It occurred to me the other day that, in my usual fashion, I may have minimized the true nature of the procedure I recently went through. I sometimes forget that, because things go so well, it’s actually major surgery, and not as easy as I make it sound. I’m particularly aware of this for anybody who comes to this page that is outside my social circle, looking for a first-hand account of a procedure that they’re facing. So, with that in mind, here’s the full skinny on what happened to me last week.
The procedure I had done was a “daVinci assisted proctectomy.” Basically, my awesome surgeon, Dr. Stefanie Schluender, used the daVinci Surgical System to remove my rectum, some associated lymph nodes, and then sew up my backside. The surgery typically last from three to five hours (it was a bit over three for me), and involves, at least for me, four small incisions in the abdomen and suturing shut of my backside. To put it bluntly…I will never, ever, fart again. If you’re not a guy that might not give you reason for pause, but I have to say…I miss it!
After surgery I was wheeled into the recovery room. For some reason, I had a very hard time tolerating the surgery this time around. I was in there for quite some time, felt incredibly nauseous (to the point they put a scopamine patch behind my ear), and can remember them telling me often to keep breathing. I’m not sure if I wasn’t breathing or what, but it wasn’t going well for sure. I felt like total junk, and was not at all happy with my condition. Contrast this to my last surgery, where my stay in recovery was minimal (aside from waiting for a bed during shift change), and I was up out of my bed as soon as I hit my room. Not this time. It was all I could do to keep from upchucking when I got back to my room. I do want to give props to the very nice nurse…Kim, I think her name was…who kept talking to me and keeping me on task while in recovery. I didn’t open my eyes much, but I was able to focus on her instructions.
Once I got back to my room, and once I started feeling better, I was able to take stock of my situation. There were four incisions in my abdomen, closed with metal staples. They are pretty tiny incisions, so that’s nice. I was wearing a compression belt around my abdomen (and am still wearing it) to prevent herniation of the incision site. My abdomen was sore for sure. In addition, I had a JP drain plugged into my left buttock to help drain fluid from where my rectum used to be. I still have it, and I can safely say it’s a literal pain in the rear! Finally, my backside…my anus (there, I said it)…is zipped up never to be opened again. I’m hoping I never have to get a prostate exam, because I’m not quite sure how that would work!
Fortunately for me, my nausea subsided fairly quickly, and I had very minimal pain. In fact, I didn’t take a hit of the pain medication at all that they provided me, aside from some Tylenol. I can honestly say it didn’t hurt, and that I wasn’t just putting on a brave face. I definitely feel that was a blessing from God.
Now it was time to settle in for the usual stuff – frequent vital checks, meds, extra meds because one of the steroids they gave me spiked my blood sugar, and walking the halls. Dr. Schluender basically said I could be walking or laying down, and that if I was sitting, I had to do it on one side. I did push it pretty hard here because I didn’t want to stay in the hospital any longer than I needed to.
Oh, yeah, one other joyful thing – the catheter. Nothing like a stiff plastic tube to help you pee! ‘Nuff said about that.
Dr. Schluender came in to check on me daily, and was satisfied with my progress. She did drop one bombshell that we hadn’t been aware of, and that was the possibility that the ability to pee by myself might be compromised as a result of the surgery, because of the proximity of those nerves to where she was doing her work. So far I’m happy to report that I’m doing OK on my own, and I continue to pray that it stays that way for the remainder of my life.
I finally get out of the hospital on Wednesday evening after shift change. I’m now settled in at home for recuperation over the next few weeks. I walk A LOT, because that’s what she told me to do. And I try not to sit too much, but when I do, it has to be to one side, which really cramps my muscles. Sleeping isn’t too bad, but, because of how I need to move, I pretty much wake up fully each time I turn over in bed.
Michelle has been an amazing nurse and changes my dressings on the JP drain a couple times a day. No glory there for sure, but I can’t thank her enough for it. I feel like I’m starting to finally get the post surgery stink off my body, but I do smell foul from time to time for sure. The pain in my abdomen from the incisions is almost gone, and I believe my bottom sutures are healing as expected.
I very much apologize if I trivialized this for anybody who came here looking for the real story. I sometimes forget that because I have the blessings of God and my friends and family, it helps me tremendously in coping with the procedure. But make no mistake…this isn’t a trivial procedure, and it doesn’t go the same for everybody. If you have a great doctor like I do, who realizes how something like this impacts your life, then I believe you’ll have an easier recovery because of how the procedure is done. But, every body reacts differently to the trauma of surgery (and it is without a doubt trauma), so your experience will be different. All I can say is keep your Faith in God, accept help from your friends, and work hard on your recovery!
Huge props to the nursing and support staff at the 4 Pavilion Unit at Carondolet St. Joseph’s Hospital. To a person, they are an amazing team! And thanks to everybody who showered, and continues to shower, me and my family with thoughts, prayers, and assistance. It is all greatly appreciated!