Life as Lou

Recovering From The Hysterectomy And Complications

  • March 11, 2012 4:28 pm

If you haven’t read post one on this topic, you should really start there.

Once I got to my hospital room and became consistently conscious, I noticed a few things.  The first thing was that I was attached to my bed in an impressive eight different ways. I had an IV, oxygen cannula, a finger oxygen monitor, a blood pressure cuff, a catheter, the tubing blowing hot air into my gown, and wraps around both calves that helped prevent blood clots. I couldn’t have escaped if I had wanted to.

The blood pressure cuff and the calf cuffs went off all at slightly different times, so that in the course of five minutes, I think I got squeezed at least five different times. The IV was loaded with antibiotics, fluids and getting frequent injections of morphine and zofran. This is the only time I recall being on morphine, and I’ll tell you right now that I don’t like it much.  I don’t think it made me too sick or inordinately loopy, it just didn’t do much for the pain, and oh my word, was I in PAIN.

Additionally, my blood pressure was not stabilizing very quickly, so I ended up staying in that bed for a solid twenty-four hours (which was fine by me) even though they had intended to send me home after just one night.  They aren’t very inclined to send patients home when their blood pressure is reading at 59 over 32. I can’t say I blame them. My blood pressure is typically pretty low, and I have on more than one occasion walked into a regular check up and been asked if I was bleeding or feeling terribly faint when I felt perfectly fine, so when it really does go low- it goes to levels where you  look like you’re actively trying to die. Match that up with my abnormally high resting heartbeat of about 90 beats per minute. . .and you get a little more attention than you need. I’m not complaining; I felt like garbage and had no desire to go home.

My first nurse, Vicky was businesslike, quick with the morphine and very protective of me, which I liked. As “the mom” and “military wife” people don’t usually go out of their way to make sure I’m ok, and it was nice to have someone put my needs completely first- a unfamiliar thrill. I appreciated being fussed over and having someone so concentrated on managing my pain. I had to convince her it was ok to let my friend Tanya visit, but she caved and was willing to let Tanya bring me gorgeous flowers, delphiniums and daises, and also brought my chart and let me show off my uterus picture. I was pretty wiped out at that point, but it was nice to have a visitor.

My poor husband had a hard day that day. After hanging out with me for the extra wait time before the surgery, I finally told him to go get some breakfast and then as soon as he hit the Wendy’s drive-thru, called him to say I was going into surgery, so he raced back to see me, only to realize that with how late things were and how soon the kids got home from school, he was going to have to miss me coming out of surgery, and then he was going to have his hands too full to come sit at my bedside for hours being supportive.  He did manage to sneak back for a little bit, but not much, and then Gabe ended up throwing up, and that canceled all efforts to have him come back for a visit.

I was in for a fairly rough night myself. My surgery had been different than we expected.  The hysterectomy went very well, and once the uterus was removed, my bladder snapped back into position on its own, which is not unheard of in younger women who have hysterectomies. This completely negated my need for the cystocele. The trouble began when my doctor tried to perform the rectocele repair. If you are squeamish, you should skip the next bit.

In order to do this, he would need to slice up the side of the vaginal wall, put the rectum back where it started, and then stretch the vaginal wall and sew it up tighter to hold things in place. I imagine this being almost like tying lace up shoes with the tightening and restraining, although I am pretty sure they don’t criss-cross the stitches and tie a bow out of looped bunny ears at the end. The trouble here began because on a normal person there is tissue separating the vaginal wall and the rectum, tissue that can be cut into and manipulated and that provides a safe barrier between the cutting and the organs. When my doctor cut into the vaginal wall, he cut straight through to the rectum because there was no anatomical division between the two. This left him with a rectum to repair and the problem of having to reconstruct a wall between these body parts by pulling over as much tissue as he could, so there was something to hold things in their proper places. I asked Dr. Buehner about this later, about what it was like to get in there and realize there was a complication, and he said it was a bit of an ego blow, since complications are rare and a surgeon likes to pull off flawless work. Personally, I think it is a credit to him, and his talents and skills that he could get into a tricky, frustrating situation and repair it so well on the fly. I think he is too modest to see it that way, but it is true.

At any rate, when it was all said and done, I got off on good behavior for one surgery, but got the maximum sentence plus a beating on the other. All of that cutting, repairing and reconstructing was more than I signed up for!

I had a great night nurse come on shift, also named Sue, but not the nurse who I had spoken to before the surgery. We had an interesting night together because both of us are hard of hearing, so she wasn’t catching everything I said in my quiet, there-was-a-tube-down-my-throat, after surgery voice, and I didn’t catch everything she said because I couldn’t always find my glasses to read her lips like I usually do in tough hearing situations. Once we admitted our hearing losses to each other, the communicating became easier. She was truly wonderful, on top of my pain and just really a healing angel. She was trying hard to get me onto oral painkillers, which was great because they were so much more effective than the IV drugs. She also massaged my back during the night, which helped immensely when you consider the position my legs and lower back were splayed open in for quite some time earlier that day. My hips should have hurt, right along with everything else!

I had a few extra problems, one being that my catheter just stopped working at one point. Let me tell you, the pressure of a full bladder on top of the pressure from a bunch of packing “up there” plus the incredible swelling all around was just awful! We finally got things emptied, and then took out the packing. This scared me, since I had been told they basically shove about a whole roll of paper towels up there with all the stitches and cuts and the thought of that coming out sounded like ripping off the worst band-aide ever. Sue made sure I was good and loaded on pain meds before we did that part, and it didn’t hurt at all.  It just felt really weird, as if I was giving birth to a never ending rodeo rope. The reduced pressure brought immediate relief on my pain level.

Dr. Buehner made his rounds the next morning and gave me the full explanation of what how things had gone. The best news he had for me was that my uterus had been considerably more prolapsed than we had thought, and it really needed to come out. That was music to my ears.  While we had gone into this knowing that the other two items needed fixing, the hysterectomy choice had been made more from other factors.  I knew it was already a bit prolapsed, and my family has a history of having hysterectomies by age forty.  There is also a history of uterine cancer, menstrual issues, and my period was already heavy to the point of being a serious annoyance. I spent quite awhile making sure this was what I wanted to do, but in the end the logic of not having to have an almost inevitable second surgery and the sheer peace of mind of never wondering if I was pregnant (or never having another miscarriage) won out.

Sure, I didn’t love giving up my fertility. I wasn’t done with motherhood. I love babies- and I make exceptionally beautiful ones- and they’ve each been worth eight months of vomiting, IVs, hospital stays, preterm labor and other complications that make me label pregnancy a living hell. I cried. But inside, it just felt like the right thing to do, even if it stomped on my heart a bit and effectively closed that chapter of my life.  Hearing that it needed to come out and having that correct decision confirmed was the most calming thing I’ve heard during this entire ordeal. It needed to come out anyway. Good.

Part THREE

 

 

5 Comments

  1. Sanisi says:

    I’m so glad you blogged about this; there were a few thing I didn’t know about.
    (btw I’m trying to grow delphiniums this year.)

  2. Nina C says:

    I am sorry that there was a complication! I am glad that you are on your way to recovering. I hope the pain stops soon and you are feeling better!

  3. Nicole says:

    Leah, I don’t know if I told you this… but I have a hearing loss too and since I was a young girl, I rely on lip reading like second nature… It’s good to know that I’m not alone… I should wear aids but I am too embarrassed to do so. It sucks that you had to go through all of that but now you don’t have to worry and it’s good to know that you really needed it and the doctor wasn’t just telling you needed it to mess up your girlie parts :(

  4. Priya Venkat says:

    Let me confess something first…….I’ve been waiting for your update. I have faithfully checked this blog every single day. And the wait was worth it. You have a way with words and both posts are beautifully written. Only you can pull off this pain-laced-with-narcotics humor. Wishing you well and I am assuming that you are back home now. Take care.

  5. Laurence says:

    You didn’t have the choice, you accepted this and you’re strong ! I hope you’ll recover very soon !

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