Thursday, February 19, 2009

Part 1-February 5th Surgery

We reported to the 3rd floor of St. Vincent's Hospital at 5:00 a.m. sharp to sign in for my scheduled surgery. They took me immediately to the 4th floor to get me prepped for surgery. This time I honestly don't remember ever leaving the room where they get your IV started and all that stuff. (I had to get the IV in my left foot since my surgeon was going to be working on my left arm, and I can't have sticks in my right arm due to nodes being removed after my lumpectomy in 2000.) I remember the anesthesiologist saying he was going to give me something to help me relax. That's the last thing I remember until I woke up in recovery saying my throat was hurting. They hadn't removed the breathing tube yet and said that was probably why and removed it. I remember having to cough a lot, which I've never done after surgery. I later learned my surgery took 4 hours. I've never had tubes down my nose and throat for that length of time while doing all kinds of surgeries on me. I knew the doctors would be removing the cancer from the inside of my cheek and then sew a flap of skin from the inside of my forearm to the area so it could heal. Veins and arteries would be attached microscopically and the blood flow to the area would have to come from the left side of my neck. I have had too many surgeries and radiation on the right side to get a good blood flow for the flap. I asked the nurse in recovery by note how long my incision was on my neck. She said it was from under my ear to across the center of my neck. The nurses were talking about how good the incision had been closed up. I later noticed the splint I knew would be on my left arm looked more like a cast with the thick ace bandage wrapped from my fingertips to above my elbow. I was in recovery for about 6 hours waiting for a room in ICU where I was scheduled to spend the night. All this time I'm wondering how I'm going to get up and use the bathroom when I have to go. I later learned I had a catheter. That was really a relief to me to know I didn't have to try to get up and go. The nurses in ICU would frequently look in my mouth with a flashlight to make sure the flap was pink, getting blood flow. They even checked it with a mini Doppler machine where they could pick up the pulse of the blood flow around my mouth and cheek. The doctor had the temperature of the room stay between 75 and 80 degrees to help encourage blood flow so the vessels wouldn't get cooled down and constrict. I ended up staying in ICU two nights with male nurses which was quite interesting to say the least. A (female) nurse removed the catheter the next day in ICU and that was fine. One of my doctors so nicely arranged to have me moved to the new wing when I left ICU on Saturday afternoon. (He had already sent John to his office across the street to get 2 shots for a sinus infection that had really taken hold of him.) It was nice to finally be in a 'regular' room...a regular room with a mirror in the bathroom. I had NO idea till I saw myself in the mirror just how swollen my face and mouth were from the surgery. It was quite a shock. The assisting surgeon had said in ICU that I would probably go home on Tuesday or Wednesday. However, my regular doctor came in to see us on Sunday morning and said I could go home on Monday unless I wanted to go home Sunday. I was so ready to go home. The nights were so long in the hospital. So we were able to go home Sunday which was a huge blessing. The flap was proving to be a successful transplant, and I was doing well.

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