Currently, I am 9 days post surgery. What an experience it has been so far.

I woke up about 7:20 pm, Wednesday, May 16th,  in ICU. I was actually surprised it wasn’t later. I was expecting 10 pm or later. Because of the anesthesia, I was obviously somewhat out of it. I do remember saying “Wow, that went fast” and the doctors and nurses all laughed. 11 hours went quickly for me, but probably not for everybody else! The doctor spoke to me briefly and said he was very happy with how things went and thought the results were going to be terrific.

Mark appeared and was very happy to see me. I don’t remember being in pain, just feeling very sore and very tight from my abdomen to my neck. I was thirsty and hungry, but was not allowed to even have ice chips. This was because the transplanted tissue needed to be monitored and if anything went awry, I would be whisked back into surgery. I could not believe I had to wait over 12 hours before drinking water. That was a challenge. The nurse handed me a wet sponge and said I could use it to “moisten the inside of my mouth.” Yeah, that was pointless!

My first night in the ICU was a little dramatic. My blood pressure dropped and it made my nurses very nervous. I guess it’s typical after the surgery I had, but the nurses didn’t seem to know this. At one point, it dropped to 70/35 and I thought the nurse was on the verge of calling a code. All I could think about was how much those paddles were going to hurt my chest. After calling the doctor at around 3 am (I’m sure he was really happy with that call after performing an 11 hour surgery) they calmed down.

Mark arrived about 8 am on Thursday and things immediately began to look up. My blood pressure slowly started to climb, and best of all, I was told I could eat and drink after 10 am. I had the phone in hand, ready to go! I was famished! My in-laws arrived and seemed surprised I was awake. I explained that it was a busy night, but sleeping was not one of the choice activities thanks to the blood pressure saga. I was looking forward to a meal and a nice long nap.

I got my meal, but not the nap. I ate a cheeseburger and fries and just as I was finished eating my doctor arrived to check on me. He again reiterated how happy he was with how everything had gone. I was transitioned from morphine to oral pain medication.

Then, Mark and the nurse decided it would be a good idea to get me out of bed and sit me up in a chair. I have to say, through this entire experience, this was the worst pain. My chest was fine, but the pain in my abdomen was excruciating. On the 1-10 pain scale……it was a 20! I sat up and Mark and I actually played cards. I have to brag, that even completely doped up on pain killers, I beat him at two games of gin!

Friday, things moved right along. I was moved from the ICU to the regular floor and even went for a short walk. Getting up and down was still painful, but seemed to get better every time I did it. Saturday came and went, I walked more and received a steady stream of visitors. Sunday, I was asked if I wanted to go home. I was ecstatic. The hospital wasn’t horrible, but home is always preferable. I came home Sunday afternoon. It is nice to have a husband who has some medical training and did not so much as blink at the responsibilities of emptying surgical drains, redressing bandages, etc. It definitely makes things more comfortable.

Monday and Tuesday were uneventful. I walked, slept, watched tv, showered. That was about it. On Wednesday I had my first post op appointment with my doctor. He was pleased with how everything was healing and allowed 4 of my 5 surgical drains to be removed! Thank goodness! I was so excited at the thought of actually sleeping on my side. What can I say, you appreciate the smallest things only when they’re taken away.

Each day, I walk a little further, feel a little better, do a little more. Today I even made a public appearance at Sam’s Club and Buffalo Wild Wings. Physically, my recovery is moving right along. The challenges that are beginning to emerge are more mental and emotional. It’s hard to know that summer is here and I have no travel plans. Missing the end of the school year makes me feel that I’ve left things hanging. I miss my routine. I get easily frustrated that the simple act of walking up stairs makes my heart race and wears me out. And of course, there are many appointments ahead of me with my surgeon and oncologist. There is the uncertainty of “what comes next?” What further treatment will I need? I know I am getting ahead of myself. I have to take it a day at a time. That’s not always easy when you have an abundance of “down time.”

The love and support continues to pour in. Cards, flowers, gifts, emails, texts, meals. I am simply overwhelmed by the gestures of kindness. Here’s wishing everyone a very happy Memorial Day Weekend!

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