Last Wednesday I went to the University of Maryland Medical Center and had a portion of my large bowel removed. Crohn’s disease damaged it. It made part of my large bowel narrow and difficult for waste to travel from point A to point B. It’s what caused the G.I. blockage that almost killed me the end of last year.
The surgery was scheduled for 10:00 AM, so I was instructed to check in to the hospital at 8:00 AM. Living about 80 miles away, Sheri and I got there early and I checked in at 7:30 AM. We were taken back to the pre-op area and I was told to remove all my clothes and put on a hospital gown and grip socks and to get in bed.
Hurry up and wait
We then waited. And waited. The scheduled start time of 10:00 AM came and went. We were first told Dr. Andrea C Bafford, the surgeon doing the procedure, was running late on her first surgery. Then, later on, we were told she was called away to perform emergency surgery.
With the passing of each hour, I was afraid my surgery was going to be canceled.
Finally, at 4:45 PM, they wheeled me away to surgery. The surgery began at 5:10 PM and it lasted longer than three hours.
The surgery room looked much different than what I’m used to seeing on TV. There were a lot of people there. University of Maryland Medical Center is a teaching hospital so it made sense there was an abundance of people there in learning mode. I remember there was an anesthesiologist, a nurse anesthetist, and a student anesthetist. The anesthetist was a short woman and she was wearing a black Hello Kitty scrub cap. I immediately liked the cut of her jib and I felt like my life was in good hands.
The robots are taking over!
Dr. Bafford was not only doing the surgery endoscopically, but she was using a robot. I saw the robot. It was huge and scary looking. It looked like a multi-armed murderbot sent back in time to exterminate humanity. I don’t trust robots, but I fully trusted Dr. Bafford.
Even though I shaved my skull that morning, I had to wear a hair net during the procedure. The reason? Because it was a regulation. It pained me for the robot to see me like that laying here in such a vulnerable position wearing a big poofy hair net on my shaved head.
After the surgery, Dr. Bafford told Sheri the damaged section in my bowel was much larger than she expected. It was so big, she had to make the incision in my belly larger just to remove it. It wasn’t spongy and it had no elasticity. It was also abscessed and infected. The area could have burst at any moment which I’m guessing would have made me bleed internally and die.
Post-op? What’s this post-op you speak of?
I was out of it when I was taken to post-op. In fact, I don’t remember ever going there. Although I’ve been under anesthesia before, it’s never been for that long.
My memories began once I was in my own room late Wednesday night. Even those memories are foggy at best.
Medication? You don’t need any stinking medication
Even though I provided a detailed list of the medications I was already on and I brought all my medications with me, I wasn’t allowed to take them, nor were the nurses allowed to administer them. The reason? I don’t know.
It made for a very frustrating experience. For example, I take blood pressure medication. I’ve been on it for years. With the blood pressure medication, my blood pressure is normal. Without my blood pressure medication? Not so much. Each time they checked my vitals, my blood pressure was higher than it was before. Considering the stress I was under, I’m surprised my blood pressure wasn’t even higher.
Speaking of stress, I also wasn’t allowed to take the medications I take for anxiety. You’re not supposed to just stop taking anxiety meds cold turkey. I was definitely feeling the withdrawal side-effects.
The joy of having weapons-grade diabetes
I wasn’t allowed to take my diabetes or heartburn medication either. For the heartburn, I knew I could just run out the clock. It’s not like I was eating anything. Also, I was only supposed to be there for a few days. I could wait that long before having to worry about acid reflex. The diabetes medication was a whole different story. You’d think that by not consuming carbohydrates, my glucose levels would drop. With me, they don’t. Ever since I had diabetic ketoacidosis, my body produces glucose when I don’t eat. If I don’t eat, I normally have to take more fast-acting insulin through the course of the day then I would take if I were eating.
Since I wasn’t allowed to administer my own insulin, I was totally dependent on the nurses to give me as much of their insulin as they saw fit. I don’t even think it was them, I think the charge nurse was making that decision.
I remember one time my blood sugar was at 300. An hour and a half later, I was given six units of fast-acting insulin. That’s not enough. If I was at home and my blood sugar was reading 300, I would immediately take 25 units of fast-acting insulin. I would then test it again in 45 minutes and administer more fast-acting insulin if needed. It’s hypothetical because I never let my blood sugar get that high.
It was also hard to get my pain medication. I had to ask and then wait for each dose. They treated me like I was Bubbles from The Wire. The whole thing was very annoying. Who was the charge nurse, Tom Cruise?
What I had to do to be discharged
I was told I would remain in the hospital until I could pass gas. Even though my surgery was performed by an expert in colon surgery and she was assisted by a MurderBot from the future, being able to successfully fart was the best way they had to tell if the surgery was a success. It was like someone got 8th-century medicine in the 22nd-century medicine.
You know how to stop someone from farting? Tell them they have to fart. I wasn’t able to pass gas on Thursday. Then on Friday night, a miracle happened: I was able to pass gas.
That part of the quest was complete. To finish the rest of the quest, I had to eat two meals of solid food and not throw up. Going by personal experience, I felt fairly confident I could do that unless those two meals included lots of tequila.
I just didn’t realize how nasty the food was at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
When I was on the liquid diet, I didn’t partake of what they were providing. Every meal was about the same. Beef broth, apple juice, lemon Italian ice, and Jello. Everything other than the broth had lots of sugar in it.
Let the solid foods begin!
Saturday my breakfast was fake scrambled eggs, a sausage patty, fried potatoes, Frosted Flakes, and orange juice. I was able to eat the fake eggs and some of the fried potatoes.
For lunch, they brought me a grilled cheese sandwich and fake mashed potatoes. I could only eat one bite of the sandwich. It was so greasy and disgusting. I tried to get Sheri to eat a couple of bites, but she refused to do it. I’m 1oo percent sure she would take a bullet for me but she would not eat two bites from my nasty grilled cheese sandwich. That says a lot about the food at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
I was worried about the powers that be would say I had not eaten enough of my two meals to successfully complete the quest. Sure enough, one of the nurses saw my tray and said they might not release me since I didn’t really eat enough. She brought me cold applesauce and graham crackers. I hadn’t eaten graham crackers since being diagnosed with diabetes. I ate what she brought me. It was actually good.
They discharged me around 3:00 PM. Leaving the hospital felt so incredible. It felt even better to get home and take a shower.
What I learned from my stay in the hospital
Looking back at my stay at the University of Maryland Medical Center, the next time I go to the hospital, I will do things differently. This includes:
- I will shave my arms before I get there. Both my arms had IVs. Removing the tape holding the IVs in place felt like torture.
- I will bring plastic Ziploc bags. Instead of leaving the food I could not eat on the serving tray for the whole world to see, I’ll put the leftovers in plastic bags and put them in my book bag. I’ll then throw everything away when I get home.
- I will secretly take my own medication. I’ll never allow anyone else to control my medication. Next time, I’ll test my own blood and give myself the insulin I need.
- I will leave the books and video games at home. The pain was far too extreme for me to play my Nintendo 3DS XL or read my Kindle. I didn’t even watch TV until the last day.
I’m a very lucky man
I can’t even imagine going through what I went through if I didn’t have Sheri at my side. She was truly a life saver. There’s a reason I have Is She With You from the Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice soundtrack as a ringtone when Sheri calls me. It’s the electric cello music that plays when Wonder Woman shows up. My wife is my best friend and she’s my hero.
Sheri is my Wonder Woman.