I definitely seem to get something out of writing out and sharing my experiences, just in general. So I’m going to write about what it was like getting a hysterectomy. If you’re interested in reading one person’s take of what it was like or maybe you just like reading what I write, read on.
CONTENT NOTE: There is a LOT of medical stuff in here. If you find that triggering or difficult to read, please take care of yourself.
I had my surgery on Monday, June 19th. I’ve already written about most of the process that led up to my surgery. After I wrote and published it there was some drama with my insurance (because of course there was) and my surgery date had to be rescheduled, but other than that mess it’s a pretty complete timeline. Oh, also, in the week leading up to my surgery there were several phone calls going over my medication list and getting checked into their system and whatnot. ANYWAY.
The “about to have surgery” stuff actually started the day before, with making sure I have clean bedding and cleaning my torso with the disinfecting wipes they sent me in the mail.
Then the morning of the surgery I got up at 4am so that I could leave no later than 5:30am, in order to be at the hospital no later than 6am, for a surgery that was scheduled for 8am. Turns out I probably could have slept a little bit longer as I was not allowed to eat or drink or shower, so there wasn’t exactly a whole lot for me to do. So I just did the basics of bathroom, brush teeth, get dressed, and sit around and wait. I made sure to wear clothes that were loose and wouldn’t constrict my midsection at all later on.
Once at the hospital the front desk directed me towards the surgery area, and I went to get checked in. Oh, and masks were required in the hospital, unsurprisingly. I found myself in an absolutely bizarrely shaped trapezoidal waiting room and signed in on a paper sign in sheet. I got to sit for a few minutes before they called me for the check in. This hospital requests that people getting surgery have a “support person” with them and really take steps to include the support person in the process. I was asked who my support person was, how the hospital should send updates to my support person, was given paperwork to hand over to my support person giving them information on what was going on, etc. They also asked a little bit about me, had me sign a form, and I got my hospital bracelet. Then I got to sit and wait until they called me back. I may have spent that time inspecting the shape of the room and marvelling over its asymmetry. You know, maybe.
Ok, so then they call me back, and me and my support person (my nesting partner, Nee) were called back. I was brought into a little exam room for, what I’m calling Part One. This involved taking my shirt off, the nurse wiping my torso down with those disinfecting wipes, the nurse helping me into the gown for some reason, and then handing Nee a plastic bag for all my stuff to go into. She asked me to disrobe entirely underneath the gown and left to give me some privacy for that. Poor Nee was carrying so much stuff at that point. On a side note, I don’t really care for hospital slippers. When the nurse came back she asked me for a urine sample, and when that was done Nee and I were led off to Part Two.
This was the pre-op room, set up with all the surgery patients in little bays of semi-privacy. Nee got a chair and I hopped up onto a bed. I got hooked up to the various monitors and then had the privilege of laying there bored for at least half an hour. One thing I did find a little amusing – generally blood oxygen meters look like little clips that they stick on your index finger. Well, clearly this hospital had had many instances of people messing with those meters and making the machines freak out and was just DONE with that. My oxygen meter was a little sensor that got VERY firmly taped to the tip of my finger.
Nee was still allowed to be with me, unlike my top surgery experience, and I was also allowed to keep my glasses. Both of those things were VERY nice. So Nee and I chatted some, and I learned that apparently I have a very low breathing rate. I know this is probably not what you’re here for but look, I found it interesting. Nee informed me that my monitor would flash any time my breathing rate went below 10 (no, I’m not sure how exactly it was being measured) and it went below 10 a LOT. Really a lot. I was able to see other people’s monitors showing 16 or 22 and being perfectly happy, and meanwhile mine was sticking to 7 or so. No one seemed to care though, probably because my oxygen levels were just fine (95 and up). So… yeah. Random anecdote about me. I breathe slowly.
Eventually the hospital staff got around to me, and everything got very hectic, very quickly. I can’t really go over this part in step by step detail, because it’s all such a blur in my memory. Here’s what I can say – a nurse (?) came by with one of those little computer carts and started doing that check in (there appear to be MANY check-ins with surgery. I think this is the third one). Apparently there were three surgeons on my surgical team, and they all came by individually to introduce themselves and explain their role. One of them had a med student tagging along, I guess observing or something. I’m assuming that if that made me uncomfortable I could have asked for the med student to not be there, but honestly I was fine with it. Every single person asked about my support person, and I introduced them to Nee. I think that question was part of their script or something.
I had to get hooked up to an IV. This involved, of course, the anesthesiologist introducing herself and asking about my support person and whatnot before she actually got started on the IV. For whatever reason the veins in my elbows are REALLY skinny so it’s difficult to place IVs in them. Since I want as few things to be difficult as possible, I went ahead and pointed out a spot on my arm that I knew from past experience was good for an IV hookup. I swear, when the anesthesiologist saw that vein she legit went “ooh!” The actual placement of the IV was… not great. I think they try to use the distraction technique, so someone else was talking to me and asking questions while the anesthesiologist did her thing. This technique is not great for me, as I prefer to do diaphragmatic breathing, deliberately relax my body as much as possible, and look at my other arm. I couldn’t do that this time, and I just ended up flustered and rattled. I don’t know, maybe I could have asked, but everything was happening very quickly very suddenly.
On a random note – IVs make my arm cold from the inside, and I find that absolutely fascinating.
ANYWAY. I was given some pills to swallow (and just enough water to do it) that were supposed to help with pain immediately post-surgery, and some kind of relaxant through the IV. I was warned the relaxant might sting, but I didn’t feel anything at all. Oh, and they stuck some kind of pad on my tailbone that apparently protects it from the surgical table, and compression wraps on my lower legs to help prevent blood clots.
After all that hustle and bustle I got to wait for a few more minutes when they were, I assume, hustling and bustling somewhere else, and then they came back to unhook my various wires from whatever they were plugged into and wheel me off to surgery. I know that at the same time, someone else came to get Nee and escort them off to wherever they were supposed to wait, but I didn’t witness that part. I also learned that while I was in surgery (or possibly in post-op, I don’t actually know) someone sat down with Nee to give them info about the kind of care I would need after surgery. Again, I didn’t witness any of this, so I only vaguely know what happened.
Once I was in the surgical room (Part Three!) it was, once again, hustling and bustling. Oh, they had taken my glasses at this point, so it was quite literally a blur for me as well. I seriously cannot see without my glasses. I got to sorta scooch from the bed I was on to the surgical table, which I really wish I had gotten a better look at. The impression I got was that it was vaguely human-shaped, and barely wider than my hips. I had to center myself on it, and they had me put my arms onto little arm-platforms. Then the anesthesiologist was doing something with my IV, someone else put a strap over my hips and literally strapped me down to the table (not sure why and I somehow find this part a little unsettling), presumably someone was hooking all my wires back up to machines, and someone else was putting a mask on my face and kept nudging me to tilt my head farther back.
And then I woke up in post-op (Part Four! Part three went by very quickly from my perspective).
I can remember when all the “about to have surgery” stuff was happening I was remembering how, the last time I had surgery, I lost memories from before I was actually anesthetized. I was wondering when my memory would cut out this time. Once again, I find myself wondering what happened that I was conscious for, but never made it into my long-term memory. Who knows? I certainly don’t.
Sadly, I don’t have any just-waking-up video to share, but I was definitely loopy. I have learned that when I am in post-operative loopiness, I get really, super, incredibly nice. Everyone is just so lovely, and I’m ever so grateful for every single individual thing they do for me, and I want to compliment everyone.
At this point I was also INTENSELY uncomfortable in my nether regions, and seriously felt like I needed to pee. I did not need to pee. Part of getting a hysto is having a catheter placed for the surgery itself, and that just leaves a person pretty uncomfortable even after it’s taken out.
So apparently they typical procedure for a hysto is to leave the catheter in after the surgery. Part of allowing a patient to go home is making sure they can pee, and the usual way they do that is to inflate the bladder through the catheter, take it out, and then have the patient use the bathroom. Since that would be utterly horrible for me, they went ahead and changed how they did it for me. I was still incredibly uncomfortable, though.
Anyway, I was uncomfortable and loopy. After working out that I definitely didn’t have to pee for real the nurse stuck a pad between my legs. In just about any other state I probably would have found it mortifying, but at that point I really didn’t have it in me to care at all. Then they asked if I wanted my support person with me, I said yes, and they brought Nee in to sit next to me. I mostly wanted to hold their hand as I drifted in and out of consciousness and was complimenting everyone around me. I also got very concerned about whether or not Nee had eaten a proper lunch. (at this point it was probably around 2pm)
Eventually the nurse who was taking care of me offered me something to drink (I asked for ginger ale) and something to eat (it was just various forms of crackers. I wanted saltines). The other part of leaving is making sure I can eat and drink and keep it all down. So I sipped my ginger ale and nibbled on my saltines and chatted with Nee and generally just hung out until I guess they decided I was awake enough to head off to Part Five.
This time they unhooked all those wires from me rather than the machines (or possibly in addition to the machines) so, wire free, someone wheeled my bed off to some other part of the hospital and into a small private room. I was still thanking everyone, so I thanked the nurse for taking care of me and thanked the guy who pushed my bed. I think that surprised him.
Part five was overall pretty chill, especially compared to much of the other stuff. I spent some time resting in relative privacy, and only had one nurse attending to me in any way (he was fabulous. I mean, everyone there was great, but I particularly liked him). I was finally able to use the toilet properly and this time I was able to pee! It did not feel good at all. Oof. Once again, my memories of this time aren’t super clear. I think I was there for less than an hour. I was allowed to get dressed, and the nurse warned me that doing so would exhaust me.
He was right. Once I had my clothes on I just sorta sprawled back onto the bed for a bit. At some point during Part Five we went over post-op instructions around movement restrictions, how and when to take painkillers, when I was allowed to shower again (the next day! So soon!) and suchstuff.
We also had to make sure I had at least a little bit of capacity to stand and walk before I could go. I could… sort of, but I was literally swaying. It was enough, though, so Nee went off to bring the car around to pick me up, and the nurse got me into a wheelchair to wheel me out front to meet them. Along the way we had the following delightful conversation:
Nurse: So what car are we looking for?
Me, totally not remembering what the car looks like: uhhh…. Nee’s car.
Me: oh, sorry, that wasn’t helpful at all, was it?
Nurse: (laughing) that’s ok, you’re drugged!
We did figure out which car it was, though I was absolutely no help at all in that process. I sorta collapsed into the front seat while vaguely wishing I could hug the nurse. I think he said something to Nee though I’m really not sure, and then we were off home. I mostly dozed on the drive. I was EXHAUSTED.
We got home a bit before 4 (and I guess that makes this Part Six). I took my first round of pain medication, Nee helped me into my bedroom, and I just collapsed onto my bed and slept for a couple hours. And I mean “collapsed” quite literally here – I basically faceplanted onto my bed and fell asleep immediately. I woke up in that same faceplant position.
I called Nee to ask for help into the other room (there are a lot of stairs in my house, and I was really not able to navigate stairs on my own), and did more more sipping of water and nibbling of crackers. My primary painkillers are acetaminophen and ibuprofen, which have different schedules for when they are to be taken. So we sorted out what I was to take when, wrote the instructions and times onto the bottles themselves, and then programmed all those times as alarms on my phone so my phone can notify me when it’s painkiller time. That part was remarkably difficult for me – my brain was definitely still not working right. I had Nee check that I got the alarms correct and I guess I got it so wrong that they just re-did all of it.
Then it was back to sleep (aside from waking up for painkillers and immediately going back to sleep) and that was my Day of Surgery.