As is to be expected, my first day post-op was full of ups and downs. After getting very little sleep the night of my surgery, I was pretty foggy much of the day yesterday. Because my pain is limited to the former stoma site and the morphine drip just puts me in an overall daze, we transitioned to Toradol—an IV NSAID and analgesic. It seems to be working pretty well, and I’m definitely more alert. Occasionally, the pain around the stoma site is particularly intense and I use the morphine, but that’s becoming pretty infrequent. Which is good, because narcotics slow the bowels, which is the exact opposite of what I want now. The good news is my bowels are pretty much fully awake now, which means they should start progressing my diet (update: the residents just came by on rounds and advanced me to a clear liquid diet). It was pretty exciting when I passed my first gas yesterday evening (I had previously felt gas moving around, but it had never passed). After the first time, everything started moving pretty fast, and I ended up having several bowel movements over the course of the night, which I didn’t expect. I haven’t eaten anything in days, so it wasn’t stool, so much as blood and mucus and other post-surgical fluid, which is all pretty unpleasant. But it’s nice to know the plumbing works!
The other big event of the day yesterday was I changed rooms. It’s been unseasonably hot in San Francisco, and my former room received direct afternoon sun from 3-7pm. The sun was literally on my cheek that entire time, and by 4pm, the room was 80 degrees. I asked to move my first night (after I was unable to sleep due in part to the heat) and repeated my request to a couple more nurses during the day. After hearing nothing back from anyone, I asked my nurse assistant, in the afternoon who basically said there was nothing she could do and laughed when I explained that I’ve been requesting a room change for 24 hours. Her laughter may have been a cultural communications disconnect and probably wasn’t mean-spirited, but it really didn’t matter to me—it’s no way to treat a patient.
During my two hospital stays, I’ve noted that there definitely seems to be a hierarchy in the hospital: cancer über alles. You’d think losing your colon would be enough to be taken seriously, but it’s apparently not the case for some of the nurses. In any event, after the laughing incident, I spoke to the charge nurse, delivering a passionate, but well-controlled lecture about the many failures in patient care I’d experienced. She didn’t really seem to care either, so I asked to speak with the director of nursing services. Finally—someone who seemed interested in my well-being. She apologized repeatedly for the lack of communication and attention, and had me moved to a cooler room within an hour. Magic. I’ve been meaning to do a post about hospital stay etiquette, and I still will. But in the meantime, here are two of my “rules”: (1) Be nice to your nurses; (2) Get what you need.
I had a great nurse last night who coordinated the various services (vitals, heparin shot, blood draw, pain meds, vitals again, etc.) to minimize the number of interruptions during the night. I slept great and am feeling much less foggy today. The residents just came by to check my progress. Apparently, I’m progressing quickly and my wound looks great. They removed the bandage, leaving the wound exposed, which I’m not all that sure about as it’s still pretty sensitive. But, doctor’s orders. I’ll post a picture later, for the interested and strong-stomached.
Looking forward to some apple juice.