Yes, I’m still alive! Rewind three long and largely unpleasant weeks…
I arrived at the hospital as scheduled at 7am on Monday morning to discover that my gastric sleeve surgery was scheduled for 10am – cue three hours of nervous waiting. After my initial registration I was sent to a waiting room where my first contact was with the anaesthetist.
In my last post I mentioned how the anaesthetist at the pre-admission clinic noted that I had a “very small mouth” which I found a little offensive, but I had now idea how significant that would turn out to be. It meant that they weren’t able to insert a breathing tube down my throat, which normally happens when you are already asleep. Unfortunately, they had to insert the tube – guiding it using a fibre optic camera – up my nose and down my throat. While I was awake.
I nearly made a run for it after he told me about this, and in hindsight it’s probably better that the clinic anesthetist hadn’t mentioned it, because I probably wouldn’t have shown up. As it turns out, the process was reasonably civilised – I was first given some gas from a nebuliser to numb my throat, and then they started sticking metal things in my nose and squirting fluids into it that made me gag. Thankfully I don’t remember much after that.
The operation went to plan, or so it seemed at first. I was very drowsy and don’t remember much, although I was apparently pushing the little green button for heavy duty pain relief way too often… Things went from bad to worse after I had a few sips of water, and they suspected that there may be a leak in the sleeve, a complication that occurs in less than 2% of cases – typical.
First I needed a CT scan, which sounds routine, but when you’re a large, very sick person held down by about 10 people, strapped to a tiny platform and forced to hold your hands above your head it’s a horrible experience. Actually, that’s an understatement. The scan was supposed to take five minutes but there was an issue with the machine, and it felt like forever.
The scan confirmed that there was bleeding, and I was off to surgery again. All I could think of was the horror of the damn nasal intubation, and it was more brutal this time – no calming nebuliser. I know that this was done due to the urgency of the situation, but it will stay in my nightmares – and of course I have this to look forward to if I ever need any other surgery. Hello Medic-Alert bracelet.
They did find a leak, and also a blood clot, so at least I was in the right place when things went downhill. I eventually woke up in intensive care after twelve hours on a ventilator, and I was there for two nights. I’ve always had a fear of medical procedures, but – apart from the intubation – everything was pretty much painless (okay, I’d rather not be awake during catheter insertion again). The removal of everything from my body was weird, particularly the drains – seeing 30-ish cm of plastic tubing being pulled out of your chest is an odd sight, not to mention a bizarre sensation.
I must thank the surgeon, anaesthetists, nurses and everyone else at Joondalup Hospital for doing such a great job of looking after me. The intensive care nurses in particular were phenomenal. After leaving intensive care I spent one day in a “normal” ward which was a bit like X-Factor for nurses, but I was still well looked after. I returned home on Thursday morning, only one day later but considerably weaker than expected due to the second surgery and blood loss.
The last two weeks have seen me stranded at home, weak and somewhat helpless, and beginning my journey of gastric re-discovery on a fluid-only diet. Both operations left me full of fluid and gas, some of which is still with me. Never before has a fart been so cherished. There was vomiting. There was a bout of diarrhea so sudden that the aftermath didn’t seem humanly possible. Thankfully I haven’t had too much pain, although laying down to sleep was too uncomfortable until two nights ago. Oh, and my nasal passages are constantly full of blood.
For the first week after coming out of hospital I experienced deep regret, wondering what the hell I’d done to myself and of course having put my family through some serious worry. Now that I’m starting to feel stronger, the horrors are starting to fade. I’ve already lost 10kg since the process began, and that’s just the start. I’m going back to work on Monday (one week later than planned), although it remains to be seen how my endurance is…