We arrived in Chicago on Wednesday, January 4th, a day before my pre-op appointments. We wanted time to settle in before the hospital stay. As a bonus, we saved time to stop at a favorite market for sushi and a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry. Just barely enough time, as we learned that the museum closed at 4:00. We tried to linger a little bit, but lights were going off, and a security guard started to close the big metal gate to lock off the room we were in. It felt a little “Indiana Jones” as we ran to get through the closing gate. The guard seemed less amused. Of course, the gift shop remained open slightly longer, and people were funneled out that way. There was some pretty cool stuff, too, but we weren’t here to shop.
Back at our “vacation rental”, I spent some time unpacking and repacking a hospital bag, repeatedly. It was hard to decide what I would actually use at the hospital. We went out to a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that had amazingly authentic Jamaican food, which we carried out because the ambience was uninviting. Back at the apartment, we fired up Netflix and feasted on delicious food and Ting.
On Thursday, I had an appointment with the physical therapist, where we measured my swollen arm and went over instructions on how to manage my lymphedema after surgery.
Then it was on to meet with the surgeon. He took pictures and had me stand up so he could mark me up with cut lines. There were a LOT of cut lines. Dr Chang answered all of our questions and at the end of the appointment, I felt ready. Let’s do this!
Friday morning, the alarm went off at 4:30am. I still felt ready. Let’s do this!
I had a 5:30am check-in time. The usual routine of no food/ no coffee ensued, and we got in the car for the cold, dark ride to the hospital. The car told us that the external temperature was 3 degrees. Good time to start my hibernation. We checked in to a very nice, modern waiting area, complete with huge display boards with secret code numbers which indicate where your loved one is in their surgery process.
Andy also received a rather large, round “buzzer” device, similar to the ones you get at restaurants. It would buzz and vibrate and light up when there was any new information about my surgery. Also, they used them individually to let us know when it was our turn to leave for prep. Sadly, there was an announcement that we would be separated for the initial part of surgery prep, and we were told to say our goodbyes and get our hugs in. This caught me off guard and I started to cry. Andy has been with me every step of the way so far. It felt unfair to be split up like that.
One by one the buzzers started to sound, and slowly patients were escorted off to the elevators as their families looked on. Around 5:50, Andy’s buzzer sounded and I had nothing left to do but say goodbye and follow the nurse onto the elevator. There wasn’t much conversation and it felt a bit solemn. When the elevator stopped, we entered the room where everyone is prepped for surgery and the nurse indicated which bed was mine. Here, we did all of the usual prep – undress and put everything in a locker, wipe down with surgical wipes, put on a hospital gown, socks and head cover. Next, it’s vitals, medical history and put in an IV. The only thing missing was Andy by my side to make me smile and keep me calm with silly cat videos. I was left alone, except for the occasional visit from a resident, nurse or anesthesiologist. Soon, I started to see families walking in and felt cheered up that soon I would be with Andy again. Sure enough, he soon walked in the room and it all felt okay again. He has that kind of calming effect on me.
I have to ask, “what is with you, anesthesiologists??” It seems to go like this every time. I am involved in conversations with nurses or doctors, and inevitably an anesthesiologist sneaks around behind me and slips me something. Seriously, it’s happened like this every time! I start to feel woozy and people in-the-know in front of me have that look on their faces. I turn. “You slipped me something, didn’t you?” Yep. The bed starts being rolled away, I tell Andy I love him, and the last thing I remember is the double door to the OR and the bright lights. I drift off.