I woke up in the post-op room, but I don’t remember feeling any pain whatsoever. Frankly, I felt high as a kite! Those were some gooood meds! My whole family was shocked because I was wide awake, cracking jokes and acting as though everything was fine. My surgeon came back to see me and I continued to joke telling him, “I’ve had worse hangovers!” (My relationship with my neurosurgeon has always been light and sarcastic, which I love)
The nurse eventually told my family I needed to rest and once they left, I don’t remember much of that post-op room except for feeling strangely comfortable there. (Again, they were some gooood meds!)
It was when they moved me to the neuro-observation room that hell broke loose. The meds began to ware off. I could feel the intense pressure of the awful gauze turban. (I HATE that thing) It was also nighttime. I had a horrible fear of nighttime/bedtime suffering from years and years of insomnia. I also had new nurses, who I particularly didn’t like much. It was dark in there. I was closed off in my own little section, curtained between three other patients who themselves had just survived brain surgery. It was not a pleasant space.
The worst came when they advised I would have to undergo a post-op MRI. It was then I suffered the first panic attack of my life. I’ll be honest. Looking back, the nurse and the nurse’s assistant did not handle it well. The nurse said in a slightly obnoxious tone, “She’s having some sort of panic attack.” The nurse’s assistant, a very large and aggressive woman, held me down. Kindly, they at least IVed some meds and I did calm down.
Thankfully, and because my neurosurgeon is A-mazing, there was a total resection of the tumor. I was technically “cancer free” which is a term I still don’t apply to myself even now.
Although I understand it and accept it now through therapy, my husband refused to stay with me that night. Was it the best, kindest thing to do? No. Did he handle it well? No. However, I forgive him. It was all just too overwhelming for us.
So, after he left, the second panic attack of my life came on. I don’t remember much of it or how the nurse handled that one, but I know it happened. Maybe I’ve blocked it out, for good reason.
Eventually, it came time to leave that dreaded area. I hate that I’ve returned there two more times since.
I vaguely remember waking up that morning, getting to the hospital and walking onto the surgical reception floor. I also vaguely remember, practically whispering, “I am here for surgery.” I waited in the reception area with my husband and parents before they called me back. My mother would not sit still. So, I was the one who kept having to calm her down, never mind that I was the one facing surgery.
I was the first scheduled case, so there wasn’t too much time before they called my name. I walked into a whole new world. The pre-op room was huge with lines of curtained-off beds. Could all of these people seriously be going into surgery this morning? I felt very lucky to have a nurse from Ireland. It led to easy-going conversation about what parts of Ireland we were all from, and what brought us all to the States. It helped me forget just a bit where I was and what I was facing. However, I stayed very quiet.
At that point, I was still scared of needles and IVs (oh, how times change!). So, they were not fun. The anesthesiologist came back to talk to me. He was also comforting and calmed me as best he could. However, when the moment came to send me into the operating room, I completely and utterly lost it. I was hysterically crying and found it hard to breathe. The nurse immediately told the anesthesiologist that they needed to IV some meds ASAP. It probably wasn’t a good idea to send a patient into the operating room like that.
The meds did work fast, thankfully. However, I remember being wheeled down the hall and into the vortex of the operating room. I could hear the MRI machine, as it was yet a noise I was used to – oh, that would come with time. I stared up at all of the fluorescent lights. I saw numerous people hurriedly walking around in scrubs. Then, I saw the anesthesiologist looking down on me. He asked me to start counting, but I think I got to about the third number before I lost consciousness.
Obviously, I remember nothing of the actual surgery. That’s surely a blessing, as I’ve heard some patients actually do recall slight moments. As far as I understand, they used a twilight anesthesia so that they could test my neurological functions with the MRI. I vaguely remember it coming up, but I can’t confirm that at this moment, nor do I really want to.
So, I underwent a 3-hour craniotomy, defined as “a surgical operation in which a bone flap is temporarily removed from the skull to access the brain.” The entire tumor was removed, referred to as “full resection.” A titanium plate was placed in the area and I was then all stitched up. They placed an awful, horrible gauze turban around my head to prevent swelling. Amazingly, just a line of hair was shaved, so it was barely noticeable once the turban was removed. (Getting that turban removed after 3 full days was an incredible physical and mental release). Then it was off to the post-op recovery room, where I would remain for several hours.