August 17, 2001 - An Adventurous Week
Whew! What an adventure I've been on the past week!
Roy and I drove down to Mercy Medical Center from our home in York on Tuesday morning bright and early - got there around 7pm. My first stop was at Nuclear Medicine. As my right breast indicates no cancer and I was having the mastectomy for preventative reasons, the surgeon wanted to do a sentinel lymph node scan & dissection to prove no cancer. The sentinel node is the place cancer would usually show up after it left the breast. This, too, was a preventative measure so that if (unlikely chance) the node indicated cancer, they could do the more extensive mastectomy required before the reconstruction. A radioactive substance is injected into the breast (don't wince, I only felt a pin prick!) which then lets them do the scan immediately before the surgery begins so they can excise the correct lymph node.
Next stop, the surgical area. Nice change, we were escorted by the technicial from Nuclear Medicine to the surgical waiting area. Nice change #2, when called to go back for pre-op, I was brought to a nicely lighted, brightly decorated area where I was ensconced in a comfortable recliner chair to have my vital signs taken and an IV started. For the first time, I actually felt like a human woman instead of a duck or a sheep! Roy was allowed to come and wait with me after I was changed into the hospital robes (still the airy variety, but at least they give you two!). Nice change #3, when it was time to say goodbye to Roy and head to surgery, I was allowed to walk back to the surgical room, got onto the table with the aid of a little step stool, and then encouraged to talk with the surgeon and staff as they were getting ready. What a pleasant experience - very comforting and anxiety-relieving, although I was not nervous, but excited about this "last step" on the Adventure.
I'll really have to have Roy write down or dictate what he went through while he was waiting...for the 6 - 9 hour process turned into one of almost 17 hours of my being in surgery and under anesthesia!!!
The NIV translation of Psalm 139:113-14 puts it this way,"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
As it turns out, my vascular system is unlike any they had ever seen...when the surgeon was doing the mastectomy, he found blood vessels that should not have been there and a vaster system of capilliaries than he would have expected. When the plastic surgeons took over to prepare the flap, they found myriad little blood vessels which usually aren't important, so they cut them as they went deeper looking for the expected vessels. They discovered those WERE the vessels, but instead of merely coming up from below the abdominal muscle and then spreading out to nourish the skin and fat, mine came up, "looked around," went back down and then re-emerged! The blood vessels literally stitched the muscle - so instead of a straightforward path, the surgeons had to dissect an "s" curve. I'm really glad God only knit - no telling how long I'd have been under if He decided to purl, too! So the surgeons had to reconnect those blood vessels where they'd been cut and then do the dissection to remove them and then do the flap transfer and reconnection!
The next thing I remember is thinking that I'd died and gone to hell and that demons were tearing at my body... I was being turned and moved onto the bed in the Intensive Care Unit (as opposed to Immediate Care where these cases usually go for the first night). I was being jabbed repeatedly as they tried to establish an IV site (given what we know now, no wonder they were having trouble!). I gasped - and couldn't breathe! I had a naso-gastic tube taped to my mouth and nose. I tried to move - and couldn't! I was restrained so I wouldn't accidentally tear out the tubes or the IV. Then I heard a voice saying relax, breathe through your nose. Relax?! Then they said again relax, you've just come out of 17 hours of surgery. That's when I knew I was dead and had been reincarnated into someone else's body - my surgery was only 6-8 hours! I finally regained enough consciousness to cooperate with the nurses instead of fight them and realized that God's mercy and wonderfulness is even more incredibly awesome than I had ever anticipated!
You see, I had decided upon this surgery and Dr. Chang, through careful research and the recommendation of a friend whose reconstruction he had done. It turns out there are only around a dozen surgeons who do this procedure in the US and only 3-4 who could have pulled off the surgery successfully - and I'd been led to one of the 4.
I was in ICU from Wed. the 8th at 3:30am until Friday evening, then transferred to the surgical floor. I was recovered enough to come home on Sunday.
Thank you for faithfully praying - many of you I've never met, but your prayers and good wishes have upheld me once again. I'll send out another edition in a few days to give you and "update on part B!"
Love & Hugs!
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