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Surgery Day! And The Days Following

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I went to bed Monday night at the age of 39 years and about 20 hours. Monday was my birthday, but Tuesday was to be my gift to myself. A lot had gone into the preparation for this moment and in slightly more than 5 hours, the journey would really begin. It started in April with an information session at St. Francis Hospital with Doctors Oh and Hirai. It would end tomorrow with surgery. I stayed up fairly late, 11:30, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to sleep much anyway. Surprisingly enough, I drifted right off. I don’t remember my dreams that night if I had any and at 4AM sharp, my alarm went off.

By 4:30, my wife, my mom and I were piled into Teri’s car and on our way to St. Francis. Teri stopped for a latte at Big Foot Java on South Hill and by 5:15, we were in the St. Francis parking lot. I had been to St. Francis a number of times during the preparation for this moment, once for an Endoscopy so Dr. Oh could make sure there were no complications during surgery and another time for a battery of tests; Breathing, blood work, an ultrasound (nope, not pregnant), X-rays, etc. So I knew the check-in procedure well. It was odd checking the box “Surgery” for why I was there. But it felt right. After reviewing my ID card and having me sign the HIPPA disclosures, we waited.

About 5 minutes later a nurse came in “John!?” it was time. She led me and my entourage upstairs to the same area I had my endoscopy, asked my wife and my mom to wait while they got me ready. They took me back and had me strip down and get into my hospital robe. It seemed almost like a Tyvek suit and covered me completely, even the back. After I was dressed, I had the nurse snap a picture of my backside for Karl. She started an IV, took my blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and Oxygen saturation, then called Teri and my mom in.

We sat there for propbably 20 minutes joking about different things in the room, commenting on the decor, etc. when the nurse finally came in to get me. She escorted me out into the lobby and told Teri and my mom that my surgery would be about 2 – 2.5 hours, with another hour + for recovery and they could wait for me here. We went back to the surgery ward and I asked to use the bathroom. When I came out I joked to the nurses that I now understood the convenience of a kilt. (When I’m nervous I make lots of jokes. None of them very good, but I laugh anyway)

I was introduced to my Anethesiologist (sp?) and I remember his first name was Maan (Prounounced like the Jamaican “Mon”). Somehow we got on the topic of University Place and Curtis High School. Turns out his son played water polo too and graduated in ’99. After I was situated on the operating room table, Dr. Oh and Dr. Hirai came in and said hello. I told them I scar easily so make the holes small and the stitches tight. (another joke) Then from out of nowhere there were like 5 people all doing different things. Putting sensors on my body in various locations, attaching things to the table for my outstretched arms. I quipped “I feel like I just pulled into the pits at a NASCAR race” . . . that one DID elicit a few laughs. As I was talking to Maan, the ceiling started to wiggle. “Maan, you just slipped something in my IV didn’t you?”

“JULIE! You’ve got to take DEEP breaths! . . . JULIE!” over and over again finally I said “JULIE would you take a breath already” as my eyeys fluttered open, then closed “JULIE!” . . . open and closed . . . closed.

Next thing I knew, I was in my room and Teri, my mom and a nurse were there. I don’t remember a thing. I don’t know how I got there, no clue how I got into bed and now that I think about it, no clue how I got into a new gown. Probably best I don’t remember that last part. The Julie thing (I’m not sure what her real name was, can’t remember) was in recovery I’m pretty sure. Mostly sure.

The next 24 hours or so, I was in my hospital bed. Nurses coming in every couple hours or so for various things. Get me up to walk, check my vitals, give me pain medication, make sure I’m drinking, etc. Honestly I could have stayed there for days. I was so well taken care of I can’t even describe it. Two of the nurses in particular, Karla (night shift) and Leslie (morning shift) were OUTSTANDING! They were always good to get me chicken broth, water, popsicles, apple juice, whatever I wanted, I pushed a button and I’d have it. I don’t think I was too demanding. The pain came and went, mostly with the drugs. The bed was comfortable, I had cable TV and Teri was thoughtful enough to bring one of my pillows.

Wednesday around noon, I was released and we headed home. I spent most of Wednesday in my recliner watching TV and relaxing. Yes, Tuesday afternoon after surgery when I was mostly lucid, I was on my iPhone responding to e-mails and checking on things and I did much the same on Wednesday. Thursday I went into the office for a couple hours, mom in tow. Friday I went in for a little longer. Saturday I had an inspection in Lacey and today I showed one home, but for the most part have had the good majority of the week off. Tomorrow I’m back at it.

I finally surveyed the battle damage on Friday. Friday I was able to remove the dressings over my Steri-strips and stitches. I have six holes in my abdomen just above my belly button, the largest of which is on my left side. But even it isn’t any larger than a dime at most. The rest would probably be on the order of shirt buttons. I’ll know more as the steri-strips come off and I can really see the incisions. I’m on a liquid diet for one month after surgery and so far am surviving. The two weeks prior really set me up for success here. I’ve found that I’m a big fan of Tomato Basil Bisque soup from Safeway, but try to save it for a treat. It’s loaded with fat.

Progress so far. When I weighed in at Dr. Oh’s office in May, I tipped (and I mean a Titanic sized list) the scales at a robust 356 pounds. Dr. Oh wanted me to lose 10% of my body weight for surgery and I lost about 31 pounds weighing in at 325 at the hospital. A day after surgery I had ballooned to 331 (The IV’s have plenty of salt and mostly it was water weight) but since Wednesday, I’ve dropped 12 pounds and am now at 319.5 on my scale. (Was 323 on my scale the morning of surgery). So 36.5 pounds lost since I was approved for surgery. I suspect that by the end of my liquid diet phase, I’ll be below 300 (again, last time!!!!). I’d like to be down to about 280 by Christmas. I’ll keep you posted.

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AUTHOR - John Hurlbut

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    Steve Bargelt | Aug 31, 2009 at 10:45 am

    You ROCK man! Glad everything is going well!!!

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