From the Inside, Part III

So, to recap my five days and four nights in the hospital, minus the awkward wardrobe malfunction, I was moved to a regular room for the second evening. It was a rather large, private room complete with a recliner that pulls out into a makeshift bed, so they allowed my mom to spend the night by my side.

Each morning, a group of residents would stop by to check out my tongue and to look at the two drains they had put in my neck. We would discuss my pain level and they would encourage as much movement as possible in order to decrease recovery time. It got to where I would look forward to their daily visits, because by Day 3, they had removed one of my neck drains and gave me hope that by the time I left the hospital, the other drain would be gone as well as the feeding tube. Their visits often felt like a scene from the hit television show, “Grey’s Anatomy” as each day, a new group of residents would join the head resident to check out the young patient who underwent surgery for tongue cancer and a neck dissection. They would hmmm and awww, and if the lead resident requested a light, they would all scramble to be the first one to offer their own special tool. My mom and I would crack up after they left, but I always felt I was in good hands.

The most interesting part of the day would always come during shift change. Without fail, the new nurse would come in and start bombarding me with all of these questions without realizing that I couldn’t say a word in response. It was the same thing every day…my mom would have to explain that I wasn’t speaking or eating through my mouth and would tell the nurse I am using a whiteboard to communicate. The nurse would then look at me and assess whether or not this was actually the case and then acknowledge that they had never used the feeding system that I was on and would have to get training. They would check my vitals, ask about my level of pain and then for some odd reason, they would pick up the room telephone and place it next to me on my bed, just in case I needed to make a call. The first few times it happened I felt extremely annoyed by their lack of analytical processing, but then it became funny to me and when they left the room, my mom and I would always laugh.

We quickly moved into a routine. Wait for the residents to make their morning appearance and then get down to the business of bathing. Prior to my surgery, I found a no rinse shampoo that ultimately saved my hygenic life! I’m the type of person who rarely goes a day without a shower, so the thought of spending 5 days in the hospital without being able to wash my hair or brush my teeth was almost worse than preparing mentally for the actual procedure! By day 3; however, even the no rinse shampoo wasn’t cutting it, so my parents and I worked together to wash my hair with real shampoo, careful not to soak my wound or make a mess on the floor. I sat in a chair while my mom poured the water from a pitcher and my dad caught it in a wash bin. Both my parents were amazing during this time, and in her usual fashion, my mom quickly learned the secret hiding places for the towels and the bedding, known only to the hospital staff, and she would make sure I was ready to face the day with a clean body and fresh linens.

After my bath, my parents and I would take a walk around the unit. My room had two doors. One opened to the busy chaos of the nurses station and the other opened on the opposite side of my room into a long hallway that was surrounded by large, floor to ceiling windows with an amazing view of downtown Oakland and a long distance peak of the Golden Gate Bridge. During the day it was too warm to walk the hallway, so we would venture out into the nurses station. At night, when it was cool, we enjoyed the fresh air and the beautiful view of the city lights.

Nights, for some reason, were always more difficult, and I rarely slept more than an hour before the pain would kick in or I would have to readjust my position (no more visits from Nurse Hottie & Orderly GQ, I was on my own!) Every 6 hours, I was fed a nutritious protein drink through my nose and then they would follow that with regular water. On one particular night, I had sent my mom back to the hotel because I was feeling better than normal and knew she needed to get some sleep in an actual bed. It figures that this would be the night they chose to switch me from morphine to a lower pain medication. I had a bad reaction to the medication. I tried to sleep, but I was sweating so badly that within a couple of hours, my entire gown and bedding were soaked through. The nurse, who was my least favorite of all, decided I was just hot and brought a small fan to cool me down. I had to beg them to change my sheets and clothing, but as usual I was unable to speak, so all I could do was write in big letters and tap the whiteboard to show her that I was serious. It did me no good, as she passed it off as poor air circulation in the room and went about her business. 8 hours from my last feeding, the nurse finally came in to give me my drink and patted my head and said I was all better. Needless to say, that was the last night my mom spent away from me. You can be assured that when the next evening rolled around and the same nurse was back, my mother was on her about my pain medication and made sure that I was fed on time!

Because the doctor wasn’t sure if I would be able to take the feeding tube out before my discharge, my parents had to learn how to feed me through the tube. They received two visits from an education specialist, and my father became quite the pro, but it was quite clear (to all of us) that we would rather not have to experience that outside of the hospital walls. Praise God, when Monday morning came, the doctor removed the second drain and reported that if I could swallow a liquid diet, they would remove the feeding tube. It took me nearly an hour to eat 3/4 of a 3.5 ounce cup of cherry jello, but I did it and they finally removed the tube! The removal…now that’s a treat I will refrain from describing, but let’s just say, I have a newfound sympathy for feeding tube survivors! With each step, I knew I was that much closer to going home! Finally, around 1:00p.m., the nurse called for a transport and a kind woman arrived with a wheelchair to take me to the car. I have never been so thankful to see the light of day!

While it was a rough journey, the men and women who took care of me every day were fantastic! My surgeons and the follow-up residents were beyond amazing, and I know without a doubt that God led me and my family to my physicians! Each time we have met with them, they act as if they have nowhere else to be and take all of the time necessary to answer our questions and calm our fears. Their hands were well prayed over, and I have all of you to thank for that! People who have never met me have been sending well wishes and kind words my way, and I will forever be grateful for that! When I arrived home, I had a package of books in the mail from a woman I have never physically met but who felt it important to send me some love. In addition, that first night, a UPS truck arrived with a beautiful delivery of tulips and a “Get Well” balloon from a close friend! A week later, another gorgeous bouquet of flowers from family in Mississippi was waiting on my doorstep following my check up appointment with the doctor. So, again, thank you for your endless support and prayers! The journey is not quite over yet, but I think I’ll save that for a different post…


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Heidi
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 21:33:14

    Oh wow, Kelli…this is amazing stuff. I can’t believe all that has happened to you. I sure appreciate your great humor. Your mom…she rocks, but then I knew that already! Continuing to pray.


  2. Willie Nelson
    Mar 20, 2010 @ 00:54:32

    You continue to bring a smile with your positive writing / outlook. Keep up the good work and outlook !


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