Post-Op In The Hospital: Scar, Strawberry Shake, Silence

I don’t remember much about waking up in the recovery unit. Just flashes of Dr. Cohen, a nurse, my family. Someone patting a cool wash cloth against my lips and forehead. Then there were ice chips. I asked the same question over and over: Did Dr. Cohen remove my entire thyroid? A voice would say, “No. Just the tumor and right side.” I drifted in and out of darkness. I would open my eyes to epic brightness and noise. People moving all around in green scrubs. My father sitting in the chair in the curtained-off area. “Just rest, Christine.”

Tightness in my neck. Pain. Tingling lips. Piercing sore throat.

I don’t remember being moved to my private room. But it was more comfortable than the recovery unit. It looked like a hotel room. I changed into PJ pants and a V-neck T-shirt. I got the OK to drink cherry coke—my dad brought in a case—the nurses enjoyed it like it was contraband. “Take a soda!” I told them. I couldn’t eat yet, but wasn’t hungry anyway.

Pressure cuffs on my legs inflated in and out. I was hooked up to an IV pumping fluids and pain meds. I felt constrained and claustrophobic and a little panicky.

I asked my dad to bring me my makeup bag. I retrieved a compact and looked at my neck for the first time in the little, powder smeared mirror. Slit across my neck. A thin red line, with stitches sewn in and little half bows tied at either end. I knew it would heal and fade, but in that moment, staring at it head on, all new and raw and there forever, I snapped the compact shut and turned over. I watched the drip-drip-drip slipping into the IV bag. It was silent all around me except for the occasional beep or shuffle down the hallway.

***

Some hot resident woke me up at 5 am to check my neck. Of course he did. He told me his name but I asked for his first name instead. “I’m just going to call you Dr. Jared,” I said. After he examined me, we talked about non-thyroid Cancer things for a little bit, at 5 am, with un-brushed teeth. It was a definite highlight to this BS.

***

My friend Gustavo came to visit me. He brought me a strawberry shake and ushered me around the floor for some exercise. The nurses called him “blue eyes.” He left. I stayed.

Day was falling into night. Outside, the sky turned purple and I started counting the drip-drip-drips until I fell asleep.

***

Dr. Cohen discharged me the next day, reminding me to make an appointment for next week to go over the pathology and discuss our next steps.

I could tell in his voice and mannerisms, I wasn’t done here yet.

Home was strange. Jack was at the shore with uncle Carlo for the week so I could recoup in peace. Lucy was excited to see me, wiggling uncontrollably and happy crying behind the gate in the kitchen. I took a Percocet and melted into my comfortable, soft, marshmallow-y bed. Lucy jumped on top and spooned me. I think I slept for 12 hours.

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