My First…

Posted: May 3, 2013 in personal
Tags: , ,

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It’s about 10 days after my first hospital admission and first surgery. I am doing well but not yet back to my regular self. There’s still a bit of pain on the surgical sites when doing certain daily activities but I am generally good and feeling great.

Back in January, about the last week of the month, I had my annual general physical examination, which was required by the company I work for. I had the usual tests for my age group but I also complained of another matter, one that has been plaguing me for a year now. The doctor advised further examinations including an ultrasound of the entire abdomen.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the ultrasound revealed a glaring 1.3 cm mass in my gall bladder. I got worried.  A mass is a mass. No matter the circumstances (I am young, a non-smoker, non-alcoholic beverage drinker, and I exercise regularly), as long as it has not been declared benign and safe, we always think of the possibility of the big C.

My being a doctor may have made matters worse. I know where to get more information so I did.  And the more information I read, the more grim everything became.  Studies reveal that solitary gall bladder masses with size greater than 1 cm have a higher chance of being malignant (i.e. cancerous).

I consulted my doctor-friends about it and they reassured me. I didn’t have the symptoms nor the danger signs of the big C so I need not worry, they all said.  I consulted experts in the field and they shared the same opinion.  They also advised laparoscopic cholecystectomy – surgical removal of the gall bladder using scopes.  It is a much more expensive but safer option (versus an open surgery, which requires a bigger incision and therefore longer recovery time).  It is a fairly common procedure and there are already a lot of experts here in the Philippines.

So the date of the surgery was set.  I was to be admitted for the first time in my life and undergo my first surgery on April 25.  You see, it took me a long time before I finally decided to have the surgery done.  I initially just wanted to observe, do a series of ultrasounds to monitor if the mass grew. Work, also, got in the way.  I couldn’t really think about what I needed to do because I was swamped with problems to solve, decisions to make, and meetings to attend.  I also had to consider the schedule of my sister who I asked to take care of me post-surgery.

When the week of the surgery came, my anxiety, apprehension and fear escalated.  A lot of questions came flashing in my mind. What if I developed a reaction to the anesthesia? What if I bled out while on the table? What if the anesthesia didn’t work and I felt every cut, slice and tug? What if they find out that I had a much bigger mass and it’s inoperable? What if I don’t wake up from sedation? What if my memory was wiped because of the anesthesia? What if I die?

But I had to be strong. I didn’t tell my parents or my siblings everything about what I am about to go through. I only told them that it was a routine procedure that I had to go through. I brushed off all their questions and didn’t make a big deal about the surgery.  I was nonchalant about everything because I didn’t want them to worry or panic because I know that if I see them worry, I’d worry too. It’ll be a vicious cycle of worrying, which won’t really do me any good.

So I gathered all the positivity and courage I had in me and had myself admitted.  The fear was still there though but I kept it just below the surface.  When I feel it bubbling up, trying to find its way to the top, I quenched it with laughter or with a smile, whichever comes easier or is more appropriate at the time.

The night before the surgery was uneventful.  I was only told to not eat or drink anything starting 12 midnight.  I even sent my sister home and was left alone at the hospital.  The following day, though, started very early. My nurse woke me up at 5 in the morning to insert my IV.  At about 9am, they wheeled me to the operating room.  But it wasn’t until an hour later that I was brought to the operating table.

That one hour of wait was the longest hour of my life.  I was in a cold room with just the hospital robe on and an IV on my left hand.  I didn’t have a cellphone or a book as company.  I only had my thoughts.  And my mind was anxious and restless and kept flashing all the questions I had pondered on before.  The negative thoughts weren’t helping my nerves so I decided to quench them and focused on my IV instead.  It was a good thing I did that for it was then that I saw that my IV line was full of bubbles.  I spent the rest of the hour flicking and flipping my IV line to remove the bubbles.

And then my nurse approached me and asked my name and the name of my doctor.  It was time.  She wheeled me in the operating room and assisted me to the operating table.  The anesthesiologist approached me and asked me a few questions.  She warned me that she’d be pushing the sedative and then poof.

I woke up parched, groggy but comfortable.  I asked the nurse for water. And then instructed her to inform everyone in my room, my siblings and parents, that I was okay.  I was worried that they are worrying. I didn’t know how long the surgery went but I was still groggy from the medicines to think clearly.  I was only following my instincts.  After making sure that my family knew I was safe, I gave in to sleep once more.  When I woke up, it was time to go back to my room.

It turns out, my family was called to the OR some time during my surgery.  The surgeon showed the mass to my father, who was the only one available at the time since my sister and her husband went out to buy their lunch. It turned out to be cholesterol deposits that aggregated.  My gall bladder, though, was still sent to the pathology department for routine biopsy.

A few hours later, my cousins, who were informed by my dad that I was in the hospital, arrived and before I knew it, a picnic was happening in my room.  I was cleared to eat and drink anything I wanted so I did although slowly as I was still feeling bloated from the surgery.

I barely had any pain at the surgical sites (I had 4 small incisions – one near my umbilicus (not in picture), another near my xiphoid process and two on my right side). My main problem was back pain, on my upper back near my right scapula.  This and the bloating are the effects of all the air that has been infused into the abdomen during the procedure in order for the surgeon to better see the gall bladder and surrounding structures.

The following day, I requested to be discharged and just recover at home. When my doctors were sure that I wasn’t bleeding and my bowel functions were intact, they allowed me to go home.

I wasn’t able to move around as much as I would want a few days after the surgery but eventually, the bloating diminished, the pain on my back disappeared and my movement were as close to normal as possible.

Thank goodness everything went well. I am grateful that my surgery, my very first and hopefully, the last, went uneventful.  Thank you God. =)

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