I don’t think the day of surgery, any surgery, ever feels the same for any two people. I had so many crazy emotions leading up to the big day, that when it finally arrived, I was shocked at how emotionless I actually felt.
I woke up earlier than I wanted to and spent the morning wishing I could eat. Since my surgery wasn’t until noon, I had a lot of time to prepare before we left. I did my Bible study, showered and washed my hair, and packed my bag. I also curled my hair, which sounds funny, but I knew it would be a little while before I would be able to do it again, so I wanted it to last as long as possible. Right before we left, I remembered to snap a few “before photos” so that I would have my own to look back on (and share).
Since we live Downtown, and all the fanciest surgeons are in the fanciest suburbs, (I’m totally kidding, but this is true for my situation) we had about a 40 minute drive, and I was asked to get there an hour before my surgery was scheduled to begin. So even though I didn’t sleep in as planned, the morning kind of flew by anyway.
I got dressed in my gown, put on my compression stockings to reduce any risk of clots, and my surgeon came in for one final review of the plan. We went over everything again, I showed him my “dream boobs” picture one more time, he drew all over me with sharpie, and I signed my final consent forms. After that, the anesthesiologist came in and started my IV, and gave me something he called “a few glasses of wine” to relax in the last few minutes.
Ironically, it wasn’t until those last few minutes that my nerves started to come back. Up until that point, I almost felt like it wasn’t real life. But when we got to that point, I realized that all of this planning and prepping had taken place, and I had nothing left to do but lay back and let someone else take control. And that feeling sent me into a tiny fit of anxiety… just a tiny one; there were minimal tears.
I hugged my hubby, which increased the tears slightly, but it was like drunk crying that I couldn’t really control, and I remember saying “promise you’ll be praying for me the whole time I’m in there?”. He said yes, because who says no to that? And we walked the 20 feet into the OR.
When I got there, I was really groggy, but still had a lot of anxiety, so it’s kind of a weird blur of drunk adrenaline. Like when you’re drinking underage and the cops come and you’re not really sure what to do. Just me? Okay. I remember hearing “In My Feelings” by Drake playing as soon we walked in, and thinking that I knew I liked my surgeon for a reason. Like who doesn’t want to do their job to rap music? I laid on the table and the anesthesiologist asked me if I was excited that the “bed” was heated, to which I was responded “I’m not sure, but promise you’re going to keep me safe?”. He agreed, for the 10th time, and started drawing up some milky white fluid in a syringe.
I know it sounds really weird, and maybe it’s just because I’ve been in the OR so many different times in nursing, but those last few seconds, I was hyper aware that I wouldn’t be conscious for that much longer and a small part of me felt like I wanted to jump off that table and run away, but another part of me was really excited that the next moment I would remember, the surgery would be over and I would be on my way to recovery.
And that’s exactly what happened. I woke up in recovery, super confused about what happened and where I was. Initially, for some reason, I remember thinking that they didn’t do the surgery and they had to cancel it or something because I didn’t feel anything at all. But that only lasted a few seconds, because the next thing I remember feeling was a ton of pain in my left armpit. Like I was crying.
If you’re headed into this type of or any surgery, please please don’t let this scare you away, but I do want to share what my experience was, because I said I would.
I couldn’t feel any pain on my right side at all, and I didn’t feel any pain on the left side of my chest, but the place where my armpit meets my chest was burning; like fire. All I can remember talking about is how much pain I was feeling. The nurse was eventually able to get my pain under control through IV meds, and just as I was starting to feel like it was manageable, my hubby came in. The nurse told him that I had been out of the OR for about 10 minutes, and I was shocked. I asked her if she was sure it had only been 10 minutes, because it felt like forever. So, in all fairness, the pain that felt unmanageable only lasted about 10 minutes in total.
But because I had more pain than most patients who have this procedure, the nurse wanted to make sure the surgeon saw me one more time before I was allowed to go home. When he came in, he explained to my husband and I that I had a really tight pectoral muscle on that side, and he had to give a little more effort in separating it from my ribs (which is where it attaches). Because the top of the muscle starts at the humerus, and the implant sits really high when it first goes in, I was feeling that pain at the crease of my armpit. Totally normal for me, but not normal for everyone, if that makes sense.
I also had drains in each side to collect the extra fluid and blood from the procedure. They told me this would greatly reduce my swelling and discomfort, so although they were hideous, I was glad they were there.
Once my pain was manageable, I had my IV removed, I was able to get dressed, and got in the car to go home. Dallas rush hour is no joke, so thank God that whatever they had been giving me put me to sleep because I slept the almost the whole ride home, which my hubby told me ended up taking almost 2 hours. I say almost because I was given the instructions to bring Saltine crackers with me for the drive home, incase I started to feel nauseous. In all my preparations, I forgot to get the crackers, so I grabbed the most bland thing I could find at our house before we left: a school breakfast size box of Corn Pops cereal. When I woke up as we were pulling into the garage, I realized I had fallen asleep with my hand in the box of Corn Pops and several of them sprinkled throughout my hair. Apparently my subconscious, gut reaction is to always just eat. I already had my “recovery setup” on the couch, and I plopped down and went to sleep for a few more hours.
I woke up around 10 PM and was a little hungry, so we ordered pizza, but I fell asleep before it even got there. When I woke up again at 3 AM, I felt like I needed popsicles, so I had 3 of them, and a cold slice of pizza.
I certainly felt discomfort and some sharp, 1 second pains when I made certain movements that I wasn’t used to not being able to do, but after those initial 10 minutes in the recovery room, I wouldn’t say I really experienced pain at all, much more discomfort than anything.
A lot of people have asked what I was the most nervous about, and my number one fear was anesthesia (if you haven’t gathered that already). I just have a heightened level of fear anytime I have a loss of control (or perceived loss, because let’s be honest, we all know Who’s in control in all situations). When I think about having surgery, I feel the same way that I feel when I set foot on an airplane, which is what reminds me that it’s an irrational fear. Just like in airplanes, there’s obviously very rare instances when things don’t go as planned, but I had to keep reminding myself that there wasn’t any real, logical risk or reason to be nervous about this. I’ve talked to a few ladies who are really uneasy about anesthesia, and I wish I had some great advice to share, and I guess I do; pray through this. And make sure you read and understand your pre-op instructions clearly so that you’re doing all the right things that are in your control.
In most cases, you’ll get to meet with or speak to your anesthesiologist prior to your surgery. I got to chat with mine on the phone the afternoon before, and he asked me lots of questions about my medical and surgical history, listened to and addressed my concerns, gave me an idea of exactly what to expect, and made sure I understood the instructions about medications, food, and water leading up to surgery.
A few years ago, I had surgery on my jaw, and when I woke up, I was incredibly sick. Like non-stop vomiting kind of sick. It took me 24 hours and round the clock IV meds to even keep water down. It was a really terrible experience, and I was so nervous that I was going to end up with that same result. I made sure to tell him about it, and he crafted a special plan specifically for me, in order to avoid getting sick. It worked perfectly and I didn’t get sick at all. My point is this; be upfront and honest about everything with them! They want your surgery to go well and will do what’s in their control to avoid any complications.
The day went by so fast, and when I woke up for those 3 AM popsicles, I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe it was already over. And my recovery process had already started.
Next up; days 1-14 of recovery and what it’s been like so far! Come back next week!