Before we start, I need to take a poll and be all sciencey. I’ve never done one of these before, let’s see what happens. You all LOVED the post yesterday SO MUCH. Like, holy COW, you guys. Most hits I’ve ever had in one day EVER. WordPress was all “YOU BROKE A RECORD LUCYSFOOTBALL!!!” So…here is my question…even though it will PAIN ME SO SO MUCH YOU GUYS. I’ll give you like a week and report on your answers and do whatever you tell me because I AM YOUR PUPPET apparently.
On to the real postiness of the post today…
I was futzing around online today (what? shut up, you know you all do the same exact thing) and found this article, which tells us that hospitals are too loud and are preventing patients from sleeping. Well, DUH. Hospitals are the WORST. What, you don’t believe me? You think hospitals are a haven of happiness and hushed-tones and healing? Well! I have a STORY for you. This story is called:
THE TIME AMY HAD MAJOR SURGERY (BECAUSE SHE WAS GOING TO DIE OF DEATH) AND THE HOSPITAL WAS THE SUCK
(Honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t tell you this yet. I’ve told you pretty much everything else. I did a search, and I really didn’t tell this story yet. Parts of it, but not the whole thing. Huh. Well, aren’t YOU in for a treat.)
A few years ago, I went for my annual checkup. The doctor was a new doctor. She was young and very blonde and very gung-ho and kept saying I needed to exercise more. Mostly I like my doctors to be all, “Yeah, you’re fine, here’s a year’s worth of prescriptions, have a nice day.” This one was very guilt-trippy. Just give me my migraine and sleep medication prescriptions, lady, I know I need to sweat to the oldies more, I’m not an idiot, I’m just lazy. There’s nothing flabby about my BRAIN.
So she did all the poking and prodding and such (above the belt, I have a SPECIAL doctor for my lady-bits, because I’m all kinds of broken in my sensitive areas) and when she got to my throat, she was all, “Huh.” But not a GOOD huh, a very doubtful “huh.” Then she kept palpitating my throat and rubbing it and poking it and I was starting to get pretty sure she was a vampire or something.
“Let’s run some tests,” she said. “You’ve got something going on in your thyroid I don’t like.”
Oh! Well, that’s fantastic, most of my other glands and nodes and such have malfunctioned, so this was peachy and totally par for the course.
So tests were run, and listen, I wasn’t expecting much to be wrong. At most, I was expecting her to forget all about me, like the gynecologist usually does after tests, and never call again.
About a week later, she called me at work. Not her nurse, her. Well, THAT’S never good.
“You need to get in to the endocrinologist immediately,” she said. She sounded very businesslike. So I did what anyone would do and made a joke.
“Yeah, because I’m dying of cancer, right? Ha ha,” I said. “I’ll make an appointment in a couple of weeks, I have a lot going on at work right now.”
She was silent. I got a really, really bad feeling.
“You might not have a couple of weeks,” she said. “This can’t wait. You need to get in immediately. Call this number right now.”
“Um…I have cancer?” I said. “Are you saying I have cancer? DID YOU CALL ME AT WORK TO TELL ME I’M DYING OF CANCER?”
“You won’t die if you get in to see the doctor immediately,” she said. “We might have caught it in time.”
So as you can guess, I was totally productive for the rest of the day. I WAS TOTALLY DYING OF CANCER. I did research on thyroid cancer. It wasn’t good. Not at all good. It KILLED people. OK, not a lot of people, it wasn’t like breast cancer or lung cancer, statistic-wise, but people had DIED of this. I was totally dying. I probably needed to make a will and start saying my goodbyes and maybe skydive or something, isn’t that what people do when they’re dying young? Or maybe sleep with Julia Roberts, I think I saw that in a movie once.
So I went to the specialist, who was a very official surgeon with many ALL CAPS ABBREVIATIONS after his name. I had a SURGEON. Oh, this was bad. This was totally bad. But I was still kind of in denial. Listen, LITTLE crappy things happen to me all the time, but not BIG crappy things. I’m lucky like that.
I went in and thought, eh, he’ll probably tell me we’ll keep an eye on it or something. Nope.
“So we need to take your thyroid out, it’s got nodules in it,” he said. (NODULES! That just SOUNDS terrible! Already!) “They may or may not be cancerous. It’s major surgery. You’ll be in the hospital overnight. How about a month from now?”
I was going on vacation a month from then. His next availability was in late September, which worked for me. (He apparently didn’t think the cancer was going to kill me immediately, as this was June. Stupid scare-tactician doctor at my primary care provider. I have never gone back to her again, by the way. You don’t call someone up at work and tell them they have cancer and may only have a couple of weeks to live when you have NO IDEA whether or not they have cancer. I hate her the most.)
He went through what would happen – I would go to the hospital, be put under, they’d make an incision at the base of my throat, take out my thyroid, stitch me back up, and then I’d spend the night at the hospital to make sure I was ok. I’d be released the next day. If it was cancer, I’d have to have radioactive iodine therapy, which meant I’d have to spend time in the hospital again – you get radioactive iodine injected into you, which makes YOU radioactive, so you have to go into a safe room for a few days so you don’t contaminate other people or the ground water. I’m not even kidding. The nurses waiting on you wear Hazmat suits and have Geiger counters. TRUE STORY. Only I would have superhero cancer. Then when you go home, for like a week you have to swab the toilet down with special wipes after you pee so you don’t give anyone you’re living with radioactive asses when they pee after you. Again, you THINK I’m kidding, but I am not.
“Um…my throat? You’re going to cut open…”
“Yeah. That’s where your thyroid is.” He poked the base of my throat, right where it joined my chest. “We cut from here to here” (he indicated from mid-clavicle to mid-clavicle) “and take it out. The scarring ranges from severe to minimal, depending on how well you heal.”
“I’m going to have a scar? That people can see? On my throat?”
He nodded. “You can wear turtlenecks or something.”
So, from Doom & Gloom McGillicutty to All-Business Pete, we had ALL THE FRIENDLY DOCTORS.
I went into the parking lot and made it to my car and WAILED. I had cancer! I was dying! Dying of cancer! All the cancer! I tried to call Dad but he was not home. I called Mom. Mom is not sympathetic to anything, from major paper cuts to broken arms (when I actually broke my arm, her response was, “Well, what the hell were you doing standing on a chair in the first place?”) so she was obviously not my first choice. However, she was a LITTLE sympathetic when I called her up in HYSTERICS all, “I AM DYING OF CANCERRRR and I need to have SURGERRYYYY” and there was weeping and snot was happening. Finally she managed to get out of me that I MIGHT not be dying of cancer, but that I did have to have surgery after all, so she was all, “Um, maybe stop crying in the parking lot, you have to get back to work now.” (SIDE NOTE: it is obvious I do not get my personality from my mom.) (Second SIDE NOTE: I might be a little melodramatic. But listen, you might be, too, if you were in your early 30s and dying of cancer that only a miniscule percentage of people get and were going to go through life wearing a collection of sad saggy turtleneck sweaters.)
So I spent the summer all cancered up and sure my thyroid was trying to kill me and all nervous. I went on two vacations. I was nervous the entire summer. The ENTIRE summer. In retrospect, I should have just had the damn thing out sooner, but, see, I was sure I was going to a., die on the operating table, or b., have to go through radioactive iodine therapy for all the cancer I no-doubt had, so my life would pretty much be over.
I asked the doctor how I got this, and he said most people get this because they were exposed to radiation. “Were you exposed to radiation, or did you grow up around a toxic waste dump?” he said. Um. No. I told my brother this and his response was “Oh. Shit. I TOLD you not to pick up that glowing meteor we found in the woods and have it made into a locket.” And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you know my brother and I are genetically related.
I did all the research. Listen, don’t look up “thyroid removal scars.” OK, fine, here’s a sample of what I found. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I was pretty sure I was going to have this for the rest of my life; that is, if I survived. Which I was pretty sure I wouldn’t.
Also, I barely told anyone, because I was brought up that you don’t spread around your personal info. However, the people I told told EVERYONE, even when I told them not to, because apparently having medical gossip about people is like CASH MONEY BABY. So people I barely knew were coming up to me all, “Aw, how ARE you,” and I hate that shit so much. A theater person came up to me and said, “We need to talk” and pulled aside her big honking necklace and she had a huge scar and she was like, “I survived, so can you” and she had to have the crazy Hazmat suit therapy and she went on and on and ON about how the scar has affected her life and how she can never wear anything but turtlenecks or huge necklaces and then she said (which is still a joke between me and my friend K., who was there at the time) “I can’t believe you’re nervous about surgery. You have a STUD in your TONGUE and you’re being a baby about getting your THROAT SLIT?” Um. They’re not the same. At all, really. I was AWAKE for the tongue piercing, lady. Also, “throat slit?” No no no. Not the terminology to use, thanks. Now I’m imagining Dr. All-Business as Sweeney Todd and am MORE nervous.
So the day of the surgery arrived. I was nervous. I made up a list of just-in-cases for my parents in case I died on the operating table because I watch a lot of medical dramas and that shit HAPPENS, yo. My parents came up because someone had to drive you to and from the hospital, and because they wanted to be there. I was fine with them NOT being there, because I was nervous enough, and seeing THEM be nervous was making it worse. I packed a bag of stuff for the hospital. I got my affairs in order. Away we went.
Listen, this is known as one of the best hospitals in the area. You say the name of this hospital and people nod and are all, “Yep, that’s a good one.” So I was all prepared for good.
We got there and because I was nervous and I hadn’t slept the night before and I was pretty sure I was going to die and this was pre-Twitter so I didn’t even have anyone to TALK to I started crying. Not all loud, just leaking? I don’t make sobby noises or anything. It’s what I do when I’m really nervous or upset. I leak. I can still talk and function, I’m just weeping while I do it. I couldn’t stop. This made the intake interview an adventure for the nurse asking the questions.
Finally, they made me put on a hospital gown that was all open in the back (what’s the point of these things? My DAD was there. I don’t want my dad seeing my ass-side) and then wheeled me off. They totally gave my parents one of those Olive-Garden beepers for when I was done. So they’d know when there was a table ready, I guess. I WAS THE TABLE.
I got to the pre-op room which was a room full of equally nervous people (although I’m pretty sure I was the only one OPENLY WEEPING) and also there was a totally rude nurse who said “Why are you crying? You’re a grown-ass woman.” Um. That should have been a clue that this probably wasn’t going to go well. I wasn’t crying for EFFECT, lady. I couldn’t STOP crying. Also? “Grown-ass woman?” You’re a professional at work. This is how you talk at work? I mean, it’s how I talk at work (also, I use the f-word a lot, but that’s because I hate my job) but I’m not dealing with patients, now am I?
So they put a needle in the back of my hand (SIDE NOTE: I bruise like a peach so that left bruises for weeks) and talked to me a little and said, “We’re going to give you something to calm you down” and I was like “ZOMG YES PLEASE AS YOU CAN SEE I CAN’T STOP CRYING ALL UP IN HERE” and then whatever they gave me was like a calming wave. Aah. Then the nurse was like, “I think you need a little more of that,” and I was all, “Yo, whatever, I’m cooooool” and then I woke up in a completely different room. TRICKERY!
I was COUGHING AND COUGHING. No one warned me (I think someone was supposed to tell me that?) that they had to put a tube down my throat during surgery so I could breathe, and that when they remove it, it makes you cough and cough and COUGH and also it gives you a sore throat for like a week that hurts more than the healing does. I’ve talked to other people who’ve had surgery since and they all agree. Throat tube = the devil.
The surgeon was standing there. King of bedside manner, this one. “Breathe,” he said, in a bored tone.
I then said the two most intelligent things a person’s ever said when coming out of anesthesia:
“Am I dead?”
“Do I have all the cancer?”
The doctor looked at me like maybe instead of a thyroidectomy he’d accidentally done a full frontal lobotomy and said, “Um, no, and we don’t know yet, we have to send your thyroid off for a biopsy, it’ll be a week or so.”
“Can I see it?” I asked. (Listen, I love to see things. X-rays. Moles. Broken bones. Things that are not normally allowed to be seen? I totally dig that. How often does one get to see one’s own MUTINOUS THYROID?)
“No,” he said. “No, you cannot.”
(SIDE NOTE: because I love you, I’m not putting a photo I found online of a removed thyroid in here. It’s pretty icky. But also FASCINATING.)
That was disheartening.
So then they wheeled me back to my room, and my parents rushed in with their Olive Garden table-is-ready flashy thing, which a nurse immediately took from them (probably because they needed it to tell someone else their table was ready) and I was still coughing and coughing and then the doctor left after hooking me up to the BIGGEST BAG OF IV FLUIDS EVER. Is “lactated ringer’s” (don’t even yell at me for that apostrophe, the internet says it belongs there) the funniest name for an IV drip solution ever? Yes. It’s also the name of my next band.
The point of lactated ringer’s is to replace whatever blood poured out of me during surgery with fluid, and also to make me pee like a racehorse. Every five minutes. For an hour. I have never had to pee so much in my life. Up and down and up and DOWN to the bathroom in my flappy hospital gown. So, Dad, hoped you liked seeing your grown-ass daughter’s panties REPEATEDLY. You might want to get a therapist for that.
When the nurse came in I asked her if we could turn off the lactated ringer’s because it was obvious the doctor hadn’t removed my kidneys but she said no. Coldly. No sense of humor at all, these nurses.
So the day passed, and my parents went and got me all the pudding (that’s a perk of the hospital – ALL THE PUDDING) and my incision didn’t even hurt but I kept touching the bandages and worrying what it would look like under there and there was a lot of dried blood all over and I was like, “well, turtlenecks for me. Also all the cancer.”
Then it was time for my parents to leave because it was night. A new patient was brought into my room. A girl in her early twenties. With about four other people. All of whom were on cell phones. Loudly. Well. Fun. There were SIGNS that said NO CELL PHONES but apparently I was in a room with a bunch of vocal illiterates.
The nurse had to check on me every hour for my vital signs, in case I kicked it, I guess. I asked her if I could have a sleeping pill, because I was told they kept the medication I use in stock. She said she’d bring one in a minute and left.
The girl in the bed on the other side of the curtain started vomiting. The people with her started screaming, “NURSE!” Vomit and blood started oozing on the floor onto my side of the room. So, that was nice and not at all worrisome and zombie-flu-indicatory.
The nurse never brought my sleeping pill. When she came back the next time for my vitals, I reminded her. She said she’d be right back with it. Nope.
The girl in the bed next to me began projectile vomiting. “I didn’t know people had that much blood in them!” one of the people with her mused loudly. “Shh, I’m trying to watch Animal Planet,” another one hissed.
The nurse came back for another vitals check. I reminded her about the sleeping pill. “Someone already brought you that,” she said. I said no one had. “Says here on your chart they did,” she said, and left. What the hell am I supposed to do about that, argue? They’d probably lock me down on the psyche floor. In case they didn’t provide my pills, I’d stuffed some in my bag, even though they said DO NOT BRING ANY PILLS OF YOUR OWN. I totally took one of my OWN pills (like the drug addict I am, addicted to sleep, that’s me.) (SIDE NOTE: when I got my itemized bill from the insurance company, the hospital charged me for the pill they didn’t give me. LYING LIARS WHO LIE!!! INSURANCE FRAUD!!!) It didn’t help. Because of the loud people on the other side of the curtain and the projectile vomiting and the loud television they were listening to and their cell phone conversations and the nurses and doctors running in and out dealing with the vomiting of the blood.
Finally they took her away to another floor, I assume the morgue, and a man came in and mopped the floor for like a year. Then it was quiet. I could sleep. Except for them coming and checking my vitals every hour.
Oh, wait, no, I couldn’t sleep. Because then it was GOSSIP HOUR.
So I was lying there in my bed, attempting to sleep (and also? SO HOT. Because under the sheet on my bed, there was a RUBBER sheet. I assume in case I peed the bed. Which I haven’t done since I was 2, and probably won’t do again until I’m 82. But the side effect of rubber sheets is that they reflect all of your heat back at you like a little Easybake oven. SO HOT. I had cranked up my air conditioning but it wasn’t helping) and these two nurses came in. It wasn’t vitals check time so I didn’t know what they wanted. I pretended to be asleep.
They sat on my air conditioner and loudly said, “Whoo! It’s hot in the hospital today. This is the coolest room on the floor!” Then they GOSSIPED LOUDLY FOR AN HOUR. I’m not even kidding. I wish I was. They were about six inches from my knees and talking as loudly as they could. At one point, one of them said, “I can’t believe she can sleep through this! We’re being really loud! HA HA HA!” Yes, I know I should have said something. But what the hell was the point, they weren’t giving me my meds, they’d put me in a room with Regan from The Exorcist and her unable-to-modulate-the-volume-of-their-voice family, and I couldn’t sleep anyway.
When the vitals nurse came in, the other two were all, “Oh, well, time for us to take off, I guess” and left. I had about three hours to myself. I gave up on trying to sleep and instead watched middle-of-the-night television. The Loudersons next door were right about Animal Planet. It was just about the only channel on television that wasn’t showing infomercials. I watched a lot of Animal Planet until my parents showed back up.
The minute my parents showed up I buzzed the nurse and was all, “I’m ready to go home now. NOW. Ready to go home AT THIS EXACT TIME.” She was all, “Did you poop?”
Now listen, how often are you asked if you pooped when you are a GROWN-ASS WOMAN? Apparently, after surgery, if you don’t poo, that’s a problem, because sometimes going under anesthesia does something to your pooing abilities, I don’t know. Luckily, I had the correct answer to this.
“YES I POOPED,” I said, all proud of something a child can do. “IN THE TOILET. LIKE A BIG GIRL. I can go home now, yes?”
“We have to wait for the doctor to round, then you can go home,” she said, and rolled her eyes and left.
I told my parents about the night from hell. I don’t know that they believed me. My dad said, “Well, no one comes to the hospital to sleep.” “HOW DO THEY GET BETTER?” I asked. “They don’t, they just die here,” he said, looking around all mistrustfully. My dad’s family doesn’t have the best track record with hospitals.
The doctor finally came, and then I had to wait AGAIN, for the nurse to come (ALL THE WAITING) and then I could finally go home. I was told I could shower, and all the stitches were internal, so I just had to go back to the doctor in a week to get the butterfly bandages off and have the incision checked and then I’d be ok.
Oh, also, I’d be on thyroid medication for the rest of my life, so when the apocalypse comes and we run out of medication, I’ll be one of the first to die. Dammit. And, AND, some of the side effects of not having a thyroid are that I have weird heat/cold issues (if it’s hot, I’m BURNING UP, if it’s cold, I’m FREEZING) and also I have the metabolism of a dead sloth. So that’s nice, I am sleepy all the time (still can’t sleep, it did nothing with my insomnia) and also I can’t seem to lose weight. YAY NO THYROID THANKS GENETICS. Also, I can no longer metabolize calcium, so have to take a billion calcium supplements a day and probably will get osteoporosis and also break a lot of bones in my dotage. YIPPEE SOMETHING ELSE TO LOOK FORWARD TO.
(Also, my roommate at the time took much glee in the fact that one of the medications I might be prescribed went by the name “Armour Thyroid.” “It’s like a SUPERHERO MEDICATION!” she said. I unfortunately did not get the superhero medication and just got the plain old generic medication instead. I could use some ARMOUR THYROID about now, I think.)
I took a couple days off work and when I got back, the office gossip had found out what was up and told everyone I probably wouldn’t be back because I was dying of cancer (so it was like a game of telephone gone bad) so I had to deal with a lot of “how ARE you”s and that was annoying. I was fine.
And when I got to the doctor’s office a week later and he took off the bandages? Nothing. A slight red line that’s faded into this:
You can barely see it if at all. I can feel it if I run my fingers along it, but you have to be pretty close to see it. (No one gets that close to me without me screaming stranger danger, promise.) For all of his negative bedside manner, the doctor did good work in not making me look like Frankenstein’s monster. (The first time I saw my brother after surgery, he asked where the bolts in my neck were. I was so relieved not to be dead, I laughed like a moron.)
And, no. It wasn’t cancer. I didn’t have to have Hazmat suit radioactive iodine therapy. It was pre-cancerous – the nodules apparently would have turned cancerous, left to their own devices – but we caught it early enough and removed the whole thing and all is well, lemon drops. Other than the fun side effects mentioned above, I suppose.
So! Yes. It is IMPOSSIBLE to get a good night’s sleep in the hospital; I can attest to that. Also, doctors are kind of sucky; my body is trying to kill me (but I keep FOILING it); and nurses are even suckier than doctors. Also, a human can vomit up a LOT of blood and keep on ticking like a Timex, who knew? And lactated ringer’s makes you pee like a mofo.
However, I’ll take a little more of whatever was in that IV the first time around. It made things super smoooothhhhh. It was like jazz in an injection. Aahhhhh.
Happy Friday! Look at that, we made it to the weekend, how’d that happen? HUZZAH!