Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 2: Surgery & Day 1 Recap

At this point, I can not imagine anything more frustrating than the inability to communicate.  I expected the blood, anticipated the pain and nausea, was prepared for the sleeplessness.  But by far the most infuriating part of surgery was/is not being able to speak.    Because of this, I felt like I experienced nearly every emotion in the past two days.

Entering Surgery

As I laid on the hospital bed in my cap and gown, I was presented with an array of physicians that shuffled in and out of my room before surgery.  I met with the bubbly Bulgarian anesthesiologist, two cheerful attending nurses, and finally the surgeon.  I was talking to friends right up until they took my phone away: the support I have gotten through this process has been overwhelming.  I am so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life!  At this point I just was getting anxious- I just wanted to get on with the process.  The last thing I remember before going under was telling the surgeon, "Please do a good job!"

Last picture before surgery - surfs up bra!
Recovery Room
The next thing I knew, it was all over.  There was still a decent amount of anesthesia in my system, so I didn't remember much from the recovery room other than being wheeled out.  I was aware of being unable to open my mouth and signing "I love you" over and over to the attending nurse. 

So I guess the hospital didn't have room for me on the typical post-surgery floor, so I was placed on a floor with elderly urology patients.  This is where the real frustration and anger began.  The staff on the floor was just so incredibly ill-equipped to handle me.  They seemed to have no idea what to do with this dopey, puffed-up patient that was utterly unable to speak.  (The surgeon later explained that he put on much heavier rubber bands than he originally intended because my jaw bones were "thin," the effect was as if I was totally wired shut)  I could only communicate by grunting and typing messages out on my iPhone.  My first issue was ice: my face was on FIRE.  I needed ice NOW, but the ice packs they had were too stiff and did not conform to my face.  We assumed that the hospital would provide us with a jaw bra-type anything, but they had nothing.  The nurses had yet to show up, so my parents rigged up this ridiculous ice-mask using rubber gloves and tooth floss.

Which made me feel like this:

It did the job, but I was internally boiling with anger.  "THIS IS A HOSPITAL." I wanted to scream.  "HOW CAN THEY NOT HAVE THE RIGHT DAMN ICE PACKS AND WHY ISN'T ANYONE HELPING ME???  THIS IS RIDICULOUS!"  Not being able to express myself infuriated me. I grunted angrily at everyone.  I was also severely dehydrated and coughing up blood, still NOBODY helping me besides my parents trying everything they could.  Finally, the nurse came in to give me water and pain medication(tylenol with codeine), which calmed me down significantly.  She used a syringe which she placed in the back of my mouth, saying, "You're like a little deer when I feed you, eh?"  Blood constantly streamed from my nose and mouth, which worsened when I got up to use the bathroom.  Which was an ordeal, by the way- the nurse had to help me each time to bring my IV pole over and make sure I didn't pass out. 

Just when the night was calming down a little, the CONGESTION began.  Oh my, the congestion.   I was born with a choanal atresia, which caused my nasal passages to be blocked and a compensatory deviated septum to form.  I had surgery to remove it when I was younger, but I still have a limited airway.  Congested, swollen, and unable to mouth-breathe, I felt as if I was struggling to breathe through half a straw.  My parents and the nurses could see that I was congested, so they checked my oxygen intake, which was at full capacity.  I was getting the air, but I was MISERABLE.  SUFFERING.  "I CAN'T BREATHE," I wanted to scream.  "WHY CAN'T ANYONE UNDERSTAND?"  My dad happened to have Afrin, which was a LIFE SAVER.  After I could breathe again, I finally got maybe one or two hours of sleep before a nurse came in to check my vital signs. 

Oh, another thing that was a Godsend through this nightmare: music.  While in the waiting room, I made myself a playlist of around 75 of my favorite songs that I listened to throughout the night.  One, it drowned out the hospital noises(this annoying-as-hell BEEPING that went on the entire night from some broken piece of equipment that they couldn't turn off).  Two, it made me feel like less of an idiot that I couldn't speak.  Three, it calmed me down and just made the night go faster.  Some songs I had on repeat: Soldier On - Temper Trap, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel, Always Like The Son - Release The Sunbird (my blog name!).  Music's always been there for me in good times and bad, and I highly recommend bringing an iPod along if you're having the surgery and feel the same way!

One positive thing: I was SO grateful to not have vomited from the anesthesia.  Rather than being sick, I was hungry, which was a good sign.  Soup through the syringe was amazing.  The staff also brought turkey and vegetables which I of course was unable to eat.
I was so happy to be leaving that hospital in the morning.  The surgeon said that my swelling was not terrible because I had been so persistent with icing my face.  (Ice is incredible! I have an ice-glove pressed to my face as I'm typing this)  The long ride home from the hospital was painful due to the many bumps on the road.  But I felt so accomplished to finally be there.  Surgery phase one: complete!


Finally home, I propped myself up on the couch, ate what I could, took my meds, and passed out.  I was so exhausted from the previous night that I did nothing but lay there for the next couple of hours.  Eventually, I was awake enough to watch The Descendants(great movie!) then move to my bed.  I am taking tylenol with codeine in conjunction with motrin, which makes me extremely drowsy but lasts for about six hours.  I set an alarm for myself at three thirty in the morning to take medicine and change my ice, but slept much better for the few hours that I got.
I am avoiding looking at myself.  I have caught little glimpses of my appearance in my phone and in mirrors, but the swelling frankly freaks me out a little.  The change in my face is something I haven't adjusted to yet, but hopefully will eventually.  The surgeon said he was very happy with the results and thinks I will be too!  Once I get a little more comfortable with this, I will take pictures, but for now, I'm just happy to be home!


  1. Wow, what an ordeal. It's a good thing your parents were there. Glad you've made it home. Hope the next few days aren't too bad!

    1. I know I wasn't expecting the hospital to be so ill-equipped! The surgeon and everything was fabulous, but it was just the floor they put me on for the night. A word of advice- when you have your surgery, be prepared to do things yourself! They didn't take care of me as I hoped they would. :/ Thank you! :)

  2. Was your jaw wired shut or banded?mI'm on day 2 post-op and trying to figure out some food options, but with my jaws wired shut, I feel like there is not much space. I am also SO SO congested.

    1. Hi Tiff! Congrats on being on the other side-- the first few days are the worst and then its all up from there! I had bands for a month. They were very tight so the effect was just like being wired-- syringes were my savior! The only space where liquid food could get through was in the little spaces behind my teeth. I highly recommend afrin for the congestion. You can only use it once every 24 hours but it instantly clears everything up! I hope this helps and I hope your recovery goes smoothly!!