Drive-thru Surgery and DIY Recovery

Calm and peace reign over our tiny corner of the Universe. After the sound and fury of yesterday's weather, the day has dawned clear, bright, and fresh. The view out of the Morning Room window is a joy to behold...Autumn in all her rain-refreshed, multi-hued glory...with a cloudless Carolina Blue sky as the backdrop.


How could one not be completely centered and just enjoy that vista and savor one's English Breakfast tea? Probably because one is stressing over one's looming duty to perform. Let's hit rewind to get the full story.

Yesterday began with an abrupt start before the red digits on the bedside clock read 4:15...about 30 minutes after I'd finally fallen asleep. Mr. T was scheduled for surgery on his right shoulder "first thing" at 7:30, and he had to check in at High Point Surgery Center at 6:15. Fortunately we live in a 20-minute town...where you can drive to anything you want to in 20 minutes or less. If we'd still lived in Atlanta, that alarm would have been set for 3:15...or earlier.

While he showered, I prepped the dogs' breakfast bowls (they, of course, were still sleeping...so we let them lie). I then rough-chopped some carrots, a couple of stalks of celery, a few cloves of garlic, and a small onion...and tossed them into the bottom of the crockpot. I added a 3-lb. whole chicken, which I slathered with butter; seasoned inside and out with garlic salt, paprika, and pepper; and stuffed with a bundle of fresh herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, and chives...didn't have any thyme...this time) and a small eggplant. An eggplant, you say? Yes...I had harvested one last one after the first frost killed the plant, and it was too small for much else, other than serving as a moisturizer for the bird. I didn't want to use an apple, like I sometimes do for a turkey, since I didn't want an apple-flavored stock as a result. You see, I had big plans for this chicken and her broth and her veggie friends: they were going to be the base for a big pot of Chicken Noodle Soup...all I would have to do at the end of this hectic day would be debone the meat, add some boiling water, and toss in some wide egg noodles. Perfect "get well" food!

Back to the morning. Turned the crockpot on HIGH while I fixed myself a cup of coffee in a thermal mug and packed a to-go breakfast of mozzarella cheese sticks, a blueberry muffin (made with homegrown blueberries last Sunday and frozen for just such an occasion), and my very first tangerine of the season. Since Mr. T was NPO after midnight in preparation for his surgery, I didn't want to tempt him with too many breakfast-y smells...and I would need sustenance for my time ahead in the waiting room. Then, before I took my turn getting ready, I wrote myself a note to turn the crockpot down to LOW...and to take my knitting bag and iPad. I was so sleepy that I didn't trust my memory to kick in before we left.

We arrived at the Surgey Center just as the car clock read 6:15. So far, so good. Mr. T checked in, and they gave me a pager like the ones you get when waiting for a table at a restaurant. Said it would buzz and light up when I could come back to sit with him...which it did about 10 minutes later. He was already all gowned up and had his IV taped to the back of his hand. Since he'd had no prescription pain medication  for nearly 8 hours...and no OTC meds for the past 3 days...he was hurting pretty badly, and more than ready to get this over and done with.

Soon, we were visited by one of the anesthesiologists, who went down his checklist of questions with Mr. T, telling him that the surgery could last 1-3 hours, depending on what Dr. L found "when he got in there." After surgery, Mr. T would go to recovery for about an hour, to allow him to revive from most of the anesthetics. After he felt well enough to travel, Mr. T would be allowed to go home. So, that would be the Drive-Thru Surgery portion of this post.

Wrapping up, Dr. M. launched into a description of the "on cue" C-Block pain med dispenser that Mr. T would "wear" home. Properly named On-Q, this system works continuously over the first three days (the most painful following this type of surgery), dispensing medicine via a catheter inserted in the neck during surgery. Follow this link to learn more about it: http://extranet.acsysweb.com/vSiteManager/StamfordHospital/Public/Upload/Going%20Home%20with%20a%20Peripheral%20Cathater.pdf

And then, Dr. M. turns to me and says...with the straightest of faces..."and you will remove the catheter in three days." Stunned. Only word to describe how I felt...and I'm sure how I appeared. 

Remove a catheter, are you crazy? Do I look like a nurse? No, I do not...nor do I play one on TV...and I sure didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. He goes on to say they will send me home with instructions (turns out they were pretty sparse, hence the reason I Googled it and found that thorough brochure above): "you just wear some gloves (I guess I should be glad I happen to have a box of surgical gloves at home), close this clamp here, and pull out the catheter which will be there (pointing at a spot on Mr. T's neck)." And that, dear readers, would be the DIY Recovery portion of this post.

We recalled when Momma had torn rotator cuff surgery back in 2001, she was in Gwinnett hospital in Lawrenceville, GA, for 4 days. Granted, she had 20 years of age on Mr. T, but still. Of course, technology has advanced and allowed health care to make advances we couldn't imagine 12 years ago. And, for sure it is better to be home rather than in a hospital...you can catch some nasty stuff in a hospital, especially when your system is weak and vulnerable following surgery. But still...

Oh well. This too shall pass...if I don't hurt Mr. T further or pass out while carrying out my nurse assignment. He's trying to figure out how we can bill Blue Cross/Blue Shield for my medical services. Gloves and all. Oh, don't forget the bandaid I have to apply to the site.

Me? I'm taking one day at a time. Today has been pretty rough for Mr. T, as he cannot get comfortable, and he is extremely agitated about it. We've tried everything, from pain meds to ice packs (3 different kinds) to deep breathing and relaxation techniques. His surgery was more extensive than anticipated, lasting nearly 3 hours. Dr. L repaired a torn biceps tendon in addition to the torn rotator cuff, and he cleaned out a mass of inflamed tissue...which seemed to concern him the most. "Puzzles me," were his exact words when he talked to me while Mr. T was in recovery. He said he had sent a sample to pathology. We shall see on that.

I'll guess I'll just have to pull a Scarlet about the looming private duty nurse duty. I won't think about that today. There's always tomorrow...


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