So surgery was pretty hellish. I wasn’t nervous about it. I had Martin drop me off in front of the hospital, and I went in and changed into my hospital gown and waited. They monitored the baby’s heart for 20 minutes, took my blood pressure, hooked me up to an IV and then gave me a mild sedative. Two hours after I arrived, I was wheeled into the operating room where the anesthesiologist administered a block to my arm. The block was awful. It didn’t hurt much going in (she numbed my arm pit first), but when the drugs hit, they didn’t just hit my arm, they hit my whole body. I was lying there saying, “I can feel it in my head. Is that normal? I can feel it in my whole body. Is that normal?” and she was saying, “No.” It was like I’d been injected with speed. My heart was racing like crazy and my whole body was tingling. I was sure I was going to have a heart attack and both the baby and I were going to die. They put an oxygen mask on me and did who knows what else and after about five minutes my heart went back to normal and my arm was completely numb. They put a paper curtain over me—not vertically between my arm and me, but right over my face, so I asked them to move it halfway so I could at least see the ceiling. “You’re claustrophobic,” the anesthesiologist said. Well, not really. But when both my arms and my body are strapped down in a T like I’m on a crucifix, one arm is numb and the other is attached to a blood pressure cuff, a pulse monitor and an IV, my chest is attached to a heart monitor and there’s a big O2 mask on my face, I don’t really want to lie under a sheet of paper. So she moved it halfway so I could stare at the clock on the wall and the heart monitor.
The surgery ended at 5:37, about an hour after I got the block, and it wasn’t fun. Being pregnant, I’m not used to lying flat on my back for that long, and it was uncomfortable. My shoulder ached from I don’t know what. It felt like my arm was stretched out too far, but it was probably the tourniquet that made it ache. I was really sleepy, but paranoid that if I fell asleep I wouldn’t wake up, so I tried to keep my eyes open the whole time. I also noticed that the two times I did almost drift off to sleep, the anesthesiologist started asking me mundane questions about my tutoring, etc. I asked her a lot of questions, too, like why Blue Shield isn’t covering anesthesiologists at Alta Bates hospital anymore, and she said the company wouldn’t bargain with them.
The worst part of the surgery was when they used an electric screwdriver to drill a bunch of screws into my bones, and I could hear the whole thing. I couldn’t feel the pain, but I could feel the vibration in my shoulder, and I could hear the whole thing. At one point, the only male in the room—a nurse (my surgeon and anesthesiologist were both women) said, “Could someone get me a martini?” and I said, “Get one for me, too.”
Once it was over, they put a huge bandage on my arm (see photo), and since I had no control over my arm at all, they put it in this big yellow foam block that held it upright. In recovery I got some juice and crackers finally (after not eating since the night before) and a nurse from Labor and Delivery monitored the baby’s heart for another 20 minutes. After lots of questions and paperwork, the nurse helped me get dressed and called Martin to pick me up. Two hours after surgery ended, I was wheeled downstairs to the car. The freaky thing was carrying my left arm with my right. It was dead to the point that it felt like it had come unattached, like I was carrying someone else’s arm. I had to check my shoulder from time to time to make sure it was still connected. It was such an awful, creepy feeling that I actually said to Martin that I thought the pain would be better than not being able to feel my arm. Ha!
We raced to the pharmacy to get my Vicodin and antibiotics before it closed (arrived exactly at 8 as they were closing the doors), then to Gregoire (my favorite carry out restaurant!) for a steak and au gratin potatoes for me, veggie pasta for Martin. While Martin ordered the food, I waited in the car. I started to be able to wiggle a few fingers, and the block completely wore off. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt—worse, or at least as bad, as breaking it. I started sobbing and took a Vicodin, then another, but they didn’t kick in for a while. For about an hour, I couldn’t stop moaning and crying and saying, “Why did they send me home? I should be in the hospital on morphine!” Halfway through my steak at home (which Martin had to cut for me), I told Martin to call the surgeon to see if I should go back to the hospital. He had her paged, but by the time she called back, the Vicodin had kicked in and I was starting to float. I continued on two Vicodin at a time for the entire next day (which made me sleep all day), then cut back to one at a time the day after. By Sunday (surgery was Thursday) I was taking extra-strength Tylenol, and after a couple of days on that, I went off it completely. My wrist still hurt now and then when I was out of the house a lot, but after icing and elevating it for five days, the pain was pretty much gone.
Monday (this week), I got my bandage and stitches removed to reveal a Frankenstein-like scar beneath. I could hardly move my wrist at all, but my fingers have loosened up a lot since I started typing with two hands. Tomorrow I start physical therapy three times a week for eight weeks—right up until my due date. I think once I start exercising it, it will loosen up a lot. Right now I can’t rotate it much, or bend it at the wrist. I have a Velcro splint that is comfortable and removable, which makes life easier, but I still can’t lift or pull anything with my left hand. About all it can do so far is type, which isn’t a bad thing to be able to do.
It hurts a little more now that I’m using it, but nothing compared to what it felt like after surgery. I’m glad I decided on the plate so that I could go to physical therapy right away. With screws I would have been in a cast for the next two months and had no strength at all when the baby was born. The worst is over at this point—and I can even take my splint off to take showers!