I’ve always had this fear of surgery, I hated the thought of being put to sleep and someone cutting me. I wondered what I would feel like on Tuesday morning, even if it was just a minor surgery.
But when Tuesday arrived I was completely at peace about everything. It was just another one of those things that simply had to be done. I know it was because people were praying for me.
Mom & I arrived at the hospital at 9:45 AM. We brought our own support, Aunt Connie, my faithful nurse, and Esther Fry, who has all the surgical experience I hope to never have.
The nurse got me ready for surgery in this ugly gown that was literally 5 sizes too big… “one size fits none”, she quipped.
Then she prepared to start my first IV in two years, she swabbed the top of my hand & positioned her needle. “You can try there,” I told her, “But I’ll be surprised if it works. I’ve had success with only one vein so far, the main one in my elbow.”
“Well, I’ll see what I can do.” she replied.
But, like I expected, she had trouble getting into the vein and when she did, it “puffed up”. Thankfully she didn’t try any others but went straight to the vein that I’d indicated earlier.
“The anesthesiologists don’t like it in this vein but we’ll just have to do what we have to do.” She decided.
Then we waited.
The student doctor, the anesthesiologists and I’m not sure who all else, came in to verify information with me at different times. I should have counted the times I gave my full name and date of birth!
The student doctor came in, looked at my chart and read very slowly “Surgical removal of upper right extremity embedded peripherally inserted central catheter.”
“That’s just the line you’re removing right?” I joked. “I won’t be waking up to see that my arm has been removed?”
“No, just the PICC!” he laughed. “Sorry, it took them awhile to get to the point!”
The anesthesiologists were both very kind. At first they told me they would be putting me into a twilight sleep, then later they returned to say they would be putting me the whole way out, with a tube down my throat, since the surgeon wasn’t sure how involved this would become.
That was fine with me! I hadn’t been able to sleep much the night before and at this point sleep sounded wonderful!
We waited some more. 11:25 AM came and went.
“You’re on deck,” they told me. “We’re waiting for the surgeon.”
12:25 PM. – The surgeon must have gone for lunch, we decided.
1:00 PM. – The surgeon must have gone back for seconds!!!
At some point during our waiting I noticed something! Aunt Connie was wearing the same shoes she’d worn when my PICC was placed! What a thing to remember!
“Ask the surgeon lots of questions!” I reminded my ladies in waiting. “I want to know exactly what they did!”
Finally at 1:30 PM they arrived to take me to the operating room.
I realized a few things.
An operating room looks like a very interesting place!
They give the nurses much cooler head gear than they gave me!
The saying “Eyes are windows to the soul” took on a different meaning.
Being put to sleep is not that bad.
Waking up is.
I hear someone calling my name. My left arm slowly bends at the elbow.
“Andrea! Please, it’s ok! You’re in recovery! The surgery is over!”
Someone tries to pull it down but the arm springs back into position. My hand curls.
My right side is burning with pain.
I’m aware of my feet stiffening.
Then my back begins to twist backward.
“I’m sorry!” I say. “I’m sorry!”
I feel two sets of hands try to straighten me out to lie flat again, but my body resists and twists again.
“It must be the seizure thing,” someone says. “Andrea, how long do these usually last?”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I mumble.
“It’s ok. You’ll be fine.” someone soothes.
Finally my back straightens and everyone relaxes.
My arm stays bent, my hand curled and my feet & legs are still very stiff.
I struggle to awaken. “Please,” I say to the nurse, “can you push my arm down?”
She obliges and this time it stays down. Then I see mom coming around the curtain.
Mom massaged my hand, trying to relax the muscles, as the nurse finishes the paper work required for me to go to “Recovery Two”
In “Recovery Two” Aunt Connie and Esther joined us as we waited for the anesthesia to wear off enough that I could go home.
My hand was still curled, my feet still very stiff and my right arm still burning with pain.
“Did they get it out?” I asked. I almost didn’t want to ask. From the amount of pain, I thought they must have surely cut the length of my arm! =)
“Yes,” Mom says. “The surgeon says it went well. They made a small incision on your upper arm.”
“Good, it’s small!” I think.
“But he said they had to tie off your vein.” Aunt Connie informed me.
What? Tie off my vein? What does that mean? Why? So I don’t have that vein anymore? So this means I still only have one vein for blood draws? Thoughts and questions ran through my mind.
Aunt Connie tried to explain and from what I understand, the surgeon said there was too much damage to repair after the surgery so they just tied off each end and that part of the vein is no more. It would have been too involving to stitch the incision in the vein tight enough so it would not leak. I’m hoping to ask lots of questions at my follow-up visit!
We inspected my arm and found an incision a little over an inch long, very high on my upper arm and a very small incision at my elbow where the PICC had been placed.
It took a while for my hand & feet to finally relax. I was given more pain meds and eventually we were ready to go.
“Was there anything we could have done differently to have given you a more pleasant stay?” The discharge nurse asked.
“No,” my mom said.”You all have treated us so well! Everything was great.”
“Well, there is one thing.” I said.
“What’s that?” the nurse wondered.
“These gowns!” I replied. “They could use some help!”
“I totally agree!” laughed the nurse.
The recovery process has taken longer than I expected. It took two days for the effects of the anesthesia to go away. I also have more pain then I expected. But it does fill me with a great admiration for those brave people who’ve had large chest incisions & bone surgeries!
It worries me some about the partial seizure during recovery. I know it probably has to do with nerve damage but I’ve been hoping it would get better.
I’m trying to get used to not having a line! The night after surgery I was wishing I could run some IV Zofran for nausea but…I couldn’t! I had no access! Almost every day I think, “Ok, I need to do a saline/hepron flush for my line!” Then I remember, there is no more PICC!
I’ve had some very interesting conversations with Alex about this surgery.
“How did they put a new arm on you?” He wondered.
Then he began to worry. “How will you stay alive without a ‘PICC Lime’?”
A friend of mine got married in El Salvador last month. My aunt & I were planning to go to her reception in Indiana on June 1st. Our trip had to be canceled because I could not travel so soon after surgery. We are both very disappointed! It seems as if perhaps God forgot to compare my planner with His when He planned this surgery. I know he didn’t, but if this surgery could have been only a week earlier we could have kept our plans!
I’m reminded of the verse, “As for God, His way is perfect!” Psalm 18:30