The Village Idiot’s Surgical Experience

So, I told you about the hospital over all. This is my personal surgical experience.

After breaking my shoulder, the only way a village idiot knows how, I was told I had to have surgery. When the village idiot does it, she does it big. So I kind of freaked out and had my first spout of culture shock. So that was fun… not.

I had to check into the hospital on Wednesday for admittance paperwork and had to have a translator go with me. The nurses took my blood pressure with an outdated blood pressure pump (I know that isn’t the right word, and I’m ok with that – sorry nurses). This was so outdated that the pressure chambered is measured with mercury. Yep. Good ole poisonous mercury. When they took my temperature, in the armpit mind you, it was with a mercury thermometer.

Luckily I didn’t have to stay the night on Wednesday, but I did have to be back at the hospital by the butt crack of dawn on Thursday morning. That morning I had blood work and had to meet with my surgeon again. He explained it all to me, including the fact that I could have a shot in my neck to numb my arm so they could do the surgery. The neck shot was optional. I originally said no to the shot in the neck, because, HELLO it is a freaking needle in the neck. After meeting with him, I went back to my room. A new nurse came into my room and attempted to draw my blood. Again. I attempted to tell her someone had already done that. She went away, so hopefully she understood.

Later that afternoon, a little boy was admitted to the same room as me (remember from my previous post, there are three beds/patients per room). He was there for appendicitis. He is probably 7. Super sweet little boy. He was only in the room for a short time and then was taken away. I just assumed surgery. He never returned … I was afraid the kid died. No joke.

Every time there was a shift change or a new nurse checked into our floor, the other nurse would bring said new nurse to our room. They would look at me and ask me where the boy was. I kept telling them I didn’t know. Then was a little more afraid … the kid had to be dead and they hadn’t told the nursing staff yet. Holy crap. What was going to happen to me??!

That evening, a nurse came in with a syringe and attempted sticking it in my arm. Hold up. No thanks. What? I had to call a translator, I had no idea what was happening.

Turns out, it was the medicine to keep my blood from clotting during surgery. No big. Took the shot. Then an hour or two later a nurse came by to draw more blood. When I was confused, she went to get one of the foreign (American) doctors to help translate. It was blood work for the next day, they wanted to draw it the night before so they could process it soon before my surgery the next morning.

They boy didn’t return that night. His family members would come in from time to time to get some of their belongings, but the boy wasn’t with them. We didn’t really know what was going on.

A friend came and stayed with me. We went to bed around 12:30am (watched a lot of movies, because why not). Around 1am or 1:30am two nurses come in the room, turn the lights on, and are doing rounds. They look at me and ask where the little boy was. After explaining I did not know, she left. She at least turned the light off when she left. The next nurse came in around 6, flipped the light on, and stuck a thermometer in my armpit. Thanks, nurse, thanks. She did not turn the light off when she left. I was sad. My friend got out of her bed, turned the light off. The nurse came back at 7:45 to take the thermometer. By that time another friend had arrived, but was sitting quietly in the dark waiting on Beth or me to wake up.

Another nurse came by to give me a shot. After calling my translator, we found out it was the same shot as the day before. To keep my blood from clotting. Yeah, shut that down. No thank you. Only need one of those. Another nurse came by, looking for the little boy. Still, no idea where he was.

Another nurse came in and told me to put on these pajamas she brought to my room. They were stained and looked like old man pajamas. I purposely did not take a picture wearing them. Hecky nah. I kind of looked like an old man, minus the whole being a woman thing.

A few minutes later they were ready to take me down to surgery. With no sight of the little boy, I was slightly nervous. Did this kid go into some kind of Twilight Zone during surgery? Was I about to become an experiment? Oh gosh! Too much!

I waved to my two friends, said, “wish me luck”, and went to the nurse’s station. Once there, the nurse loaded down my pockets with things that needed to go with me to surgery. My IV kit (needles, fluid, antibiotic IV, etc) and other things I couldn’t identify. We were also waiting on an elderly gentleman in a wheel chair. We were headed to the elevator when the nurse tells me to go get my friend. She also told my friend to bring my x-ray, CT, and then made my friend put on a jacket. She was making my friend come with me.

We get to the 5th floor, one of the surgical floors, and walk to these huge metal doors that enter the surgical floor. They made me put on slippers and move to the side. The nurses then brought in a hospital bed that would be used to transfer someone to surgery. They told the family members of the man in the wheel chair, to lift him up and put him on the bed. Yes, you read that right. The medical staff did not help the man from his wheelchair to the transfer bed. Nope, that was done by family. “THIS MAN WAS ABOUT TO HAVE SURGERY! ARE YOU CRAZY?!” That is all that went through my mind. Until…

We started walking out of the 5th floor and heading toward the stairs. The nurse wanted us to go to the 6th floor via stairs. Walking was actually kind of painful because every step I would take would move my arm slightly, stairs scared the heck out of me. You would think that going from the 5th floor to the 6th floor would only be 1 flight of stairs, 2 at the most. Wrong. Four. It was four. How in the …. ? Let’s move on.

We made it to the sixth floor and I put on new slippers, again. T.I.C. My friend was asked to stand there. Apparently for the entire two hour surgery. Sorry, Rachel… One of the surgical nurses walked me back and then took me into a room. She looked around, made a noise, and then we walked out of that room into a new one. So, wrong surgical room. That’s encouraging.

She asked me to sit in a chair. I sat. Then, the surgical prep team came in and set up the room. I sat there and watched them set up all the tools, tool by tool,OH MY GOSH! Terror. They finally let me lay on the table. It was either time, or they saw the look of shear terror in my eyes as I watched them set up the room tool by tool they would use to cup me open.

The anesthesiologist came in and I attempted to explain in broken Chinglish that I wanted the anesthesia that would put me to sleep and then the shot in my neck. He went to get the foreign doctor. The foreign doctor went to ask my friend. Then he came back and asked me what I wanted. We were all in agreement, sleep then neck shots. So they hooked me up to an IV (I had never had an IV up to this point). My thought process was hilarious, looking back at it now.

“Ok, B. Don’t fight the medicine. Let it do what it is supposed to do.”

I still wasn’t asleep and they switched it over to another type of IV.

“B, don’t fight it. Let it work. Wait, did I just get switched to a new type of IV? What is that? It is kind of cloudy. Ok, maybe that is the sleep stuff. DON’T FIGHT IT!”

Turns out, it was the antibiotic.

“Wait, there is no more in that drip. They are switching me back. When do I fall asleep? Oh, is he injecting something into the IV line? That looks like it might make me … make me … me … what was I thinking? I’m confused.”

It ended up not knocking me out, but it did make me loopy and drowsy and the doctors laughed at me a lot.

“Holy crap, does that guy have a syringe in his hand? He is coming at me. Dang it, neck.”

The doctors then gave me 5 shots in the neck. I don’t remember it hurting, I just remember them asking me soon (time is relative at this point) if I felt any pain in my arm. I told them no. My arm felt fine. It was still comfortably on my stomach. I thought. I looked and realized my arm was stretched out in the opposite direction of my body. Oh, no pain. Good. Proceed.

I don’t remember too much after that, other than the doctors and nurses cell phones ringing and buzzing often. Then my surgeon answered his phone, between putting screws in my arm. It was someone calling and asking if he wanted Cornflakes from the import store. I apparently said, out loud, “Cornflakes, I want Cornflakes. That sounds delicious!!!” Which apparently made everyone in the room laugh, including the ones that do not speak English. I now fear there may have been sound effects… I forget how much I miss cereal.

Two hours later I was done with surgery. They pulled me off the surgical table, by the sheets, and put me on a transfer bed. They rolled me out of surgery and my friend Rachel was standing there… she had been waiting, the whole two hours. No chairs. I felt bad. They took me up to the recovery room on my floor. At that point I realized, that must be where the little boy had been all that time. No Twilight Zone. No death. Just recovery. The recovery room has 6 patients and anywhere from 1-9 nurses at one time. It was the least restful recovery ever. With so many people recovering from surgery, their families, and nurses … it does not equal a restful recovery. So many people. The curtains do not go all the way around a patient’s bed, like in America. Nope. If you need privacy for anything, someone has to hold the curtains closed while you do what you need or while others assist you doing what you need to do.

When I first got to the recovery room, I was so excited because I was told I couldn’t eat anything between midnight Friday morning until after my surgery on Friday. So getting to the recovery room my only thought was fooooooooooooooood! Oh how wrong I was. We asked the nurse when I could eat/drink. She said three hours. Three hours later, we asked again. She told me, three more hours. What a nightmare. All I wanted was food. So then we called the surgeon/doctor. He said if I could keep water down, then I could have food. So we asked the nurse if I could sit my bed up. No. Apparently they don’t let you do that after surgery either. Sitting was prohibited. Sad. We asked how I was supposed to drink water. The answer, a spoon. I didn’t have a spoon. So she told us to use the lid of my water bottle. (Cultural side note: that is extremely disgusting. It is just dirty to them). So we tried that. With me laying down. I almost choked. Bad choices. Bad. Choices.

We tried telling the nurse if I drank water that way I would choke. I don’t know the word for choke in Chinese so basically I said everything but the word choke and acted that word out. My friends and I laughed, but it made our point. They told me I could sit up, but they wouldn’t raise the bed up for me. My friends helped me sit up, gave me some water, and gave me some ibuprofen (the numbness was wearing off and I could feel a little pain in my arm). The nurses saw that I could sit up fine, so they raised my bed up. Seriously. This was 3 hour process, but they finally let me sit up in bed. I found out that is super Chinese. Oh the cultural lessons I learned being in a Chinese hospital.

The nurses had given me about 8 IV bags, I drank water, and I cheated on the no eating thing. A friend brought me a smoothie from a Western coffee shop, bless you Heather, bless you. I wanted something to eat, but it was a fluid, kind of. So I didn’t cheat too much … No shame. Then there was a problem. I needed to pee. It took me three hours to get them to let me raise my bed up, how in the world was I going to convince them to let me go pee?! I wasn’t. I wasn’t going to convince them. They wouldn’t let me out of my bed. So you know what that means… bed pan.

You do not know humility until someone has to help you do every single thing. I mean everything. Drink, eat, go to the bathroom, you name it, someone helped me do it.

My poor friends, they literally had to help me go pee. Well, first they had to go buy me a bed pan, because the hospital didn’t have one. So they said.

One of my friends left to go buy one, while two others stayed and hung out with me. While the one friend was gone, a nurse walked in with the flimsiest plastic bedpan I have ever seen and, now I can say, used. It was a mess. Literally. I used it, and squashed it, and had to change clothes afterward. It was awful. Oh, I was also pee shy for the first time in my life. I out awkwarded myself. Who knew?!

My friend came back with a large bowl, we use them as mop buckets or clothes soaking buckets or for other things, because that is all they had at a store nearby. It was much sturdier than the bedpan the nurses gave me. I was thankful for that. I had to use it 2 more times. Sad. Let’s not even talk about how I took a shower… a friend had to give me a sponge bath. My friends and I are much closer now, and not in ways we would have ever asked for..

Once the anesthesia finally wore off and I could fully feel the pain in my arm, I asked for medicine. They told me to take ibuprofen. Umm… that is not exactly the kind of painkiller I wanted. I wanted something that would actually kill the pain. I took two anyway. About an hour later I was involuntarily crying because I was in pain. Their solution, a pain-relieving enema. It didn’t do much for me that time. Yes, that means I had more than one, but I’m not there yet.

That evening, the doctors were making their rounds before they were all headed home. They told me they would give me pain medicine around 9pm that would help me sleep, they told me this at 5. I knew I could hold out for 4 hours. No big, if relief is on its way, I could hold out. Well, 9pm rolls around and we asked for medicine. They gave me a shot in the butt. That was a first. It was just sleeping medicine, not pain medicine. I couldn’t sleep. So, I took 2 melatonin pills to help. Still couldn’t sleep. I was involuntarily crying from pain again. Oh goodie. At least I probably will never see most of those people again, except my friends. My friends that saw my butt on more than one occasion in the last 10 hours. Great. One of my friends sat with me, after enema number 2, until the pain wore off. Sleep finally came to me around 1 am and I didn’t wake up until 8:30 am.

How did I wake up? Glad you asked. Two nurses were “adjusting” my comforter on my bed and hit me in the arm. Oooouuuuccchh! They then told me I needed to get all of my things back to my actual room. A friend came and did that. So I asked if I could go back to my room. They gave me permission to stand up. So I stood up, and my friends and I shuffled (that was as fast as I could go) down the hall to my room. Hey, they didn’t know where boy was, I was ok with them not knowing where I was.

Made it to my room, got settled back in, and a group of 10 nurses came into my room. “Crap”… Nope, they were doing rounds. They got to my bed and asked if I was in pain, then told me I was going home that day (Saturday). I told them I wasn’t scheduled to go home until Sunday. They looked confused and went to the next room. Then a group of 8 doctors (3 of which were doctors I met with and were involved with my surgery) came into the room.  They too told me I would be going home that day. They made me go get an x-ray and then sent me home. (Home as in, I went to Amanda and Daniel’s – friends).

That is the tale of this village idiot’s surgical experience.


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