The Quiet Before the Storm

I showed up the day of surgery in the early hours of the morning with my mom, my sisters and a check in hand. The hospital was still fairly empty, much like the roads at that hour. You may think that I must have been nervous, but I was surprisingly calm. The admin checked me in and then a nurse escorted me to the preparation room. The room was pretty large, with beds lining both sides all the way down. Each bed was still empty; she took me to the nearest one on my right and gave me instructions to get dressed into the gown and cap on the bed, put my things into the bag provided, and then climb into the bed. Then she left and pulled the curtain around the bed to give me some privacy. I did everything she told me to and then got into the bed. The blankets were really warm, I was pleasantly surprised. I think they do that on purpose, to make you feel cozy and comfortable…relaxed.

After a while my mom and older sister Jessica came in to visit with me. They explained that I am allowed visitors, but only two at a time. We sat for a few minutes and talked, though I cannot remember what about. Because of the anesthesia, I don’t really remember anything that happens roughly 15 minutes before I lost consciousness and 15 minutes after I regained consciousness…or so they tell me.  After we talked my mom gave me a hug and said she would go and let my sister Lauren in. Lauren came in and gave me a hug.  I’m sure we talked about something, but again I can’t remember what about. And after that, I just remember waking up in the ICU.

My bed was next to the window, the blinds were open and it was dark outside. I remember a nurse coming over to check-in on me. She asked me how I was doing, and then ran me though a whole banner of tests. She asked me to smile, blink, squint, raise my eyebrows, stick out my tongue, squeeze her hand; she asked if I could feel her touch my toes, she checked my eyes. This happened every hour for the entire night, and what a night it was. Every time she came to check on me she shined a light right in my eyes, what a way to wake up. I vaguely remember the nursing staff having to give me different IV’s and injections during the night as well; plasma, insulin, and a host of other things that I can’t remember exactly.

Sometime in the morning Dr. B came in to check on me, he ran me through some of the same tests. He smiled really big when he saw that I could smile and had complete control of my facial muscles. Facial paralysis was his greatest concern from the beginning. He told me to relax and rest up, and that he would check back on me the next day. “Hey”, I said. “How long was my surgery?” “13 1/2 hours”, he said. “Wow”, I thought. I was glad that the surgery went well, granted it was a little longer than expected. I wanted to revel in that thought, but honestly all I could think about at that moment was how annoying my IV’s were. I had five total; one in my right hand, three in my left hand and forearm (including one in the artery), and one in my left ankle. I could barely move without tugging on one of them.

My attention turned towards my stomach when I saw what they had brought me for breakfast. Here’s a hint, the Dr. had ordered an all liquid diet for me…oh joy. Hmmm, there was jello, chicken broth, apple juice…this was going to be tough. Everyone always jokes about hospital food, but I had never actually stayed overnight at a hospital before. Things didn’t look very promising so far. After I had finished the “hospital” food, my mom came in to see me. We talked for a bit, mostly about me haha. Basically I broke it down for her like this; I was tired, groggy, in pain…but so glad to be alive!!

After some time one of the nurses came by to check on me. She ran me through all of the usual tests, and then she asked if I wanted to get up…”Uh, ok”, I said. I thought, “She can’t be serious”. But she was. So she got on my right side, and my mom got on my left side, and slowly, I got up. It was a strange feeling really. I couldn’t support my own weight!! I had never felt so weak. Even with them holding me up I was still hunched over like an old man, my legs trembling uncontrollably. My brain was looking for a signal from my right vestibulocochlear nerve, but no one was home. It was at that moment that I fully realized the task set before me. I smiled, almost in tears now. “I got this”, I thought to myself.

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