So two things. One, I did not die on the operating table. Two, that is the longest I have ever gone without posting. I apologize for that.
Actually, three things. I have not yet had the surgery. And oh boy is it a tale of woe and drama!
We arrived at the hospital and were wheeled back to what would be my room for my overnight stay. I got into my little dressing gown and took out my facial piercing and sat around for a long time waiting for them to come get me. Actually no, I’m misremembering. I didn’t wait very long at all for them to come get me for this one. I went back pretty quickly. They put me under, and I woke up.
Thank God right?
And then they were telling me about how they hadn’t been able to perform the actual surgery. Something about how my anatomy was wrong, how my stomach was tucked up under my ribs and they couldn’t actually get to it. My diaphragm had atrophied to the point where it was pushed up and my stomach was hiding under there and they couldn’t get to it the simple way. We were going to have to try again, with radiology.
What also sucked is finding out that they had used a skin prep for the surgery that I am allergic to. It’s called chlorhexidine and it’s very common in surgery. And because it’s very common in surgery, I make a very specific point to tell them that I am allergic to it beforehand. I kind of make a fuss about telling them that I am allergic to it. Because it’s in everything. When I woke up my stomach was covered in a brown mark, which I thought was iodine, which they should have used, so I figured I was in the clear, but two days later I was covered in a very very itchy rash, which lasted for 2 weeks. Weeks. I spent those two weeks in a Benadryl haze, covered in itchy medicine. Bastards.
The new surgery was scheduled for January 4th. Same as before, a small puncture wound to fit the tube into, minimally invasive, super quick healing, the only difference being that they were going to use radiology to guide them instead of the camera. Unlike the previous surgery, this was only scheduled as a day surgery. Again, traded in my civilian clothing and took out my piercings and made a huge fuss about the fact that I am allergic to chlorhexidine do not use it. For fuck’s sake. Jay joined me in on this refrain with the nurse. It is very very sucky to have an allergic reaction and be unable to scratch because your hands don’t work, and you also cannot apply lotion because your hands don’t work. So you have to wait for your best friend to get home from work so he can help you apply itchy cream because your hands don’t work. And also you lose two weeks of your life because your brain’s in a fog because of the medication. I was wheeled into the room finally and asked to scoot on to the operating table which I had to break it to them that I am completely unable to help them do that, so they hauled me over and I helped them as best as I could. They then asked me to lay down, and I had to reiterate what I had told to the nurse before, that I am unable to lay flat. They indicated that they had a wedge pillow for me, which set me at about a 15° angle, which was not nearly enough. I was actually kind of panicking about this. They sensed that, and put me on pure oxygen and the anesthesiologist started the calming medication. I was able to lie down and think about nothing but my breathing and force myself to pull air in and push it out and then I was asleep.
And then I was awake. And they were telling me that they were not able to perform the surgery. Because my anatomy was wrong. Because my stomach was tucked up under my ribs.
Pretty much the exact same thing I had been told before. I’m not entirely sure what the radiology was supposed to do for them and why it didn’t work but the practical upshot is once again I had been put under and nothing had come of it. So they sent me home.
And the next day I broke out into a very itchy rash because once again they had used chlorhexidine on me.
There are not enough swear words in the world.
So, the only option after that was surgical. Instead of going down my throat into my stomach, they have to go through my abdominal wall straight. It’s a bigger deal surgery, and they have to knock me completely out, and it’s a bigger risk of course. A longer heal time. We couldn’t schedule the surgery for a long time, because COVID took up all of the hospital beds and they put a hold on all elective procedures. We are going to try to do it. Laparoscopically, using a tiny incision and a tiny camera. Failing that, she will have to make a slightly larger incision to put the tube in, but she’s very confident that we can do this and it will be still minimally invasive. To be honest, I will be happy if they can do this without using chlorhexidine on me. My surgery is scheduled for April 4th.
I have to say I’m pretty freaked out about this one. The surgeon still thinks it’s a day surgery and I’ll be able to go home that same day, and I hope she’s right. We’ve booked me an overnight stay just in case, and will send me home if we’re able. She went over all of the risks to the procedure, of which of course one of them being not being able to get off of the ventilator and having to spend a day in the ICU until I can breathe on my own. A person in my ALS support group had this surgery and his vital lung capacity dropped 30% afterwards. He went in with 70% and came out 40%. I’m sitting at about 35%. I am terrified about coming out of the surgery and not being able to get off of the breathing machine and having to decide if I want a vent or not because at this point I think I would want to vent but we haven’t planned or budgeted or even seeing if we can afford a nurse to be here basically 24/7 to monitor the ventilator if I have to be on one. I’m afraid of going in for surgery and coming out on a ventilator being unable to eat, drink or talk ever again. I’ve been through this twice now and I’ve suffered no problems from the anesthesia but I haven’t been put under completely with breathing support and I’m worried about them stopping my breathing and me being unable to start it on my own again. Which is you know the reason we’re doing this now instead of when I actually need the feeding tube to get this out of the way. Basically: one guy I know has a horror story and it’s got me rattled. I shouldn’t be so freaked out. I know better. It’s probably going to be just fine. There’s just some worried little part of me that is having a field day with what-ifs.
Surgery is one week from today.
They sent me a cleaning kit for my body, two bottles of cleaning solution to be used the night before and the morning of surgery. To make sure that I am clean as a whistle before they go cutting on me. The cleaning solution is… 2% chlorhexidine. The surgeon herself had provided me with written instructions and verbal instructions and she had not mentioned sending me any kit; rather, just to wash up with a kind of soap called hibiclens.
Which it turns out is also a solution of chlorhexidine.
Luckily I called her up today and she told me I could use dial soap instead and it would be just fine. If I were to actually use the soap that they recommended, we would not be performing the surgery because I would be a red itchy mess. I had given some thought semi-seriously to having Jay write on my body: DO NOT USE CHLORHEXIDINE.
So anyway that’s what’s happening. The surgery hasn’t happened yet. We’ve had two false starts, 3rd and hopefully final attempt next week. If you’re the praying sort, pray for me. Hopefully I come out of this with an additional hole in my body and it having been the last surgery I have to go through.
Hopefully they don’t use any fucking chlorhexidine.