I was fortunate enough to have my own private hospital room. My view from the window was a beautiful flower garden. Days 1 and 2 were pretty smooth sailing in terms of pain management. I had my epidural in for those 2 days and my pain level never got above a level 3 (on a scale of 1 to 10). Even being hooked up to 2 wound drains, IV, foley catheter and epidural, I managed to take 3 steps with the walker the day after surgery. Loved ones came and went, gifting me with flowers, candy and stuffed animals. My appetite came back quickly and I was able to select from a room service menu that looked like a menu from a regular restaurant. Turkey and gravy with cornbread dressing or basil Thai noodles and a side of baby back ribs? Oh…decisions!
On day 3, the epidural came out and they began me on oral pain meds: oxycontin, oxycodone, prescription strength acetametaphin, gabapentin (nerve pain), DOK (stool softener), and zofran (anti-nausea). While my pain level never went above a 3, my overall well-being started to decline. The nursing staff was still not pleased with my low blood pressure (it was an average of 80/48) and I was told I had a low red blood cell count, but not low enough to receive a blood transfusion. (I lost about 800ml blood during surgery). Dazed and confused, my nausea came back times 10. I couldn’t sit up, I could barely eat. They skipped PT and OT on day 3 because of the low blood pressure and my nausea. The nursing staff, all who were very caring and sensitive to my needs, gave me additional anti-nausea medicine, but it didn’t seem to work. I just tried to sleep as much as possible as that was the only way I felt o.k.
Day 4 the foley catheter came out and now I had to pee using the bedside commode. Did I mention how happy I was to have a private room? I was fortunate to be able to urinate easily and without pain, though I almost passed out every time I got up to pee. By the end of the day, I realized I had had enough with the nausea. There had to be something they could do for me. I asked nurse Irene, an older RN who was no nonsense though it was apparent her patients’ comfort was her top priority. I talked to her about how I was feeling and she said I was maxed out on all the current anti-nausea meds (zofran and other IV bolus’). She agreed to call the Resident on call to see what can be done. I explained to Irene I had phenegran in the recovery room and it was effective.
Irene came back and said that at first the Resident said, “well, she will just have to get used to the nausea.” Not easily intimidated, Irene proposed my suggestion of oral phenegran, and finally the resident conceded. I started to feel better, but was still not 100%. The thought of getting in a car for 30 minutes to my sister’s house seemed impossible. They let me stay another day.
Day 5: On the mend from the extreme nausea, I felt my appetite return and I was determined to regain some of my strength. The nurse told me my systolic blood pressure (the “top” number) had to get above 90 in order for me to get discharged. I decided to distract myself by making my stuffed animal cat dance to Journey songs on the Mp3 player and it made me laugh. That odd trick worked with raising my blood pressure. Perhaps laughter is the best medicine. Once PT cleared me, my discharge was in process. When it was 4:00, I was feeling ready to move on to the next phase of my recovery, at Chez Sudre (my sister’s house). It was time.
Overall, my hospital stay was quiet and comfortable. The Stanford nursing staff is second-to none. Dr. Bellino visited me every day except for once. My room was awesome with that garden view, and the food was actually not half-bad. In a way, I was sad to leave but I had to continue on the road to recovery.