Random, unorganized thoughts on being awake and largely unsedated during knee surgery: NOT PLEASANT. Made worse by the surgeon enthusiastically urging you to WATCH the procedure on the monitor via the microscopic cameras being threaded through your leg, and then calling you a "wuss" when you decline. Also made worse when the first anesthesiologist fails to "swirl" your spinal block properly, whatever that means, resulting in your lying there for twenty minutes feeling only tingly but distinctly NOT numb, being repeatedly stabbed up and down your body with a pin and asked, "Can you still feel this? And this? And this?"
And then finally a second anesthesiologist must come in, and your entire body, which is by now too numb for you to move it but by far too not numb to be operated on, must be rolled to its side by nurses and held in position as a second spinal is administered. You are by now shivering uncontrollably, a result of the frigid temperatures of the operating room, the spinal medication, and possibly your horror that some idiot who didn't know what he was doing was jabbing you in the spine with a long needle!
But at last the surgery is underway. The anesthesiologist gives you a "whiff" of Fentanyl through the IV, which lasts all of five minutes, during which time you seem to float, and then the rest of the time you are fully cognizant of the various and sundry people working briskly on your body behind the drape sheet. Such a strange sensation, to be vaguely aware of your leg being poked and sometimes even pulled on and moved around forcefully, yet to feel it only as though it is some sort of phantom limb. Also strange was the fact that even though I was numb from my rib cage down, I could feel the baby moving throughout the procedure. It was very reassuring to me, that movement, but surreal, too.
Then came the worst part. I was all bandaged up and my numb, useless self was hoisted from the operating table to a rolling bed. Off I went to recovery, still shaking pretty hard from my TWO doses of spinal block. They checked the baby's heart rate to make sure he had come out okay, which he had, and then reattached me to all the heart and blood pressure monitors. I was fine for a minute, but then I began to feel really dizzy, and I was shaking violently. I started to feel like I was blacking out, and I was aware of a bunch of people all around me suddenly, moving me pretty abruptly onto my left side, with my head down and feet up.
It seemed my blood pressure had taken a dip into the eighties, which is very low for me. They kept giving me drugs through my IV to bring it back up, but for about ten minutes it stayed really low and I remember thinking maybe I wasn't going to get better. I was really out of it and felt worse than I can ever remember feeling. I was cold and hot all at once, shaking, and so dizzy. My heart was racing from the drugs and I was struggling to breathe. All I could think was that something bad was happening to the baby as well. I kept asking for Jim, but they wouldn't let him come back until I was stabilized. They also told me later it was because there were other patients back there in post-op, and it would violate their privacy or something.
A lady from labor and delivery came down to check the baby, and throughout the blood pressure episode he was fine. He kicked wildly, in fact, a result of the ephedrine they were giving me. They said it probably felt like a huge adrenaline surge to him.
Anyways, after what felt like forever I finally stabilized. Gradually, the shaking wore off, and I was completely exhausted, but kept being afraid to nod off for fear of dying. I was still a little terrified from the whole thing. It definitely turned me off even more to the idea of an epidural. I hated the whole process, and I definitely did not enjoy the low blood pressure, which they told me was a side effect from the spinal. Probably because I had to have TWO, not that I am bitter!
Finally, after an hour in post-op to make sure I was stable, they wheeled me to a recovery room. They had called Jim and told him what was taking so long, so he had gone to get something to eat once he knew I was okay. There were flowers waiting for me when I got to the recovery room, though.
A nurse came periodically to check me and the baby, and also to help me put on the oh so comfortable (and sexy!) compression hose things to prevent blood clots. They are white opaque thigh highs, which actually come right to the top of my leg, not mid thigh, and which I must constantly readjust, as they have to be kept wrinkle free or they will in fact cause blood clots rather than prevent them. I have to wear them for the next week. Oh joy.
Jim finally got back, bearing yummy food for me, which I couldn't finish even after nibbling for an hour. My stomach must have shrunk a little, plus being numb had made it feel very weird. My mom also brought me an array of tropical flavored Skittles, which I sampled slowly while I waited to get feeling back in my legs. It took about two hours, but little by little the spinal finally wore off, except in my butt. The nurse told me the buttocks are the last area to regain feeling. What a fascinating tidbit. So, I was painstakingly helped to stand up and make my way to the restroom. And let me tell you, also fascinating is the feeling of trying to sit on the toilet and being a, mentally aware that your butt is on the seat but physically numb to it, and b, trying very hard to pee even though your bladder and PCG muscles are numb and you cannot feel the urge despite your bladder being very full.
This whole process is made much more glamorous by your husband standing in the bathroom with you, ostensibly to help but actually sneaking in pictures and even video footage of you waddling around in your hospital gown supported by a walker! (He also checked the baby's heart rate for me with a Doppler which one of the L and D nurses had left in my room, and was very proud that he found the heartbeat sooner than they had been able to. So proud, in fact, that I had to talk him out of stealing the Doppler, but that's a whole 'nother story...)
So, anyhoo, two days later here I am at home, still in my support hose, on crutches, but feeling much better. I can actually feel my tushy, for instance, so that helps. I took Vicodin the first night and also yesterday, but haven't needed it so far today. I can't bear weight on the knee yet, but I am getting around okay on my own and can make my way unassisted from the bedroom to the bathroom- real progress. I can't shower yet, which sucks, but is also kind of a lazy pleasure. I brush my teeth, wash my face with a washcloth, maybe roll on some deodorant, and voila! I'm ready for the day.
Sleeping is a bit of a challenge, since I have to keep my knee elevated but also cannot lie on my back, so I either have to lie on my left side and keep two pillows between my legs to lift my right knee, or lie flat but with pillows wedged both behind me and under my leg. Which is why I may just resort to a pain pill tonight to help sleep come.
People have been incredibly nice, though, the last few days. My mom helped me clean the whole house the day before surgery, Jim has been keeping up on all the dishes and toys, and various people from our church have been bringing a steady stream of meals. Lovely. Also has been the wonderful gift of having relatives around to watch Adelay whenever needed. And tomorrow and Tuesday, my mom and MIL are taking turns staying with Addy and me during the day while Jim's at work. It's almost like a little vacation, now that my knee isn't throbbing so painfully. I lie on the couch, reading a magazine, and other people bring me food and carry Addy to me for cuddles every now and then. A girl could almost get used to this...
Except for the support hose and the not showering and the CONSTANT FRICKIN' PEEING! Did I mention that? The hose, coupled with the baby on my bladder, are squeezing every last ounce of excess moisture from my body. Which is bad timing, when getting up to pee is a ten minute ordeal.
So, let's see, I think I've got you up to speed on everything. Two spinals, low blood pressure, numb butt, support hose, lots of peeing, feeling much better today... Yes, that's about everything. Oh, yeah, the doc also gave me pictures of the inside of my knee during the operation, did I mention that? I have a lovely shot of the nasty piece of white, broken off kneecap being removed from my leg with some sort of tongs. Yech. They actually asked me if I wanted to keep the piece of bone! Do I look like a collector of my own body parts? Do I look like a person who saved my placenta after childbirth, for instance? I do not.
So yeah, I think that's it. And now I must pee again.