No, I haven’t forgotten about my blog, or my plan to write here about my recuperation following surgery. It’s just that I was unable to live up to my hope of being the poster child for a speedy recovery. A planned five-day hospital stay turned into a 27-day incarceration. I’ll be outlining just how and why that happened in my forthcoming posts.
At 5:45 a.m. on May 9, I entered Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital with my dad, aunt, and uncle. I carried a green duffle bag containing a few clothes and toiletries that I was advised to bring for what I was told would likely be a five-day hospital stay following my surgery. In case you missed it in one of my previous posts, the surgery involved the removal of my colon and rectum, the creation of a pelvic pouch (a.k.a. J-pouch), and a temporary ileostomy. Moments after entering the hospital via the Murray Street entrance, I rushed to the bathroom. I pushed out thin pieces of formed, bloody stool into the toilet. I thought to myself, this is why I’m going through with this surgery.
After I registered at the admitting department I was given a fancy plastic bracelet with my name and the name of my surgeon on it. After 10 minutes in the admitting department waiting room, my dad, aunt, uncle, and I were moved to another waiting room on the 5th floor, along with a few other people who were having various surgeries. In the 5th floor waiting room, I fiddled with my phone and received a text from Jayee that read, “Today’s a great day for removing UC!” She’s a beauty, isn’t she? I felt calm. Relaxed even. I had practiced wearing and changing an ostomy appliance, I read up on the surgery and the post-op expectations, I had a top-class surgeon. I’ll come out of this surgery in good shape. I glanced at my dad. His palms were pressed together in front of his mouth, his eyes closed. Probably praying as usual. After 15 minutes, I was given my hospital gowns and booties and led to a changing room. I packed my “normal” clothes – blue jeans, a black t-shirt, and a pair of black and white Asics Mexico 66 sneakers – into a white plastic bag.
At about 7:30 a.m., my dad and I were led into a pre-op area with cushy recliners where I met my surgeon, Dr. Cohen. I felt confident seeing him again. I remembered his credentials. I’ll come out of this operation in good shape. My dad and I hugged and gave each other a fist bump, as we usually do when saying goodbye of goodnight to each other. I don’t know when this ritual started, or why. A nurse walked me to the operating room and I laid down on the operating table. I had my vital signs taken, and the nurse asked, “Are you a runner?” I said yes, to which she replied, “I figured when I saw you heart rate.” Another good omen, I thought. I’m sort of fit, so I’ll come out of this surgery in good shape. The anesthetic started flowing and I was asleep in no time.
It felt like a very short sleep. I awoke in the recovery room with my dad to my left, a nurse to the right. I was dazed and in excruciating pain. It felt like someone had repeatedly slammed a sledgehammer onto my abdomen. Every motion brought more pain. I looked at my new ostomy, a bright red sphere about the size of a golf ball, covered by a clear bag to collect waste. I looked at my bulging stomach, which looked like it was going to burst through the incision line, which had been closed with a series of silver staples that ran from three inches above my penis to two inches centimeters above my belly button. I drifted in and out of sleep. I vaguely recall overhearing the nurses talking about not having a bed ready yet. I remember eventually lying down on a hospital bed next to a window with a view of other windows. A nurse explained to me my new pain pump, which administered a shot of morphine through my IV whenever I pressed the red button. I was supposed to press it anytime I felt pain. In my first night following the surgery I pressed it 40 times. Then pain eventually let up, but my recovery beyond that first night would be nowhere near normal.
I’ll explain in my upcoming posts, this one’s run long enough. Please keep checking back. Thanks!