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The big day

4/3/2005

I am NOT a morning person. I even joked with Anne that she should drop me off at the hospital after dinner. I could sleep on a gurney and be there on time for surgery without having to wake up early. No, she didn’t think that was a good idea. I took the required shower with Hibiclens, an antibacterial soap. I took the medicine required and I went to bed. I somehow fell right to sleep, aware that I had to get up early. I woke up before the alarm clock went off. About 20 minutes later, we were out the door. Funny, but it doesn’t take long to get ready when you only have to shower. No curling iron, no make-up, no breakfast. We arrived at High Point Regional just before 6 AM. Even at that hour, everyone we met there was cheerful, upbeat and managed to project the attitude that they had just come to work that day to participate in my “dance”. I am still in awe of the caring attitude of everyone there. When we first arrived on the surgical floor, the man who greeted us there told Anne that I would be taken into another room to get changed and that the nurse would come out to get her as soon as I was ready. At no time were either of us in the dark as to procedure or what to expect.

I was changed into a gown that was plenty big enough, put on the tight white support stockings to prevent blood clots from forming in my legs. An ID bracelet was put on my arm and I was tucked into a plenty wide gurney, covered up and made very comfortable. At that time, Anne was called in, given the bag with my clothes in them, and she was allowed to accompany me to the pre-op room door. At that time, Anne was shown where to wait for me until Dr. Dasher would find her when my operation was over. An IV was started and I was very relaxed. I think there may have been some “happy juice” in that IV because I was totally relaxed without a concern in the world. After a while, I was wheeled into the OR. I became more alert then, afraid it would be hard to move me from the gurney to the OR table, since I’m not exactly tiny. They had me moved in a heartbeat, as if the sheet under me had Teflon under it. Maybe it did! I forced myself to stay alert a bit, to hear what was being said. They called me by name, so that was reassuring to me, to know they knew who I was and why I was there and didn’t have me confused with someone in for another kind of surgery. I was very impressed that the conversation was about procedure, supplies, making sure each participant had his or her job under control. I felt confident that they were concentrating on the job at hand, mainly ME, and not talking about the latest movie or last night’s date. The last thing I remember was the nurse anesthetist asking if I was claustrophobic. She wanted my permission to hold an oxygen mask over my face to give me pure oxygen. Oh, sure, why not…Life is beautiful and I am out cold!

The operation took about 45 minutes. Dr Dasher found Anne in the waiting room and told her all went well. He explained that I would be in the recovery room for about an hour, then I’d be brought up to my private room. They are all private rooms at High Point! I had explained to Anne, and it had been emphasized at the clinic the night before, that her real job was to get me up and walking as soon as possible after surgery. Walking would be the one thing that would help me the most to recover quickly. I was to walk as often and as far as possible during the week after surgery. I was to discover that Anne takes her tasks very seriously.

I woke up in my room, struggled to open one eye, and I saw Anne there. She reassured me that I was fine, that Dr. Dasher said all had gone well. She asked if I wanted an ice chip. (yes) Did I want to get up and walk? (NO) I was in and out of sleep all day, and the same 2 questions kept being asked. I finally woke up enough to stand around 10 PM. I maybe could have gotten up earlier, but the sleep after anesthesia is wonder, dreamless, carefree sleep and I didn’t want it to end! My first steps were only as far as the bathroom. The nurses put a measuring device inside the toilet so they could keep track of input and output. I surely had only a few ice cubes all day, so I didn’t know where it all came from, but I thought for sure I would overflow the measuring pan. I kept going like the energizer bunny! Since I was up, I did walk a lap or two, tethered to my IV pole. My reward for being good was a Popsicle, followed by another trip to the bathroom. I was still marveling at where all the water came from when I looked down at my feet. Good Lord! My left foot, ankle and leg matched the right one! The swelling that was so awful was gone! I didn’t dare get too excited, and I don’t think I was still awake enough to think about it, but I figured it was just because I had been on my back all day, and I had my legs in those tight stockings. Of course the swelling would be down. I was sure that as soon as like was back to normal, the swelling would return. I am happy to say that I am now 24 days out and my ankles still match. The swelling never returned and they tell me it never will. Being free of that pain and immobility alone made this surgery worth the price. I was feeling very good that night. I was able to get up and walk without pain. Maybe stooped over a bit, but no pain. Some folks get bad shoulder and back pain from the air that gets inside our bodies during surgery, but I had none of that, either. No nausea, no vomiting, life was all good.

As I got snuggled back into bed for the night, I suggested that Anne go back to the hotel, get a good night’s sleep. She disagreed. Her thought process was that I had slept all day. I just might wake up during the night and want to take a walk. Yeah, that’ll happen…. But I worried about her, sleeping all night in that chair. I should not have worried. The back of the big chair dropped down. The front pulled up and voila! A twin bed was born. The nurse brought in sheets, a blanket and pillows. We both slept well. And I did wake up in the night for yet another bathroom trip and, yes, I did walk a few more laps in the halls. All had gone extremely well that day.

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