Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Unwanted Journey: Day 1009 - What Can Go Wrong

Blood tests, EKG, X-rays, consults with pain specialists, the anaesthesiologist, the pre-surgical nurse and so on. Roughly 3 1/2 hours of answering questions, filling in forms, hearing all the things that can go wrong during a major surgery like liver resection, discovering that I'll be in the intensive care unit for about 2 days before being transferred to the surgical floor, that I'll probably need blood transfusions during's all a little overwhelming today.

I now know when to stop taking my vitamins, stop drinking alcohol, stop eating, stop drinking water, what medications to take with me, when to bathe, what to take with me, what not to take with me, the privacy policy and access code for my wife, how long I'll be in hospital, where the scar will be on my torso, what all the machines, lines, catheters, and pain meds will be, the importance of using the inspirometer and wiggling my toes while confined in the IC unit...did I say it's all a bit overwhelming?

And then I went back to work for the afternoon. Not that I was able to concentrate effectively on the tasks at hand. All I could really think about was the image of how a man can be transformed into an octopus of wires, tubes, and lines.

While waiting for each new phase in the consultations, I tried and eventually succeeded in finding the wireless access in the hospital, only to discover that what was free 2 1/2 years ago now costs the patient about $9 a day, $20 a week or $35 a month. And then there's the additional costs of phone and television access (which you can't have in intensive care, for fairly obvious reasons).

It was a wake up call. Not that I haven't been paying attention and aware about how serious this business of surgery truly is. It's just that all this pre-surgical business was like someone shaking you, throwing water in your face, or pinching you as you began to doze off. This evening it's very, very real!

But it's also slightly unreal. No matter how many times I'm asked if I have questions about the surgery or the pain meds or the general anaesthesia, there really isn't anything optional here, other than whether I want regular TV or prime TV. The surgery is something we have to do and basically all I can do well is to show up hoping for the best possible outcome. It's like being asked if you have any concerns about the sun coming up tomorrow morning or about the rain and thunderstorms we expect in the region tonight.

The reality is that the preparation is necessary. Patients need to know what will happen to them. The hospital staff needs to outline what can go wrong, even with good lab results. And I just need to get from here to there.

Two weeks from now, I'll be recovering in the ICU, happy to see my wife's face and thinking about whether I will order the television service for my semi-private room in another day or two.

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