09 February 2012

The Frankenboob... it's alive!

Hospitals are built on the principal that if you have to wait long enough for treatment, you'll either die or decide that it's not bleeding *that* badly and go home. Either way, that's one fewer patient needing medical assistance. Ergo, I shouldn't have been surprised that arriving promptly at nine, the time they said to arrive, was unnecessarily early. First they decided that my surgery was scheduled for one, and therefore I had checked in a mere two hours before they expected me. Shortly after noon, someone realized that I wasn't due for chopping until THREE THIRTY! I could have, oh I don't know, slept, instead of slowly losing my grip on reality in the waiting room.

Finally, after three days of waiting in the world's most uncomfortable chair, I was more than happy to donate my body to science. One of the nurses gave me the standard unisex gown and asked if it happened to be that time of the month. Of course it was, or I wouldn't have bothered mentioning it. The nurse disappeared for a minute and returned with "the latest from Victoria's Secret." After a cursory examination of the offending garment, I was forced to ask which side was the front. Let's just say the unfortunate regalia was one size fits no one, and I was no exception.

Once I was appropriately defrocked, it was time for the IV to be jammed in my arm. The standard veins in my right elbow are so scarred from chemo that they are no longer valid options. My entire left arm is off the table due to the removed lymph nodes. That just leaves the right forearm. A small shot of lidocaine, and then attempt one. Even with some unsettling wiggling, the nurse couldn't get the standard gauge needle in my vein. After examining my arm, the next shot of lidocaine was aimed at the back of my hand. Coincidentally, so was the next IV needle. Sadly, it was also the second failure. At this point, the nurse was complaining about how thin my veins were due to dehydration. How on earth could that have happened? Maybe it was the doctor saying that I couldn't eat after midnight since I had to be at the hospital by nine?

Apparently lidocaine causes further constriction of the veins, so the stabby nurse tried my hand again, this time with a full dose of agony. An IV in the elbow, when done properly, is not that painful. Everywhere else, well, that's just not the case. Despite my loud opining on the procedure, the nurse failed a third time. Time for the big guns and a smaller gauge needle.

Dr. Anesthesiologist and his minion joined the party. The minion was introduced as a medical student who would be observing. Not wanting to wake up at an inauspicious time, I asked for clarification on his role. In other words, would he be actually doing anything? No. Are you sure? Yes. Any chance of that changing? No. Okay, minion accepted.

With my safety ensured for later, it was time to return to the current predicament. The next venture into my arm was performed by Dr. Anesthesiologist. He, too, noted my dehydration for posterity. However, after failing to properly puncture the top of my forearm, he successfully got the needle in a bonafide vein, near the inside of my wrist! I may have screamed in pain as the sharp pointy thing forcibly reinflated my desiccated vein, but at least it was the last stab. In case you lost count, that was two shots of lidocaine and five IV needles in decreasing gauges.

The first thing the IV was hooked up to was a bag of hydrating something or other. While my veins dilated, I was allowed some time to panic in the company of Matt and my parents. We had some extra time together due to Dr. Anesthesiologist and his minion disappearing. Good job putting the patient at ease.

In the meantime, Dr. Surgeon and Dr. PlasticSurgeon took turns marking me up. Dr. Surgeon asked me to confirm which was the victim boob. He marked it with a giant "YES." But what about the good one? After months of nightmares in which too many boobs were removed, I wasn't leaving anything to chance. He inscribed a large "NO!" on the good boob.

Dr. PlasticSurgeon was much more methodical. She had me standup, then went to town with a tape measure. Between the dots, dotted lines, and solid lines, I looked like a demented runway from an airport requiring the planes to land upside down.

After Dr. Anesthesiologist reappeared and some amount of slicing and dicing, I woke up in my berth. First order of business: how many boobs do I have? Surprisingly enough, the number was greater than one. The right side was still intact, so the total wasn't due to two partial boobs. But the left side wasn't nearly as flat as expected. As it turns out, even after removing the nipple, there was enough skin and room behind the chest muscle to inflate Frankenboob to approximately 3/5 of normal size! In retrospect, of course there was some room behind the muscle, otherwise how would normal people get boob jobs without always requiring expanders?

The less pleasant surprise was that the patient-controlled analgesia would only fork over Dilauded once every eight minutes. The button would helpfully light up when a dose was available, but that didn't stop me from jumping up and down on the damn thing in hopes of getting a more useful dose. The other "problem" was that the Dilauded made me too groggy, so I spent the first day and half barely conscious. Eventually, I was switched to Norco pills, which failed to fully alleviate the pain, but at least kept me aware of my surroundings. Considering I was still stuck in the hospital, I'm not sure that this was the greatest trade-off ever.

At some point during my stay, the IV started to really hurt at the insertion site. A nurse, whose sole purpose in life was to set up IVs, removed the current one and inserted a new one ON THE FIRST TRY. I was in love. Then I realized that the removed IV wasn't where the one from the hour of poking ended up. At some point during surgery or delirium, they had switched the IV location. In other words, I was on my seventh IV, and I had the black and blue marks and holes to prove it.

I spent the next couple of days in my hospital bed, occasionally getting up to pee when absolutely necessary. I was happily discharged after my fourth day of hospital food. The dogs were happy to see me, though confused as to why they weren't allowed near me. While I was happy to see them, I was more happy to see my own bed.

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