Saturday, April 30, 2005

Tonsillectomy II: The Recovering

During my surgery, not only did I have a tonsillectomy, but I also had my sinuses cleaned, since they had spent a year being frequently infected. I was hoping that I would recover from the procedures in a few days, so I could get back to Work on Monday. That wasn't going to happen.

Day 1 (Friday):
This morning I feel horrible. All of the pain medication has worn off, and the surgery hits me full force. Everything above the neck hurts, and I cannot swallow at all. I immediately develop a fast friendship with my spit bucket. It's an old Sunshine Corn muffin batter container that we converted into a mop bucket. I use it to spit out all of the mucus and saliva that my healing mouth creates, but can't swallow. Plus, the occasional hocked up blood clot. Those are pretty.

I have an appointment to see the doctor in the morning, and Mike takes me (thanks, Mike). He pulls out these giant plugs of gauze from my sinuses, which is both relieving and painful. He then takes a quick look at my mouth to make sure nothing horrendous has happened (it's fine), and sends me on my way. Unfortunately, he doesn't catch the rising fever.

Later that night, Christina swings by, and she immediately notices that I have developed a fever. I was told to expect a slight fever, and that as long as it is below 101F, I'm probably fine. It is below 101F, barely, so I say I'm fine. Over the course of the next few hours, though, it gets worse. Finally, it's 1am, and my fever is at 102.5F. Christina convinces me that I need to go to the emergency room.

So we do.

We get there, fill in all of the paperwork, and start the waiting. As I wait, I start shivering uncontrollably. I'm sure it looks pretty bad. I'm sitting in a chair, hunched over trying to hug myself, with blood caked around my nose (cool side effect of the surgery). I'm either overdosing or suffering withdrawals. Christina takes my temperature, and it's up to 103F.

I finally get admitted, and they work me up. I spend about two hours there getting tested. I've got an infection. So, they stick an IV in me (one shot only), and push me full of penicillin for about forty minutes. Then they send me home with a new antibiotics prescription.

Day 2 (Saturday):
I didn't sleep much last night, since I was in the emergency room. Christina stays with me the whole day, while I add dying fever to my list of damn this sucks. The combination of pain, nasty sweat, and intermittent chills is a thing of beauty, not to be missed by any true fan of suffering. But, by the end of the day, the fever is gone, and the mini-crisis is averted. On to the next...

Day 3 - Day 4 (Sunday-Monday):
Both of the days are similar. I wake up in the morning, having only managed a few scattered hours of restless sleep, and I feel like shit. I drag my self through the day in a haze only available to those who have spent the last 4 days on a steady diet of pain, opiates, and insomnia. I try to watch some DVDs, surf the internet, listen to music... anything to get my mind off of the extreme pain, hunger and discomfort of the experience. These two days kind of blend together, so it's hard to distinguish them. At some point in here, Christina decides that I'm being an unappreciative asshole, and runs off, assuring me that she's not mad. I won't see her again for another three days.

Day 5 (Tuesday):
I wake up feeling like crap... again. But, it's a good day, because I get to have these uncomfortable plastic splints removed from the inside of my nose. Apparently, while the good doctor was fiddling around in there, he noticed that my septum was badly deviated, so he had to do some minor bone/cartilage surgery, which required aforementioned splints. Anyway, I go to the Doctor's office, and get them removed, which is a huge relief. I can actually breath through my nose. Easily. Even more easily than before the surgery. The sinus clearing and septum surgery has obviously made a huge difference.

Then, a miracle happens. As I'm walking away from the office towards my truck, strolling through the warmly cool pasadena morning, I actually start to feel good. I can breath, the Vicodin is starting to kick in, and I feel good. It doesn't last long, though. Just long enough for me to drive down to the local strip mall to find that old italian restaurant that I haven't been to in forever (it's closed), and to stop by Tower to buy some new CDs. All of that activity really takes it out of me, and a few hours later, I'm back at home, feeling like shit again.

Day 6 (Wednesday):
I wake up feeling like poo-poo. Most of the morning, I feel the same. But, as the afternoon/evening rolls around, I start feeling much better. I get a little excited, and decide to try getting an actual meal. So, I drive down to the local Italian restaurant, Domenico's, and get ravioli with meat sauce.

When I get back home, before I get to try the food, Christina shows up. She has decided that I'm not an asshole, and is happily surprised that I'm eating real food. Well, trying to anyway. It turns out I can't actually eat it. I make it through about one ravioli before the pain convinces me to stop. It's kind of depressing to go from a real meal back to warm soup.

Day 7 (Thursday):
As usual, I don't feel so hot in the morning, but for the rest of the day, I feel OK. Christina joins me, and we lay out in the front lawn to get some warm SoCal sun. New music plays on my laptop, and we both enjoy the weather. For a few hours, I actually don't feel sick.

Tonight, I decide to sleep downstairs on the couch, so I can be sure to sleep sitting up. I want to see if sleeping in the right position will improve my mornings.

Day 8 (Friday):
I wake up today, and I don't feel that bad. My throat is a little dry and sore, but it's bearable. A few hours and a couple of Advils later, I feel good. I eat applesauce and pudding, and get some credit card business done. For lunch, I finish that Italian meal, then I head out of the house. I go back to the strip mall and get a very pleasant haircut from a cute Malaysian lady named Krisette.

In the afternoon, I even stop by work. It's a little weird after being gone for what seems like such a long time, but it's also nice to feel almost normal again. I check my emails and phone messages just to make sure that there aren't any emergencies, then I go back home.

For dinner, I join Ben, Mike, Lauren, and Amy at Margarita's for some Mexican food. I have my first real meal in over a week: a beef quesadilla. It's a little hard to chew and swallow, and I only get through half of it, but it feels so good to be able to go to a restaurant, eat a meal, and bullshit with friends like a normal person. I think that the sickness part is over, now. I'm still not going to 100% for another week or so, but I feel good. I got through it.


It has now been over eight days since my tonsils were forcefully removed from my mouth by a cauterizing knife. I'm finally feeling well enough to write up a wonderful little description of day of the surgery.

Day 0 (Thursday):
I wake up this morning and immediately begin feeling anxious. I know that it's not a major surgery, but it is my first real one, and the idea of it is finally making me uncomfortable. Mike wakes up early with me and gets me to the hospital at 7:45am. Thanks, Mike.

I get checked in, fill in some more paperwork, get undressed and slip into one of those awesome hospital smocks. I am completely unable to tie those ridiculous loops in the back, so my ass is hanging out. Meh. I am just taken directly to bed anyway. I have a very nice nurse, and we chat for a bit. I am trying to sound very nonchalant about the whole surgery thing, but I'm sure she can tell that I'm totally bluffing. We talk about the science thing, and the world trip thing, and some other things.

Then begins the poking.

I really don't like needles. It's not the pain, though. You can pinch me all day long, and I've got no problems. It's that feeling of having something underneath my skin. Something that's either pushing fluid into or sucking blood out of my body. It's very unnerving, and has caused me to faint more than once. I tell the nurse this, and she smiles and says she'll be quick. She's not. She tries the vein near the top of my left wrist. Insert. Wriggle. Wriggle. Tap-tap. Hmm. Wriggle. Tap. Nope. Next up, right wrist. Guess what happens? Good guess. Both of arms are now bleeding, but no IV. She's slightly embarrassed, and says that we'll just wait for my doctor to swing by, since he loves doing IVs.

It turns out that he doesn't actually love doing IVs, and isn't that great at it, either. He goes for a vein on the top of my left hand. He spends two minutes in there fiddling the needle around, trying pierce that stupid vein. No luck. My hand is still bruised there.

Holes in me: 3. IVs in me: 0.

So, the anesthesiologist comes rolling around. Can he do it? Can he!? Yes! He uses the big, juicy vein on the inside of the left elbow. One quick prick, and I'm golden. IV in. Juices flowing. Finally, it's all over.

Oh, wait. I still have to do the surgery. Fuck.

Actually, the surgery is easy. They roll me into the operating room, put a mask over my face, and put me to sleep. Then, they cut my shit up.

I wake up to a nurse googooing over me.

"C'mon, now. Jason. C'mon, Jason. Wake up. Wake up. Heeeyyyyy. Hello. How are you feeling?"

I feel weird. Like that feeling you get right when you first wake up, but it won't go away. And there's something in the back of my throat that's making it hard to breath. I find out it's my extra-swollen uvula. I sit there for about two hours, slowly regaining consciousness, with a nurse stopping by every 15 minutes or so, making sure that I'm OK. They give me ice chips to suck on. That's when I first notice how difficult it is to swallow. But, it doesn't hurt too bad, so I'm not that worried.

Eventually, Mike comes back. He's here to pick me up, which means I can finally leave this hospital. It's a little tricky, but I slide out of bed, hobble to the changing room, and dress myself in real-person clothes. 15 minutes later, Mike and I are on the road, back home.
That's when the pain starts to pick up.

Luckily, I had gotten all of the prescriptions I needed yesterday, and Christina was getting them filled now. By the time I got home, she should have them ready for me. I ask Mike to call her just too be sure. This way, I can be drugged out of my mind for the rest of the afternoon, and leave the pain for another day. I get home at 1pm.

At 2pm, Christina's still not here, but Matt and Nilma show up to see how the surgery went. I'm sure I look like shit, and I'm in that not-so-nice space between post-surgery haze and rising pain. They sit around my bed for a bit and chat, and I try to be cordial. But, it's fairly apparent that I'm in pain, and it's hard for me to talk, so they leave after not too long. I ask Mike to call Christina. He says that she says that she'll be here shortly.

It's 3pm and Christina's still not here. I ask Mike to call her again, to find out were she is. It turns out she won't be here until 4pm. What? My whole head hurts right now.

It's 4pm and Christina's still not here. My head is pounding. My ears are killing me. My nose is swollen and bleeding. It's hard to breath. Even my teeth hurt. What. The. Fuck.

It's 5pm, and Christina finally shows up. She's comes bounding up the stairs and smiles into my room, where I'm hunched over my desk like death. I literally grab the pharmacy bag from her and growl something about taking so long. I'm sure she's sorry, but I can't tell, and I don't care. I'm in a shitload of pain, so I quickly read through the pharmacist's pamphlets and warnings. I think She tries to say something to me, but I ignore her and down my Hydrocodone. Christina heads back downstairs and rattles around the kitchen with Mike and Amy while I crawl into bed and hope the pain goes away soon.

She tells me later that she cried.

(... continue...)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Healthy Traveler

Part of the preparation for the trip is getting some final check-ups to make sure that I don't have any health problems waiting to ambush me in the middle of Chile. Here's the scoop:

  1. Doctor's check-up. I got another tonsil infection, so my doctor sent me to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Since I've had 4 infections this year, the ENT said that I could either bring a few series of antibiotics with me on the trip, or I could just get a tonsillectomy. He recommended the surgery, and I agreed. Soon, my mouth will be bigger.
  2. Dentist's check-up. I went to "In-Style Dental" today, and had a very pleasant check-up. The waiting room was nice and clean, and it smelled like a normal room, instead of a sanitized dental office. The staff was very friendly and thorough, and the space itself was pretty high-tech. They had an integrated network that was patched into a small tv monitor attached to my chair. So, they showed me my x-rays and pictures of my SIX (?!) cavities on a shiny LCD screen. Needless to say, I have an appointment to go back on Monday.