Did you know…. #1

As a little bit of fun, and so everyone can get to know me a little better, and know a bit about my history, my past, and what has made me who I am now, every Friday I’m going to blog about a little known fact about myself.

As a blogger, and lover of all things personal story related (I love reading about the real life of people, not the made up stuff), it’s time I gave you all a bit of my own personal story, beyond being a cancer sufferer/survivor and healthy lifestyle advocate.

So, that brings us to today.  Friday.

Did you know……….

I’m a Cancer.  Just squeezed in by 2 days.

I don’t really follow astrology or my daily star sign.  Maybe if I’m reading the paper or a magazine I might glance and have a read, but I never really take on board what it’s saying.  Maybe this is something I should look into, maybe not!

Do you read your star signs?

Comment below and let me know your astrological sign.

 

Anaesthetic!

Anaesthetic. noun.  A substance that induces sensitivity to pain.

Today marks 6 weeks since my last bowel surgery.  Six weeks.  I can’t believe I have made it this far.  It has been a long six weeks.  Normally, I’d be ok, but this time I also had the added worry and stress of my husband needing surgery to fix his collar bone.  (That has finally been done and he is now 1 week post-surgery).

So, today, I thought I would let you all know about the anaesthetics I encountered during this surgery, how they affected me, and what happened after surgery.

Preparation for Surgery.

My first surgery, back in 2016, was pretty straight forward.  The surgeon was taking a huge hunk of bowel out and sewing it back up and that was it.  I encountered a couple of post-surgical complications, but it was all done and dusted pretty quick.  This surgery, however, was going to be a bit more complex.  My surgeon had prepared me for the worst case….he would have to take a kidney out and do some major re-plumbing of some arteries and another resection of my bowel.  It was going to be huge.  The planning was major, so was the anaesthetic.  Surgery was planned for anywhere between 4 – 8 hours.

Before Surgery – Anaesthetic administration

This is where things got interesting…working with the Anaesthetist before surgery.  I was prepped, given some “calm me down” drugs (which didn’t work) and wheeled off to the operating theatre.  Here, I was moved onto the new bed, and told to just relax and they would get started.

Well, it all started with some local anaesthetic in the hand, so they could insert an arterial line which would monitor my blood pressure throughout the whole operation (apparently this is easier and more effective than a cuff on the arm).  They started on the left hand, and after two attempts and untold amount of anaesthetic, moved over to the right side.  By the time they worked on the right side (this had taken an hour or so by now), the local on my left side was wearing off and it was hurting like hell!  Literally!

So, after a while they got the arterial line in my right arm….somewhere in the middle between my elbow and my wrist!!! Then it was onto the epidural.

Now, I’ve never experienced an epidural before.  I never had one for childbirth, and for my first surgery I had one injection of spinal block for the surgery and that was it!  So, this epidural was a whole new world to me, and one that there were no guarantees of success.  I can recall the Dr’s and nurses in the room assisting me to sit on the side of the bed so the epidural could be inserted and administered.  I don’t remember much after this!

After Surgery.

After surgery I entered a whole new world around pain and pain relief.  It was the worst place ever!  So, we shall begin where we left off.  The epidural.  This was supposed to give me a full pain block for my whole abdomen, from the ribs right down to the pelvis.  It didn’t work.  It was patchy, mainly on the upper abdomen, and nothing on the bottom half, where most of the surgical work was done.  Hello pain!

What I did wake up with was a central line in my neck.  Never seen or experienced this before. Amazing.  Although uncomfortable, and probably about 10 tubes feeding into one……it was pain relief heaven.  Straight into the major vein. OMG.

I also discovered that me and anaesthetic, combined with epidural, and the amounts of pain relief such as Fentanyl, Morphine and others don’t mix to well.  I couldn’t tolerate people.  I couldn’t move.  I was spaced out most of the time and don’t really remember too much.  I felt incredibly sorry for my husband during this time as he would come and visit me every day, and most of the time I would tell him to go away.  I know it was the drugs talking, but it was horrible.

So, there are a few things I learnt about myself and anaesthetic following this surgery…….

  1.  Relax.  Go with the flow.  Think happy thoughts.  Cos if you don’t things are going to hurt 10 x more.
  2. Tell my husband I will call him when I’m ready for visitors….joke!  He can come anytime, I love that he came every day, even if he only stayed 5 minutes.  I love that he thought of me.
  3. Be hesitant if I need another surgery and they suggest an epidural.  I would rather put up with the pain and control the whole body pain rather than patchy pain.
  4. Never, every accept Tramadol as a form of pain relief…..we certainly are not friends.

Tell me more.

I would love to hear from you!  Do you have a harrowing anaesthetic story? Did your anaesthetic wear off too quick, too slow…..anything funny happen.  Drop me a comment below.

Until next time

Hospital!

Hospital.  noun.  An institution providing medical and surgical treatment and nursing care for sick or injured people.

For my recent surgery I had to have a stay in Dunedin Public Hospital.  Here I will document my thoughts and experiences related to this stay.  My last hospital stay was 8 days at Mercy Hospital, which is the affiliated hospital for Southern Cross.  It was pure luxury, well as much luxury as a hospital stay can be.  Comparing this to my stay at a public hospital was like going from a 5 star hotel, to almost a backpackers hostel.

At my pre-op appointment (which I think is another blog post in itself) I was advised my hospital stay would be anywhere from 5 – 10 days, depending on my progress, healing, pain etc.  I had a goal of being out of hospital before Quinn’s mum went home.  I went into hospital on a Tuesday and she was leaving the following Tuesday.  That would give me 7 days……could I do it?

I will go into the other stuff like surgery, anaesthesia, recovery in another blog post.  This is all about my stay in hospital.

High Dependency Unit

Right from the first discussions of this surgery my Surgeon explained that due to the complexity I’d need to have a 2 day stay in the HDU unit.This is where they put patients that need to have constant care and monitoring after surgery.  I later discovered I was put there due to the type of surgery and the epidural medicine.

So, I can remember arriving in the unit after surgery.  I think I had been in recovery for a couple of hours, but that was mainly just waiting for someone to move me.  I can remember Quinn being there, visiting for a few minutes, making sure I was ok.

The unit gives expert care to patients.  There are only 4 beds.  There is one nurse for two beds.  I think this model works well for most patients but it didn’t work well for me.  My main issue was I was in a lot of pain due to the epidural not working properly (I knew the risks before surgery that it might work perfectly or it might not work at all).  And, I couldn’t sleep due to another patient who was literally dying beside me (as far as I know he is still alive, but at the time it was touch and go).  Because he required more care than there were nurses, it was always busy in the unit, there was never silence, pain was a problem, I couldn’t move properly.

This is where hindsight is a wonderful thing.  In hindsight, I would never have taken the epidural, which would have meant I could go straight to a ward after recovery.  But, there was always that chance it would work, and my experience would have been extremely different.

I was admitted to hospital on Tuesday and on Thursday I was moved to the ward!

Ward 4A

So, Thursday saw me moved from the HDU unit to ward 4A at Dunedin Public Hospital.  I had tried to convince my surgeon before surgery that a transfer to Mercy under my insurance would be a good idea at this stage, but that didn’t happen.  But, luckily, I had 3 wonderful ladies in my room, who were chatty, happy and more than willing to help each other.  Without these 3 ladies my hospital stay would have been far, far worse.  There were other rooms where no one spoke to each other, had their curtains closed all the time, no interaction, nothing.  We had our curtains open all day and all night, chatted all day, and even in the night when none of us could sleep.

Another thing that made my stay a little better was the staff.  Sure, there were some downright awful nurses, but I also had some of the most amazing, caring nurses you could find.

Ward 4A is the medical ward for the hospital.  I’m not sure how many rooms but it is mainly full of people who have come from surgery.  It is a noisey ward.  It is a ward where every patient is checked with 3 hourly obs.  And medication is given at the correct intervals so to keep on top of pain relief.  And obs are never at the same time as pain relief, so you get to cat nap the whole time you are there.

Hospitals! Where they provide a bed for you but don't let you sleep! Click To Tweet

Nurses

So, back to the nurses.  Nurses, in my opinion, run the hospital.  Although, there was normally a Dr floating around the ward due to the nature of people there, the nurses did the hard yards.  Now, there are a lot of different types of nurses. (now, this is only my opinion, so don’t take this the wrong way).  There are nurses who absolutely love their job and love their patients.  I had a few of these.  Nothing was too much trouble.  I went through some pretty traumatic, soul destroying, humiliating experiences, and most of my nurses never blinked an eyelid.  It was all normal to them.  Nothing was ever a problem.

I will always remember three nurses who will be forever in my mind.  One took great care of me when I first arrived in the ward.  She was there every 30 minutes for the first few hours to make sure I was ok, to make sure I wasn’t in pain, to make sure I was comfortable.  It was amazing.  I can’t really remember the HDU nurses….I think I tried to block that experience out of my life!  Then one night, Friday night, the lady cross from me, her and I had the same nurse.  A Male Nurse.  He was just wonderful.  Nothing was a problem.  He helped us both with having a wash, checking wounds, getting meals and extra drinks, medication, everything you could think of.  He was fantastic.  I could rave about his nursing skills for ever.  His name was Adam.

And then on my last night, well the afternoon and evening, I had the joy of having a lovely nurse called Sue.  She was a gift from the heavens.  She was totally disgusted that I hadn’t been walking by then (this was Sunday afternoon).  I should have been out of bed and walking a few days before, but it just hadn’t happened.  Anyway, she helped improve my mind and body so much in her short 8 hour shift that I was able to go home the following day.  If it hadn’t been for her help I’m sure my hospital stay would have been another few days.  Sue helped me out of bed, got me a walker to walk the corridor, helped me have a shower (up until then I’d just been having a daily wash beside my bed).  Oh, it was bliss.  That shower was one of the hardest things to do (showers are really exhausting after surgery) but it was like heaven.  She even went to the trouble of finding me shampoo as she knew I would feel a million times better if I washed my hair!  She was right!  I will be forever grateful to Sue.

Food

I can’t comment too much on the food.  I was on a liquid diet for most of my stay, so I can comment on the liquid diet.  It was horrendous.  I was supplied with as many Ensure drinks as I could tolerate.  This was not too many.  There were two options.  A juice based and a milk based.  I tried the juice based one first.  It was tolerable but after 2 or 3 I’d had enough.  It took me a day or so to drink a whole juice, which was around 250 mls.  Once I became a bit more hungry I opted for the milk based one.  It was just as horrible but I tolerated it, small sip after small sip, with about a 30 minute break in between.  Then I started getting hungry! Like really hungry!  So one night I attempted to eat the rest of my liquid diet.  It consisted of asparagus soup (in the middle of winter), jelly and ice-cream.  I never eat jelly.  But that night I was so hungry I ate it.  Then in the morning I needed extra.  I asked my nurse if I could have some food.  She kindly bought me two pieces of semi-toasted white bread with butter.  I managed to eat half a piece but I felt so satisfied after that piece!

I was able to lay eyes on some of the meals, as I had three room mates who were allowed to eat proper meals.  They weren’t too appetising, some were downright disgusting looking.  Normally there was 3 choices….a beef, fish or chicken.  I am sure if you were vegetarian you would have been helped, and after seeing those meals, if I have a next time I will opt to be vegetarian for my stay.

Your stories

I would love to hear about your stories and your hospital stays.  Please feel free to share your comments below.  I hope it wasn’t too horrendous or you, and you have all recovered well.  Did you get your own room?  Did you have some great roommates like I did?  Was it a short stay or a long stay?  I’d love to hear from you.

A CT Scan: What happens at your appointment!

 

A side view of myself from the CT scanner

This is my take on a CT Scan.  What happens to me.  My experiences.  

On 11th April, exactly one year since my original bowel surgery, I was due to meet with my Surgeon for our yearly check up.  I couldn’t believe it.  One whole year.  Anyway, a week before our meeting he had arranged for me to have my yearly surveillance CT Scan.  A CT scan is nothing to be afraid of, it is a painless experience, except for a few extremely common side effect to the contrast.

 

A CT SCAN

A CT scan (computerised tomography(CT)) is a donut shaped machine that is used to take a series of x-ray images from different angles around your body.  These x-rays create cross-sectional images, or slices, of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside your body.  It is a lot more details than a normal x-ray.

 

PREPARATION FOR A CT SCAN

In preparation for a CT scan, they like you to have a fairly empty stomach.  As such, you need to stop eating 3 hours prior to your scan.  Its all good though, you are allowed water.  You have to drink a lot of water.  One litre in the hour prior to your scan…..but, unlike an ultrasound, you are allowed to pee.  Oh, the first time I had this I didn’t read the instructions properly and thought I couldn’t pee.  It was painful.  But, second time round I knew better.  The reason for a lot of water is to help flush the contrast out quicker after the procedure.

 

NO METAL!

As a CT scanner is magnetic, no metal is allowed.  I’ve been allowed to leave rings on, as most times my hands have been above my head on the scanner, but other than that, everything has to be removed.  And, you get to wear one of the awesome, really sexy, hospital gowns that just about strangle you if you are not carefull when lying down.  Yep, been there, learned that mistake.  Always hitch your gown up and loosen it around your neck before lying down.

 

THE SCAN AND CONTRAST

A CT scan is a fairly painless experience.  You lie down on the bed, and move through the scanning machine.  They send you though once, without contrast, then once with contrast.  Probably takes about 10 minutes all up.  But, the contrast is kind of strange.  Anyone who has had it before will warn you.  

The contrast is injected through a needle into the vein.  They put the needle in place before any scanning takes place.  Once ready, they release the contrast.  It takes maybe 30 seconds for the tube to be empty.  In that 30 seconds you will feel a range of experiences; mine go in this order:

  • First I get a hot flush, normally over my upper body.
  • Second I get a weird taste in the back of my mouth.  It is kind of strange, metallic type taste.
  • Third, you feel the contrast moving through your body.
  • Forth, you feel like you are peeing your pants.  No kidding.  It is quite scary the first time.  You are certain that you have peed your pants.  It is very real.  But, it is just the contrast coursing through your body.

All this takes about 30 seconds and then it is all over.  Done.  Get off the bed.  Get changed and out.

There are no lasting side effects and the contrast works its way out of your body through the kidneys.  You can go about your normal daily business.

So, in a nutshell that is a CT scan, and the process.  Not scary.  Not painful.  Not uncomfortable.  One of those things that has to be done.

Until next time…..