It's a blank to me -- my last memory ahead of time was laying on the table in the OR and having a nurse ask after my name and birth date, to which I replied,
"I was born on Roberta X and my name is twenty-eight May, nineteen-hundred and..."
She laughed and looked at her clipboard. "Do you know why you're here today?"
"If it doesn't say 'sinus surgery to straighten the septum and open up the sphenoid, erthymoid and left maxillary sinuses, with a side of turbinate reduction as needed' on your form, I think we should lock the doors, order pizza, and hang out for a couple of hours."
The anesthesiologist thought that would be a good idea, if his snicker was any indication, but alas, the fancy anatomical Latin was what it said on the form the nurse was holding, so it was too late to change plans, and besides, the ENT surgeon was on her way and we'd never have got the doors locked in time. And you know surgeons -- she probably would have wanted anchovies or blue cheese or something. Might as well get operated on instead.
The next thing I knew, I was back in the tiny hospital room I'd started out from and a different nurse was telling me that she'd be fetching Ms. Tam directly. I said something and shut my eyes. When I opened them again, Tam was there, which was more than I could say for myself. I was only about a quarter there, weak and groggy. I'd warned the staff that I have a mild tendency to be combative as I come out from under anesthesia -- not fighting, really, but semi-conscious me very much does not want to be in a hospital, nosirreebob, not at all, not under any circumstances, and in the past, nurses have told me that I have been determined to sit up and get off the gurney, over and over, muttering, "I'm okay." If that happened this time, no one mentioned it, so it probably didn't. But I was quite doped up, seeing and hearing the world through several veils even after I reclaimed my eyeglasses. I wasn't smelling a thing
Tam sat patiently, reading, and nurses popped in and out and the world and I slowly executed something like an old-fashioned modem speed negotiation: the world slowly seemed to get more real, have better moment-by moment continuity, colors got sharper and sounds attained proper perspective, and eventually Tam and I were having idle conversation, still semi-coherent on my part, but mostly hanging together. A nurse showed up with a cup of water and a pain pill, which I gladly took just in case sensation in my nose decided to return suddenly. About the time I was feeling pretty much back, enough that I could probably have ridden an elevator but not a skateboard, the ENT surgeon showed up, all smiles.
The surgeon had already given Tam a quick debrief, which they like to do so that someone who was not doped up and flying with Jupiter and Mars knows how things went. She gave me a similar report -- all okay, easier than expected, balloons opened everything up,* here's what to expect for the next few days and one other thing-- "I do need to get that packing out."
She'd already told me that she doesn't use any more packing than necessary, and rarely leaves it in. Modern thinking is that unless there was drastic rearrangement, the packing does more harm than good. She leaned in, already holding a nifty little pair of medical pliers, carefully grabbed a tag I hadn't noticed, and with an odd tickle, removed an unlikely-long piece of medical gauze from my right nostril, then proceeded to do the same on the left.
She said something about that being over and she hoped it didn't feel too weird, but I hardly heard: I was breathing through both nostrils! Feeling it, too, in a way I hadn't for so long that I had almost forgotten what it was like. It was remarkable. The doctor caught my smile and grinned back, saying, "That's that. You just lay here and rest up, and I'll be back before you leave."
Not too long after, one of the nurses removed the IV from my arm and I was able to make a much-needed trip across the hall. Then back to the gurney, a fresh cup of water and some ice chips. Various aftercare forms and supplies showed up -- I haven't mentioned the odd little gadget that hooks over one's ears and holds a loosely-rolled piece of gauze against the nostrils, but except for the packing removal, I'd been wearing one on my nose and it went home with me along with plenty of gauze squares for it. It's been very handy.
Time passed; I felt steady enough to get dressed, the nurses okayed it, and then we were just sitting, waiting for a wheelchair. Tamara went to get my car while I was wheeled up front by a nurse so much smaller than me that I felt it would be more fair if she would ride and I would push, but that's not how it it done.
Uneventful ride home (Tam drives my big Lexus pseudo-SUV with careful elan) followed by a nice sleep propped up with an ice-pack on my face, interrupted by half-waking dry-mouthed and sipping water. Woke up wide-awake and hungry about three p.m.; I'd had nothing and I mean nothing since ten the previous evening, and only ice chips and water since surgery. They want you to have only clear liquids in the first eight to ten hours after this surgery, so I had a bowl of beef consommé (and had to water it down: tasted way too salty), took a pain pill, slept more, looked at TV and the Internet, slept and woke again about eight-thirty. The fancy beef broth had stayed down, so Tam heated up some minestrone soup for me and I ate it slowly. It tasted ambrosial. Then another pain pill and back to the sleep, dry-mouth, water, TV or Internet, water, sleep, etc. routine until my mouth stopped getting dusty dry and I fell asleep about one a.m. and was out until six -- cat-feeding time.
This morning, a poached egg, tea and buttered bread tasted wonderful and here I am, typing at you. Tam's still asleep, last time I checked. I haven't needed a pain pill since last night (though I'm not putting them away just yet. This kind of pain comes and goes). The doctor sent me home with a big bottle of horse-sized antibiotic pills and I'm about due for another one of them and for my very first post surgery sinus irrigation! I'll spare you the details of that, unless they're funny.
I have been breathing pretty well through my nose all this time -- a few times I had to resort to mouth-breathing but it would seem my sinuses were so plugged up for so long that even swollen up and icky after surgery, they're at least as good as they were before, if not better.
* Boy, how do you like that? Turn down my suggestion of a pizza party, but they had balloons! Probably they all got balloon animals to take home, too. Hmpf!
Working On A Starship
4 weeks ago