I had my surgery on Wednesday, Jan 29th. For some reason I was very nervous all week, but on the day of the surgery itself I felt fine. We got there at 9 and ended up waiting in the waiting room until almost 11. Then they took me back to another waiting area to change into a gown and get my IV. They didn’t actually take me to the Operating room until about 12:00.
The scariest part was actually when the nurse (who was very short) was wheeling me down the hallway in this bed/chair thing. She tilted the chair back so she could see but I felt like we were drifting around corners and just barely avoiding crashing into stuff.
Seeing the operating room with all the lights and everything was kind of scary too, but the nurses were really nice and made sure I could see their face as they told me what they were doing. They also had me keep my hearing aid on the side they weren’t operating on so I would be able to hear both before and after the surgery. Then the anesthesiologist told me to let me know whether I could still feel his fingers on my arm, and after few minutes I was out.
Waking up was the part I had dreaded the most because in the past I’ve been very disoriented and groggy coming out from anesthesia. But this time was different. I felt like I just woke up all at once and said “I’m here” as they were rolling me down the hallway. I wasn’t in any hurry to do something silly like move, but I felt like I knew what was going on. I asked if the tight band across my forehead was the bandage.
Once they got me settled in, they asked if it was too tight, and I said yes. They tried to loosen it a bit, but that didn’t seem to help much. But I figured I would get used to it. They got my wife. She and the nurse chatted about nurse stuff. The only awkward thing was that because my wife was on my good side with the hearing aid, the nurses kept trying to talk to me from the other side where their keyboard was before realizing I couldn’t hear anything on that side and couldn’t really turn my head to look at them.
I felt fine until they cranked the bed up into sitting position. I started to get nauseous so they gave me some medicine for it. That did the trick but also made me sleepy. So as my wife helped me get dressed and into the wheel chair it was all I could do to keep my eyes open and focus on what was going on. I still wasn’t having any pain except for the bandage across my forehead. In fact the right side of my head felt numb. But I also didn’t feel like I could turn my head. So I just stared straight ahead as they wheeled me to the parking garage and my wife got the car. I never really even saw the person who was pushing the wheel chair. I felt rude but I wasn’t going to twist around in the wheelchair so I could see the person and talk to her. I just said thank you to the phantom wheel chair pusher as they got me into the car.
We managed to beat the worst of rush hour traffic and got a parking place right in front of the house. I felt ok walking but I let my wife help me up the stairs and into the house just in case. Then she took my shoes off, got me settled on the couch, and made me a smoothie so I could take my pain pill (tylenol with codeine).
That first evening and night were the roughest part. The bandage felt like a vice across my forehead and the pain was worst over my left temple (almost completely opposite from the site of the surgery). The surgeon said to take the bandage off the next morning, but if I really wanted to I could take it off earlier as long as I kept it on for at least 12 hours. I didn’t really want to cut it off in the middle of the night and then sleep with the incision uncovered, so I resolved to make it through to the next morning.
I tried to read my book but had trouble reading more than a page or two at a time. I had my wife bring down my Tintin books knowing that comic books were probably closer to my level. But even those I could only read a little at a time before having to stop and drift off for a while.
My temples were still throbbing. The pain pill helped, but not a lot. The only thing that really seemed to help was if I rubbed my left eyebrow right below the bandage. My fingers were so cold it was like having a built in ice pack. But I ate some ramen and went to bed early. I woke up every hour with my mouth horribly dry and checked how many hours left until my next pain pill and until I could take off the bandage. I felt like a kid waiting for Christmas morning, except in the case the present I wanted to unwrap was my own head.
At 6:15 I couldn’t wait anymore and woke up my wife to ask her to cut off the bandage. She was surprised not realizing I had been counting down to this moment all night. But she got the scissors and a towel (in case the dressing was messy) and at last I was free of the vise! My forehead had two big welts on it (the scabs are still healing a week later) and was all puffy. The incision was a dull distant ache around my ear, but nothing compared to that horrible bandage that had been squeezing my head all night. I guess the pressure helped the incision close up and heal well, but I don’t know if it had to be that tight.
Everything after that was a cakewalk. While I still couldn’t open my jaw much, and the site around my ear was starting to ache, it was nothing like the head vice. I felt well enough to start something I had been looking forward to for months: watching all six Star Wars movies in a row (real ones first followed by prequels) and start reading some of the books I had been accumulating in anticipation of my recover.
Since then each day has been better. I can open my jaw more and chew better each day. It still aches behind my ear but I don’t usually take any pain medicine except at night. My balance feels slightly off, like one side of my head is heavier (which technically I guess it is). Sometimes I feel like I’m listing a little to one side, and the room keeps moving a little bit after I stop moving. I also have to be careful about titling my head back to look up. But so far I’ve never felt in danger of falling down and each day I’ve been more active.
My wife picked the kids up on Saturday. Sunday we enjoyed a warm day and took the kids to the playground. On Monday we got another snow storm and I even felt well enough to do some shoveling. I’m not sure if that was really a smart idea, but I told myself I would stop if I had any pain or felt dizzy and I was extra careful about my footing on the stairs. I did feel a little off balance a few times but actually felt better once I got going.
But as often happens during snow days/vacation the days flew by quickly and a week has already gone by. Today we got through an ice storm and a power outage. Tomorrow if the weather/roads/septa allow I’ll go back to work. And I look forward to my activation on Feb 19th.