THE MASTECTOMY

Excerpt of my memoir …

February 12, 2014 11:00 a.m.

Operating Room-cv

Surgery room image

Next door to the surgery room, preparations were a blur of nurses, technicians and finally Drs. Jew; her PA, Holly Meyers and my plastic surgeon, Richard Korentager all greeted me in the few moments before surgery. As always, both Dr. Jew and Dr. ‘K’ spoke in the calmest, reassuring tone, making sure I was prepped and ready, no indication of what lie ahead except to get this surgery done and begin recovery. No trauma. No worried looks, no agonizing wait.

I asked for the ‘feel good stuff’ which the nurse smilingly momentarily accommodated me. Inserted it into my IV; unbeknownst to me, the drug is administered as common procedure nowadays. The drug assists with the efficiency of the anesthesia. In seconds I floated into the ‘happy zone’.

Still conscious and quite comfy. I noticed immediately when wheeled into surgery that the room appeared sleek and high-tech like a scene from Star Trek. Not in the least like operating rooms ‘as seen on TV’(like what was I expecting?). The room was very bright but not glaring, and spacious and warm, with pastel painted walls and two gurneys along one wall. There was a wall designed for viewing X-rays or photos and several tables of trays of surgical tools in designated spots for my surgery. A lot of tools. Other equipment was stationed nearby where the nurses repositioned me onto a flat gurney.

The nurse staff prepared me to ‘go under’ with the general anesthetic. Soft spoken, a nurse gently placed the clear mask over my nose. Lights out. I don’t remember counting backwards. I think that’s only on TV as well. Dr. Jew performed the first part of the surgery, the unilateral mastectomy and Dr. Korentager in charge of the second half with the ‘tissue expander’ insertion. In approximately three hours I was transported to a private recovery room for the rest of the day and overnight observation.

Recovery:

After the surgery, I stayed overnight in a very nice private room with a soft bed, warm covers, and steak if I wanted. I didn’t. Lavender flowered wallpaper and there was a cot for Ed if he chose. I urged him to sleep at home to get the best sleep. Not your typical ‘sterile’, bland hospital room. Only thing more I needed was my dog, Sasha at my feet.

The staff and nurses were very attentive, making me feel well-cared for. Safe. Hours out of surgery I was very dopey … I moved very little as I dozed.

During the night … I was unaware I was under hourly watch. I had suspiciously low blood pressure. Always my tendency just like my mother, again three decades later, I knew low BP was part of the cause of my mother’s death. But I didn’t have pneumonia. I caught the nurses’ drift because they woke me several times in the night to retake my blood pressure, regulating the Morphine drip. That is a potent drug — made me so woozy! Sometime in the wee hours I stabilized to the head nurse’s satisfaction.

Somewhat comatose upon waking I had the sense my mother was near. I could damn near feel her sitting at the foot of the bed, smell her soft, flowery cologne. Since she died in 1983 she’s been my guardian angel.

I asked for a psychologist. Confided feelings bottled up about my daughter’s drug abuse and our splitting ways. Wondered if the past months meant anything to her? Didn’t make any sense to me now.

The nurse consoled me, “focus on your own recovery”, squeezing my hanrecoveryd, assured me I was fine, just rest. So I began. No videos, no calls, no texts, just sleep.

uh…felt a bit naked… hurt to talk… not much here but fragments

 

 

breath mach.

I struggled with the inhaler, the weird looking breathing machine that physical therapy makes you do to alleviate the pain of sore muscles and tight lungs, to deep breathe, to avoid pneumonia. What a mouthful to say and to do. I hated that routine. Then they gave me a bigger apparatus to do those same exercises at home. Gotta admit, it helped ease the pain some.

The third of seven surgeries, This was my first on the table. Little did I understand that I’d get to know the whole rigamarole quite well; the prep process, the questions, nurses and technicians, the IVs, the recovery drowsiness, the inability to move without pain, and all the it’s-okay-I’m-okay text messages again and again. I wasn’t thinking; I just wanted sleep.

 

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