Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

I wake up in enormous pain, with a ventilator down my throat. I am beyond freaked out. The only thing I can think about is wanting it removed immediately. I motion for a piece of paper and pen so I can communicate this to the nurses. I plead with them to take it out but they are waiting for someone to perform a lung capacity test and want to slowly ease me off the machine. It is a horrible, panic inducing feeling to not be able to tell if you are breathing.
In the meantime they are unable to give me enough pain medication due to my extremely low blood pressure. I try to explain that my baseline BP is very low, but it takes hours for this to be straightened out. My room in ICU is tiny and very crowded. There is only about two feet between the end of my bed and the computer the nurses are using. Every time they walk between the two they bump against the bed, jarring me badly. Indescribable pain shoots across my entire body. I become furious and scribble orders for them to stop doing this. One nurse reads my note and tells the other to stop, but they are careless and repeatedly continue to bump me. I tap the paper and clipboard where I have written my request, glaring at the two of them.
Eventually my ventilator is removed and it is an enormous relief. I am finally able to notice what else is going on with my body. I am not ready to look at my incision yet, but I realize that I have IVs in my wrist and neck and arm and chest, and oxygen in my nose. The epidural will be left in my back for days. In addition to all that they will place a PICC line in my upper arm.
A specialist comes into my room to perform some type of test on me. There are already several nurses in the small room, bustling around me. The specialist leaves something by my feet and exits the room. She remembers she has forgotten it and returns, looking all around. Everyone helps her, but no one notices but me. I weakly motion to the item and she finally sees it and leaves once again. My dad has been watching this in the hallway and tells me how astounded he is by my mental clarity in the state I am in.
I obviously know nothing about the surgery, but my family tells me it went amazingly well. I was very stable throughout; they were able to remove the entire tumor and left kidney and a large piece of my IVC. They decided to replace it with and artificial stint. The liver specialist saw that my gallbladder needed to be removed and took that out while he was in there. He joked that I got a “two for one.” My main surgeon, Dr. Hafez closed me up himself. The surgical team believes they were able to get clear margins. After my tumor is sent to pathology we are told that the cells were dead, killed by chemotherapy and the embolization. I will have more chemo when I heal, to make sure no deadly microscopic cancer cell is left anywhere is my body.
Although I have no memory of this I am told that no one informed my family when I was transferred to ICU. They say that I had been up there for three hours and was awake when they arrived. I am also told that I repeatedly tried to lift my gown to see my incision in front of my dad and Peter. I like to believe that is not true. The white, creamy looking drug they gave me nicknamed “milk of amnesia” helps me pretend it never happened.

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