgery (IV, medications, conversations with surgical team, etc.) and each station had a metal cabinet thing, filled with devices, hanging from the ceiling. Seemed a bit Space Odyssey.

The nursing staff checked my vitals - the first of one million checks - and then they taped a small card to my gurney. OF COURSE, I had to see what was written on it. It was a check list of what has to happen before surgery. That way, other staff will know what had and hadn't been done without having to log-in to a computer. Smart.

During the 90 minute prep time, gurneys continued to be parked at the various stations and I began to say thanks for my health. I felt a bit like a lurker, even though I was a patient, too.

Best perk of pre-op area - free heated blankets. 

During the wait time, a gurney was rolled into the spot directly in front of me and one row over. Unlike others, this patient was young and her mom and dad were there with her. The mom was trying her best to remain calm, but you could see she had been crying. I concluded that the young girl was a special needs child and something like a surgery could be a bit confusing. When the surgical nurses came to her gurney, one nurse talked to her in the friendliest tone I'd ever heard - like they were best friends - while the other nurse talked with the parents. I was so impressed with that young nurse. She never talked with the parents - only focusing on the patient. I saw the nurse holding her hands and I felt like they connected.

The surgeon, that I had had my pre-surgical visit with weeks ago, had a last minute trip and wasn't going to be able to do my surgery. I was very impressed when Dr. Jenkins (the surgeon, not his assistant or secretary) called me on the prior Friday to personally explain the situation. He wanted to make sure I was okay with the change. He told me all about the surgeon who was replacing him. Dr. Jenkins' last-minute meeting concerned trauma care for our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like I would argue with that!

My new surgeon was Dr. Rivera. I tried not to let the fact that she was so young I could have babysat her, bother me. She told me where my four incisions would be and that the largest one (5cm) would be in my belly button and "hardly noticeable." She told me that since she's woman too, she understood the need to keep looking good. Sweet, but not really something I was worried about. 

When I was eventually rolled into one of Saint Marys bazillion surgical suites, I was greeted by the anesthesiologist and was introduced to the rest of the team. I remember moving from the gurney to  surgical table and that's about it. The next thing I remember, I was in the recovery room. Really out of it, but got asked the magical question for the first time during this visit, "On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being unbearable pain, how would you rate your pain?"

I hate that question.

What if the worst pain I ever had up to that point was paper cut? I realize what and why they have to ask it, but it's all relative. I could have been a smart-ass and started to have philosophical conversation about it, but I think the drugs stifled that.

They took me back to my day-surgery room at about noon for the transition time before you get to go home. There was my sister waiting for me.

When you have surgery, you don't get to leave until your pain is below 6, you can walk around and you can pee. I only managed the first two.

For the next 6 hours, I drank as much water as I could and nothing. Nada. That's when they called for a visit from urology and to get me a bed for the night. UGH! The tech from urology did an ultrasound of my bladder to see how much I was holding in. She said about 600cc (or was ml?). I guess we have a rain gauge on our bladders. This was not good news. Can you say catheter?

I was moved up to Joseph 2 where Flavio helped get me into bed. (My sister Sue is still hanging in there with me.) All of a sudden there were about four more nurses in my room with looks of astonishment on their faces. I guess they didn't know I was coming to join them and they didn't believe Flavio when he told them I was in the room. Flavio must be a joker or something. 

It was about 6 o'clock and I was hungry - hadn't had any food since the day before. I didn't have any diet restrictions, so they handed me the room service menu.

No, you read that right. The "Room Service" menu. Patients can order their meals at any time between 7 am and 7 pm and choose what they want. I knew I couldn't eat much, but I ordered a sweet potato, 1/2 chicken breast and some orange jello. (I figured I couldn't get that real hospital experience without jello)

I told Sue to go home at about 7. I would not be giving them what they want anytime soon.

Believe it or not, this was my first hospital stay. I was hospitalized when I was 3 or 4, but really have no memory of that.  (I do have a great story about that childhood stay that I'll share in future post) The care was awesome, but we need donors to cover the cost of decent mattresses. Could not get comfortable and I didn't sleep much over night.

I had visitors at 6 a.m. when the rounders stopped by to check me out. They also removed my band-aids over the four incisions. Dr. Rivera kept them all small like she promised.

A member of the surgical team stopped by about 11 a.m. to check on the status of my ability to pee. Sorry. "Just so you know," she explained, "insurance won't cover another night, so if you don't pee, we'll have to send you home and show you how to catheterize yourself."

Thanks for the pep talk!

After that motivating and uplifting conversation, I became very, very determined! About 1 p.m. -SUCCESS! I was so elated that I felt like a two-year old who had conquered potty training. I was finally discharged about 5 and sent home with my Oxy (pain drugs). And home for the next couple of days would be my sister's house (just like being back home). I slept for most of the time I was there.

I'm now seven days post-surgery and I'm a bit disappointed in myself. I had poo-poo'd those who told me that it takes about three to four weeks to feel normal again. The incisions are healing, but they itch like crazy. It's my energy level that I expected to have back up by now.  I had only planned on two weeks off from work.

The message from the office - take the time you need to get healthy. It's hard to admit that you might have been wrong. Especially me.

1 comment:

Lynne Hartke said...

Happiness is heated blankets while waiting for surgery. Soooooo true. Praying for your full recovery.

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