I have returned to Everything2 and, well, life itself as my surgery for Crohn's Disease is over and the recovery has begun. I spent nearly two weeks in the hospital, attached to various tubes and such, and now that I am free I wanted to take a moment to share my experiences at let everyone know how I'm doing. Special thanks to NinjaPenguin who passed along a few well-wishes that people had sent her for me and I was very happy to hear from everyone who took the time to /msg me before I left for the hospital.

Surgery went on as planned and I'm expected to make a full recovery in due time. In the meantime I can't do any heavy lifting, bending, and other such activities that require abdominal muscules. As for the surgery itself, my parents came into town the weekend before the procedure. We make the trip to Tampa, FL (surgery was performed at Tampa General Hospital) the day before where, in a hotel, I did the pre-op prep. That consisted of a phosphosoda drink, 3 sets of antibiotic pills, and a suppository... all quite unpleasant. Then Tuesday morning, 5/13/03, we took the shuttlebus from the hotel to the hospital. I checked in, put on the silly gown, took one last look at my un-cut stomach region, and was wheeled to pre-op.... where I was wheeled right back to the waiting room. It seems my doctor had been called to emergency surgery and I would have to wait my turn. About an hour later my time did come, I said my goodbyes, and was returned to the pre-op staging area. An IV tube was installed in my left arm, they checked my vital signs, and before too long I was wheeled into the actual operating room. I was given an initial injection to relax me, and then the full-on sedation occured. The procedure lasted for three hours. I am told that while I was out they removed both stictures plus a new, unknown one (for a total of three), a large bowel obstruction that I did not know about, two fistulas that had also been missed on all the x-rays, and my appendix since it was basically in the line of surgical fire. I am also told that I spent five hours or so in the recovery ward and that my first coherant words afterwards was a request for a private room (which they were able to get for me before the end of the night). I also found a number of tubes installed in me during this time: a tube up the stomach and out my right nostril to dispose of draining, a catheter to remove trips to the bathroom, and a relocated IV to my right arm. Thankfully they did not have to use any abdominal drains in my procedure.

In the first few days after the surgery itself I was urged from bed to walk around and change gown dressings. I wore a robe and slippers during my times out of bed as I walked/shuffled around the room and hallways. Reglan kept down the nausea and Morphine took care of the pain. I had one of those nice pumps that distributed the drug every six minutes with the push of a button. I was also given routine injections of Pepcin to hold off stomach acid. Zofran was also given as needed for additional nausea aid. I was also allowed to moisten my tongue with a wet sponge.

My parents alternated "shifts" in the hospital to make sure that I was given what I was needed, as I was in no condition to walk up to the nurse desk and ask for things. Lucky they were there, too, as we quickly found that some of the nurse staff could be... let us say, less than helpful. I had a vague memory of calling out for pain medication and answers in the recovery room and being ignored by scurrying staff. One of the ditzy nurses in my ward thought it would be funny to draw a detailed face on my wound dressing for some reason. I still cannot explain that one. Another nurse had an ironclad way of doing things and coldly informed me that I would be doing things her way, right down to how I held the television remote control. The rest of the nursing staff were extremely helpful and caring and were quick to help me with any supplies or medication refills that I needed.

By the end of the first week in the hospital I was up and around for brief periods, walking around the floor and alternating my rest from bed to chair. I watched a lot of television. I had brought CDs and books, but I never got around to them - I had no attention span and slept often. My dad left after a week to attend to some business matters back in Nebraska that needed his attention, but thankfully my mom stayed with me the rest of the time to help out and just be there for support. It was also during this period that my IV was moved back to my left arm. I also began sucking on ice cubes and put the sponge aside. The nose tube and catheter had been removed by this time as well. Slight gas pains gave way to some of the worst nausea ever somewhere around Day 7. This was all normal and to be expected, but it didn't make living through it any more easy. Ever had to vomit with a slash in your abdomen? The recoil pains were every bit as painful as they sound and the night seemed to last forever. I cannot be thankful enough that my mom was there to help cool down my fever with cold towels. Thanks, Mom! Within a day though it seemed my bowels had kicked on again and things passed (no pun intended) with much fanfare and hope. I was on track to be released within a day or two.

After a surgical procedure such as mine some bowels need only four days to reawaken. Mine required seven, it seemed. What was initially planned to be only a one week stay in the hospital kept growing longer and longer as my bowels refused to cooperate with what the rest of my body wanted to do. I had done so much walking around the floor that the nurses began admiring my stamina. I grew bored and frustrated quickly. Once my intestines did get with the program I was presented with various "clear" liquids: cranberry juice, Jell-O, and italian ice. I don't know how these qualify as clear liquids as my own clear liquid diets consist of only transparent drinks. But I was advised to go ahead with them and things kept looking up for me.

Finally, on Day 11 (5/23/03), I was told that if I could keep down some actual real honest-to-goodness food then I would be released. Breakfast: dry scrambled eggs. Lunch: Soggy glazed ham slice. This was to be the end of things as I was approved for release just before noon. I was unhooked from the IV and was told to wait around another hour or so for a doctor to bring up my prescription for new pain pills. I took off the gown for the last time and put on my normal street clothes. An hour passed. Then another. And another. My mom began to grow impatient at the delays and anytime I asked about the status of this little piece of paper I was told that the doctor would be up "any minute". Sometime after 4pm dinner arrived: sliced prepackaged turkey. It seemed to me that if I could safely digest the hospital's "safe" food, then my own easy-to-digest cooking would be simple to handle.

It wasn't until 5pm that the doctor arrived, gave me the paper, and then said I was free to go. A wheelchair was brought up and I left my little hospital room with the spectacular view of downtown Tampa. I'm left with painful six inch vertical wound in my abdomen, a decreased appetite (as I'm sure my stomach has shrunk to the size of a golf ball from non-use by this point), a prescription for Percocet and Reglan pills, and several weeks of recovery ahead of me. My mom goes home to Nebraska tomorrow and things are looking good for my recovery. I'm back to eating real food already - lunch today was a ham, chicken, & cheese sandwich, for example - and I'm sure I'll be back at work before I know it.

It's been a long, sometimes painful journey to get this far. Was it all worth it? Well, let me say this: ever since the surgery I have had only pains from the incision itself, not from my intestine. That old bowel pain seems to be gone and the alien that threatened to punch his way through my gut seems to be dead. Hopefully he won't be back.