Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Surgery plus two weeks...

Two weeks ago, today, I had my surgery. It’s hard to believe it was so long ago – time flies when you’re having fun :)

Overall, I’d rate my status as “OK and improving”. I’m still low on energy, but it is coming back – the iron supplements plus lots of sleep plus time is doing the trick, I think. Going to the bathroom is still an adventure, sometimes a painful adventure, but I expect it to get better in the near future. I see my urologist a week from Thursday and by that time, hopefully, I’ll not have much to complain about.

Shortly before I had surgery, I received an email from a good friend of mine, Cal Skinner. Cal has this habit of using only the title/subject line of an email to convey whatever message he wants. The body of the email is empty - a bit disconcerting at times. The subject of this particular email was;

Early is good. Where is temp folder?

The “Early is good” phrase was in response to his learning that my surgery was scheduled early in the morning (Cal believes that the surgeons are more awake in the morning). The “Where is temp folder” refers to something totally different – asking me where the “temp” folder is on his hard drive as he had some files in there he needed to retrieve. Anyway, the subject of his email reminded me of a joke told to me by someone I used to work for.

Ira Rosenstein was on his death-bed. His wife asked if he had any last requests. He told her “Please make sure that my obituary is printed in the New York Times.” Being a frugal wife, she demurred. He kept bugging her to do this, but she refused to agree. Soon after, Mr. Rosenstein passed away. After a couple of days, Mrs. Rosenstein began receiving phone calls from Ira’s friends, asking when his obituary notice would appear in the NY Times. She kept telling them it wasn’t going to appear, but after she had received numerous and ever-more-insistent phone calls, she finally relented and called the Obituary department at the NY Times. The conversation went something like this;

NYT – “Obituary Department, may I help you?”

Mrs. R – “I want to print a notice about my husband’s death.”

NYT – “Oh, I’m very sorry to hear about your loss. What would you like the announcement to say?”

Mrs. R – “Just print this; ‘Rosenstein is dead.’”

NYT – Silence. Then, “Are you sure that’s all, not anything about what a loving husband he was or great father he was or…”

Mrs R. – “No, just print ‘Rosenstein is dead’”.

NYT – More silence. Then, “Well ma’am, there is a 6 word minimum. You can get three more words printed for no extra charge. Are you sure that’s all you want to say?”

Mrs. R was silent for a few moments as she thought about whether or not there was anything additional she wanted to say. Finally she replied “OK, print this; ‘Rosenstein is dead. Oldsmobile for sale’”.

I thought it was funny…

Friday, February 17, 2006

Just Funny...

Click to enlarge

Another funny comment I heard about this situation was this; "I used to hate Dick Cheney, but if he keeps shooting lawyers, I may have to revise my opinion"...

Thanks for the "photo" Mr. Ed...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hallelujah !!

My Catheter is HISTORY!!

It's GONE!!






I felt so good when I got home from the doctor that I took my dog for a walk - first time I've done that in a week and a half.

Things are good...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Prostate Surgery - Me and my shadow...

As part of my Prostate surgery, I needed to have a catheter installed. This is because of the way a man’s urinary system works.

Urine is stored in the bladder. From the bladder, it passes through the prostate and to the penis and then to the toilet (or tree or snowbank or whatever else is handy). When you remove the prostate, the bladder outlet has to then be stitched directly to the penis. In order to make sure that the new connection heals correctly and the hole remains open, a catheter (usually a Foley catheter) is inserted into the penis and up into the bladder. A balloon is inflated to hold it into place. The catheter tube exits the penis and is then “plugged into” a urine bag.

The hospital supplied me with two types of urine bags. One is an “Overnight bag”.

The long tube is plugged into the female end of the Foley catheter (an interesting role reversal) and the “bag end” is placed on the floor next to the bed. Obviously it makes sleeping a bit more challenging. You need to lie on the edge of the bed (the tube isn’t all that long) and you have to be careful not to turn over and kink the tube while you’re sleeping. In the morning, you unclip the “exit end” and empty it into the toilet.

During the day, I wear a leg bag.

This bag is strapped to my leg and allows me to walk around with relative freedom. I have to be careful going up and down the stairs, entering and exiting car seats, etc., but it does allow me to lead a more or less normal existence. The bag isn’t as big as the Overnight bag and so has to be emptied more frequently.

After usage, the bags have to be cleaned with a vinegar and water solution and then hung up to dry. Before being plugged in, the ends of the bag have to be sterilized with alcohol. It sounds complicated, but you quickly get used to it.

Tomorrow, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’m getting my catheter taken out. It’s fine and all that, but I’ll be happy to see it go.

Happy Valentine's Day !!

So I’m at Fannie Mays today, standing in a long line, waiting to buy some Valentine's Day Chocolates. It suddenly struck me that at this time, exactly one week ago, I was in the middle of surgery. It sure puts things into perspective. A week ago I was lying on a table in an operating room, unconscious, with multiple robotic arms being manipulated inside of me to remove my prostate. Today I’m back home, driving my car, sipping a coffee from Starbucks and waiting in line at Fannie Mays…

I’m so thankful for modern medicine…

Monday, February 13, 2006

Prostate Surgery – Post-Surgery Status

Day 0 – Tuesday – Pre-surgery. I arrived at the hospital at 5:15am with my wife. I was efficiently checked-in and changed to my hospital garb. In addition to the rear-opening robe, they also provide you with a second, front-opening robe so you’re not walking around with your rear-end hanging out. They led us into the pre-op room and put me on a gurney. Over the next hour or so, several nurses, nurse technicians, and anesthesia people dropped by to do their thing; put on “compression” socks, hook me up to an IV, take a blood draw, ask me several questions, etc. Surgery was scheduled for 7:30am. About 7:20am, my surgeon came by to see how I was doing and to let me know we were about ready to go. They had me drink some foul-tasting liquid and that was the last thing I remember until after surgery.

Post-surgery. The first thing I remember after waking up was this overpowering feeling I had to urinate. I flickered in and out of consciousness for some time, I don’t know how long, and then was wheeled into my hospital room. I had a liquid “dinner”. My wife and youngest children came by to see me. I was “out-of-it” most of the time, but do remember they were there. I also remember feeling like crap.

Day 1 – Wednesday. If you’ve ever stayed in a hospital overnight, you know that you are woken up several times during the night. Hospital personnel have to empty out your urine bag, or draw blood, or give you a new IV, or whatever. So, not much sleep to say the least. It was a liquid diet all this day, too. I felt awful, simply awful. I was feeling extremely weak and had no feeling at all in my right arm. One of my Urologist’s partners came by to see me. He said the numbness was not normal, as they (supposedly) took great care in how they positioned my body pre-surgery, but that it occasionally happened and feeling would gradually return over the next several days. He also said that because of my slow recovery, they would not be discharging me that day (normally they do the next day after an operation of this sort). I also heard my first hint of trouble. When I asked him why I felt so weak, he said that it was due to blood loss – my surgery was, and I quote; “bloodier than normal.” Joy. Again, a visit from my immediate family and liquid meals. I was never able to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time as I would be woken up by nurses to “do their thing”. I also had a roommate who just wasn’t all there. He would press his call button to the nursing station at all hours of the day asking to “get dressed” or to visit someone or whatever. Before I went to sleep that night, I remember beginning to feel a bit betrayed. I was supposed to have been out of the hospital that day (i.e. Wednesday) and blood loss during this type of surgery was supposed to have been “minimal”. In an earlier posting, I discussed how I was told there was no need to bank my blood for this type of surgery.

Day 2 – Thursday. Again, only short periods of sleep during the night, interrupted by hospital people performing their errands. Around 10:00am or so, another one of my Urologist’s partners came by to check on me. He brought with him the results of my latest blood test. It seems that my red blood cell count was just a bit over 7, about half of normal, and was almost surely the reason for my feelings of extreme weakness. He said that my blood loss was much more than usual during laparoscopic surgery and approached that normally seen during open surgery. I was an “oozy type of guy”, he told me, and related how that absolutely everything my surgeon touched during surgery tended to bleed – not normal. He recommended that I receive some blood. As I had, most fortunately, insisted on banking a pint of my blood prior to the surgery (I wanted to bank two, but that’s another story) that was fine with me. I just wanted this crap feeling to go away and had no qualms about receiving my own blood. If it had been blood from a blood bank, I don’t know what I would have done – fortunately I didn’t have to make that choice. They were unable to put my blood IV into my right arm as it was still numb (though feeling was beginning to return), so I now had multiple IV’s into my left arm. Within an hour or two after my blood had been re-tranfused, I began to feel much better. Later that evening, my surgeon called – this was the first time I had spoken to him since the operation. He said that they had just received the pathology report from the lab. My prostate was “greatly enlarged”, he said, and fully 20% of it was cancerous. The good news was that the “margins were clear”, i.e. all of the cancer seems to have been contained within the prostate. He told me the stitching of the urethra from my bladder to my penis went without any hitch (i.e., I should be continent) and the “nerve-sparing” part of the operation also went “very well” (i.e. I should be able to get an erection again). He also asked if I wanted to go home that day. I was unsure; yes, of course, I wanted to get out of there. On the other hand, I had only begun feeling better a few hours ago and didn’t know what would happen later that day. So I opted to stay in the hospital one more night. This was probably a mistake as, that night, I was woken up and moved to another room; they wanted my bed (which was located right outside the nursing station) for another, sicker patient. The room they moved me to was freezing cold. Twice during the night I had to ask the nurses for additional blankets and ultimately had to ask them to turn up the heat. By morning, I had developed a full-throated cough.

Day 3 – Friday. I woke up coughing and feeling crappy. Coughing, after surgery like this, is NO fun – it is EXTREMELY painful. I was also mentally kicking myself for not leaving the hospital the day before when I had the chance. Late in the morning, yet another partner from my Urologist’s office came by to see me. After examining me, he recommended that I stay in the hospital one more day. I still had a drain in me from surgery and he was concerned with how much blood and other fluid was collecting inside it. I told him “No”, I wanted to go home, and asked him to call my surgeon. A few minutes later he came back with the welcome news that my surgeon had OK’d my discharge. He removed the drain, bandaged up the incision, and told me that tomorrow (Saturday) I would be able to take a shower. Heaven! The next few hours were spent receiving post-operative training and signing the discharge paperwork. About 2:30pm, my wife came by to pick me up and I was finally able to leave. I don’t think another night there would have been pleasant at all.

Day 3 – Friday – Home, at last. It’s so nice to sit in a comfortable chair, have my family around to take care of me, get some real food and feel a bit more normal.

Days 4 & 5 – Saturday and Sunday. I took a shower Saturday morning – what a joy! I’m wearing a catheter now and it complicates matters somewhat, but the shower was still a delight. My dog can’t figure out what’s going on with me. Normally I’m the one who takes her for walks, horses around with her in the back yard, etc. Now I walk around like an invalid and it’s obvious that she misses the “old me”. I miss the “old me”, too, and can’t wait for him to return. I’m feeling better, but still am nowhere near 100% yet. All of the numbness has left my right arm, my right palm and my 3 smaller fingers. But my thumb and pointer finger are still a bit “tingly”. In the case of my thumb, part of the issue is the thumb surgery I underwent just a couple of weeks ago (a story for another time). I’m pretty confident now that within a week or two, the feeling should be back to normal. Another side-effect of my surgery which is starting to recede is the incessant pounding noises I hear in my right ear; noises caused by my blood pulsing. If you’ve ever had this happen to you, you know what I mean. You actually hear the blood being pulsed through the vessels in your ear. Though it’s not painful, it’s been a constant with me since the surgery and, among other things, has not helped my ability to sleep soundly. My surgeon believes it’s due to some fluid build-up in my right ear and he’s probably right. It’s starting to go away and I’m most grateful for that. Bowel movements have returned, and though painful, odiferous and tough to perform with a catheter in you, are also most welcome. I’ve been eating solid food for a few days now and don’t want to start having to take laxatives, too. The only medication I’m on now is Vicodin. This is good stuff – it really does make a difference. When I wake up in the morning, I feel crappy and lethargic. Within 30-45 minutes of popping a Vicodin, however, I start feeling much more normal. The prescribed dosage is “one or two tablets every six hours”. I don’t want to get too dependent on them, but do take one “as needed”. Very handy stuff.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Prostate Surgery - Time set

I'm to be at the hospital at 5:15am tomorrow morning with surgery set to start at 7:30am.

If all goes well, by this time tomorrow, it should be finished and then on to the side effects.

Wish me luck...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Prostate Surgery - Blood tales...

Well, I’m moderately ticked off. About three weeks ago, I called my Urologist’s office and asked them if I needed to bank any of my blood in preparation for the upcoming surgery. Doing this had been recommended in one of the books I had read and it seemed like a good idea to me as I’m not really interested in running the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis or any of the other diseases that sometimes lurk in our nation’s blood banks. If I could bypass that potential worry by banking some of my own blood, why not? I’ve donated dozens of pints of blood over the past several decades, so the process doesn’t worry me at all. Anyway, the “Scheduling Nurse” at the Urologist’s office said I did not need to; it was unnecessary due to the fact that my surgery was going to be laparoscopic, not open. “Great” I thought, and then dismissed it from my mind.

Stupid me.

Yesterday I received a call from Central DuPage Hospital, the place where I’m going to have the procedure done. The call was from the “Pre-Admittance Nurse” who asked me several questions about my health. During the phone call, she mentioned I would need two blood tests in the next couple of days, one of them being a “Type-and-cross-match” test so they could ensure they had two pints of blood ready for my surgery. ??? Further queries revealed that this blood is normally not needed, but, in case of an emergency, could be called into use. Yet still further queries revealed that there is now no time for me to bank two pints; you need to wait at least 3 full days between donations and you have to wait at least 3 full days from the last donation before you do surgery. I am able to bank one pint, and did this today, but there is no time for a second.

So I’m somewhat pissed off. If the laparoscopic surgery goes sour and they have to convert to an open-surgery on the fly (admittedly a long shot), and I need more than one pint of blood during the process, then I have to take my chances with whatever other blood happens to be available. Great, just great - something else to worry about.

Moral of the story; always bank your blood before surgery, even if they say it won’t be necessary. It’s your body and your life, not theirs…

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Happy First Blog Birthday!!

Today UnderNoIllusions is 1 year old. Hurray !! Happy Birthday!!

My first posting was on February 1st, 2005 and this is my 155th. I don’t think I regret any of them, but I am uncomfortable with my comments on the Iraq war. In my mind, I’ve gone back and forth on this issue so many times that now I don’t know, I just don’t know. For every argument I’ve heard in favor of the war, I can give a counter to it. And, for every argument I’ve heard against it, I can counter those too. I fear the worst here, but don’t have any hard data to back it up. All of the rah-rah types keep saying that the MSM just gives us the bad news, and, if we only heard the other side, then we’d be much more willing to “stay the course” and stick it out. But why isn’t this “good news” getting out? Fox news, certainly as supportive of the President as can be, doesn’t give us this "good news." Why don’t they do a half-hour show each day showing us the “progress?” I fear they don’t do it because there isn’t that much. It really seems to be one step forward, two steps back. We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess. I just hope to God that Bush is right…

Anyway, one year complete. Hope you’ve enjoyed the posts…

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