Wow, Do I Feel Great!

Feeling Good!

Honestly, I think there must be something wrong with me. A week out from major surgery and I feel fantastic! The cautionary guidance from my doctors indicated I wouldn’t feel like doing much for at least two weeks (maybe more). In truth, I’m feeling strong and raring to go. A twinge of discomfort now again, and ibuprofen on those more twingey days, but I’m glad to say my recovery is moving along rather well.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be following medical advice and taking things slow for the next four or so weeks; it does mean I’m not going to allow myself to go bat-poop crazy staying home and doing nothing.

Of course I’m not idle. In fact, I’ve gotten some writing done and intend to do more. I’ve also read several books including Craig Johnson’s latest Longmire, An Obvious Fact, Ladies of the Canyon by Lesley Poling-Kempes, Die Like an Eagle by Donna Andrews (funny lady), and Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless, a Colorado writer. As you may have guessed, my reading habits are a little eclectic.

I plan to do reviews of one or more of these books and maybe Q&As, depending on my attention span and my ability to reach the authors.

So, on to my topic of the day: My Adventures as a Patient
Five things I learned from my recent surgery and hospital stay:

Surgery, knifely done (Okay send in the pun police!)
I don’t remember much – make that anything – about the surgery THANK GOODNESS. I do recall that everyone was thoughtful and kind from the minute we found our way to the surgical waiting room at UNM Hospital on Tuesday at 6 a.m., until I left on Thursday at around 2 p.m. Dr. Carol Muller and her oncology surgical team are the best. I knew from the get-go that I was in excellent hands. My advice to anyone being treated for any type of illness that requires surgery or a hospital stay, trust your medical team. It relieves you of stress and in most cases, speeds up healing. ABC News reported in July that an optimistic attitude can do wonders for a patient’s recovery. The report cited a Canadian Medical Association Journal article about  researchers who reviewed 16 studies that looked at patients’ attitudes toward health. The studies spanned 30 years and looked at patients’ attitudes after surgery.

No room for you…?
There was a bit of hiccup getting into a room following surgery. I spent more time in recovery than I would have liked, but Casandra, the surgical nurse with me throughout the afternoon, kept me updated and compassionately cared for while I waited. I could have been a grumpy Gertrude, but that’s not my style. Yes, I did wonder why a room wasn’t “reserved” for me since I was scheduled for surgery, but a hospital isn’t a hotel. Rooms fill up for reasons that have nothing to do with the surgery schedule, discharge is delayed for reasons beyond the patient’s (and sometimes the doctor’s) control, and protocol requires a thorough cleaning before a new patient moves in. Plus, UNM Hospital is one busy place! As it turns out I was mostly two of the Seven Dwarfs, Dopey and Sleepy, so it didn’t much matter where I was :).

Food for thought
Hospital food is notoriously unappealing. I’m not sure it’s the food; it is more likely a consequence of having no appetite. My meals were certainly edible; I just couldn’t eat. There are two reasons for that: one, I couldn’t sit in any way that would allow me to eat without dribbling food all over myself. Come on, people! Can’t someone design a table/bed/bibb that will keep more food in your mouth and less falling down your gown? Or am I just clumsy? Okay, forget the last point. I am clumsy. Totally unrelated to this post, the Sunday before surgery I dropped the collection plate at church. On. The. Floor!

Now, where was I…

Two, I simply was not hungry, which on one morning was really disappointing. They served the most delicious French Toast Casserole I’ve ever eaten! So why couldn’t I eat it? That appetite thing again. Two bites and my tummy could take no more. Boy, I wish I had the recipe.

Nurses and other staff are underrated
You may think you and your roommate are the only two people in the hospital. Get real. The wing I was in had a number of rooms, all of them double occupancy, and all of them full. I don’t know how many nurses, techs, and other staff are on any given rotation, but I can tell you they are all busy all the time. Some patients are more demanding (or their needs are more demanding) than others. Despite all that, I never felt neglected and the care I was given was compassionate, timely and personal. I wish I could remember all their names, but I hope my behavior and “thank yous” let them know how much I appreciated being treated as more than a job.

Getting out
The prediction was a three- to four-day stay in the hospital. I think I beat that by a day, mostly because no matter how well you are treated by compassionate caregivers, there is no place like home for recovery. That doesn’t mean the discharge process will move along in quite the way you want it to. If I have a complaint it is that – at least on the day I was discharged – the place was a madhouse overseen by Alice in Wonderland. It is hospital policy for patients to be taken to their “rides” by wheelchair. There were four discharged patients (on my wing) at the same time I was released and only two wheelchairs available. My husband had been sent to get the car. I was put on “hold” waiting for the magic carpet to arrive. Let’s just say the timing couldn’t have been worse. Bob was in the patient pickup area (which was jam packed with cars and patients coming and going) about ten minutes before I finally said, “I’m leaving,” after having already sat there for at least twenty minutes.

Hospital staff: “You can’t. We don’t have a wheelchair.”
Me: “My husband is waiting for me, I’m leaving.”
Hospital staff: “But we don’t have a wheelchair.”
Me: “I can walk!”
Hospital staff: “It’s against policy.”
Me: “My husband is waiting for me, I’m going and I CAN WALK!” (Okay, I make it sound like I was yelling, but I wasn’t. I said if quite nicely, but firmly.)

After a bit more back and forth, they agreed to let me walk with a tech at my side. This was a bit of a joke. The tech who volunteered was a veteran who took my arm and the bag of hospital crap I had to take with me, but the aide (or whatever you call the person whose job it is to take you down in a wheelchair), intervened and said, “No, no, that’s my job.” She did not take my arm, carry the bag of meds and other stuff I was discharged with, or ever once look at me (she was too busy looking at her text messages). Aaargh!

Chaos reigned when we got downstairs. The aide (based on my descripton) did spot my car and pointed it out to me, and then turned around and left as I walked briskly across three lanes of slow-moving traffic to get to the car. Some old fart – excuse me – nice old gentleman with an attitude was yelling at Bob for blocking traffic even though he was clearly in the area posted as patient drop-off and pick-up!

All-in-all, my hospital adventure was positive. Getting to my car after the fact, not so much. That in no way detracts from the care I received, which I attribute to my continuing speedy return to wellness.

Thanks Dr. Muller, your team, UNM Hospital, and my wonderful husband, family and friends.

I would add that getting from here to there is the direct result of Lacy Houdek of Meadow City Clinic, Alta Vista Regional Hospital, and Dr. Manske in Santa Fe. All of these medical specialist were responsibile for detecting my cancer and expediting treatment.