On my list of physical feats I've imagined writing about, I was going to include having a colonoscopy, which is expected by physicians once a person turns 50.
But something more challenging than a colonoscopy came along for this surgery virgin: having my gallbladder out. So I'm going to claim that as #23. It's been just over two weeks since I went under the knife, and my recovery has gone well!
Here are some things I'd like to remember about the experience before I close the book on the whole adventure:
- When all was said and done, I handled the idea of being unconscious while someone was mucking around on the insides of me pretty well. My strategy was to not think about it too much. Roger asked if I wanted to see a video of the procedure ahead of time. I opted out. Maybe some day.
- My big-hearted 15-year-old son showed me his big heart over and over.
The night before the surgery, I discovered that, on his own, Jack had watched a video of the procedure and, as he described it with uncanny recall, he assured me that it was pretty straightforward and would not be so tough.
The day of surgery, Roger and I got home just before school got out. After getting me settled upstairs in bed, Roger ran to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions. Since the car was gone, Jack didn't know I was there when he got home. Then Roger called to ask a question, and both Jack and I answered the phone. As soon as we hung up, Jack ran upstairs to check on me.
Whoever is concerned about the next generation being too self-involved and irresponsible has not met Jack.
- Serendipity was a constant companion.
My doctor recommended a surgery practice. When I called them to make an appointment, I had no idea which surgeon to ask for and said as much. They made me an appointment with Dr. Peterson. I immediately texted my friend, who is married to an anesthesiologist. Has he heard of Dr. Peterson? Why yes, he worked with him just that day. Thumbs up, she texted back.
Then I met Dr. Peterson for a consultation. I told myself that if he was at all condescending or dismissive (I have issues), I would seek a second consultation. If I had a good experience at our meeting, I'd stick with him. I liked him. He laughed and told me it was smart to ask if I could have the colonoscopy I need done at the same time, even though it wasn't an option. Anyone who can honor wishful thinking like that gets my vote.
A few days before surgery, I went to a lab to have blood drawn for tests. The woman who drew my blood read my form and said, "Dr. Peterson? He took my gallbladder out!" She was very happy with him and gave me some personal tips about going through it all.
It turned out that I was able to request my anesthesiologist friend. I saw him a week before and he told me all about the cocktail he'd be mixing up for me and what I could expect. But more than that, it was a great comfort to have a familiar voice in my ear as I went under.
When I came to afterward, I looked up and saw a familiar face. My recovery nurse turned out to be an acquaintance from my town! She took good care of me, and any sense of vulnerability I had melted away.
- Hearing what the doctor said afterward about the state of my gallbladder ("It was ugly!") was vindication--proof that I'm not a whiner.
The only reason I had the surgery was that I had finally mentioned to my doctor at my annual exam that sometimes I have this pain. Like, for years. As I described it to her, she ordered an immediate ultrasound. Why was I so slow in taking it to her? I don't know. I guess I didn't want to be a whiner. Way to get in my own way!
There were a few things I didn't quite anticipate even though I knew a lot going in. For example, it was much harder than I expected to pull my brain out of it all, and my 51-year-old belly skin was awfully stretched out afterward. But my brain and my skin are both getting back to normal.
And tomorrow I will open to the fresh and hopeful pages of a new year!
(Although I've got that colonoscopy coming up in a few weeks . . . )