Well Heck, That Wasn’t So Bad….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:54 pm

I would never have guessed that having a stainless-steel pilot needle rammed through your sternum and a couple of small chunks of a very near-and-dear vital organ yanked out could be so relatively discomfort-free. Of course, the highball of fentanyl and versed they dumped into my blood shortly before the mining excavation began sure helped. I almost fell asleep twice during the procedure. That would not have been a great thing: they need you awake so you can hold your breath for a moment or two every time they take a CT scan or jab your kidney. And you not only have to take and hold a breath, you have to take and hold the same amount of air every time, so your kidney remains in more or less the same place every time. Inhale too greatly and they might take a needle biopsy of your liver or your lower intestine or your eyeball or sumpin’. 😯

Anyway, the actual surgery took about an hour, after which I was whisked off to my private recovery suite, where I listened to the dulcet tones of the lady in the next room horking up chunks of alveolar tissue and spitting them into the toilet, while her human foghorn of a husband gave an exhaustive play-by-play of each and every Law & Order episode they watched, the total count of which must have reached well into the hundreds by the time I gave up trying to sleep. At that point I corked my iPod headphones tightly into my ears and drifted in and out all night to the soft, measured tones of David Sedaris, reading his newly-released book When You Are Engulfed In Flames. Between my iPod and Vicodin I was able to get a decent amount of sleep, certainly more so than I had originally anticipated.

The next morning (this morning, in fact), someone finally thought to give my bloodwork results to the on-staff nephrologist, who pronounced me fit for release back into the wild. Some forty-five minutes later—roughly three minutes before I chose to chew it off myself and make a break for it—someone else came by to pull out my IV and make me sign thirty-six pieces of paper. After this was finished I was free to leave the hospital, at which point Margaret and I made a beeline to the San Francisco Street Bakery for a celebratory breakfast of coffee and danish. Not that the boiled egg, single shingle of white toast and old-topsider-consistency slice of tepid ham I got at the hospital wasn’t simply scrummy, but I felt it needed rounding out. Particularly the decaffeinated coffee: bleah.

It will take one or two weeks for the results to come back from pathology. There are a number of possible outcomes to this scenario, none of which I feel like expounding on at great length right now. In the meantime, I’m to avoid lifting or bending or twisting while my kidney scabs over (“The Kidney Scabs” would be a great name for a punk band). Right now I’m going to go lie down and give my torso a little break-time, I’ll let you all know the final results when I get them.

My Take On It

Filed under: @ 7:30 am

When Andrew had his first back surgery 10 plus years ago it was at a seriously sucky time in my life. I was only a few weeks out from quitting my job with Dr. Ratbastard in Olympia when Andrew blew his discs. Andrew spent six weeks in moderate to severe pain spending most of his time lying on his back on our couch while trying to work from a 1998 era laptop and the jury rig that we’d worked out for his desktop. I signed a contract for a new job, while working relief at several places.
After six weeks of Andrew failing to improve his doctor finally told him he’d need surgery.
During this time my grandfather, who had been failing for some months, got abruptly and profoundly worse.

I was working at a practice on Vashon, moving gunk from our house in Olympia to the house that we rented in Burien (shudder), and calling the hospital in central Illinois getting updates as often as I could.

My grandfather was in the terminal stages of cancer and renal failure. On the 10th of April Grampa died. On the 17th we moved from Olympia to Burien. On the 24th Andrew had to be at Capitol Medical Center in Olympia at 0730 to check in for his surgery.
I sat with him while he was prepped for surgery and was nearly hysterical when they wheeled him away. To the point where I ended up needing 4mg of valium to keep from going running through the place screeching like a banshee. I was VERY interested in the embroidery that I’d brought along with me that day.
The night was horrid. Andrew was in a shared room with an older guy who was, essentially, dying and his television stayed on until 2 a.m. Between the TV and the series of vampires that kept coming in to take his blood, neither of us slept that night, although Andrew did have the comfort of an on demand morphine pump.
I started my new job on May 2nd.

Despite the very welcome attentions of my thrice blessed mother in law who came out to help me take care of Andrew and to take care of ME while I spent most of a couple of months going insane, I went pretty seriously boingy for a while there. The uncertainty of the move, the stress of the new job, the grief of losing one of my biggest (though granted subtlest) fans as a person and a veterinarian, and the absolute terror at the thought that Andrew might die or be permanently crippled…. well let’s just say that the combination made for an especially exquisite form of mental torment that took, literally, years to be able to recover from.

This time, well, my situation is at least a little better. My board of governors complaint has been resolved in my favor. I didn’t end up having to testify as a prosecution witness in the State of Washington V The Mouth Breathing Morons Who Owned The Pit Bulls Who Attacked A Little Old Lady’s Chihuahua Outside Her Retirement Home and my job…. well, I’ve got about the sweetest schedule I could imagine. I am secure in my own home and outside of the very welcome attentions of my buddy the landscaper, I don’t even have remodeling chaos in my house anymore.

Which is not to say that Xanax isn’t my friend.
There’s something especially horrible about being in a position where you understand the procedure, hell, I’ve even done a renal biopsy or two, but having to be witness to it’s performance on a person you’re not sure you can live without. (And here I mean “witness” in a figurative sense not a literal one. No, they did not have, nor would they have even if I had asked, me anywhere near the procedure room.)
There’s also the marked frustration of being a medical person and having no effin idea of what the hell is going on. I understand the reason that the biopsy was done, of course, but I don’t understand why the biopsy had to be done… if you get my drift. Andrew is playing a most excellent game of Stump The Doctor. We don’t know what we’re looking for. An asymptomatic otherwise healthy well controlled adult diabetic without a blazing urinary tract infection should NOT have significant amounts of protein in his urine. It just don’t make sense. When this happens with my patients I get very frustrated, run all the practical tests that I can think of doing and then throw up my hands and say “I haven’t the faintest idea why this is happening. Go and see the internist.”. But I can’t. And even if I could I wouldn’t.
The procedure doctor yesterday said that it would take between 7-10 business days to get the pathology report back. Which is also frustrating because I know that with my patients that if I need a report back STAT I can call the lab, push a few buttons, whine a little bit, and get a report in as little as 2 days. I guess the fact that they didn’t send Andrew’s biopsies out STAT is a good sign, you only do that when you’re really concerned. But knowing that I can’t call the pathologist up and whine is just another exciting little twist.

And so we’re stuck in a weird sort of limbo that does my temper no good whatsoever and makes Andrew alternately grouchy and a little hyper.

More as it all develops of course. Right now I need to plug my i-pod back in, listen to the crotch novel audio book I loaded up specifically for this purpose, and knit. Andrew is asleep while we wait for the staff nephrologist to come in and give us a blessing on Andrew’s discharge so we can get the hell out of this joint.

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