My ileostomy reversal surgery was scheduled for 2 p.m. on February 11. That meant I would have to arrive at Mount Sinai Hospital at 11 a.m. I was pretty happy with the booking time, because I wouldn’t have to rush on the morning of the operation. Or so I thought.
At 8:15 a.m. on February 11, I received a phone call from my surgeon’s secretary.
“Rasheed, can you come in now?” she asked.
Still not quite awake I blurted, “Yeah. Sure. Okay.”
“There was a cancellation this morning, so they’re waiting for you right now.”
“Okay, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
I told my dad about the scheduling change and then raced to the bathroom to brush my teeth, shave, and shower. I packed my toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, and my electric shaver into the duffle bag I had prepared the day before, containing the other essentials for a hospital stay: robe, slippers, books, and because I was going to be trying out a new GI tract, some adult diapers, wet wipes, and a handheld bidet.
After crawling along the Gardiner Expressway into downtown Toronto, we arrived at the hospital a little before 10 a.m. After checking in at the admission office, I headed to the surgical waiting room and went through an expedited process of changing into hospital gowns, getting screened by nurses, and meeting with the anesthesiologist. There’s usually some time to spend in the waiting room ahead of an operation, but as a result of the morning cancellation, I was whisked around from the waiting room to the changing room to the examination room to the operating room.
After two unsuccessful attempts to start an IV line in my left arm, the anesthesiologist got one going in my left arm, started sending in the goods, and I got that totally chill feeling that I assume pot smoking hippies get when they light up their doobies. The last thing I remember in the OR was one of the doctors saying that the ileostomy closure should take somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour.
When I came to in the surgical recovery area, I met my surgeon. He told me that the operation went well and that there was nothing unexpected. I felt sleepy and my abdomen was cramped all over. I felt the right side of abdomen where my ostomy used to be. The area was distended, but there was no bag. There was no stoma. I peeked under my blue hospital gown and saw a white bandage covering my stapled-up incision. A long, clear plastic tube was wedged into my anus and taped to the inside of my right thigh. I’d have to wait a few days before my pelvic pouch (J-pouch) would get working on its own. To my pleasant surprise, there was no catheter in my penis as I had expected.
The pain wasn’t as acute as it was after my first surgery, which was a much bigger job. Instead of a pain pump that I could press when I needed a feel-good morphine injection, a nurse pumped a small syringe of dilaudid, another kind of pain medication, into my IV. I vaguely remember being taken to my room on the 14th floor. I do remember standing up from my gurney and taking a few small steps to my bed. After I settled in bed, I slipped in and out of sleep.
Around 6 p.m., I had a more lucid conversation with my nurse, who told me to try to urinate. Nothing came out. I took some sips of water and tried to pee again at 8 p.m. No dice. My nurse told me that if I didn’t pee soon, she would have to put a catheter in. I drank some apple juice mixed with water and fell asleep again. A little after 10 p.m., I took the most clutch piss of my life. I proudly displayed the plastic container of my urine on my bedside table for the nurse to see, and I treated myself to a cup of cherry Jell-O as a reward.
I played with my iPad for a bit before falling asleep again around midnight. I remembered how painful and difficult the first few days after my first surgery were, and felt relieved that things weren’t so bad this time around. It still hurt to move around, in bed or otherwise, I still had a swollen belly, and I still had a tube in my ass, but my ostomy was gone, and I felt as though my recovery was on track. With a curtain stretched around my hospital bed to separate my space from the three other patients in the room, I was happy to have some time alone.