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Shoulder, Part 1

As the drug haze recedes…

Well, as frustrating as typing with one hand is, if I don’t get this down I never will.  Please forgive the typos.

When last I actually communicated, I was flipping out about a cold – which appears to have been allergies.  After a couple of hours in what I imagine is the *very* filtered air of the surgical center, my sinuses dried up like there was never an issue.  F you, mother nature, and all your damn pollen.

I had another crappy night’s sleep, got up and showered with the special antimicrobial soap that leaves you feeling like you have a scum of something on your skin, and we rolled out early to report at 6:45.  I don’t ever eat after midnight anyway, and I usually have breakfast around 8:30 or so.  Naturally, because I wasn’t allowed to have breakfast, I was ravenous.  I continued a paperwork trend with the admitting nurse.  Have you ever noticed that it disconcerts them a bit when you READ the consents before signing them?  Even more when you ask questions.  Yet she didn’t even blink when I crossed things out and initialed them.  Hey – I didn’t see any standards or manuals, she didn’t even know what they were, I wasn’t going to attest that I’d received them.

We didn’t wait long.  I got to pee in a cup to prove I’m not pregnant, and change.  They gave me a pair of scrub bottoms, a Velcro fastening tube top and a johnnie.  It was quite the look – although I was beyond grateful for that tube top.  It was fairly comfortable, kept everything covered, and was easy to take off under the sling.  Also, if you’re a stout, middle-aged housewife with a crappy body image, it’s emotionally comforting to know that all these people weren’t going to see me naked.  Then I got to go meet the anesthesia staff, who were really nice and very informative.  They were just the nicest people.  There was a lot of repetition – “now tell me again what we’re doing today?”  They weren’t taking any chances of making a mistake.  Everyone autographed my shoulder – I looked like a high school year book.  Then we had another paperwork go around – the anesthesia assistant commented that they had everything they needed to go, except that I hadn’t yet signed the consents for the surgeon and the PA.

“Um… yes I did, and I mailed them back in July.”
“I’m sure you did, but they didn’t make it down here to us.”
“Well, I have copies.”
“Don’t worry – we’ll get new ones.”
“No – I have copies WITH me.  Bob – that folder I gave you.  Left hand side, under the clip.”
“Would you look at that – well done!...  What do you do for a living?”

I brought copies of EVERYTHING.  Just in case.  I’m like that.  I also asked Bob to spend his waiting time getting fully-executed copies of everything.

So at that point they got IVs and everything going.  They were going to establish the IV in the back of my left hand, which made me unhappy – that’s the part of having my gall bladder out that I remember most vividly, and not fondly.  It HURT.  Luckily, my veins didn’t cooperate, and I ended up with it in my elbow.  Yay elbow!  Then he explained about the local block, which was another thing that made me happy.  Apparently, it’s almost exactly like having a tooth numbed up, only they use ultrasound to locate the nerve in your neck, and they put in a LOT more medication.  Much like at the dentist, that took effect almost immediately, and my arm turned into a lump of meat.  The comment was that different people metabolize the medication different, so the block could last anywhere from six to eighteen hours.  The Physician’s Assistant came in, signed the consent, signed my shoulder, I got a kiss from Bob and the scrub nurse came to get me.

At this point I would like to reiterate that the world is made of wool, and someone left it in the dryer too long.  My coworker’s best friend from childhood is a nurse, and they’re both friends with another gal who is also a nurse.  Last spring the second gal went down to Florida to visit family with her husband and kids, and the car broke down, stranding them there for several days while it was being fixed.  My coworker felt bad for her, and came up with a brilliant idea.  Between the two of us we scraped together enough of our free one-day admission passes to send the whole family to Disney for free for two days.  It was one of those one-off kindnesses that I felt good about for a bit, and then mostly forgot.

Yep – that lady was my scrub nurse.  Wool.  I’m telling you.

They told me that they were giving me something that would likely make me sleepy, and headed down the hall.  A corridor and two turns later I said “yep – there it is.”  Hit me like a truck.  It all gets fuzzy at that point.  I *think* I might remember a mask with some inhaled anesthesia, or that may have been a movie I watched at some point.

Woke up in the recovery room, and it was MUCH nicer than when I did this last with my gall bladder.  First thing I did was make sure that everything was still mine – wiggle the fingers, wiggle the toes.  Things don’t feel *right* but everything is still taking orders from central command.  No worries.  The nurse was fabulous – very sweet, and she let me take things at my own pace.  They let me have a little water that I could moisten my mouth with and spit out – I didn’t want to get sick, but I HAD to unstick my lips from my teeth.  Eventually I asked if there was something on my legs.  It turned out I had some sort of compression stockings on – and every time they filled, the sensation was like electric current (or at least that’s how my brain interpreted it.)  Once I knew what it was, I could ignore it.  I did keep setting off the oxygen alarm and getting told to breathe more deeply – the problem was that I couldn’t.  We finally figured out that the waist strap was so snug that it was preventing me from taking a full breath.  That didn’t solve things, but it helped a lot.  After a bit I could feel when I was about to set off the alarm, and would take a few deep breaths to keep the monitor happy.  They sat me up a bit at a time, and I sipped some ginger ale a bit at a time, and the nurse decided that it was time for me to go.  I didn’t feel like it, but I figured she knew better than I did, and rolled with it (she knew better.)  At that point I could feel my fingertips and move my fingers a little, but all the sensation stopped at the base of my fingers – the hand was still gone.  They told me (well, actually they told Bob) that when I got pins and needles in my forearm, take the first dose of pain medication – under no circumstances was I to let it get ahead of me.

I asked if I could use the bathroom – basically, if I was going to have trouble, I wanted to be sure to have trouble before we got home.  That went okay.  They got me dressed, wheeled me out to the car, and buckled me in.  For the second time I had an orderly compliment me on my choice of clothes to wear for surgery day.  I guess lots of people are very impractical.

All I wanted to do was go home and sleep it off, but we had to fill the prescription first.  Bob dropped it off at the drive through, and they told him it would be twenty minutes!  Bob offered to go in and pick up some things and wait for the scrip, but damned if I was going to sit in the car – not to mention sometimes if you sit in their waiting area and be obviously post-operative and miserable they move you up in the queue.  I don’t know if it worked and we weren’t there that long, or if I was still having time compression, but Bob got the pills and got me home.

I don’t remember much of the rest of that afternoon – I was moving around the house and getting used to the immobilizer and moving around with it.  Camma came over that evening for company, which was nice.  I actually felt best that day because the nerve block hadn’t worn off.  And Bob made me lima beans.  After Camma left I was feeling it, so I faced trying to go to bed with a sandbag strapped to my torso.  Luckily, I own lots of pillows, and had bought a husband pillow just for the occasion.  Bob piled things up as I directed, brought me two pain pills because the nerve block is going to wear off sometime, chocked me in and turned off the light.

Did I mention that I’m a side sleeper?  The right side?  Sigh.

The nerve block is weird in the dark.  My hand felt like it does when you sleep on it wrong – you know when you cut off the blood flow and the hand goes numb and cold?  It felt like that – except that the fingers were warm.  There’s nothing wrong with that, except that it’s not how it’s supposed to be, and that’s alarming.  At one point I woke up with that “my hand has gone to sleep” feeling.  I don’t know about anyone else, but apparently MY automatic response to that is to check to see if the fingers are cold.  But in this case, it was the nerve block, so everything was fine.  But in the dark, with no sensation, I couldn’t FIND my hand.  I was groping around my torso with my left hand looking for my right hand.  I had never realized how much of the ability to reach out and touch any body part without looking is dependent on having sensation in both of the parts in question.  I had to look in order to find my right hand – it was very disconcerting.  I wonder if that’s the theory behind some of the drunk checks?  At any rate, it’s profoundly weird having something as large as an arm be there, but… absent.  It was creepy to touch it and only have sensation on one side.

The nerve block wore off at 3:00am.  Bob brought me more drugs, and I went back to sleep.

Can you believe that it’s taken me over a week to type this?


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 30th, 2013 06:19 am (UTC)
We can deal with a week. Good to have you recovering well.
Aug. 30th, 2013 10:38 am (UTC)
glad you're back! hope your recovery goes very well and very fast!
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 30th, 2013 04:30 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear your on the Side B of this mess! Here's wishing for a speedy recovery.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )