Friday, November 04, 2005

Waking Up During Surgery: Not Recommended

I had some surgery on Monday morning. It was traumatizing.
Oh, not the actual cutting-open-my-body part of the surgery.
That was bearable. It was the other parts.

First of all, my friend Mabel said they would give me something
so I wouldn't be so nervous. Wrong! I got a big ol' bag of salt
water, or saline, as they like to call it so they can charge your
insurance more. Yep, that's all I had until they were getting
ready to cut into me. I had to be there at 7:00 am, and then
was wheeled to and fro for some tests and preparations. At
one point a wire was inserted into a body part, and the people
discussed how it was really too far in, but they didn't want to
put it in the right place since it might just fall out. I had a little
shot like a dentist shot so the wire-inserting didn't hurt--it was
just a little stressful. The wire-inserters were very polite and
reassuring, though.

The anesthesiologist told me that my "sensitivity" to lidocaine
was nonexistent. Okaaaaay....I didn't make it up. Three
times I'd had my blood pressure shoot up after being injected
with lidocaine. Once for removal of a skin lesion, and twice
at two different dentists. I went to an allergist at St. Louis
University Hospital, who came to the conclusion that I had
a sensitivity to it, and said to take metoprolol 30 minutes
before any shot of lidocaine or its family. I did, and no more
shooting blood pressure. So the anesthsiologist acted like
I'd just told him that I found my baby under a cabbage leaf
or something. Like he was humoring me. He said it was
due to the epinephrine in the lidocaine. I told him that I
had called the doctor and both dentists to ask if their shots
had included epinephrine (per instructions of the allergist),
and ALL THREE had said, "No." The anesthesiologist
said, "They always tell you that."

I didn't have to have general anesthesia, just a local with
IV sedation. Any other surgeries I've had, they give you
a little something in the IV when they come to your room
to get ready to wheel you down to the OR. Not this time.
I was wheeled past all the bringing-back-from-the-dead
machinery to the OR. There, they made me climb on the
operating table, strapped my legs down, and tied my arms
down. Then the anesthsiologist had the nerve to ask me,
"How are you feeling?" "Kind of panicky," I replied. "Oh.
But not short of breath or anything? We'll take care of that
in just a minute." Finally, they put something in the IV, so
I did not know the moment of actual incision. I took a nice
little nap.

UNTIL...I woke up, and the surgeon was digging around.
"Ow. I can feel that." The nurse said, "She can feel that."
The surgeon said, "And she's gonna feel this too, but will
she remember it?" That kind of upset me. Because you bet
I remembered it, and every single thing they said next,
because my freakin' anesthetic had worn off, and they
didn't give me anything else! B*****ds!

So here are some of the conversations:

Don't you wish you could just perform surgery all day and
not have to talk to the patients?
Yeah, I would love that. I would even work in the ER. All
they'd have to do is tell me what the patient needed surgery on.
Like, "Take out this gallbladder."
You know that's not how it works. I thought they'd never
take out mine. You go to the doctor and he says it needs to
come out. Then it gets so bad that you go to the ER, then
they take it out.
You wouldn't believe some of the people that come in my
office. They think they're having surgery right then. They
think I'm taking out their gallbladder in the office.
Take that to X-ray.
Can we clean her up? (no answer)
I'll go down there myself to hurry them up. (exit surgeon)
How's it going over there? (the other operating room)
Not good. He can't get the catheter in. They've tried about
5 times.
I can just imagine what G******'s yelling.
He didn't say to clean her up.
I'm sure we're done. He said he had a good feeling.
He said it was small, and he took out a chunk the size
of my fist.
Well, if he has to go back in, you're prepping her.
Hey, where's the end of that needle?
I don't know. I clamped and he moved. It broke off.
Do you see it?
No. Wait, here it is. Oops. It just fell on the floor.
We'll get it later.
I don't want anybody to step on it.
I don't think anybody will be walking around the OR in their
bare feet.
Look at my shoes. I got merthiolate blue all over them.
Do I leave this wire in the specimen?
I do.
Why? They're not looking at the wire. It's just something
that'll poke them.
I guess it won't matter. Want me to go ask them? (exit)

They said leave in the wire.

It fell out.
(enter surgeon)
We have to go back in?
That wasn't very funny, coming in with that mask on.
Bandage her up.
Uh, this is a two-hand job.
That's OK. You've got two hands.
All done.
Here, climb over on this bed again.

Now, I know these people aren't thrilled to be working on
ol' Hillbilly Mom at 9:30 am on Halloween. But if I say that
it hurts, and I can feel what they're doing to me, don't you
think they might lay off with the shop talk? Because I am
NOT asleep or sedated, and I can FREAKIN' HEAR
everything they are saying!

I am trying to be reasonable. It must have been near the
end, when he was almost done. Maybe they needed me
to be awake in time to climb onto the wheelie bed. But even
the torture-championship dentist will give you some gas, or a
shot of painkiller if you're feeling the procedure.

All personnel were extremely polite and professional to my
face. But if someone is talking during the surgery, and says
they can feel pain, then, um...maybe they could at least say
"almost done" or "this'll be a big stick" or some such thing.
Validate me, people! I'm AWAKE DURING SURGERY!
WIDE awake! I can repeat your conversations!

The nurse who wheeled me into the operating room was
standing by my strapped-down right arm. When I said I could
feel it, and they were making comments about would I remember
it, a tear rolled down my face into my ear. Because it hurt, and
in case I haven't mentioned it, I WAS AWAKE DURING
SURGERY! I wanted to wipe that tickley tear away, but I
couldn't because my hands were strapped down with velcro.
Darn that guy who invented velcro! That nurse on my right at
least put her hand over mine. Like she knew this was upsetting.
Or maybe she just leaned over to rest a roll of fat on my hand.
I don't know, because they had that blue paper stuff up around
my neck so I couldn't see. I guess that's in case people WAKE
UP, huh?

So I was not a happy camper. I wanted to say to the doctor
when I went to my office visit on Thursday: "I know you don't
like talking to patients in your office, and wish you could just
cut them up without having to deal with them, BUT...the
patients don't really like hearing about this when you are
in the middle of operating on them."

But I didn't. I am a non-confrontational kind of gal. The hospital
called on Wednesday to ask if there was anything they could
have done to make my visit better. I said, "Yes. Make sure I
didn't WAKE UP DURING SURGERY!" The lady said, "We'll
make a note of that." Then she hung up speedy quick. I think she
was humoring me. She was probably in a headset, with a bunch
of other customer service reps, twirling her finger around her
ear in the universal sign for "I've got that looney Hillbilly Mom
on the line, and man, is she whacked out on the fake vicodin!"

I also got a letter from the hospital asking that I let them know
if there was any reason that I could not rate my experience as
'excellent'. I think I have a reason. It gave the phone number
of the nurse manager of outpatient surgery. I am thinking of
writing her a letter with the details of the conversations. If I tell
her by phone, I have a feeling they'll just think I'm hallucinating
or planning a lawsuit. What do you think? Should I write them
a letter with the specifics? I mean, what could they do, give me
coupons for half-off my next surgery? On the other hand, what
if they put a big red star by my name, and take it out on me
next time? "Hey, here comes that whistle-blower Hillbilly Mom.
Let's make this visit memorable!"

I am deliberating. What should I do?


Blogger deadpanann said...

Do it. You must.

12:40 PM  
Blogger MamaKBear said...

OMG Hillbilly Mom! How horrible! You actually just went thru one of my biggest fears..waking up DURING surgery! Wish I could give you a hug!

Damn doctors...they just don't show sensitivity much anymore do they?

Definitely at least write a letter detailing your experience, including the conversations you heard! I'm actually leaning toward lawsuit, but don't know if it'd be worth it in the end.

Hope you are recovering okay!

1:50 PM  
Blogger Hillbilly Mom said...

Miss Ann,
I was going to do it this morning, but I had to go BACK to the Dr. because they messed up my excuse for work. That'll be tomorrow's blog fodder.

Thanks for the virtual hug. My school friends discussed it amongst themselves, looked at each other, and said: "Lawsuit." Kind of like those Animal House guys when they said: "Roadtrip" I'll bet. But you know, it's my word against a surgeon, anesthesiologist, and 3 nurses (and whoever else they brought in to see the show), so I doubt it would go anywhere. They'd just say I was hallucinating. But how'd I know the surgeon in the next room, and what case he was working on, huh? Huh? Sorry, I thought I was in the courtroom.

2:39 PM  
Blogger L said...

You absolutely need to tell them what happened. For you to wake up during suregery, then they didn't even acknowledge that you were awake! Girl I would be on the phone with so many "hospital representatives" they wouldn't know what hit em!
I don't know about a lawsuit, but maybe you can scare em into a settlement?

4:03 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Hi Hillbilly Mom,
I think writing a letter to them is a very good idea. Either that, or just link to your blog for them, to see the world already knows what they did.

5:22 PM  
Blogger jules said...

I'd go for the half off coupons. Don't want that red star by your name next time you or hubby go in. You might come out with a sex change operation.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Hillbilly Mom said...

Yo! L!
I think they just won't believe me. I think they'll just humor me and then laugh about it. But I will write that letter.

Oooh! They might give me nasty comments on my blog. Like, "Hey! Can you feel THIS? Can you remember THIS?"

Yikes! I am fine as I am, thanks. Not that there's anything wrong with that. As long a it's something that's been planned, and you don't wake up in the middle of a tonsillectomy and find that now you need to use the OTHER restroom.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't even hesitate on writing it all down and letting them know. I think you should send thema copy and keep the original for yourself.

Hopefully you will gain serenity from this mishap soon.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Hillbilly Mom said...

I am going to send a letter. That will help me get over it. For two nights, I couldn't sleep, because I kept thinking about it when I laid down.

I checked out your blogs. Love your art. I could never do a thing with color. With pencil, I was average. At least you could tell what I drew. Congratulations on your 1st place "Autumn in Michigan."

12:31 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

The minimum you should do is speak to the OR supervisor. You should also speak to the head of the anesthesiology dept. THAT IS THE MINIMUM YOU SHOULD DO. My best friend is a nurse anethesiologist, I will ask her what she thinks, but I can almost assure you that she will think it's a load of crap that they continued with the surgery much less the conversation you overheard. As for your word against theirs. The neighboring surgery's records with indicate the number of catheter attempts, a number YOU should not be aware of.

COMPLAIN! In person, in writing to the hospital administrator, the head of anesthesiology, the medical director and the AMA. What you experienced it wrong.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Chickadee said...

I'm glad you have decided to write a letter. That behavior is absolutely inexcusable. Be as detailed as you can. By the way, which hospital were you at? I live in St. Louis and I know of at least one hospital that has developed an unfavorable reputation. I'm curious if it's the same hospital.

I've been a lurker...I'm coming out! LOL.


7:18 PM  
Blogger Hillbilly Mom said...

I have just finished a 4-page letter to the Director of Surgical Services explaining (as their letter requested) "any reason you can not describe your care as 'excellent'."

I am afraid to go back there now, whether for the same thing happening again, or for them being out to get me for being a "whistle-blower."

The hospital is not in St Louis. It is in the 63640 zip code. There is more than one hospital there. Take your pick.

I put as much detail in my letter as I could, with who said what. I don't really want punishment for anybody
--just for that not to happen to anyone else. Especially ME!

8:00 PM  
Blogger MrsCoach2U said...

My father-in-law works at a hospital in maintanence and I'm pretty sure he told me that at least one of their OR's had sound recording and most surgeries have video recordings. If push comes to shove, I'd ask for your recording.

8:36 AM  

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