If you are going to be in the hospital and incapacitated in any way make sure you have someone with you that knows you well enough to speak for you. My stepmom not only answered calls and questions from anyone and everyone who had my cell phone number, but she also fielded questions from the hospital staff. Here is a list of some of the questions she was repeatedly asked.
"Does she normally use a walker or walking aide?"
"Is she on oxygen at home?"
"Does she use a c-pap at night?"
My stepmom's response to each person's amazement...
"She lives alone, drives her own car, walks without help, and holds down a full time job."
I was in such bad shape that they were shocked I had entered the hospital a healthy, independent person. I do have insulin-dependent diabetes and I'm quite overweight. I have hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, and acid reflux disease. But I really am relatively healthy. Well I was and I will be again. Soon.
IV's and catheters are pretty standard post-surgery equipment. The extremely large amount of anesthesia used dictated the insertion of a feeding tube and the initial use of oxygen. But some things they use to make you better can make you worse. Visual aide: post-surgery binder or girdle (quite similar to the ones I wore).
While still on the operating table, I was (VERY) tightly wrapped into this girdle. It went from just under my arms to well below my waist. It actually covered most of my butt too. I mention it because this fact will cause problems later when I am able to walk to the bathroom on my own. We'll also discover after I've come home that it's given me several sores and caused an area on my left backside to lose all sensation. That area is still mostly numb.
I was visited daily by doctors & respiratory therapists that lamented my shallow breathing. At first they chalked it up to the pain caused by abdominal surgery but then I began to complain that the girdle was too tight to breathe. It's a shame more doctors don't trust their patients to know their own bodies.
After several days of my stepmom and I talking to the nurses about the girdle someone finally realized we were right. Once we got someone on our side my stepmom helped me undo the girdle. I could immediately breathe better. A little while later the nurse we convinced came in and helped her to close the girdle back up, but not as tight. After discovering that the girdle was actually two different layers going around me and overlapping in the middle, they shifted those layers to make it easier for me to move.
Suddenly I could straighten up while standing. I could reach more than a few inches away from my body. And best of all I could breathe. The next evening (Monday) I stopped using the oxygen. The respiratory therapists were upset at first but gave in when my oxygen levels remained above 95. However not before they insisted I be put on a bi-pap machine. This is a breathing machine you wear while sleeping that is much larger than the c-pap most people use at home.
The problem with this plan is that I am a very light sleeper and this machine is incredibly loud. The oxygen came out so hard that if the facemask wasn't sitting just right it would blow my hair back. And that is no exaggeration. I laid there without sleeping for over two hours being as still as I possibly could to keep from setting off the alarm on the machine because I'd moved the mask in the slightest way. I finally gave up and asked my stepmom to call the nurse to turn it off. The new plan was to give me a sleeping pill the next night before starting the machine.
I thought about it all the next day and decided not to let them put me on the machine again. I'm claustrophobic and the facemask is so huge that I couldn't relax the night before and I didn't think a sleeping pill was going to change that. After explaining this to the respiratory therapist, he relented and left me machine free for the night. The nurse suggested I take the sleeping pill anyway and enjoy a nice restful night. I hadn't been sleeping too well so I agreed.
I'll amuse you in my next entry with what a mistake that decision turned out to be.