This time I was afraid. I felt a fear that seemed out of proportion with the procedure for which I was scheduled, but I could not shake it.On the ride to the hospital, tears would slip from my eyes, and my stomach would give a sickening roll. I am familiar with dread. I have faced it many times over the years. But this was different:I wasn't filled with dread, I was filled with fear. Of what, specifically, I had no idea. I was looking forward to having this procedure done and over with, parting with yet another chunk of my body in the war on cancer, a fairly routine surgery. I trusted my doctors, I trusted the hospital, and yet I was afraid.
We arrived on time, I was prepped and all of the pre-op tests were performed. I was ready and waiting. For 5 hours we sat waiting. My surgeon was having a tough time with the person ahead of me and they were taking a long time. The nurse kept apologizing and coming in with heated blankets until I was under a huge stack, which made me feel safe....a place to hide, a cave, a lair to keep me safe from whatever was lurking around the corner.
Finally, I was taken in and the last thing I remember was being put under, that lovely, luscious feeling of finally falling into the deepest sleep, knowing that a second later your eyes will open and it will all be over.
I awoke to a whole lot of confusion and hubbub. I was not in a good place in my mind, still half unconscious, feeling suffocated and in pain. What I saw in my dream-state was a nightmarish metal room, dark and threatening. My lungs hurt and I was choking and I heard someone say something about getting it out. My mouth was opened and a scaly wriggling creature was pulled from my body, scraping my throat, gagging me. If I could have I would have shrieked in pain as this thing was removed; I have never felt such pain in my life. I passed out and awoke in ICU with Greg by my side. There was a really big clock that read 9:30pm. 5 hours after my 45 minute surgery began. I asked what happened and Greg said there were complications, but that I was all right. I was hooked up to an IV and catheterized and had pain in my throat that was beyond any sore throat I have ever experienced. They put something in the IV and the pain subsided. My lungs were so congested, when I coughed I sounded like a 5 pack a day smoker.
So, what happened? I am allergic to sulfa drugs. I have experienced anaphylaxis (throat swelling, blood pressure dropping, body shutting down) from a sulfa drug and I told the surgeon, the anesthesiologist and every other person who asked. It was listed on my chart, the plastic bracelet on my arm and the one on my ankle. Knowing this, the surgeon still decided to use a blue dye, a potential allergen that will cross over w/ a sulfa drug allergy, testing with a small injection first to see if there was any reaction. When nothing happened, they injected the full amount, proceeded w/ the surgery and within 15 minutes all hell broke loose. They had to intubate me as my lungs filled with fluid (I was drowning) and my throat was swelling shut, they brought in the ventilator and had me attached to that for over an hour as I could not breathe on my own, they had the dilemma of dealing w/ anaphylaxis (which involves adrenaline and epinephrine, two drugs designed to jump start the body) and a deeply sedated patient. I am still not clear on the details of how they proceeded, but eventually they drained my lungs and woke me up.
I feel like a train wreck. Everything hurts. After 2 days in hospital, not sleeping, not eating, and feeling like crap, I am now home in my own beddy-bed. Greg brought Teddy for the ride home, which helped enormously. I slept all afternoon & all night. I spoke w/ friends & family in between, letting them know I was all right. I have a very sore throat and a nasty rumble-y cough and am spent, but I am alive to tell the tale. How often does one hear a doctor apologize? Or hear one say that they were scared by what happened to their patient? My feeling is that we are all of us only human, and none of us perfect. I lived when I could have died. They did their job and saved me and I am grateful. Now I am going back to bed.
addendum: I am cancer free and recovering nicely, thank you.