Everybody Stare at my Crotch a.k.a. the Hernia Surgery
For the seventh time in the last two years, I balanced on one foot in the surgery center changing room. I pulled on the sticky socks and attempted to tie the non-matching strings of the hospital gown. This time though, I wasn’t allowed to keep on my underwear. I was getting ready for a right inguinal hernia repair. At least it was a non cancer related problem, I thought.
After I gave the purple gloved nurse my urine sample, I was ushered into one of the bays with a bed. I lay down and was immediately covered by microwaved blankets because someone thought up the rule of keeping the pre-surgery area at 60F.
My nurse was a really nice lady who smiled a lot and actually seemed concerned for me. She looked me in the eyes and hovered around while another nurse did other tasks.
“Are you OK if A. inserts your IV?” The nice nurse, G., asked, glancing at a young looking nurse.
I frowned. Why shouldn’t I be OK? I had been laying there under the impression everyone around me is a highly capable nurse.
“Uhmm…yeah.” I mumbled and my internal alert went on orange as I started to expect a painful stick.
A. inserted the IV with a moderate amount of wincing on my end and only a slight wave of nausea rising up from my stomach. Meanwhile, an anesthesiologist stopped by and took my hand in his, holding it as if he was comforting me.
He stared at my face for a few seconds and asked how I was, then let go of my hand and walked away. I wasn’t sure if that was just a friendly gesture or if it was some secret anesthesia ritual of feeling the patient’s temperature and nervousness level.
He returned about twenty minutes later and I answered, for the third time at this point, questions about whether or not I had dentures, implants, lose teeth, metal particles in my head etc. I requested a nausea patch and he peeled it off the paper and stuck it behind my right ear.
Then the nice nurse informed me that we were just waiting for the surgeon to show up.
“She’s probably having a glass of wine with lunch somewhere.” I told my husband, who was freezing in an uncomfortable plastic chair next to my bed.
About 30 minutes later, we heard some commotion and the curtains around my bed flew open and my surgeon literally danced in.
“Hey there! How are we doing?” She exclaimed loudly.
“Good.” I answered, watching her twirl around.
“I decided to wear a dress today”, she said, “I always wear scrubs, so I was like, I am wearing a dress today!” She smiled wide.
I glanced at my husband. DID she have a glass of wine with lunch? Or two?
“Let me go change and we’ll do this, OK?” She called out after me as she sashayed down the hallway.
Suddenly, all the nurses were on high alert and lifted up the rails on the side of my bed, serious look on their faces and I started the short trek to the OR. I waved my husband good-bye just as I started feeling very drunk. I didn’t even notice anyone pushing anything in my IV.
I made it to the operating room table, wondering about the fact that soon all the personnel will see me completely naked and I was out.
I woke up in PACU, shivering and felt a nurse tucking warm blankets around my body. Another nurse was snaking an oxygen tube by my nose. The blood pressure cuff inflated in uncompromising 5 minute intervals. In my hazy mind, I thought it was very important to always swivel my head as far as I could to see the blood pressure readings.
When I was awake enough to keep my eyes cracked open a little longer, the first wave of pain hit me. I moved an inch in the bed and tears cropped in my eyes. How could it hurt so much already? I glanced around and tried to summon one of the nurses. They kept typing at their computers.
Finally one of them came over.
“Whenever you are ready, we’ll dress you and you’ll sit in that arm chair over there. Then your husband can come back here.”
“It hurts.” I whimpered.
The nurse frowned. Her face had the expression of disbelief.
“It really hurts.” I said again and one tear rolled down my cheek.
She bit the inside of her cheek and said she would go get some pain medication.
A couple minutes later, she squeezed something in my IV. I felt better for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, she arrived with my plastic bag of clothes. She flicked off my blankets and I shivered. She took off my sticky socks and instructed me to lift my legs alternatively, so she can put on my socks. When I tried to lift the leg on the side of my hernia, sharp pain shot through my body.
“I can’t lift it.” I whispered. “It hurts.”
She stared at me uncomprehending and wiggled my foot as in ‘lift your leg’.
“I CAN’T.” I mustered all the strength I had. I hated her at that point.
She snaked the sock halfway on and asked me to sit up.
I couldn’t. That would involve my abdominal muscles. I started to doubt she knew what a hernia surgery involved.
Another nurse came by and lifted the bed’s back rest into a sitting position. I managed to pull on my clothes.
By the time I made it into the arm chair, I was in so much pain I couldn’t pay attention to anything the nurses said. I tried really hard to not cry and kept blinking my eyes to stop the tears from falling.
They wheeled me to another area and sat down a mini can of ginger ale and saltines in front of me. Great, I thought, high fructose corn syrup, chemicals, sugar and hydrogenated oil product. Nothing like healthy foods in a hospital. I couldn’t remember last time I had soda.
The nurse who forced me to lift my legs called out from her computer on a scale of 1-10, how much pain was I in.
“Eight.” I stared hard at her. I thought that ten only qualified for when one screams in bursts of agony and nine qualified for loud whimpering.
My answer seemed to surprise her. She glanced at me with her head lowered, probably gauging if I was lying or not. I held my stare.
She got up and brought over two pills in a cup and some water. I took them and within about half an hour, my pain finally felt manageable. Meanwhile, my husband showed up and as the nurse kept asking me about the pain level, I realized that unless I say three or less, I will not go home.
Next time she asked, I claimed a pain level of three. She shot up from her desk and brought over paperwork to take home with me.
“Can I go to the restroom first?” I interrupted her.
I limped to the bathroom and she told me to call her when I was done.
I sat down on the toilet, the urge to pee overwhelming.
Then nothing happened. I felt like I needed to pee but nothing came out. What the hell was that? I sat there trying to go pee but it just simply wasn’t coming out. After about three minutes a couple drops escaped. Another couple minutes later a tiny stream lasted about four seconds. And that was it.
I felt like I had the worst case of a UTI and as if someone stabbed me in my lower right abdomen. I put my head in my hands and cried, still on the toilet, my pants down by my ankles. I couldn’t get up, the pain overwhelming me once again.
I called the nurse.
“I can’t pee!” I exclaimed in alarm.
“That’s normal.” She said.
“What do you mean, it’s normal?” I asked. “I could always pee after my surgeries.” In fact, many times the nurses would not let me go home unless I peed.
“It’s normal to have trouble peeing after surgery.” She repeated in a monotone voice.
I sat back down in my armchair and intercepted a different nurse. She kindly explained to me that with my TYPE of surgery, it was normal to have some problems urinating.
My husband drove us home, trying to avoid pot holes. I lay down on the couch in our living room, covered myself with a blanket and took my prescription pain pill. The pain was manageable if I didn’t move much and I stayed functional till bedtime.
I woke up at 4:45AM in pain. It hurt so bad I couldn’t go back to sleep. I blindly felt for the pain pill bottle by my side of the bed and cursed the child safety lid on it. I twisted it and it wouldn’t open. I got hot and cursed under my breath. I think it was pure adrenaline that forced the damn lid open. I felt for my water bottle and took the pill. Then I waited for half an hour before it kicked in and I drifted off to sleep again.
It is now four days after the surgery and the swelling is almost gone. The only thing gaping at me is my 4cm scar.