I was in the recovery room for a total of nine hours before moving to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). At the same time, my husband and daughter arrived at the hospital and were told I had moved out of the recovery area to the ICU, but given no additional information. While the nurses helped get me settled, my husband and daughter walked into the ICU. They tried to look cheerful and happy to see me; however, I could immediately read the concern in their faces. I hadn’t seen any mirrors, but I could imagine I must have looked awful since I had been through a rough day that was lasting into the night.
The beds in the ICU were surrounded by see-through windows so there was little to no privacy. Each section was equipped with a camera in the ceiling. The nurse assigned to me explained that the camera was there “so doctors interested in checking in on their patients could do so by logging on to a computer.” However, since I was heavily medicated and experiencing shock from the surgery and extensive pain, I felt odd with the camera in the room. I felt as if every move I made was being taped. Not that I am a paranoid person, but medication can cause your mind to do odd things. Wanting to lighten up the mood, I joked to the nurse that now I understood why that section of the hospital was called ‘I C U.’ She didn’t think my comment was funny.
The outside of the ICU was next to the helicopter pad with a helicopter that came and left constantly, day and night. It made it difficult to sleep. In addition, there was an older gentleman who had brain surgery earlier that evening. Sadly, he screamed obscenities for two days straight (even words I had never heard!). The nurses were yelling back at him telling him to shut up. They even joked telling me details of his surgery and what was ’wrong’ with him. I felt odd hearing the private details of another patient and one I knew was in pain and not acting like himself. I often think back to those restless nights, hurting and also wondering if I should have been screaming along with him.
I was required to stay at a 45 degree angle for 48 hours — not because of the cervical discectomy and fusion — but because of the ‘little problem with the nerves on my right side that occurred during surgery.‘ I was unable to get out of bed or shift my position. When my husband arrived in the early afternoon the day after surgery, he became upset and angry because I had vomit all over my chest and my hospital gown. Throwing up was especially difficult when you are unable to sit up or lean over. My husband also learned I had not eaten since arriving in the ICU. He was told “I missed the food tray because I had fallen asleep during the time that they had dropped off and picked up the trays.”
At about that same time, the doctor who did the surgery, called using his cell phone, from the soccer field where his son was playing. He informed me again he was on vacation, but was spending time in town with his family. I immediately explained how sick I was, that I hadn’t had anything to eat, about the increasing pain in my right arm and hand and how I hadn‘t slept all night. He mentioned he would have his physician’s assistant stop by and sign the order for medication for the nausea and make sure the order included food. I asked him if another neurosurgeon was going to be checking on me since I knew there was a problem during surgery. He quickly respond with a quick ‘no!’ Several hours later the physician’s assistant stopped by, signed his orders, and I was given medication to stop the nausea along with a bagel and ginger ale. No one mentioned the pain in my arm. When I think back, was I only worthy of a telephone call after what I had gone through? Who was going to explain to me why I was going through such a horrible ordeal?
During his visit the following day, my husband accidentally brushed up against my arm. When he did, it felt like a thousand knives cutting into my arm. The pain was like nothing l had ever felt. I also was unable to use my arm or hand, but was told it was temporary. I was a person who was extremely right-handed so I was beginning to feel lost not being able to move my arm. Still scared and unsure of what was occurring, I knew I was heavily medicated so I would stop complaining and ultimately, stop asking questions.
During my time in the ICU and despite the medication, I only slept a few hours. Between the helicopter noise, the screaming patient, the nurses in and out pin pricking me and taking vitals every 30 minutes as well as the constant pain in my arm, I was unable to rest, which added to my frustration as well as my sadness.
The next day during his visit, my husband made a comment about the blood spots on my arm and hand. I mentioned that they must be on my entire body since I had been pin pricked every 30 minutes during the last two days. He glanced over my feet, legs, arms, torso and said that every few inches I had needle marks. While I knew they were conducting the test quite regularly, I didn’t know why it was being done and what the results were. Again, no one was answering our questions or giving a straight-forward response. Since I wasn’t allowed to move my position, I didn’t know if I would be able to stand or even walk. Later that night, alone in the ICU, I cried for hours. Not once did the nurse ask me what was wrong or if I needed anything. Was I feeling sorry for myself? Probably. Was it warranted? Definitely!
©My Unplanned Life and http://www.shakinguplife.wordpress.com, 2011.