Friday, April 16, 2010

Held Hostage By A Bladder

Several of you left comments asking about practical ways to help out right now and I will post about that later today. In the meantime, I came across a little story from an earlier Breast Biopsy Surgery Chapter that always makes me smile; I thought I would reprise it here so that you could smile too!

(Written in March, 2008.)


You know, I wouldn't share the following pictures with just anyone, but you guys have kind of become a part of my family so I am going to go ahead and inflict them on you show them to you.

Although the hospital’s Official Excuse for foisting the blue hat upon me was because everyone going into surgery has to have one, I happen to know I got it because the entire medical staff was tired of looking at my flat, unstyled hair. Case in point . . .

After a couple hours of pre-op (including having lovely sharp wires inserted into both breasts) I was finally wheeled down the hall into surgery. There were four or five people in there with me—the surgeon, the anesthesiologist and several nurses. What was really fun was the fact that they were all women--I just wanted to serve everyone some brownies and settle in for some girl talk.

But alas, it seemed as though they had other plans for me. The brownies would have to wait.

I woke up from surgery fairly easily despite the fact that my teeth were chattering rather violently and I couldn’t seem to stop myself from making these pitiful little groaning noises. I kept thinking to myself, “Someone really needs to stop doing that,” but of course it never occurred to me that I was the one in charge of the sound effects!

The nurse asked me a few minutes later (when the groaning had stopped but the teeth were still chattering) if I was an “anxious person.” I said, “No, why?”

She said, “Well, you were thrashing around quite a bit and groaning and crying and we had to give you TONS of anesthesia.” She added, “I’m surprised you’re as alert as you are, considering how much was given to you.”

Yup, that's me! Mrs. Alert! (Do I look alert to you?)

Okay, I am now going to take a brief break from my narrative to post a picture of me in "better days." I don't want you to hold the horror of the other pictures in your mind too long so this is kind of like a "palate cleansing" picture.

Okay. Better now? Good. Let's get on with the story!

After I had laid chattering in my little bed for a few minutes (under five heated blankets) the nurse bequeathed upon me the joyful news that it was now time for me to get up and walk around.

I searched her face hopefully for signs of merriment, thinking that surely she was just making a funny little joke but no, it turns out that she was quite serious. She actually expected my overly anesthetized, cold, chattering, miserable, morose self to get out of the bed and ambulate with alacrity down the hall.

So with Steve on one side and the nurse on the other, I got out of bed and took a step forward into the hallway. And then backward. And then sideways. Which basically means I was stepping a lot but really not going anywhere. With my flapping gown, flat hair and pale face added to the cute hospital hallway dance moves, I’m sure I was most entertaining. Not to mention inspiring.

In between all the dance steps and gown flapping, my eyes would involuntarily close and I would hear Steve and several watching nurses say, “You need to keep your eyes open while you walk.” (What a bunch of killjoys!)

Well, I eventually managed to dance, walk, shuffle and snooze my way to the bathroom (still accompanied by hubby and nurse) where I was informed that it was time to try and “void my bladder.” (I just love nurse-speak.) Do you know how strange it is try and use the restroom when there are people right there in the room with you?

The first time around, I didn’t have any success so they waltzed me back to my bed, piled the blankets back on my shivering self, turned up the fluids being pumped through my IV and started bringing me drinks.

Every half hour someone would come and escort me to the bathroom for another one of my earnest, albeit fruitless attempts at bladder voiding. Because the bottom line was this: If I couldn’t go to the bathroom, it would mean that my bladder hadn’t yet awakened from the anesthesia and I wasn’t allowed to leave the hospital until it had. (Which explains the title, “Held Hostage By a Bladder. Which also explains why this post could be subtitled, “Bladder Blatherings.”)

Well, by about the third visit down the hall, the whole experience was beginning to seem a bit ludicrous. The nurse and I would get into the bathroom and establish ourselves in our assigned positions--me in the “obvious” spot with the long suffering nurse standing halfway across the room, with her back toward me, holding my IV bag. (I’m assuming she had to be with me each time in case I took a tumble from the toilet at some point in the proceedings.)

There would be complete silence for quite a long time and then I would have this horrible urge to giggle in a maniacal fashion. I mean, how often does one have to go into a bathroom tethered with IV tubing to a complete stranger?

I don’t believe Emily Post ever mentioned how to handle this particular conundrum in any of her etiquette books. Do we make conversation? Do I ask the nurse how her day is going? Do we ignore each other? Do we tell jokes--maybe incorporate a little “potty humor?”

I’m sure it was no big deal to her because she does that sort of thing every day but I thought it was absolutely hilarious. I tried valiantly not to giggle into the silence because she would probably be unnerved if her patient broke out into guffaws while doing the whole highly serious “bladder voiding” business.

The afternoon wore on.

One nurse said that if I drank warm apple juice, it would help. It didn’t.

Another nurse said that if Steve would walk me up and down the hallways for a while it would help. It didn’t.

I started to get a bit frantic, picturing myself stranded in there forever, the permanent hospital patient who was never allowed to leave. I started imagining how it would be worded on the prayer list at church. “Our pastor’s wife is in the hospital. Cannot go to the bathroom. Will be there indefinitely. Cards, flowers (and chocolate) appreciated.”

Panic started creeping in. I wanted to get out of there. I wanted to go home. I wanted to lie down on my own bed and ponder the universe from there. I did not want to live forever in a curtained off cubicle, desperately drinking all sorts of liquidy substances in hopes that something would “work” in the ongoing Voiding of the Bladder Mission.

Well, I am inordinately happy to report to you that on the fifth visit, when Miss Nursing Bathroom Companion and I had established ourselves once again in our Official Bathroom Positions, there were results! Something happened! I was so happy I almost cried.

When we came out of the bathroom and imparted the thrilling news to the other nurses, they smiled, cheered and clapped their hands! I thought, “I have not been applauded for going to the bathroom since I was three years old. This is so special!”

When we all finally got home and were having some dinner, I was tending toward rather slow, fuzzy speech, mangled words, and out-of-tune, enthusiastic renditions of miscellaneously selected songs. Although Steve and Sarah seemed to be enjoying the pill- produced, live entertainment I was so graciously providing for them, they gently suggested after we ate that it might be time for me to head to bed.

And so off I went thinking, “What a wonderful way to end a long, stressful day—food, rest, books, and a warm, welcoming bed. Not to mention the joy of going into bathroom uninhabited by a nurse.

Could life possibly get any better?


In more recent medical news:

Just because I didn’t think I’ve been seeing enough doctors during this little happy chapter of my life, today I will make the 3-hour round trip to see my pulmonologist. I had seen him a couple weeks ago at his local office but I need to go back to his main office for my annual pulmonary function testing.

He sent me a follow up letter about my earlier visit and, unlike my pulmonologist in Raleigh, doesn’t seem content to just say, “Well, you have COPD, which 98% of the time is a disease affecting only people who smoke.” He wants to know WHY I have COPD when there is absolutely nothing in my past to indicate any reason for it. (COPD=Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.)

And frankly, I’m kind of relieved to be getting this pulmonary function testing done before my surgery because it helps us to know whether there’s been any decrease in lung function in the last year and, if so, whether the surgical team needs to take any special precautions when putting me to sleep. (In addition to the PFT’s, he is also talking about sending me for a CT scan of the lungs sometime in the near future.)

Frankly, these sorts of visit make me tense because every year when I have these tests I think, “What has been happening over the past year? Am I one step closer to a lung transplant? Am I one step closer to being on oxygen? Or maybe, miraculously, have I taken one step in the other direction and am possibly doing a little better?”

To have house worries, cancer worries and lung worries hitting all at the same time is just a bit much but on the brighter side, I am happy to report that the highway to the pulmonologist’s office takes me past several thrift shops.

So yes, I’m traumatized and stressed But I’m happy too. Because there are few things on earth that good chocolate and a good thrift store can’t handle.

11 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Kelly Dunn said...

you have such a gift of writing...I sure was laughing! I came across this blog on our prayer chain at Center Presbyterian in Grove City, PA. I have gone to this church since I was 12 and I am now 33 and one of the biggest memories of growing up there was Heartsong (is that right?) coming every year! I bought a few of your CD's and one song in particular was very important to me thru college. I used to listen to "Take it of your worry list" on my way to school on my speech class days! Ha-ha! That and many others were so helpful to me! We have also referenced "Grace at McDonald's" during prayer in restaurant discussions over the yrs! I have kepted up with you all at various times thru Sarah's site and now yours...always from a reminder from our prayer chain. So, Just wanted to let you know that your music touched my life and I'm praying for you and reading your posts and enjoying you and caring for you!

Jessica Kramasz said...

Too funny!
I woke up in the middle of the night last night feeling lead to pray for you. May God fill you with His peace today.

Anonymous said...

I feel at a loss for words Becky, but I do want you to know that I continue to think about you and pray for you and your family.


Shannon said...

On a bright's Friday and Happy Thrift Shopping to you!!

Kathy Fredrickson said...

Becky, you always inspire me so much. With all that is going on in your life, you are able to write about it with humor, so eliquently (is that spelled right?) You have such a gift for writing. Good luck with your appointment today, and hopefully your COPD has improved since last year. And that you were able to soothe your worries with some chocolate and thrift store shopping!

Anonymous said...

I remember this post! I laughed as much today as with the original post! Praying for the pulmonary appt results.

Love, Guerrina

Jan Reuther said...

Becky, hopefully a thought I had reading today's post will give you the same giggle it gave me...

There's an old saw that goes something like, "God never closes a door without opening a window." But now I know that in your case it's, "God never closes a door without opening the door to a thrift shop or two!" OK...I'll go back to my coffee now.

becky in buffalo said...

as serious as that day must have been, i found that story really funny. i hope that you will be able to find humor in the next visit as well and also not be held hostage by your bladder.

Lisa said...

Becky - I'm so sorry you have so much to deal with at this time in your life. But I know your faith, family and (worldwide) friends will see you through it all. Not to mention your amazing attitude -as Kathy said, you're very inspiring, and I don't know who else could write with so much humour when they were also under such stress.

Maybe my own, post-op bathroom story will make you smile. I had donated bone marrow, and had extremely low blood pressure, so after my first trip to the washroom (successful, but feeble), I fainted - half in and half out of the washroom (with the gown doing pretty much the same thing). The only thing that was hurt was my dignity, but as you say, I'm sure the medical staff has seen it all before. Doesn't make it any less embarrassing though, does it? Anyways, keep seeing the funny in all your upcoming travails, and I know it will help in your recovery (along with all the chocolate and prayers being sent your way).

jenny said...

Love you, Becky. You bless all of us with your "looking-for-the-positive" attitude. And yes, it's still okay sometimes when you tell us you're just down and out. We love you either way and you're in our prayers. God bless.

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