The hysterectomy story: An adventure in two parts

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Page 2: The story continues…
Nancy on August 27 after 8pm (Excerpts of instant messages to Betsy)

instagram-bloodworkI got my pre-op blood drawn and a blood typing/testing wristband last night. I have to wear it until I go home, or else they have to do bloodwork all over again. So that was strange going about the day with a bright orange wristband. LOL

I know I am getting old and am a mom because I’m more worried about dying on the table and leaving a mess for the kids to sort out than I am about the pain, etc.

Surgery starts at 11, check-in at 9. And now I get to go take my shower with special antibacterial soap.

Surgery day 1: Thursday, August 28

The moment I stepped into the hospital elevator to go up to the OR level, a news bulletin buzzed on my phone. It said Joan Rivers was in serious condition after she stopped breathing during surgery. Until that moment, I hadn’t really considered the possibility of anything along those lines… but quickly decided it was too late to worry about it.

The view from pre-op
August 28 at 11:02am (Facebook): This OR wing opened 2 days ago. Only the newest for me. Lol
Betsy at 9:42am (Facebook)

Nancy’s surgery is today at 11am PDT — it could take anywhere from 1-3 hours. She gave me the okay to solicit some positive vibes on her behalf! <3 I’m going to see her later this afternoon, so I’ll keep you all posted.

Around 10am

As they ushered me back into the surgery prep area, I saw that the waiting area wasn’t the only thing that had been remodeled, but everything was new. They told me that the operating suite had only opened two days before, and I might even be the first patient in one of the operating rooms. But of course — only the finest for my uterus.

After I changed into my gown and slip-resistant socks, and had my vitals checked, blood drawn and IV placed, my gynecologist and the anesthesiologist stopped by.

I had two requests of the anesthesiologist: please tell me when you’re going to knock me out (don’t just say, “You will probably start to feel sleepy,” because that’s not the same thing), and that most typical narcotic pain relievers didn’t help me, so I would need something else post-op. He seemed to understand.

There’s a vague memory of arriving in the OR, but then I remember nothing else until I heard some voices a few hours later in the recovery room.

Charlotte [my oldest daughter] at 10:03 am (Facebook)

The wait begins… love you mama. :)

Betsy at 2:15pm (Facebook)

She’s out and in recovery – we’re waiting in her room for her arrival!

Charlotte at 4:12pm (Text to family)

Just wanted to provide an update.

She is recovering and it went well with no complications. They only just now gave her Tramadol — the Dilaudid [a derivative of morphine] wasn’t helping, as we had assumed. Definitely in a lot of pain, but once this Tramadol kicks in we think this will be the combination she needed.

Betsy just brought her some natural oils like ylang ylang and lavender to keep her calm until these painkillers hit. She’s on oxygen, too.

Betsy at 4:38pm (Facebook)

The pain situation is pretty yucky. They gave her on morphine PCA [Patient Controlled Analgesia IV pump] which she SAID doesn’t work — and it doesn’t. Finally they gave her the Tramadol + ibuprofen she requested and that had taken the edge off.

Ran out for some lavender EO [essential oil] which is very comforting for her and that seems to be helping too. She’s pretty uncomfortable and still groggy/out of it, but her sense of humor is intact, with some jokes here and there.

The very first thing I remember after the surgery was hearing voices sort of roar into range, and could hear my doctor tell someone that they didn’t take my cervix. Moments later, I noticed the pain, and found myself saying “ow” over and over — but quietly. Then I must have zonked out again, since the next thing I recall is being in my room.

Charlotte, Betsy and one of Betsy’s daughters were there waiting for me. I wasn’t much of a conversationalist. I think I was still saying “ow,” and was just trying to get through the pain as much as I could.

hospital room before and after
My room, where they were waiting for me / After the recovery room, having lots of fun

I was feeling miserable, and then something very surprising happened when my daughter took my hand. Instantly, my pain level felt like it had been cut in half, and stayed lower for several minutes before gradually returning to the previous level. Although I believe there’s power in positive thinking, this was something else entirely (plus I was hardly thinking warm fuzzy thoughts at the time). Even though I love that girl to pieces, I never expected her touch to affect me in such a physical way.

Because I was so wiped out from the anesthesia, I kept dropping off to sleep… and sometimes would skip a breath or two. That would set off the (loud) oxygen saturation alarm, which would jolt me awake. Although the process did get my breathing started, it also meant I momentarily clenched my abs… part of what had been cut apart and sewn back together hours before. So, every time that happened, my abdomen would go into a series of really painful spasms. I had to break out my old childbirth class skills to relax and breathe through the pain.

This cycle was repeated over and over for the next couple hours, and was delightfully entertaining for us all.

Betsy at 10:20pm (Facebook)

I just got home. It was a rougher day than she was even expecting and ended up being complicated by apnea episodes that would make the O2 sat monitor alarm, which would startle her. And being startled is no fun after and surgery. She was perkier when I left at 9, and Char is spending the night. Hopefully N can rest tonight and feels lots better tomorrow!

The room I’d been assigned was absolutely tiny, and completely dominated by my bed. Since I had three visitors, every time a doctor or nurse came in, everyone had to play musical chairs to give him or her enough space to walk.

My oldest daughter stayed all night with me, in an uncomfortable semi-reclining chair. I only woke her up once, when I finally lost it in the middle of the night. It was one thing to deal with the surgical pain, but then it got to the point where my bladder felt like it was going to explode… and I couldn’t handle all of the overwhelming sensations hitting me at once. There were tears.

The nurse assured me twice that the catheter was working, and then finally noticed that — oops — the tube had become kinked and wasn’t emptying. Once she had it draining again, about 24 ounces of urine exited. (Normal bladder capacity is around 16 ounces.)

Getting that fixed was a huge relief, but the ache lasted several more hours, until I finally could get up (with help) and walked very slowly to the bathroom.

Nancy on August 29 at 11:21am (Facebook)

Saltines have never tasted so good.

Nancy on August 29 at 11:32am (Text to family)

Starting to feel a little better! Got the right meds half hour ago. Finally lol

Once morning came, they unhooked the pain pump (which took two nurses about 15 minutes to document and disconnect because it was dispensing a controlled substance). Only then was I allowed the medication that worked for me: tramadol and ibuprofen. Seriously — after about 30 minutes, was like a whole new person. A much nicer person.

A couple hours later, I was normal enough that the the nurses started to become adamant that I get up and get walking. Twice that day I shuffled along the halls with my IV pole in tow for about fifteen minutes. It was ridiculously exhausting, but also very liberating.

Nancy on August 29 at 6:07pm (Facebook)

Eating solid foods today! Got my meds working. Still a lot of pain but manageable. Doing some walking to and from bathroom.

doing ok in the hospital
August 30: For Facebook at 8:37am / To my kids at 9:04pm
Nancy on Saturday, August 30 at 2:36am (Facebook)

This vacation leaves much to be desired. ;-)

Nancy at 5:47am (Facebook)
a hysterectomy story - myria
August 30 at 5:19pm: A visit from my youngest sweetheart!

Update: Started solid food yesterday, and began taking solo trips (dragging IV pole) to the restroom a few hours ago. Progress!

Slept several hours, aided by earplugs. Will probably be here until tomorrow (Sunday). Might be up for visitors this afternoon!

Surgery notes: Fibroid was larger and oddly-shaped, taking a bit longer than usual to sort out. Still have my cervix (vascular issues) and ovaries (hoped to keep). Pathology report next week. Incision looks good they say. Intestines still sluggish, though.

Nancy on Sunday, August 31 4:42pm (Facebook)

Home! And even napped a little – on my side/s! So happy to be here. Won’t turn on the computer til probably Tuesday. :-)

Nancy on Tuesday, September 2 at 3:10pm (excerpt from instant message to Betsy)

[After being on and off the computer throughout the day] Going to go lie down — been reducing meds and increasing activity, and now I’m feeling it. Haha.

Nancy on Thursday, September 4 at 5:03pm (Facebook)

Boring surgical update!

One week after being wheeled out of the recovery room saying, “Ow, ow, ow” constantly, I have now gone 13 hours without any pain meds! I’m feeling it, but it’s not too bad — though will probably take a dose before bed. (200 mg Advil & 50mg Tramadol every 6 hours or so has been my usual for the past couple days.)

They left my ovaries and cervix (intended the cervix to go, but there was too much potential for complications), and pretty sure they took my tubes. I have yet to go to my post-op visit to find out how big it all was. The external incision is 8 inches.

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Nancy J Price

Nancy J Price

In addition to being the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Lilyvolt, Nancy J Price was one of the two original founders of in 1999, helping turn it into one of the world's top lifestyle websites for women. More recently, she spent more than two years as the executive editor of Grateful, a Gannett/USA Today Network site. Nancy is also the founder of the Click Americana vintage & retro website. She lives in Arizona with her four kids and partner, novelist Daniel Price.

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