No, I didn’t die. Just got a little caught up in enjoying having time to do nothing and then threw myself back in to work once my time off was at an end. Going to apologize in advance as this is going to be a long post. Have to catch up on post surgery happenings for the last 5 months…
Surgery went well. My mom came up to stay with me for 2 weeks to help me after surgery and it was nice to have some time together. Everything went smoothly the morning of surgery. We ended up getting there a little too early – the office wasn’t even open yet so we had some time to wait. Once they opened, everything went pretty quickly. We had to be there at 700am and I think I was in the surgery room by 730am. Such a different experience for me than being on the other end of the surgery prep at the vet hospital. I wasn’t expecting to walk into the surgery room before having any other prep than to change into the gown and have my surgeon draw his marks. Everyone was great at the surgical center. Once I was situated on the surgery table, my anesthesiologist placed an IV catheter – now I know what my patients feel when I place one in them – and gave me something in the line saying that I’d feel a little sleepy in about 30 seconds. The surgical assistant was making a little conversation with me while they were waiting for me to go under anesthesia. Apparently, she asked me about the upcoming super bowl sometime in that 30 seconds or less, and I didn’t respond because I was already out. Guess I’m a bit of a lightweight… Surgery itself only took about 1 1/2 hours or so. Took me an hour in recovery to actually be aware of my surroundings. Woke up totally dizzy, nauseous, and a bit bloody on my back. Mom told me later that I was pretty darn white as well although I never saw myself at my palest. It was really weird not feeling my chest. My chest felt heavy and “buzzy.” Part of the heavy feeling could very well be due to the bandage all around me. The recovery nurse got me sitting up and cleaned up as best she could – my boxers soaked up a pretty good amount of blood and had to be soaked when we got home. By 1230pm, I was on my way back home with my eyes closed and head in my hands in an attempt to make the world stop spinning. Mom made a stop at the store for saltine crackers and ginger ale. When we got home, my one little less than a foot step into the house seemed like a cliff but I made it in and to the couch. Piper was very good and didn’t even try to jump on me. Probably best for all of us as he probably would have knocked me over and I’m not sure I would have gotten up. More likely I would have just stayed on the floor and slept where I lay. I think I fell asleep very shortly after getting to the couch. Much of the next 2 days is blurry. I believe that over 48 hours, I was only awake for 4 of them. I must be a lightweight as the pain meds kept me knocked down. Part of those times I was awake, Mom was emptying the drains or giving me meds to take. At first I didn’t really feel it when she had to strip the drains but towards the end when there wasn’t much fluid left, the stripping and the tubes themselves were starting to hurt.
Transitioned myself off the pain meds on the 3rd day as I couldn’t stand the weak and disoriented feeling I had while on them. Finally after 5 or 6 days, my drains were ready to come out. Weird feeling when the drains come out. I was still pretty numb on my right side and only felt a bit of tugging as it slide out. The left side has had more feeling in it and I felt a bit of pinching as that one came out. Got to have the bulky bandage taken off and only needed to keep the ace bandage over it for compression. I was also allowed to take showers again (that first shower was glorious by the way) but I needed to get a hair dryer to dry the tape over my incisions.
I was feeling up to being out of the house for a bit longer and off we went for the dryer. The weather had been inclement and threatening snow so one of our stops was to get a propane stove in case the power ended up going out. Figured if we had one, we wouldn’t need it. After being out for 2 hours, I was utterly exhausted and trembling so home we went. That night it snowed and we were stuck inside for the next 3 days. We probably could have made it out if it were an absolute emergency. Since Portland is a city where it rarely snows, the city shuts down if there is more than an inch of snow and there are very limited plows. I’m really glad I was able to have the drains removed before the storm hit. Might have had Mom pull them for me otherwise since they were already causing some discomfort. I did end up taking off the ace bandage sooner than I was supposed to due in large part to the claustrophobic feeling the weather and being snowed in was inducing. At one point, I was feeling like I couldn’t a deep enough breath… When the weather finally turned and the snow began to melt, we had a pretty bad case of cabin fever. We went out for breakfast and to the store. I was still only able to manage being out for less than 2 hours but it was a start. Amazing how dizzy you get after being cooped up for days on end and suddenly have your world expanded again. Mom’s 2 weeks came to end and I had to take her back to the train station. That was a bit hard emotionally. Probably the closest we’ve been for a really long time so saying goodbye was hard. After that it was 2 weeks on my own before I had to get back to the daily grind. Took it slow and easy, tried not too overdo it. Really difficult not to do much especially when you’re on your own.
The Wednesday after Mom left, I had my 2 week post op check and everything was looking good. By that Friday, I was noticing a tiny amount of foul-smelling discharge from under the tape around my right nipple incision. By the next morning, I was getting more than a little discharge. I remember feeling a little panicky. Here it was the beginning of the weekend and his office was closed on Mondays. Thank the stars I have a medical background. I decided to do warm compresses a few times every day and call his office on Monday. I remembered that his office manager would be in during the day on Monday to do paperwork. All I had to do was get through the weekend. I was feeling pretty down at this point. I had been feeling so good and then to have this complication hit me hard. The smell coming from the infection was bad. I deal with some pretty bad smells working in the veterinary field but this was worse. I had to keep a shirt on at all times and if I lifted the shirt up, I was almost nauseated by the smell. Squeezing the discharge out was another task that was proving difficult as well. The feeling I had on my right side wasn’t much so the actual pressure didn’t bother me. It was, I think, more that I was getting this nasty material out of myself. Actually felt a little faint a few times. I did manage though and made it through without either vomiting or passing out. A couple other small sections of my incision were starting to become a little throughout the weekend so I was glad when Monday finally arrived. Got the call in and eventually was told to come in, the doctor would meet me there. Basically, I was having a suture reaction and after checking it out, I was prescribed another round of antibiotics. Oh yay, another round of 4 times a day medication! At least it helped and the infection began to heal again.
After the infection cleared up, healing progressed nicely. I had some little pieces of suture starting to migrate out of the incision but pulled those myself. I continued to have a large scab over the right nipple where the infection was centered. Eventually that resolved.
Going back to work took some time to get back into the routine. The first week, especially first 2 days, I tired quickly. I found that restraining patients was sometimes difficult and I had to watch how large of an animal I tried to lift. Lucky for me, my coworkers kept a close eye on me and didn’t let me do some of the heavier, more physical tasks. I gradually worked myself back in to overnight shifts at my second job and am now back to 3 nights each week. If I’m tired now, it’s due to working a lot again. I have stopped working weekly overtime at my primary job and I think that will help reduce my workload. Plus I’m finally back to a 4 day work week! I have Sundays off again which means that I can go to the farmers market again and have more time to work around the house. Maybe I’ll even get a bit of a social life…
It has been 4 months and 9 days since surgery. I have regained most of the feeling on the left side of my chest. The right side continues to bother me some. The feeling in incomplete on the area above the back half of the side incision and is sometimes itchy/painful/numb, which is a really weird combination of sensations. The scars itch and are sore sometimes and are still raised, more so in certain spots. I still have 2 little scars where the drains were. The left nipple responds to sensation and has feeling. The right has a build up of scar tissue from the infection, has little to no feeling, and hardly responds to sensation. Some days my chest hurts but more frequently it doesn’t. The main problem I have is when patients are kicking or pushing off or dogs pawing my chest. I went swimming for the first time in over 3 years a couple of weeks ago. It was glorious and I remember just how much I loved swimming. I’m a little self-conscious of my scars but I’m not going to let that stop me from anything. I’ve been able to run without the movement hurting me and can lifting exercises. I do still have to watch how much I do, otherwise I’m feeling it for the next few days. When I first starting to workout again, I was surprised by how weak I felt. I couldn’t lift as much and tired quickly. I’m finally getting closer to where I was prior to surgery. All in all, I’m doing pretty darn well.