Monday, November 14, 2011

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

I was weaned off the epidural machine.  I was eating delicious foods such as orange jello and pea soup. I was walking myself to the bathroom,  and my pain level was only a 2 or 3.

It was Saturday, October 8th, and it was time to go home.

There was one more hurdle to get through, and that was the drive from San Francisco to Sacramento. Now, I don't want to make this a political blog, but let's just say our legislature, probably like yours,  has found many things to spend our tax dollars on that they believe are more important than improving crumbling roads.  As an example, they are allocating several billion dollars on this new, super-modern technology (a train), which is designed to get people from one part of California that nobody goes to, to another part of California that nobody goes to.  Fixing the roads between the biggest city in California and the Capitol of the state is not important compared to laying tracks from Bakersfield to Palmdale.

Hey, those cows need something to look at.

In short, our freeways are in deplorable shape. In the 100 miles between the hospital and my house, there are 877,423 bumps in the road.  And, those are the large ones.

I know.  I counted.

On the way there.

Why?  I was terrified of coming home and had been from the beginning.  Who wouldn't be?  In my condition, I  could go over one of California's legendary potholes, hit a large bump,  my stitches could slam open and my guts spill out, right onto my lap.

My favorite show in the world right now is the Walking Dead.  But, I like it from the comfort of my couch, with its gore causing my stomach to churn, from inside my skin, where it belongs.

I was not the only one afraid of the ride home.  My husband was also quite nervous.  Let's just say we have the same relationship that your grandparents had.  He doesn't drive the right way, and I tell him so.  So he knew he was going to have to hear about each one of the 877,423 bumps, and be told 877,423 times that he should take them smoother.

And he was, of course, right.

For once.

To protect us both, like you all would, I made a plan.  In the trunk of my husband's car there were a bunch of pillows I'd brought from home to prop myself up and protect myself from California's neglect.   I also brought one of those foam mattress pads - you know the kind with the eggshell bumps everywhere?  I figured I could line the back seat with that, prop myself with pillows and soften some of the major bumps and maybe even take a nap.  At the very least, I could flip through a magazine and try to ignore what was going on from my padded cell.

But, that wasn't all.  For the rest of the plan to work, I needed an accomplice: my nurse.  What I wanted to do was get my final shot of dilaudid and take a valium right before I was released.  Since the shot is supposed to last two hours and the valium seemed to relax me for at least that, I figured I could avoid the pain of the ride entirely by being drugged.

Hell, why not?  Half of Californians do it.

The nurse, whose name I forget but who was with me for three days, thought I was being a bit silly but she got on board.  She'd been absolutely wonderful the entire time and the instant I remember her name I will send her a thank you card.  Anyway, she either had never driven across California or thought I was a wimp (or both), but she readily agreed to my plan.  I was still allowed to have medication, so why not?

It sometimes seems checkout in the hospital is endless, but they have it down to a science at UCSF and the entire thing took less than an hour.  In fact, they came in to remove my IV, and I had to ask them to wait as I wanted to use it one more time for the medicine.

Now, you have heard a lot about pee in my little hospital saga and I am afraid I'm going to give you one more squirt.  If you haven't been squeamish or Miss Mannerish about this so far, this one won't bug you.  But, if you have shaken your head and said, 'Ann, you are being very undignified," than I suggest you skip the next few paragraphs.

Getting ready for a two hour car ride means you use the rest room.  Even though I was being released, I was still using the measuring cup they slip inside the toilet, so I sat properly and did my thing, no problems anymore.  And, when I saw what I left inside the cup, visions of the Walking Dead came floating back to my mind.  Inside that cup was a brown liquid. Not a light, yellow brown.  But a deep, gritty brown, with chunks in it.  Like dirt mixed with sand mixed with danger.

I was shocked.  What the hell was that?  Did that come out of me?  Were they doing construction somewhere and dirty stuff from pipes spilled into the cup?  I actually looked up to see if there was a leak above my head.   Were pieces of what was left of my liver breaking off and coming through my urethra?

Was that something that was going to prevent me from going home?    Oh no!  As afraid of the car ride as I was, I wanted out of the hospital!  Yes, I expected a difficult two hours, but after that, I would be sleeping in my own bed, petting my own dog, hugging my own sons (who had left days ago) and be in my own, comforting environment.

Now what?  Do I tell somebody?  Do I leave it there for them to notice after I am released and they are cleaning the room?

What would they think that was?  Would they call me back?

The nurse came in to tell me that a doctor was on her way in to remove my staples and put on tape to hold me closed.  I shamefully told her about the brown, gritty pee.

She didn't seem to care. She said she'd look at it later.

Shortly, a med student came in with a staple remover, and I gallantly tried again.  She also didn't care.  Perhaps looking at coffee-colored pee is above their pay grades, or maybe they just wanted me out of there.

I didn't think I'd been that bad.

But, I knew they wouldn't let me die, or pee out my remaining liver in chunks, even if I had been annoying.  It apparently wasn't an emergency, and I was clearly going home - so I forgot the pee and went back to worrying about the trip.

After I had a thousand pieces of tape placed on me in lieu of staples (that med student was definitely an over-achiever and a 7.5 earthquake wasn't going to open me up now) the nurse came back in, gave me my Valium, my shot of Dilaudid, took out my IV and wished me well.  I thanked her for her compassionate care,  and my husband went to pull the car around.  I gathered my things and a few minutes later, the transport person with the wheelchair showed up, and I was off.

I was impressed.  My husband had done a fantastic job of lining the backseat with the mattress pad and pillows, but being a woman, I changed my mind.   I felt well enough to sit up straight and wanted to be in front.  So, we grabbed some pillows, and I got in the car.

As we started driving through the city of San Francisco, the meds kicked in, and I began to doze off.  Soon, I was fast asleep.   At one point, we crossed from one interchange to another which had a large bump, and as we went over it, I woke up and said, "Ooohhhhhh" and then fell right back to sleep.

And, I slept pretty much until my husband pulled into our driveway.  I had made one moan in 100 miles and 877,423 bumps, and that was it.

My plan had worked beautifully.

Pillows plus drugs equals no guts on the lap and no nagging of the husband.  What could be better?

Well, yellow pee could be better.

Which is what happened when I got home. Whew.

.  Thank you for "liking" me on facebook.  Keep it up!


  1. So lovely to see you back, Ann. Wishing you a full, cancer-free recovery. Ann in England. xx

  2. Only you could make this whole situation funny--not just funny, hilarious.

    I am waiting for your book. I think you are the most talented blogger ever so you better get better and stay cancer-free. I wish you a speedy and long lasting recovery.

  3. Happy to hear the tale continuum.
    And that your humor is intact.
    And that you are too.

    Rest and recover! ;-)


  4. Thank you for such a nice blog!! And it will give an inspiration to all to live!! You are so amazing to be so cool even in such a critical condition !! Everyone should learn from you to live life by accepting the situation as it is!!

  5. Ann,
    Good Lord, what a saga! I'm so glad you made it home without any major mishaps. Hope you and hubby have since been getting some major rest.

  6. Thank you all! I've been resting. Hubby? Not so much. When one spouse is ill, the other has to take over. I wonder if I'd be as good at it as he is? I think not.

  7. Hope you are fine now. My best wishes and prayers for you everytime.
    Keep posting.


Thank you for commenting. If the post is over 14 days old, the comment will be moderated and will approved later. This is a spam prevention technique - but I love to hear from you!