Originally, I intended to provide a daily update from the hospital after my first surgery. Despite a successful operation, the recovery has been more difficult than I expected. Soon, I will start posting about my progress since getting home but the following provides a synopsis of my experience in the hospital:
DAY 1 – Tuesday, 13 March 2012
I intended to be a model patient. Physically and mentally, I prepared for surgery like an athletic event. If all went well, I would be out of the hospital in four days. As with anything in life, it is impossible to control everything.
Feeling better from the night prior, I was eager to start working towards recovery. Walking is essential to reawakening the bowels and believed that my motivation and hard work prior to surgery would provide great dividends. I made countless laps around the corridor adjacent to my room in an effort to hasten my recovery. In hindsight, I was probably delusional from the medication because the visits from my wife and mother are also very hazy.
I will never know if walking so early provided any benefit or hindrance to my recovery. However, I do know it is important to be cognizant of the signals told by your body. Of course, rational thinking is not easy when medicated.
DAY 2 – Wednesday, 14 March 2012
The second day was better than the first. On a full liquid diet, I continued making laps around the corridors. All of the signals indicated my discharge from the hospital in four days could occur.
DAY 3 – Thursday, 15 March 2012
I hope to eventually forget this day. By mid-morning, I was disconnected from intravenous fluids and walking around the corridors in my own clothes. My diet was increased to soft foods and everything seemed fine.
While resting in my bed with my wife visiting in the late afternoon, I suddenly realized an inability to control my temperature. I was expecting to manage some additional pain with the intravenous narcotics but I did not expect the nausea. Before long, I was vomiting stomach bile in a bag my wife found in the room. What seemed like an hour probably only lasted a few minutes but I was grateful for the instantaneous relief. Exhausted, the relief was instantaneous.
Unlike anything I have ever experienced, this is the point when I started fear that something had gone horribly wrong with my recovery. The nurses did not provide any answers and I did not have the energy to inquire. My wife sensed the fear but we were probably the only people in the world with any concern. After all, I was on a floor with other patients recovering from digestive disorders and my situation was like very familiar to my caregivers. So, the evening ended without answers and I assumed the next day would be better. I spent the rest of my evening resting until after my wife left.
DAY 4 – Friday, 16 March 2012
After the initial vomiting incident, the hospital doctors prescribed medicine to counteract my nausea and I reverted to a clear liquid diet. Unfortunately, I was awakened at about 4 a.m. to the same uncomfortable feeling of the previous evening. Anticipating the next few moments, I quickly grasped a plastic bucket left by a nurse while simultaneously pressing my bedside button for help.
By the time a nurse reached my room, I had nearly filled my bucket with stomach bile. Except ulcerative colitis, I have always been quite healthy. Even dating back to my childhood, the number of times I have vomited could be counted on my fingers. Dark green with a rancid odor, I could not associate the expunged bile with any other experience. Nevertheless, I knew relief would quickly arrive.
After being assisted by multiple nurses, the hospital doctor who prescribed the nausea medication after the first vomiting episode. She told that a nasogastric tube must be inserted through my nose to provide relief from the nausea and bile in my stomach. As three nurses helped intubate me, I was told to expect some discomfort that would subside within minutes. An awkward experience, the tube only took a few minutes to insert but this was just the beginning.
Despite reassurances, I never stopped gagging. While everyone is likely different, it seems that I have a very sensitive gag reflex. The three nurses who performed the procedure seemed very surprised and the doctor was called multiple times. Meanwhile, I think everyone on my floor could hear me despite my efforts to remain calm. Over and over again, I was gagging like it was my last gasp of air to the point that I begged the nurses to remove the tube. With the hospital doctor on the phone listening to me through the nurse’s phone, he told her the tube must stay. At that moment, I felt my recovery reeling backwards.
After over an hour of suffering, I removed the nasogastric tube in one quick pull. Not normally defiant, I got the idea from the true caregivers who shared my experience. For others observing my situation, it was obvious that the solution was not working. Meanwhile, I recognized the need to be my advocate because the doctor only understood my condition clinically. Vomiting only one more time much less dramatically during the day, my decision seemed correct. Soon, everything would start getting better.
DAY 5 – Saturday, 17 March 2012
The hospital is not a great place to relax. It seemed at the precise moment I would finally fall asleep, somebody would need to take vital signs or prick me with the needle of the hour. Of course, it was not until recognizing that home would be a better place for healing that I become irritable. As my surgeon said, if my digestive system cooperates, I would be able to go home.
Successfully conquering a liquid diet the previous day, my surgeon allowed me to try soft food again. This time, the kitchen brought me the vegetarian diet I requested but the food was not much more tolerable. By the time my wife brought me some soft serve ice cream in the evening, it was the best dessert I had ever enjoyed. I never expected to appreciate such simple things but this was easily the first time in my life that I truly experienced hunger.
DAY 6 – Sunday, 18 March 2012
Extremely uneventful, I was disconnected from intravenous fluids and I made laps around the hospital floor. Unless something went awry, my surgeon said I would be discharged the next morning. For the first time, I read a book because the drama and pain were replaced by boredom.
DAY 7 – Monday, 19 March 2012
After getting one night of decent sleep in the hospital, I was discharged before noon. The next step of my journey was about to begin.