It’s Wednesday, 34 days after The News.
zom-bie | \zäm-bē\
- a will-less and speechless human held to have died and been supernaturally reanimated.
- a person held to resemble the so-called walking dead, generally as a result of fasting, early morning appointments and sunrise phone calls associated with long-term exposure to medical personnel.
I had to wake up at 7:15 to drink the Ensure Pre-Surgery drink that’s somehow excepted from the NPO list. I’m pretty certain I resembled a zombie when the Uber driver came to pick me up. Fortunately it didn’t phase him. They’ve probably seen it all and a sleep-deprived vampire doesn’t make it to Uber’s Top 10 List of Notable Passengers.
After insurance hiccups, scheduler slips, and confusion over how I was going to be COVID tested and what NPO means, the mediport has finally been placed! I can now inject 100% dark chocolate directly into my veins! (Ok, I was told not to do that. But chocolate has anti-cancer properties so 100% chocolate should count as a chemo drug shouldn’t it? Sure, I’d prefer to savor it. But there are always compromises in life…)
The visit to El Camino Hospital didn’t start off well. What did I expect given all the contradictory and confusing phone calls preceding it? I arrived at the ambulatory surgery center right on time…and the reception staff wasn’t there yet. The pre-op nurse came out shortly after and apologized that I had to wait for the receptionist to check me in. So I sat around for a while checking email. And when I ran out of email I learned how to make a raspberry and fig crostata while watching a Julia Child cooking program that was on the TV. (It seems a lot harder than making a lilikoi chiffon pie, so I think I’ll just buy the crostata…)
The reception people finally showed up and started trying to talk to me through a plexiglass sheet. I don’t know what they were thinking, but plexiglass is a sound barrier. You can’t hear people talking through it unless you install a speak-through or something. Apparently this was lost on the ECH reception team. Between the barrier and TV I could barely hear the receptionist and had to ask her to repeat just about everything. At one point she handed me an informed consent form and asked me to sign it – but all the blanks, like the procedure to be done and the doctor performing it, weren’t filled in. (I had to restrain myself from writing in “haircut” and “first available”. But by that point I was so exasperated with the receptionist I signed it anyway.)
A couple minutes later the pre-op nurse came to get me. She took one look at the paperwork and started chastising the receptionist for having me sign an incomplete form, saying “it’s not legal.” Well at least the nursing staff seems to be on top of things! (As I was to find, the pre-op and surgery nurses were up to the usual standards of friendliness and competence I’d come to expect from my visits to PAMF. Perhaps its the administrative side that is operating with a lobotomy…)
When we got to pre-op I noticed I was the only patient there. In fact for my entire visit, from the time I entered the surgery center to the time JT picked me up, I didn’t see another patient. Here I’d heard that hospitals were booked with everyone doing elective procedures they had forgone during peak COVID. Was this some sort of “special” ward? Hmm….is that a camera I see in the wall? Am I on Candid Camera, or some sort of reality TV show? It was a bit eerie, but I have to say I never lacked for attention 🙂.
The nurse started doing all the standard pre-op stuff while we chatted about her kids going back to school, COVID boosters, and dogs. Everyone loves to talk about dogs. At one point she paused, looked at me, and said, “Why do we have you down for a COVID rapid test? You already tested negative on Monday.” I rolled my eyes and relayed the story of getting the urgent call on Monday to come in “stat” for my “late” COVID test. I got the impression that the Monday COVID tests scramble wasn’t in the plan. And neither was the “pre-surgery” kit I got during the test. The nurse was a bit surprised I had the Ensure, as well as the post-shower antiseptic scrub that was in the kit. (That was horrible. It left me smelling like I’d been doused in baby powder. Who specs this stuff?)
The Guinea Pig
After I was prepped I was rolled into the OR. (I still think someone should make an amusement park ride of the experience), and soon after the team arrived. One of the nurses said it was her first day and she hoped she’d do ok. I told her she’s going to do great because I’m her first patient! As they got me wired up I could hear a lot of scurrying around and nurses asking each other where such-and-such was. One of the them seemed distressed that they hadn’t brought their music system. One of the nurses then explained they normally didn’t use this room. Some construction or remodeling is going on in the room used by interventional radiology, so the procedure was moved to the outpatient center. She added I was the lucky guinea pig!
Soon enough the nurses located all the things they were looking for and the things got underway. This article pretty much describes my mediport placement.
The after-visit-summary notes indicated that the procedure started at 12:08 PM and ended at 12:19 PM. All that fuss and prep for eleven minutes. I was expecting the twilight anesthesia like was done for the colonoscopy and EUS, but this one was done under “moderate intravenous conscious sedation” with local anesthesia. So I was conscious the whole time. And it explained why at one point when I turned my head to the right the nurse quickly told me, “No no – keep looking to the left.” (i.e. “Pay no attention to the guy with the knife pointed at your chest.”). I didn’t feel a thing though and was a little surprised when they started getting me ready to leave the OR.
Everything was done much earlier than the estimate given when I scheduled the procedure, so I waited around a bit for JT to pick me up. Fortunately by then more email had arrived so I was suitably occupied. JT lives 600 meters away (530 if you elect to walk on the grass instead of the paths in the park adjacent to the hospital). I could have walked to her house. Or maybe one of the nurses could have wheelchair’d me there. Hmmm. I’ll have to consider that option next time.
I hung out at JT’s house for a few hours – the original plan was for general sedation and they wanted me observed for two or three hours afterwards. Maybe in case I thought I was a bat and tried to fly out of a window or something. With the “conscious sedation” (isn’t that a contradiction in terms?) I was pretty much good to go from the moment they released me. JT went back to working from home, and I grabbed the backpack I’d dropped off from ECH so I could work-from-someone-else’s-home.
The port sitting in my chest is a “smart port.” I assume since its “smart” they’ve installed apps that will tell PAMF when I’m sleeping or in the shower so they can refine the most inconvenient times to call. However I can’t find the instructions for connecting it to my Wi-Fi. Wonder if it’s got a cell connection instead?
When I got home I noticed that my iPad didn’t recognize my thumb. And, now that I think about it, while I was recovering at JT’s house I couldn’t install an app because touch ID wasn’t working on my iPhone. Hmm. Methinks they did another procedure from 12:19 – 12:30. It may look like my thumb. But my iThings know better!