Day 2 -- Thursday
The morning after surgery I was awoken at 5:00 AM for my first chest x-ray and labs. When a patient is given a chest x-ray, they are asked to take a deep breath and hold it while the picture is being taken. Let me tell you, holding a breath with a chest tube inside me and a newly stapled lung was not my idea of a pleasant wake-up call. An hour later my surgeon came in to look at the drainage in my pleruovac. He tugged on the rubber tubing attaching my chest tube to my trusty plastic box and informed me that I'd likely be going home the next day. I was flabbergasted. I had had lung surgery 15 hours prior and they were already talking about sending me home? (That speaks to the state of health care in this country.) Little else was said and he left. My husband showed up early as well and got me ready for the day ahead. I had a wonderful day nurse, Emily, that kept me sufficiently medicated and had the best bedside manner I could have hoped for. At 8:00 AM, a very athletic looking physical therapist showed up, handed me an incentive spirometer and told me to use it (without first showing me how), and let me know that we'd be starting right after breakfast. An hour later, I begin taking laps around the ward. We set a goal of going on 4 walks each day of my stay. I was ready to go -- I wanted to do whatever was going to get me back on my feet as soon as possible -- so I gladly manned the neon green walker they provided me and with both the therapist and my husband flanking my side, I insisted on doing two laps instead of one.
I had a good amount of Crepitus/Subcutaneous Emphysema on my left side that my nurse found amusing. It was new to me, though -- I hadn't experienced that with my first chest tube. Its most often described as the feeling of crunching Rice Kripsies underneath the skin due to air trapped in subcutaneous tissue. Talk about a weird feeling. Every few hours I'd reach over and gently place my fingers around my ribs and sure enough, it was still there.
I spiked a fever mid-morning. Emily was worried and called my surgeon's nurse. They did a urine culture which came back negative, gave me some Tylenol, and got me up and walking. PT stopped by to see me that afternoon while I was napping and decided to check my oxygen sats because I guess my breathing sounded labored while I slept. I was in the low 80's with a heart rate of 115, so they put me back on oxygen. My fever finally broke, though, which was a relief. My sister and father were able to come for a short visit right before bedtime, but that meant my husband was at home with the kids and I had to get myself ready for bed. I struggled through the process of brushing my teeth and washing my face and it took the rest of my energy to crawl into bed.
The incisions in my back were really sore and I remembered that the night before, the nurse had rolled me on to my side and propped me up with pillows to alleviate some pressure, so I called the nurses' desk to ask if someone could possibly help readjust my bedding for pain relief. 15 minutes passed before that night's nurse, AJ, stomped in and proclaimed that I did not need a NURSE to help me with something like that. I apologized and let her know I surely did not ask for her rather I assumed they'd send in a CNA to help me. She stomped to the side of my bed, knocking over my pluerovac in the process, and in an effort to show me how busy she was, roughly pushed me onto my side, slamming into my chest tube in the process. She realized what she had done when I cried out in pain and tears began to flow freely. Her response was to quickly shove a pillow underneath my back and run out of the room. I broke down. The pain was intense, I was reeling from the way I had just been treated, I was tired, and I wanted to go home. I couldn't stop myself from sobbing which hurt even more. My whole body shook as I cried, gasped for air, and felt excruciating pain as a result of my sobs which made me cry even harder. I was in bad shape. I texted my husband who wanted to know the nurse's name so he could call the hospital, but I had this horrible fear that she would deny the event, I would be labeled a troublemaker, and because they were short-staffed, I would be stuck with a nurse who was mad at me...the nurse who was supposed to keep me medicated. In hindsight, I absolutely should have reported her. I really believe that event caused some damage that I wasn't even aware of until recently. I have never been so happy to see someone, though, as my beloved day nurse Emily when she showed up at 7:00 AM the next morning.
Day 3 -- Friday
I had another 5:00 AM x-ray and labs and then waited patiently for my surgeon. My husband got there extra early so he could talk to Dr. Affleck as well, but the surgeon never showed. Instead, one of his nurse practitioners came in right before lunch to let me know that after looking at my x-ray and drainage, I'd be staying another day. Part of me was glad that I wasn't being sent home prematurely (which is how I had felt the day before), but the other part of me would have done anything to have that chest tube removed. I had a surprising amount of Both my husband and my sister took shifts visiting me which helped keep my mind off how dreadful I felt and how much I wanted to go home. Emily suggested we do our visiting outside my room for a change in scenery. It was nice just to sit by a window in a bright room for a spell. Each time I would head back to my room at the far end of the ward, I would try not to look to closely at my fellow patients because of how anxious it made me feel. It didn't take much to notice that I was the youngest patient on the floor by at least 25 years. Most of them had very visible scars from their surgeries. I hoped this would be my only lung surgery. Ever.
That afternoon I spiked yet another fever and that evening I became very nauseous. I frantically called for some Zofran which found its way to my IV in record time. Can you imagine vomiting with a chest tube inside you? I, for one, did not want to find out how that felt.
Emily worked some magic and had me reassigned to a different night nurse so I didn't have a repeat of the night before with AJ. My nurse that night was Bailey, and she was great.
Day 4 -- Saturday
Things move slower in the hospital on Saturdays so radiology showed up a couple hours later than usual and no one ever came in to do labs. I had to say good-bye to Emily the night before and my day nurse was now Alexis. She was also the nurse assigned to me right after I was sent up from Recovery. She was quiet and impersonal, but pleasant. That morning I finally felt well enough to let Tyler wash my hair in the sink. Boy, did that feel good! Moments later, the nurse practitioner showed up with the cardio guy on-call who said my drainage looked good and to take me off suction. I knew that was the first step to going home, but I was surprised by how quickly it went. After an hour or so, I had another x-ray that confirmed my lung was behaving properly without being on suction, and a couple hours later, the nurse practitioner came in and announced she was removing my chest tube and I was going home.
She had me lay on my side and like last time, inhale, hold my breath, and bear down as she pulled the tube. Having my chest tube pulled out was much more painful this time. It felt like it took some serious strength on her part to pull it out -- like it was being ripped out of me. I was not prepared for that and I think it surprised my husband, too. I'm not one to use expletives, but if I were, I would have let loose a colorful stream of them.
She showed Tyler how to remove the sutures the following week, gave him some very basic wound care instructions, had me sign some paperwork, told me to call them if my condition worsened, gave us a prescription for enough Oxy to make addicts out of a small army, and sent us on our way.
Tyler drove me home, got me settled, and left to fill my prescriptions. The kids were at my in-laws' so the house was quiet. It was good to be home.