(contains some graphic written content about surgical procedure)
I had two pre-op appointments. One was with my gynecologist about a week or so before surgery, and the other was with a surgical nurse three or so days before surgery. For the pre-op with my gynecologist, I made sure to bring a list of questions, and boy did I have a lot.
1) What is being taken out?
I found out that she would definitely be taking my uterus and cervix, and most likely leaving my fallopian tubes and ovaries, that depended on how they looked once she got in there. What I would be having was a total hysterectomy, not a partial like I had been calling it. A partial hysterectomy is when only the uterus is removed, total is when the uterus and cervix is removed, a radical is when the uterus, cervix, and tubes are removed, and having the ovaries removed is called something else.
2) How is it being done?
I was originally put down to have an abdominal hysterectomy, which is when they open the abdomen, like during a c-section, and take things out that way. Since my uterus was small enough, I was cleared to have an LAVH, laparoscopic assisted vaginal hysterectomy. With this one, a few small incisions would be made in my abdomen to make releasing my uterus from everything it was attached to easier, and then my uterus would be pulled out of my vagina. Yes, I’m cringing as I’m writing this. Ick!
3) Will I have a cuff?
A cuff refers to how the top of the vagina is sewn shut after the cervix is removed. I would have one since my cervix was going to be taken out.
4) Will I die (I have PTSD, that’s another post for another time)?
5) Will I be given stool softeners and Gas x in the hospital or do I need to bring my own?
The hospital would provide this for me. Since the intestines get moved around during surgery and gas gets pumped in to help create space, these medications help get all that going again.
6) Should I get a belly band?
Yes. A belly band helps keep everything tight after surgery. I found the pressure of the band to help decrease the wiggling of things when I walked.
7) Who do I alert of my food and medication allergies?
She made a note of this, told me to tell the surgical pre-op nurse, and just continue telling everyone just to be on the safe side.
8) How long will I be in the hospital for?
I would be staying in the hospital for about 24 hours after surgery. It is still considered an outpatient surgery and stay when it is overnight. I was also told that my room would be in maternity ward, but in a different wing. This was so that my doctor didn’t have to run all over the hospital checking on patients, we would all be in the same ward.
I had many more questions, but those were the main ones. At this time I was also going through the diagnosis process for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, so my Ob/Gyn made sure she did research about EDS and complications it can cause with surgery. Which was nice, because there were some issues I had due to EDS, and she knew ahead of time how to handle them. She did and internal exam to double check what kind of surgery I’d be having. She also gave me my day before surgery plan, I could eat light meals, didn’t have to do bowel prep, and I needed to stop eating and drinking at midnight.
The pre-op I had with the surgical nurse got more in-depth. She checked my height, weight, blood pressure, pulse, listened to my heart and lungs, and she did a MRSA swab. The MRSA swab was weird, she had to take a long q-tip and put it up my nose as far as it would go, and she did one for each nostril. Thankfully that came back negative. She went over all the medications I was on, asked when I stopped herbals and pain meds, she double checked my drug allergies and food allergies. She also gave me a booklet to read about the surgery and scheduled me for some bloodwork. We talked about how I would be catheterized during surgery, and I would have that in for 24 hours, and how I would go from the surgery room to the recovery room to the room I would spend the next 24 hours in. Before I left, I was given 3 special scrubbies to use. One that night, one the night before surgery, and one the morning of surgery. I was reminded that I could shower the morning of surgery, washing my hair as normal, but using the scrubbie from my neck down. After I showered, I couldn’t put in any hair products, use no lotions, oils, body sprays or perfumes, I couldn’t use deodorant or have my fingernails painted, and I couldn’t wear any sort of jewelry.
The day before surgery I went in for bloodwork. They gave me a bracelet that had my blood type on it just in case I needed a transfusion. They also confirmed that I wasn’t pregnant. I could have told them that, ha! The nerves were definitely in full swing that day. I had been nervous in the weeks leading up to it, but I seriously thought of calling that day and canceling, I was that scared. But I didn’t. My stomach was in knots, so I stuck to clear liquids instead of eating. I got a call later that afternoon with my surgery time and what time I had to arrive at the hospital. I had to be there for 7:30AM and my surgery would be at 9:30AM. My sister came over that night, she wanted to be there for my surgery and the first few days of recovery.
The morning of surgery, I was so anxious. I got up, showered, threw some final things into my bag, and headed to the hospital. I am NOT a morning person, so I was kind of glad that I would get a forced nap, especially since I hardly slept the night before. I checked into the hospital at 7:30 and was brought to a room. I was given a gown, and was reminded to take my nose ring out. A nurse came in and asked if I had given a urine sample the day before, which I hadn’t, it wasn’t ordered, so I had to give one. They wanted to make sure my kidneys were working well and that I was not pregnant. Guess what…I still wasn’t pregnant! Quite a few people came in and out of my room, which was nice, it kept me from having a full blown panic attack. I was given and IV, asked about what medications I was on, what I was allergic to, my blood pressure was taken, someone listened to my heart and lungs, the anesthesiaologist came in and had me fill out some forms and told me what I could expect, my gynecologist came in to say good morning and go over things once more, and I had leg massagers put on my calves to help prevent blood clots.. It was decided that I would take my glasses off in the surgery room, but keep my hearing aids in. I was given an antibiotic, and antinausea pill, and was asked if I wanted something for the anxiety, yes couldn’t come out of my mouth fast enough! Then I was taken to the surgery room. I moved from the bed I was in to the surgical table. My gynecologist comforted me while they were getting ready to start the anesthesia, someone helped me take my glasses off. And what felt like 5 minutes later, I woke up in the recovery room!
There was a nurse staying next to me, she asked me how I was feeling. I was confused about how I was hearing her, did they fix my hearing too? She laughed and told me that my hearing aids were in. I was VERY aware of the catheter, and that’s really all I could talk about. I was hooked up to oxygen and had a nasal thing in my nose to help me breath, and I was hooked up to a heart rate monitor, oxygen monitor, blood pressure monitor, and the leg things. I couldn’t move myself into a different position, my abdominal muscles were SUPER weak. I asked for some more medication, and was given it. About an hour or so later, I was brought up to my room. I had to move from the recovery room bed to the hospital bed, which was an event. It took four nurses to help me, I kept laughing at how weak I was, and at one point I was sprawled across both beds. Let’s just say that the meds were working realllllllly gooooooood. After about 15 minutes, I was finally in the proper bed. Then I got hooked up to everything in that room. New oxygen and nasal thing, heart rate and oxygen monitor, blood pressure monitor, the leg things, and I was showed how to use the pain pump I was hooked up to. I still couldn’t believe I could hear, and had to be reminded a few times that my hearing aids were in. And I couldn’t stop talking about that damn catheter. It was so uncomfortable. Once I was situated, my mom and sister were allowed in. They helped me get a little more situated with pillows and stuffed friends they got me to keep me company, my mom got me my favorite Care Bear, and my sister got me a stuffed uterus. I’m serious. I currently have a “cute”rus sitting on my dresser in my room. Its much nicer than the real one was.
A nurse came in to check on me and before I could say anything she said “rumor has it, you’re not a fan of the catheter”, that was the theme of the next 24 hours. EVERYONE knew how much I hated that thing. I dozed on and off for a little bit. I was brought a tray of soft things to eat, jello, ice cream, and some other things I can’t remember. I didn’t want to eat, I wanted to sleep, but my sister kept bugging me to eat, so I gave it my best shot. I wasn’t going to eat the jello because jello freaks me out, but one of my nurses went on a hunt for vegan jello, thinking that would make a difference. Nope, all jello is too weird for me! It took me about a half hour to eat it, but I did. Let me tell you, trying to feed yourself while you still have anesthesia in your system and are on pain meds…very difficult. My mom offered to help me but I was determined to do it on my own. Every spoonful was a challenge, that I would crack up laughing about, and I couldn’t grab my drinks off the tray, so my sister had to get them for me. Still hilarious.
About an hour or so later, I was asked if I wanted to try walking. I wanted to! I was unhooked from all the machines, reminded that I had to keep that damn catheter in, and had two nurses help me stand up. I quickly felt like I was going to faint. They helped me sit back down. After a few minutes, they helped me up again so that they could wash some surgery gunk off, change my pad, and give me undies. After that they got me back into bed and as comfortable as I was going to get…and hooked back up to everything.
Before surgery, but while under anesthesia, the bladder is filled with a blue dye, that way the doctor can see if they accidentally nick the the bladder. My doctor didn’t nick mine, which is good, but it turns your urine blue for about 12 hours. My sister and I kept joking that it looked like blue Koolaid or Smurf guts.
Early that evening I kicked my mom and sister out. I was too tired to take my hearing aids out and I really wanted to sleep. Because they wouldn’t shush, I made them leave. I dozed on and off for about an hour after they left. Then my nurses came back in to try to get me up and walking, this time it was a success! I was able to walk up and down the hallway once with help.
At one point, I don’t remember when, my doctor came in to check on me before she left. She told me that I got to keep my tubes and ovaries. She also told me that she was thankful that I told her ahead of time that she might run into some tissue fragility due to EDS. She said that the instrument used to pull out my uterus tore up my vagina in a way she’d never seen before, she said that even the slightest touch cause tears and bleeding. I told her it felt like I had a large dry tampon shoved up there and she told me that she had to use quite a bit of packing in my vagina to help stop the bleeding. Then I asked her when I could have the catheter taken out, unfortunately that would have to wait until after she examined me the next morning.
Things were pretty uneventful that night. I had an asthma attack and a panic attack, but a nurse was right there to take care of me and comfort me. My pain level was well managed with medication. I dozed on and off for a while, watched some Bob’s Burgers and Friends, and wished someone would take that damn catheter out.
Post-op Day 1
Early the next morning I was woken up by a nurse flicking the lights. I made sure that everyone knew that they could either flick the lights or touch my leg to wake me up. So it was nice to see that the nurses in charge made sure everyone was aware. What they forgot to tell this nurse, however, was that I had just had a hysterectomy. She was making conversation and asked what I had, as in, a baby, boy or girl. She immediately apologized, but I told her no worries. Then we got to talking about adoption, she and her partner were thinking of adopting, I told her they should go for it, I really hope they did!
I was so excited because I knew that any minute, someone would be in to take that damn catheter out. Every nurse that came in knew how much I hated it and would say “nope, not time yet” as soon as they walked into the room. That became quite a joke! Around 7:30AM my gynecologist came in to check on me, she said that my labs from that morning came back fine, I got to keep my ovaries and tubes, she didn’t see anything wrong with my uterus but it was sent for pathology just to be on the safe side, and she took the packing out. Ugh! I almost passed out. It was such an uncomfortably weird feeling! Overall, she was really impressed with how things went, minus the minor issues that she ran into like the fragile tissue. And I was cleared to have that damn catheter taken out!!! Except, she wasn’t the one to do it, she had to alert a nurse who would alert a nurse and eventually someone would be in to do it. About a half hour later, THAT DAMN CATHETER WAS FINALLY REMOVED!!! We had a mini celebration in my room.
Breakfast came, and my mom and sister arrived shortly after. I tried dozing on and off for a while. Then I was given lunch. After lunch, I was given the okay to shower. That took quite a bit of effort, but I was appreciative of the warm water. It helped ease my sore back. I was able to put my own clothes on and get ready to leave!
By late afternoon on the 1st, I was back in my house, trying to get comfortable on the couch. I had to be super propped up with pillows because of the abdominal tenderness. I still wanted to sleep and I rested for the rest of the day.
Overall, things went better than I had expected. Nothing bad happened, my pain was well controlled, and all of my nurses were wonderful. The next 6 weeks were challenging, but that’s for tomorrow’s post.