Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pleasantly Drunk

"Your chariot awaits," said my nurse Kristen as the stretcher pulled up to take me to the Operating Room. With Craig right by my side and a little Asian woman, Lynetta, that took no bull as she plowed through the hospital hallways headed to Pre-Op. As Kristen said good luck to me her eyes were all teary and that worried me a bit ... what did she know? But, maybe it was just allergies. Or maybe she just felt for me as we were about the same age and I kind of stood out like a sore thumb compared to the other patients she was dealing with on my floor. 

The evening before, Dr. Jiminez showed Craig and me the results of the CT Scan where we could clearly see the swollen masses in my chest. They ranged in size from 3 to 5 cm and Dr. Jiminez pointed out how much more things were swollen on the left side of my chest than the right. You could see my jugular vein squished thin from the pressure of the swollen nodes as opposed to the wide open vein on the right. He assured me that nothing was immediately dangerous but that this swelling was of course a concern and we needed to rule out a malignancy (what I've learned as the nice way of dropping the "cancer" bomb). He also assured me that the procedure to pull out the swollen bulge in my armpit would be a piece of cake. 

Craig and I arrive in Pre-Op. The nurse told me that I had nice teeth (I thought, I haven't been to the dentist in almost a year, yikes). I told her she had a nice smile and we were friends. Craig and I joked and laughed about how much I wanted a cheeseburger and talked about how bizarre it was for me that technically all of these people swarming around me, taking my vitals, asking me questions, are my co-workers. 

Then the anesthesiologist arrived. Very funny, blunt and sarcastic man---I wish I remembered his name because when I get better I would like to have a beer with him. I told him that last time I had surgery I puked for hours from the anesthesia. He told me that medicine is much better now and that I would not get sick. He said that they weren't going to be putting a breathing tube in me for full sedation so as to not disturb the already delicate chest area. It would be just general anesthesia so that I could breathe on my own. "Basically, you'll feel pleasantly drunk," he said. "Sounds fantastic," I said with a smile. "Shoot me up."  

It was time to go. Craig gave me a kiss and I said, "No speech?" "No, I'll see you in a few," he said. He knows how to keep things light, which is exactly what I needed. 
On the way to pre-op me and funny-anesthesia-doctor man talked and he asked me if I was a teacher. I have no idea why he would think that. I told him that no, I actually work here in the marketing department. "Woah, we better do a good job," he said. We talked about how much the Courant stinks for reporting bad news about us but how he loved the ads my department places. He pushed open the doors of the Operating Room which felt like a cool 4 degrees. "Hey guys, she works for the marketing department so let's be on our best behavior." The crew of four or so nurses and my surgeon were there and laughed and joked with me as they set me on the operating table. 

Turns out my nurse went to UNH so we reminisced about college. Turns out funny-anesthesia-doctor-man lives in Simsbury and loves Elizabeth's Restaurant right down the street from me. Turns out the anesthesia nurse with a crazy name, something like Guadalajara?? (that's probably not it) goes mountain biking on the trail that starts at the end of my street. It felt like we were all meant to meet.  

Funny anesthesia-doctor-man started injecting whatever concoction it was that was going to make me "pleasantly drunk." He kept asking me if I was feeling any different and I kept saying that I wasn't. "Wow, I think you've had a few too many trips to the Cracker Barrel." (the local watering hole down the street from me.) I do have a markedly high tolerance for a little girl. I laughed. Dr. Jiminez wrote on me "left side, yes" in marker which is still there today and will be for the 48 hours that I can't shower. That's the last thing I remember ... 

I woke up in recovery asking for pain meds and very confused. I slowly came to and started to feel hungover from my pleasantly drunk state. The nurse helping me to "sober up" was wonderful. I kept hearing her telling the man sobering up next to me to take deep breaths and I worried about him. She told me he was fine and kept apologizing that it was taking them a long time to move me out. I told her that I had no idea which way was up and it didn't seem long to me at all. 

I came back up to my 12th floor room to greetings from Curtis, my PCA who I had been joking with all morning that I was going to escape earlier that morning when I was too antsy to lay down. He said he'd send out a search party. He was great. And also greeted by my roommate Linda ... she's worth a whole blog entry in herself ... that's for another day. 

My mom and Craig arrived shortly thereafter and they told me Dr. Jiminez said the tissue they got was a great piece to analyze and that everything went smoothly. We chatted and relaxed. Turns out Sammy had been puking all night long the night before (managed to hit every carpet in the house) so Craig went home to check on her and my Mom and I stayed and stayed and stayed until the hospitalist came by to discharge me. To my horror, she said that my blood pressure was too low to leave. I was so anxious to be home, in my own bed and own pjs. So I stayed through dinner, a mirror of what I had for lunch. It was decent. I had to have a whole bag of IV fluid and drink lots of water to get my blood pressure back up. After the news and then College Jeopardy (my fav) I was released with an Rx for percosets and an order to rest. No tennis for a few weeks, damn. No showers, no soaking baths and minimal range of motion so as to not over-extend my armpit. 

Now I'm home and now we wait. A lot is riding on the analysis of this 3cm chunk of tissue. Whatever it is, I'm ready. It's the unknown that's killing me.  


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  2. Hi Karin,

    We are so sorry to hear that you are going through this. You have a good husband because I could just tell by looking at him he wanted to be with you today instead of teaching at Morley.

    Despite the fact that what you are writing about is not an enjoyable experience for you to go through, I am struck by what an amazing writer you are. I wish I had the ability to express myself as well as you do!

    Good luck with everything and you will be in our thoughts!

    Jen and Graham Hall