My 5 days of fun in the ICU.

Posted on 07/25/2013


All I wanted was one small chunk of ice.

I went in for hernia repair surgery on Friday. It was scheduled for 730am so we had to be there at 545 to get prepped and ready. Wife and I were the first ones there. We checked in and I got my paper bracelet with name d.o.b. and other stuff.

I would need to know my name and date of birth a lot over the next 5 days.

This was my third hernia repair surgery. I have had two others for the same spot, right above my belly button. Both ended up torn, the second one was really strange and the surgeon I went to this time had no idea what to expect when he got in there.  It was kind of like exploratory surgery. He couldn’t tell me much until he got in there. His goal was to do it laprascopically but if he had to, he was fully prepared to cut me open. I gave him Carte Blanche. I wanted this to be the last time I ever got this surgery.

My last two were day surgeries and I was out of the hospital by that evening. The doc told me this time to expect to at least spend the night in the hospital. Fair enough.

They got my IV hooked up in my hand (a painful process I don’t care what they say) and was met by the surgery crew. They all seemed friendly and competent. They wheeled me back in and I was out for 2 hours while my doc worked his magic. I woke up like normal in recovery feeling like a truck had run me over. I puked a lot on my last surgery, and let me tell you, you don’t want to vomit on a stomach that just got operated on! Luckily I forewarned the doc and they got me some anti nausea stuff. I didn’t throw up, but he’ll maybe I should have.

They wheeled me from the general recovery area to a smaller recovery room. I  was there everything started to fall apart.  I started to come around more. Not all the way, but a little. I usually take almost a day to sleep off the anesthesia. This day would be no different. I remember an Indian male nurse asking me my birthday and name, and a few more questions, then I passed out again…only this time when I woke up the room was full of doctors and nurses yelling my name.

Apparently I did something known as “Vagaling Down” which means my blood pressure dropped so low that my body shut down all non essential functions, including being awake. When this happens, it has the appearance of a seizure. Your eyes roll back, your arms lock in front of you, and you jerk for a few seconds.

It scared the shit out of my wife.

I didn’t know. I woke up looking around going, “What’s up?” My surgeon was there, looking over a bunch of nurses, and my told me later they were about to apply the paddles to my chest. What the hell!?

So they wheeled me back into the general recovery area because they had more people there watch us. I was assigned a man named Jim. He was maybe 50. Pleasant enough. I liked him.

My blood pressure wouldn’t go above like 85 over 50.  Really freaking low. So they wouldn’t give me any painkillers. I lay there in agony. Wanting a sip of something. But they wouldn’t let me drink yet. Even ice chunks. I had to pee. They gave me a pee capture device, I filled it up and was happy. They won’t let you leave the hospital if you can’t pee on your own. It would be the last time I peed on my own for four days.

I was in and out for a while, not entirely conscious. Many nurses came by and they were like faces in the crowd, spinning close, then away. Luckily, I never threw up.  With no painkillers, it may have driven me out of my mind. The pain was already bad enough where I wanted to murder kittens in their sleep.

I overheard someone say they should put me ICU. I then fell back asleep. Then, a few hours later, I had the sense of them wheeling me into a room. I guess they changed their mind and were putting me in a regular room. The sun shone in. I remember that. I think it was around 4:30 in the afternoon.

I felt the need to pee again, but it was a dull feeling. I didn’t want to stand up and apparently they weren’t going to let me. I tried to pee in the urinal thing again, but couldn’t stay alert enough to do it. I told them to catheterize me. Without painkillers. I was that far gone.

The nurse, Jennifer, pulled my gown away, while Jim helped hold me down. I didn’t watch. I have never had a catheter before. I had no idea what to expect.

The feeling of her shoving that tube down my poor innocent giant wiener was the wrongest thing I have ever felt. It hurt so bad, I started yelling as Jim held me down. And she kept going. It felt like she was ramming a white hot poke down my urethra. When Jim yelled, “She’s pushing past the prostate now!” I almost fainted, but held on.

Pushing past the prostate. Holy shit. Agony, personified. I lay there for a few seconds afterward, feeling used and drained. But I wouldn’t have to try to pee in the urinal again.

Jim said, ‘I know this is going to be hard, but I need you try to push.”

I did. I had good flow. We were done.

Unbeknownst me, this would not be the most trying thing I did Friday.

The sun went down. My room was nice. Blue walls, dark wooden floor. Obligatory TV.  I slept most of the time. My monitors kept going off all the time, and the nurse finally decided that she would need to do some more action on me.

They took me to get a CT scan, pushing the drugs into me for the image. I had to move my JUST OPERATED body from my bed to the CT scan table. It hurt so bad to move, I almost passed out. But managed to hold it together. Then I had to hold my arms above my head and hold my breath. Did I mention I just got out of surgery. I could hold my breath maybe 10 seconds. Then we had to move me back to the bed. The same agonizing pain all over again. Holy crap it felt like my insides were ripping asunder.

I write this next scene with a lump in my throat. It was truly the most miserable night of my life.

The nurse, to keep my heart rate up, raised my feet above my head, lowered my head down below them. So that I was like a seesaw, with my head lower than feet.

I still had no painkillers. I still had not received anything to drink. I couldn’t manage any spit at this point. My chest was sore from the anesthesia, and the surgery. I couldn’t take a deep breath. I was in agony. I couldn’t move to my side, having to lie on my back.

I laid there for hours, taking shallow breaths. Not ever able to completely catch my breath because my entire body was upside down and my chest hurt to expand it. I begged the nurse to flip me up for just one minute to let me catch my breath, but she wouldn’t let me. Said it was too dangerous. I begged her for just one ice chip to tongue around my mouth. She wouldn’t saying that I might choke. I asked if I could have a shot of painkiller. She couldn’t because my blood pressure.

I lay there like that, breathing in shallow chunks, all night. Hating my life.

Oh, I forgot to mention one more thing: Every hour, I would emerge from my half-sleep/shallow breathing to wake all the way up. I don’t know why, but I did. And when I did…I would immediately feel nauseous and the room would spin and I would break into a cold sweat, and I would lose my hearing…all sounds would fade…then, it would go away. My sweating would stop, the throw up feelings would go away, and I could hear again. Yeah, that happened every hour or so. That was me “vagaling” again. Just not as extreme as before. So I broke into those cold sweats about 6 times that night, each one growing less than the one before.

Finally at 630 AM Saturday my blood pressure came up to 90/60, enough to where they could raise my head up. They did. The instant relief was something I will always remember. I took a few deep breaths. They hurt like a somebitch, but I didn’t care. Then they gave me a sip of Sprite.

That was the best damned Sprite I have ever had or will ever have.

So that morning, I got to partake in a liquid breakfast. Some broth and some sugar free jello. I wasn’t very hungry but I got it down. My blood pressure was still low. The doctors were asking for “Lab work” that means sticking me with a needle. Over the 5 days I was in the hospital, they ran out of places on my arms they could poke me to get blood. I will never be afraid to give blood again. When they say, “Big sting here” Whatever. I felt that shit so many times that it had no effect.

So that Saturday afternoon, my day time nurse said it was time for me to try and stand up. They brought me a chair to sit in. I slowly got up, gently swung my legs over the edge of the bed. She set the top of the bed all the way up. I used it to slide myself to a sitting position. I immediately felt nauseous again and told he. She told me to lean on her. I did. She smelled nice. She patted my back.

Then I woke up looking up at my wife. Having the nurse yelling, “CODE BLUE I NEED HELP IN HERE!”

I looked around as my wife slapped my face yelling my name. I was like, “what?”

My wife had tears in her eyes. She was freaked.

They put me back in bed and a parade of doctors (Surgeons, internists, cardiologists, etc) and nurses and staff came by to see me. They took more “Lab work” and decided it was time to give me some blood. My hemoglobin counts were 7. They should be 15.

So here I was about to receive another person’s blood. A donor. Someone who took time out of their day to go by a Carter Blood Bank location, sit there, and let someone poke them with a needle. They didn’t know me. I didn’t know them. But here they were, practically saving my life.

They gave me two units, which should have raised me up to 9 in my hemo counts. They had to put another IV into my arm. So I had two in one arm. Yeah. Try that one on for a minute.

A few hours and “lab works” later, they said I was at 7. I was still losing blood

I was still on a liquid diet, but the nurse permitted me to have some chicken noodle soup. OH YES. Best I have ever had. EVER.

It was right about now where I found out I was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Someone mentioned it. I had no idea. From my bed, it looked like a normal room. Well, I couldn’t see what was above my head. It was an insane number of monitors and machines.

Saturday night they let me sleep normally, thank God. I couldn’t handle it again. I was starting to worry about something else though. Pooping.

I couldn’t get out of bed. I had not pooped in three days. I asked the nurse at the time. He brought in a pan and told me they would just put it under me while I pooped in the bed. Then they would clean me up later.

That was wholly unacceptable to me, but what could I do? This was just one more thing that gnawed at me. You know, hubris is a stupid thing. But we’ve all got it. I would have to swallow my pride and just do it. Thankfully, I just farted a lot but never had to poop while I was there.

They were telling me they were going to try and get me up again Sunday I was scared.

Sunday morning, my surgeon came in.

He told me they were going to give me two more units of blood. If my body didn’t take them, he was going to go back into my guts and find out what was going on. When he said that, my heart froze. Would I have to go through what I had on Friday night again? My nurse came in and shook her head and said I couldn’t have anything to eat the rest of the day. All I’d eaten had been two bites of a banana and chicken broth. And no more food!!??!?!!?!?

They took me for another CT scan. Holy crap, it hurt almost as much as the first time. I still couldn’t’ hold my breath much. Yuck. While transporting me from the table to the CT machine, my gown flew open and the nurse did her best to cover me up. I replied, “So many people have seen my junk, I have no issues with humility.”

They brought the blood in. Loaded me up. A had a lot of visitors that day. The supervisor nurse came in and asked everyone to leave. He then told me that the numbers didn’t go back up and my surgeon was gathering the team to do an emergency surgery.

I am not a big “crier” I just don’t cry that much. But I almost lost it then and started to cry. He saw the look on my face and said, “We need to know what is going on inside you to make you better.”

I understood logically. Emotionally I didn’t know if I could go through all this again. I was spent.

They brought my family and friends back in. I explained to them my fears. I was going into emergency surgery, with low blood pressure, and anemia (low blood).  None of them knew what I had gone through Friday night. But I did.

Soon after, my surgeon reappeared. I explained my fears to him. He tried his damndest to assuage them. He said he would go in and was hoping to find the problem quickly and get back out in thirty minutes.

He was in there for two hours.

Just as long as my first surgery.

My wife was freaking out.

I woke to darkness. I was wondering how much time had passed. It was dark in my room.

I think it was about 845 PM. I was lost. Where did the time go?

I had a new nurse who offered me an ice pop and a shot of morphine.

I gladly took both.

It was the best damn ice pop I EVER had. And when the morphine kicked in…I felt so wonderful. It was so awesome. I still get chills thinking about how the pain was FINALLY PUT AT BAY after 4 days of it beating me to death!!!!

I sucked on the ice pop, licked the wooden stick clean, then found out it was a two-fer! I ate the other one too. Sucked them down and asked for another one. By then it was almost 1130

The breathing lady came in and made me do my breathing therapy to keep me from getting pneumonia. Which is a huge issue if you’ve had so many surgeries so close together. Great.

She had me do the inhale thing. I sucked it half way up. She freaked out telling me I shouldn’t have that much lung capacity that soon after surgery. Then paused and asked me if I worked out.

I do.

A lot.


I fell asleep, the nurse kept giving me morphine.

Monday, I felt better.

I felt like myself. The doc told me that if I could hold down breakfast, he would let me have a solid lunch. I did. I got to eat real food for the first time in four days. It wasn’t great, but it was better than it should have been. I drank lots of drink (still catheterized!) and ate more ice pops and more everything. Peanut butter crackers. All kinds of stuff. They had started giving me blood while I had been awake…and this time, IT TOOK. I was up on my blood counts! Woohoo!

The surgeon had gone in and recauterized everything. He must have caught whatever it was.

They took me off the IV finally. It was time to take me of the catheter and let me pee on my own.

I was not looking forward to this, but luckily the same nurse who had put mine in was the one on shift. She knew what she did. She had me lie back and take a deep breath and then JERKED it out……..



Think of pulling a rubber hose through your hand, and it “catching” every few inches and vibrating. I screamed again. HOLY CRAP. But it was over fast.

So now, I was without IV, without catheter, and they had pulled the oxygen thing from my nose. I was almost completely free! They were going to keep me for that night and watch me, but I still had to GET UP and walk. I had been in a bed for 4 days. I was scared.

The time came. The nurse and I went through the same slow rotation of swinging the legs out. I felt very dizzy but not nauseous.

Thank GOD.

I leaned on her and she helped me to my feet. I stood completely up and still felt dizzy. She asked me if I had brushed my teeth. Nope. Not in four days. She slowly walked me to the restroom. I peed in the toilet on my own! W00t!  I then brushed my toofs. It’s the small things in life that matter, people.

I made it back to my recliner chair. I was winded and SORE AS HELL but I had made it. That meant I could GO HOME.

I sat in the chair for two hours before going back to the bed. My tailbone was so sore I couldn’t sit very long.

Still dizzy, but feeling great. Had dinner that night, watched some TV and then woke up.

My surgeon said he would be in at 1 PM.

The internist came in at 8 AM and told me he was releasing me. He just had to have the surgeon sign off and I could go home.

Surgeon came in at 11 AM ! He said he was releasing me and I could go !! Woohoo!!!

20 minutes later I was in the car, going home.

Posted in: Surgery