After Saturday morning dawned, so did the realization that I had somehow once again managed a minor medical miracle. I was fully alert and would not dream of wanting to sleep again (for at least an hour, that is). Since I wasn’t sleepy, the anesthesia had worn off. If I was no longer affected by the anesthesia, then I truly was in no real pain. And if this experience paralleled June’s operation, I wouldn’t need any pain meds for the duration.
Earl slumbered on a pull-out bed to my left. My tongue resembled a dry sponge, I was miserably overheated by the tropical temperatures created by the Bair Hugger and the warm hospital room, and I longed to rejoin the ambulatory world of bipeds. Mercifully, I needed to wait only a few minutes for assistance from the night shift nurse who returned to check my vital signs, breast blood flow, and narcotic usage. Having started Day 2, I was now permitted ice chips, which I busily began to shovel into my mouth.
By midmorning, one of Dr. Orman’s residents, Dr. Berger, stopped by to check on me. In his words, the previous day’s surgery was a home run. I had just enough abdominal fat to create one small breast, but not so much as would get in the way. Because a relatively small amount of tissue was removed, fewer nerves were severed, thus sparing me additional pain. The blood vessels which were harvested to provide the essential blood supply to the new transplant were strong and healthy. My surgeons opted to transplant 1 artery plus 2 veins (the weaker of the two types of blood vessels) for redundancy and thus to maximize the likelihood of transplant survival. Only a tiny, postage stamp sized piece of muscle attached to the blood vessels was removed and the remaining rectus abdominus easily filled in the resected area, a promising sign pointing to a complete and speedy recovery of abdominal strength.
Bringing me one step closer to freedom, Dr. Berger agreed to have the Foley catheter removed and said that afterwards I was welcome to try walking very carefully and with assistance. He cautioned that my currently pain-free state could quickly change when I moved out of my bed. He also monitored the new breast via Doppler and was pleased to hear a strong flow in blood vessels throughout. Soon after his departure, my nurse removed the catheter and administered the morning’s medications: baby aspirin to reduce blood clots, antibiotics, and stool softener to assist my still slumbering digestive tract.
Before noon, a pit crew of sorts arrived to help me freshen up. They sponge bathed me, changed my hospital gown, assisted while I brushed my teeth, and settled me upright on a recliner (where Earl had spent the night) while they changed my perspiration soaked bedding. I napped upright in this position for a while until a friendly member of my clean up crew returned to dry wash my hair. Johnny heated a special shower cap of sorts and placed it on my head. From the way it smelled and felt, the shower cap contained some water along with a modicum of shampoo. Johnny cheerfully massaged my scalp through the shower cap while we chatted about the Philippines (birthplace for him along with many other staff members). After a couple of minutes, he removed the cap and towel dried my hair. It smelled and felt infinitely fresher than minutes before. Warm, clean, and drowsy, I drifted back to sleep.
Around 1pm, I was visited by a physical therapist, who offered to help me test out my assumably wobbly legs She disconnected the power cord from my IV dispensing cart, now running on battery backup. Next, she removed the Deep Vein Thrombosis cuffs from my calves, placed hospital issued grippy socks on my feet, and raised the back and lowered the bottom of my hospital bed. Reminding me to take care to avoid straining any of the sutures running the full width of my abdomen from hip to hip, she counseled me to slowly roll my body and rotate my legs off the bed’s surface and warned me to walk in a stooped position.
I took a calculated risk and disregarded Dr. Berger’s advice to dispense pain medication before leaving my bed. This first lateral movement in just over 24 hours sent small shocks of pain reverberating throughout my abdomen and just as quickly dissipated to small reminders to move more slowly in the future. I carefully placed my feet on the floor, bent over to hoist myself off the bed, and grasped the IV cart as a walker. The physical therapist helped me slide into my robe, and she opened the hospital room door wide as I took my first tentative steps towards convalescence.
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