Sunday, November 6, 2011

I Left My Lobe in San Francisco: Liver Resection Story. Family

I know it's been a while since I wrote.  I recovered, and started puttering around the house- too busy to post. Then I had a set-back and it now is very hard to write.   But, I'm going to ignore my discomfort as I know many of you are getting freaked.  And, being the a-z creature I am, I'll continue where I left off

Back on Mickey's Hospital Land Ride, I was pushed down a corridor, where I groggily passed a pretty woman. She said "hi" to me and I said "hi" back. Her hair was up and I thought she was a nurse who was going to help take me to my room - then suddenly I realized that beautiful woman was my sister! I smiled big and said, "Oh hi!"

I think for a second she thought I'd had a stroke or something for not recognizing her.

I was right though, she was going with me to my room, as was the rest of my family; my husband and my two boys - they all surrounded my bed like little satellites.

What would life be like without family to help you through your worst moments?

As hard as the day had been for me, I knew it had been harder for my family. I'd slept through most of it, and I was getting dialudid to help me cope with being awake. They were not so lucky.

They had spent most of the day in a hospital waiting room, with no news about my condition. Even when they got news that I was okay it was many more hours before they could see me.

Everybody had taken time off work and school - my sister had come 600 miles for what she knew in advance would be a bad experience, even a nightmarish one. We had to take my son out of school, and he's one of those super-star students who is tortured by missing school.  (When I was in high school I'd have gladly had everybody in my family have surgery if I could miss one day, and in fact, contemplated making that happen.)

I was comforted knowing they were there, and it's not lost on me that they put aside their discomfort to be there for me.  I can only imagine what they went through during the 12 hours I was unavailable to them.

Collectively, me on a gurney and them surrounding me, we went through a set of double-doors into an air-lock type area with a laundry bin, and then through another set of double-doors to my room. As we walked through, the nurse told me my room was on the 13th floor and I was in Room 1331, and said, "I hope you aren't superstitious."

Nope. You could name my room, 666 Malpractice Death Wing, and I'd be fine as long as it was a private room.

It was dark, and all I saw were a bank of windows, black as night. The nurse told me that you could see the lights of the city,  but without my contacts, I wasn't impressed. I was impressed by the fact that there was only one bed in that room.

That first night is pretty fuzzy. I don't remember how long my family stayed or much of anything that happened. I know my sister spent the night with me one night, but not the first.   The large doses of painkillers I was getting, combined with recent anesthesia created a dream-like situation. I think my exhausted family left as soon as they saw I was settled in. I do remember at one point in the middle of the night nurses and rads techs came to take a chest x-ray and that hurt as they had to roll me on my side to get the board under me. I don't recall asking for pain meds - but I'm sure I did   I don't recall pushing the button on my epidural for extra doses -  but I'm sure I did. It was probably a bad night but I honestly don't remember now.

Morning dawned, and I realized I not only had a private room, I had one with an incredible view. I was now not only happy with the room, I was bragging!

I had a sweeping, panoramic view of San Francisco, from the TransAmerica Building all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was spectacular, and all mine.  I grabbed my iphone and ignored the extreme and searing pain to tweet that view, and shame on you who aren't following me @butdocihatepink

Unbelievably, the day after my surgery -the surgery where I was flayed from mid-chestbone to belly button and across to my waist - AND had half my liver removed and burned - the sadistic nurses wanted me standing up. On my feet!  With a catheter bag dangling down.  Well, I don't have to tell you that was quite painful, and they didn't want me to just stand, they wanted me to move my legs back and forth. I lost my footing and sat down back to bed, suddenly (ouch) but got up to try again because I'm super brave and all that BS. (The sooner you do it, the sooner they leave).  The second time I managed to do the Hustle as requested, then I got a sponge bath and went back to bed.

I felt better after getting up, hard as it was.   If you have found this blog because you are having a liver resection, don't resist standing up.  It jump starts your recovery.

They also gave me an inspiration spirometer to practice breathing - it helps prevent pneumonia. I was to practice it once an hour and get the little ball to a line she drew.   I'm pretty sure I didn't do it once an hour - it  wasn't that inspiring -  but I did it several times a day. I never did meet my goal, however.

I'm not sure I could meet it now, but that's a different story.


  1. Thanks for updating us despite the pain. You had a lot of other satellites that day - out here in your bloggosphere! Hope you're feeling better soon.

  2. You do love a cliffhanger! You should write for TV. :)

  3. Yeah we are mean and sadistic - Nazi Nurses. But we do it out of love and we believe in you. We honor your bravery because you made a very brave decision - we pray for you, we talk about you and the others who want to prove that Stage IV doesn't define who you are, that you define it. We admire you, we want to have your courage, your strength. Me, I am an 18 year thriver of breast cancer and I am in awe of you.

  4. Thank you all and Carole, what an awesome post! I bet you are the best nurse ever.

  5. This is the first time I've read your blog. Please thank your family for being there to support you and each other. My wife had a mastectomy nearly three years ago and we didn't get that kind of response from our families.You are truly blessed

  6. Anon, please don't feel let out. My brother has barely spoken to me in two years since I've been diagnosed, and my father has never been to see me or support me. My mother is dead now but she was the same. But, you have to realize that people can only do what they can do and sometimes people are afraid of cancer, or too wrapped up in themselves.

    I am very lucky; my immediate family - kids, husband, have been wonderful. My sister has been helpful. My coworkers made meals and donated money for our trip. Just concentrate on what you have and don't worry about what you don't. Family is where you make it, not what you are born with.

  7. Families? don't let me go there... But I hate those evil spirometers. I have never used one once an hour as I was supposed to - once they wanted to send one home with me... I think it got lost on the way to the car.

    But I am glad to hear you are getting better and am extremely jealous of your hospital room view. I either get an interstate or a shopping mall. Next update please!

  8. You are still funny through this? I am in awe of you. Your family is wonderful and I am grateful for that. I am grateful that YOU are here.

    Susan Kranyik

  9. THANK YOU for posting! I hope you are back on track for a smooth recovery. I'm sorry you had a set back. Thinking positive thoughts for strength and energy and liver growing happiness.... HUGS! (gentle gentle hugs, of course).

  10. It's wonderful you have a great family by your side. Yes, the hospital is a tough place, and you had some nasty pain for sure. I'm glad the surgery is over, and that you had that awesome room with a view and without a roommate.

  11. Thank you for taking time to write this even though I'm sure you didn't particularly feel like it. I'm so glad the surgery is over and you're right, that view was pretty amazing. I hope your pain is getting less and less. Don't even get me started on family, but I'm so glad your immediate family was there hovering. Hope you are continuing to heal uneventfully. My best. Keep us posted when you can.

  12. Hi Ann,

    I am almost baffled by what a small world this is....I stumbled upon your blog after reading a post on ZDoggMD's Facebook page. I was actually your admitting nurse on 13 Long (I was the one that said "I hope you aren't superstitious.”) I had to chuckle when I read the title of your blog, so I came to read it and once I saw your picture I immediately remembered you. I am so glad to read that you are doing well, except for the more recent C.Diff issue...hopefully this resolves soon. I believe the nurse that you referred to - the one that discharged you – was Kate N (she has glasses and is VERY sweet). She is a fantastic nurse. The "fancy name" of the assistants are "PCA's - patient care assistants. I’m sorry that the male nurse (I think I remember who it was but I will refrain from stating a name) was so stubborn about the pain regimen. 1st day post-op I wouldn’t start with oral meds – not sure why he was on a crusade like that but I’m glad your family was there to advocate for you!

    In any regard, I am so happy that I came across your blog. You have an amazing talent for writing and I LOVE your humor. I imagine what an inspiration you are to those that have shared your experience (as is abundantly clear from all the comments you receive).

    I wish you the best and look forward to reading more of your updates!

    Julie R.

  13. Hi Julie, I hope you come across my blog! I remember you! After a certain amount of time blogger makes you approve posts so I don't always see them right away and just saw your note today. But, I want to thank you for the OUTSTANDING care you gave me in the hospital. I really look back on it without fear or regret and I would gladly go back to UCSF and that is 100% because of the great nursing care I got. Except for that one man, every person not only gave me the exact kind of care I needed but did it without making me feel like I was intruding on their day. That is saying a *lot*. You are the best!


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