Surgery, Complications, and an Extended Hospital Stay: Part III

pennyA few hours after I had my NG tube inserted, my daytime nurse came to visit me. She told me that I would be receiving a blood transfusion in the afternoon. Apparently my hemoglobin levels had dipped since the surgery, and while a transfusion wasn’t absolutely necessary, the doctors felt it was best. I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness, so I had no qualms about receiving blood, but I didn’t expect the process would take as long as it did. One unit of blood took about three hours to transfuse, and I had two units ordered. So for six hours, I lay in bed, hooked up to my IV, an NG tube, a blood pressure monitor, and a heart rate monitor. I felt uncomfortable, weak, and weary. I couldn’t leave my bed, and even if I could, I didn’t have the energy to do so. After the second transfusion, I was able to disconnect my NG tube from its suction machine and walk a couple of rounds around the floor. I went to bed around 8 p.m., but as was the case throughout my hospital stay, I had an uncomfortable, fragmented night’s sleep.

I don’t know who donated that blood, but I sure would love to meet him/her to profess my gratitude and offer up a fine box of chocolates. I felt much more energetic the day after my transfusion. I still had that damn NG tube in, but I did feel better. I kept crunching away on ice chips to provide some cooling relief to my mouth and throat, and I took a few walks around the floor – I became accustomed to disconnecting and reconnecting the NG tube from the suction device. At various times through the day and just before bed, I found myself dreaming about ice water and cool, fresh fruits – pineapples, cantaloupes, watermelons, oranges, grapes, strawberries. I’ve never craved fruit as much. When I thought about water, I remembered my blue Nalgene water bottle. I remembered how I would go for early morning runs in the summer, return home, sit in my backyard, and gulp down a litre of water as I watched cardinals and sparrows splash in the birdbath. I wondered when, perhaps if, I’d ever get to experience one of those happy moments again.

The NG tube remained in place for 4-5 days, and it seemed as though most of the liquid backup had been pumped out. A nurse came in to tell me the good news that the tube was coming out. She unhooked the tube from the suction device and using a hand-over-hand motion, pulled the tube out while counting up 1-2-3. It was a quick job, but I was amazed at just how long the tube actually was. I sat in bed for a few minutes and took deep breaths to enjoy my now unobstructed right nostril. Then I got up, took my electric shaver from out of my toiletries bag and went to the bathroom the clean off the disgusting hobo beard I had grown. I now had the green light to start on clear fluids, and I capped off the night with consommé and apple juice. After days on ice chips, it was a banquet.

Throughout my fun times with the NG tube, the doctors continually monitored another situation with my wretched body – a bulge in my pelvic area at the incision site. During the surgery, blood clots had formed, but the doctors hoped my body would reabsorb them. That wasn’t the case. The plan was to remove a couple of staples and pluck out the clots. So one morning, two resident doctors got to work on me. I was told to lie back, keep my hands at my sides, and “try to relax.” The staples came out easily, but the doctors had to apply pressure to the pelvic area in order to squeeze out the clots. Like popping a big pimple. I clenched my teeth and dug my fingers into the mattress as the doctors pushed and massaged and pushed again. When most of the work had been done, I sat up and watched them pluck pieces of clotted blood with tweezers. The clots looked like black jelly. The clots were out, which was good, but I was left with a wound in my pelvic area, about 3 inches above my penis.

If you have your wallet and/or piggy bank close by, take out five pennies and stack them up. That’s pretty much the size of the wound I found myself with. It freaked me out. It’s scary to see a red and pink hole in your body.

The wound had to be packed with a Mesalt ribbon – an absorbent strip folded into the wound like an accordion. A square, thinly padded, adhesive bandage then goes on top of the ribbon to cover the wound and it’s surrounding area. Fabulous.

I knew my operation came with risks, but I never read about sleepy bowels or vomiting bile or NG tubes or wounds. My body had been mutilated. But now that the NG tube was out and the blood clots were out and I was able to consume broth and Jell-O and juice and tea without upchucking them minutes later, maybe things would level out.

Or not.

About rasheedclarke

Award-winning author. Marathon runner. Exceptional dresser. I'd like to be all those things.


  1. I love the detail of your writing — the stack of pennies example, for example — but I’m sad that you’re having to endure all this discomfort. I really hope there’s a lifetime of good times ahead for you in order to put this time in your life in the rear-view mirror fading off into the distance.

    • Thank you, Scott. It’s been a much harder experience than I imagined, but I’m trying to do little things to feel better each day. I went for a decent walk and got a haircut today, for example. I hope better days are ahead, not just for me, but for you and Amanda as well!

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