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Surgery Story, pt 1



Back to topic... Surgery was September 30, 2005. It was a day mixed with fear, and hopeful expectation. I had been miserable for so long with escalating symptoms, I was hoping for some kind of miracle that would restore me to the person I used to be. The fear comes in, because of the nature of the surgery. The Pituitary gland is located in the center of the head, under the hypothalamus, which is situated right under the brain. No slips, guys, no slips. To make it more complicated, my tumor was positioned adjacent to an artery. The surgeon's concern was in how much involvement the arterial wall would have with the tumor. Would it be like oil and water, adjacent but not joined? Or like soap bubbles? (My analogies.)


We were up and at Presbyterian Hospital before sunrise. I was prepped and ready for surgery by 07:15, surgery was scheduled for 07:30. Fr. Filmore came in to visit at the early hour and say a prayer or two with me and the family. Surgery took about an hour, as suggested earlier by the doctors. They felt they had been successful in removing all the tumor. It was no bigger than the size of a pea, but the damage it caused systemically! I was in ICU for monitoring by 10AM.


I vaguely remember husband Harold and mother-in-law Doris standing by, and they were joined by my father and his wife, and our dear friend Florence (Jon's godmother). I was shoved into a corner of ICU that had not been used for patients recently, but rather storage space. Thankfully it had a view out a window. ICU is a very busy place, with beeps and buzzers and people coming and going all hours. I was very quickly becoming a pincushion with cortisol and insulin injections periodically. I had to have the cortisol, because the tumor had created an abnormally high level of it, which was akin to a constant drug overdose, and I had to be brought down gradually through synthetic means. When I received a cortisol shot, about 30 minutes later, they would check my blood sugar, and follow-up with an insulin shot to regulate that.


I chose my mother-in-law to be my primary nurse, as she was stable and a practiced unlicensed nurse, having cared for her disabled husband his last 12-15 years. She is also in better condition, than either of my parents who are years younger. (Doris celebrated her 80th in 2006.) She will be my heroine for time to come.


I was released to home care after 5 days. Among the contra-indications to watch out for was a salty taste. With my sinuses draining, I was cautioned not to blow my nose or sniff too hard. Oh and watch out for sneezes, if it has to happen, it must be open mouth. Try that one time, not easy. I was laying in bed a week after surgery, just wondering what to have fixed for breakfast. I did a little sniffle, more like a swallow. A few moments later I started with a funny taste. Then as I came to realize it was that salty taste, I became alarmed and headed toward the closest bathroom with my nose squeezed tight and mouth closed.


THIS GETS GRAPHIC, though I have toned down from 1st attempt: I realized I was bleeding. I got to the toilet as the scar tissue opened at the back of my sinus cavity, where the surgeon had cut through to the tumor. I was trying to yell for Doris who was two rooms away, breathe through the torrent, clean up the mess, flush the toilet, and keep my calm. I would stop and breathe and then try to time a yell. She FINALLY heard me after what seemed an eternity. As she entered the bedroom asking for me, I started yelling, "9-1-1, 9-1-1!"


When the medics arrived sometime later, I was still bleeding, though not as profusely, clotting action was starting to fill up my sinuses. They were trying to have me place an ice packover my nose, which would have interfered with flow out my nostril, I told them it wouldn't help where the trouble was. I was afraid I might choke or gag on having to swallow anymore. I know I tried several times to tell them this was a result of pituitary tumor surgery. Then I began to wonder if they knew where it was? The bleeding finally stopped, my sinuses were packed with clotted blood.


They asked if I could get to the gurney that had arrived in the bedroom. I had been squatting over the toilet for maybe 10 to 15 minutes, and lost who knows how much blood. I held on to the medics as I was assisted up and made the brief walk. After getting strapped in, I insisted on bringing my small trash can with me, in case I popped the cork again. I remember hugging it for the ride to the ambulance, sitting upon the gurney, afraid to lay back again. I was telling the medics to get me to Mercy South, the closest hospital. We got into the ambulance and played 50 questions again, "What day is it, who is the president, who am I, what happened?" I was getting agitated... Then I passed out. Next thing I knew we were lights and siren on 485 heading to the hospital.


We talked some more as they checking my blood pressure, I was in the very low range if they could measure it at all. Oops, passing out again... I awoke for our arrival at the hospital. I was placed in their ICU triage. Who is my doctor? I explained again who my surgeon was, and they happened to have one of his associates working surgeries there that day. They would bring him in for a look-see. While we were awaiting his arrival I passed out again. They couldn't get fluid into me fast enough to build up my pressure. Harold, Doris and George arrived, after having made the trip uptown to where I had the original surgery. Doris wasn't listening when I had told the medics where to go.


The good Dr. Miltich arrived in-between surgeries. He took my hand right away when I reached for him. I believe he sensed my need for knowledgeable aid. I explained the particulars, and he told the staff he would work me in his schedule and take a look. He was unable to locate the specific site of the bleed, but he cleaned up my sinuses, pumped my stomach, and placed a "gel-pack" in the right sinus to keep a level of pressure on the surgical site. This gel-pack would dissolve in time, a biodegradable product.


I was admitted to ICU once again, for overnite observation, as my blood pressure was still quite low, and they continued to pump me up with IV saline. I spent a very restless night, as they had a monitor for my oxygen level, and if went below a certain parameter it would alert. Anytime I managed to drift off to sleep, it would alert, because my breathing would get too shallow, thus not taking in enough oxygen even with an open humidified oxygen mask.


That's enough for this sitting!




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