This picture isn't me. But I thought it best captured how I felt that day. The uncertainty, mystery, the vague understanding of me having control of the situation, and fear, kind of rolled up in a ball and just squeezed me through the day.
Honestly, I don't know why I was dreading to write about surgery day so much. I just did. I think I spent the whole month trying to see if I'll forget any details from that day, as it turns out, I didn't. Have you ever had an experience that is so memorable, (or maybe traumatic), that you never forgot one detail? This was how the day felt for me. I still have too much fear associated with this particular event but for the sake of this blog, I'd say it's important to share it. After all, it's really the least scary event out of it all.
So here it goes.
The morning passed by so quickly. We arrived at the hospital at 7am as scheduled and with no food or water after midnight from the night before, I was feeling like I'm ready to get this over with. I changed into these massive patient pants and wore a robe. I was still cold so the nurse gave me a warm blanket. The waiting room of the surgery is filled with different people at different ages. As it happens, there's lots of other people here for day surgery like colonoscopy, which doesn't sound like a pleasant experience at all. But I knew my surgeon had more than one surgery that day, so chances are, there are other people having subtotal thyroidectomy. Mayo Clinic has a nice page to describe it.
After a quick goodbye with my husband and parents, I was ushered into the surgery hall and waited on a stretcher. I wasn't allowed to bring anything with me so checking Instagram or anything was out of the question. It was probably the longest 20 mins of my life with nothing to distract me but to look at the ceiling and listening to all the sounds around me. Surgeons and anesthesiologists talking to their patients about their health and history.
Shortly after, I was greeted with my own anesthesiologist, nurse and surgeon. In that same order. Each of them asked me about my birthday, if I knew I was having the correct surgery, medication allergies and some basic questions. Still feeling new to this whole experience, I answered the best I could. The surgeon came over with a marker and did a quick "x" on my left side of my neck, he said, just in case we get the wrong side. I was relieved to see him since he explained much of the details to me in the previous visit. I should be expected to stay 1 or 2 nights at the hospital and then I can go home. Surgery should take about 2-3 hours then I'll be sent to my room after. Since my parents have my jackets and belongings so they could just meet me there. So there. I said to myself, I'm ready to do this.
I was then welcomed to walk into the surgery room by myself. It looked just like the room in Grey’s Anatomy but with more cartoon stickers around. I was instructed to lie down on my back and inhale some oxygen. My last memory was about telling them about how many times I watched Frozen at my dentist’s office and poof, I was unconscious.
The next memory I had I was already in recovery room. It was busy and loud and for the first time I realized I became more sensitive to loud noises. I was so nauseous from the anesthesia and was in and out of an unconscious state. At one point I was told my room wasn't ready yet and I just dozed off again and again.
Mom came by to see me once and I remember telling her I'm dizzy. I was so dizzy and everything felt like it's happening so fast. The nurse gave me some ice cubes to help me stay hydrated. My neck was sore but not so much pain. Ever so lightly I felt pain it would be gone again. I guess I was so heavily drugged I couldn't even comprehend what I was feeling. I learned later on that only one person could visit me in Recovery Room, but because the nurse came out when my husband was away, only my mom was allowed to come in. My husband wanted to come in later but he was turned away by the volunteers. :(
After I got to my room I had to move my body on my bed, finally feeling a sense of relief. My back could finally get some good support. I slept more and more. My in-laws and sister-in-law came to see me but I couldn't bare to say any complete sentence. I just dozed off again and again.
Finally, I woke up by 4pm and talked to my parents for a bit, I could drink some water from a straw. I felt well enough to tell them to go home. Thankfully my husband was here the entire time to hold my hand, it was such a relieve to have him around the whole time.
The nurse came a few times to check on my vitals but it became routine after a few visits. Every time I'm being offered pain meds I'd say yes and it helped me to feel better but still pretty nauseous for the most part. Room was dark and I barely could know the time.
Later that evening my parents came back and I could start going to the washroom for the first time. Getting up was difficult since it takes a while to catch my breathe, so I did some deep breathing exercises to get up slowly. The hospital gave me a brochure to study on some movements to recover from the surgery, so I did some breathing exercises.
Dinner was served by the hospital but I was only presented with some really salty chicken soup, yellow jello, and coffee. I still don't understand why they gave me coffee. I only had a little bit of the chicken soup and let the husband enjoy the jello.
Finally I changed out of the hospital pants and wore my own pj pants and felt like I had some dignity back. This was about 8pm and I was able to drink a bit more water.
Day 1 was mostly sleeping and what my body needed. By 10:30pm I managed to check my phone and replied to some messages from friends to wish me good luck and a speedy recovery. I just felt so thankful to have these people in my life.
Then the night continued, I had to get up every few hours to use the bathroom. Another overnight nurse came to check on me a few times and gave me pain medication. I felt like the IV was going a little too slow but managed to doze off a little bit here and there. My poor husband spent the night on a really uncomfortable sofa bed. I'm just really glad I wasn't by myself through all this.
So really, the surgery wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t nearly as scary as I imaged it to be. I think having four wisdom teeth being taken out at the same time (while awake) still outranks my surgical experience. If you are reading this to find information on your own surgery, I have good news and bad news. Good news is, it re wasn’t that bad, even the physical recovery wasn’t terrible. The bad news is, I just lost half of my thyroid, the hormones are running the show now. I’ll write about that next.