Saturday, April 21, 2012

Scared Stiff After Surgery

Hospital : Four surgeons looking down, low angle view
                                                                                                                                         


In April of 2009, my mom went in for a spinal fusion after years of suffering from spinal stenosis. Afterward, the surgeon told us that it was a success, and said that we could see our mom in the recovery room. She was very groggy, but we were so relieved that she was doing well. Little did we know what lie ahead. 

The next day my mom was progressing as expected. She seemed tired, so I suggested that she take a nap while I went for a walk. Two hours later my mom was still fast asleep. I tried gently nudging her, but she wouldn't wake up. I immediately called for the attending doctor, and he also had no luck arousing her. When I told him that he had to do something he blurted out, "I've never seen anything like this before!" Then he stormed out of the room.

In a panic I called the nurse's station and asked them to page her surgeon.  In the meantime, the nurse walked into the room, and began taking her blood pressure. As soon as she tightened the cuff, my mom's eyes opened wide. She never did like the pinching sensation. I wanted to wrap my arms around the nurse, but she was too busy asking my mom questions. Her responses were gibberish, and my heart started racing again.

My mom had an MRI of her brain to rule out a possible stroke. As the day went on, her speech would be fine one minute, and incoherent the next. I decided to stay overnight, because I wanted to stay close to my mom, and I also wanted to meet with her surgeon who started rounds between 7:00 and 8:00 am to discuss her care.

Fortunately, the results of her MRI were negative, and the x-rays showed that my mom was healing properly. I told the surgeon about the attending physician's negligence on the previous day, and another doctor was assigned to her case.

 Although we went back and forth with several specialists during her hospital stay, we think that her periods of deep sleep followed by slurred speech were a result of a very powerful combination of pain medications. As they gradually lowered her dosage we saw more glimpses of the mother we knew and loved.

The best example occurred late one day when my mother drifted into another deep sleep. A different nurse was in her room at the time, and she tried another technique. She applied a few cold washcloths to my mom's head. This worked immediately, and my mom was so upset that she threw it right back at the nurse.  My brother and I found this extremely amusing which only annoyed her more. Mom exclaimed, "You let her put those wet washcloths on my hair! What is wrong with you?" Then she flung the remaining washcloths at us.

30 comments:

  1. What a frightening experience both for both you and your mother, I had a vertabrae op in 1989 but pleased to say all went well although there is a weakness from the surgery.
    A good S post.
    Yvonne.

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  2. Thank goodness it was nothing more serious than a reaction to the meds.

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  3. Surgery is awful. My mom just had a bunch of them too, and it was really hard to watch. I'm glad your mother came through it all right.

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  4. My mom is in her 70's and had to have a knee replacement so kinda know bcuz they had my mom on stuff. Once we got the Dr to listen and take away the pharmacy she responded better

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  5. I'm laughing at your mother's tossing washcloths at you guys. But that is a scary situation to be in. Drug combos do pack a whammy on thinking and clear speech.

    I hope she is moving without pain now and is just as sassy three years later.
    :-)

    Sia McKye OVER COFFEE

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  6. I'm a firm believer that surgery should be avoided at all costs especially for the older set. Anesthesia and medications can really be dangerous for older folks as you illustrate here with your mom's experience. Glad she's ok.

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  7. When I was reading this, I was terrified of how it was going to end.

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  8. That was one scary story. I was glad to find out it turned out well in the end. She sounds like one feisty lady!

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  9. so glad it sounds like she is okay now--pretty frightening situation---hospitals scare me sometimes

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  10. Oh Julie, you must have been terrified... and don't get me started again about hospital negligence. I had my fill of that last year with my mum.
    Take care.

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  11. I went through a similar time with my mother in the hospital after she fell. She was seeing Santa Claus outside her window. So glad your mom eventually came around and was feisty enough to throw things at you. :)

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  12. That would be scary. My daughter used to get violent from the anesthetic. I'm glad she's OK now.

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    1. Ruth - How frightening to watch your daughter go through that! I hope she's well now, and doesn't have to endure more surgeries. Thanks Ruth!

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  13. LG - It's horrible how your mind can play tricks on you. I hope your mom is doing well now. Thanks LG!

    Rosalind - Sorry you went through so much with your mum last year. I know how much you still miss her Rosalind.

    Lynn - Miracles are performed every day in hospitals. This was just a strange exception.

    Thanks Lee, and she is!

    Tonja - I'm so glad that she got through it!

    Jen - This type of surgery was a last resort. My mom could barely move. She tried everything else first until there were no other options. My mom was 74 at the time, and I've heard of people in their late 80's undergoing open heart surgery. I agree that it's important to be aware of the risks of anesthesia and certain pain medications. Thanks Jen!

    Sia - She is pretty sassy, but she never complains when she's in pain. Thanks Sia!

    Gossip Girl - Glad your mom is doing better now. She's lucky to have you advocating for her. Thanks GG!

    SL - I hope your mom is doing okay now. Watching your mother go through all that must have been difficult for all of you. Thanks SL!

    Delores - We were very lucky! Thanks Delores

    Yvonne - All of your walks on the beach are keeping you in shape! Sorry it's still uncomfortable at times though. Thanks Yvonne! Julie

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  14. Even I went through the same situation when my dad went under the surgery where the doctors had to remove the are
    ( large intestine) where it was infected by Cancer...I understand your condition

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    1. Youmna - I'm so sorry that your family has been going through such a stressful time. I wish your dad all the best. Julie

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  15. Oh my gosh - what a horrifying time for you when you couldn't wake your mum up! Big big hugs! Oh but your poor mum - what spirit - long may she throw wet clothes at you for messing her hair!! And hooorah for the nurses - they seem to be on the ball here more than the docs!

    Take care
    x

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  16. Ah ha ha ha! I couldn't help laughing at your mum and the wash clothes. Yes, of course you should watch out for her hair. You must have been thrilled to see her regain her spirit!

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  17. Kitty - They really did have a wonderful nursing staff, and my mom is quite "spirited!" Big hugs to you Kitty!


    Talli - We knew that she was back to normal that day, and we were "thrilled!" We know better than to ever mess with my mom or her hair! Thanks Talli!

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  18. I love your mom, her comments are always so funny! But, what a terrifying thing to go through. I'm so glad she ended up okay, surgery of any kind can be such a scary thing.

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  19. What a scary situation, but so glad that everything was fine in the end.

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  20. What a situation that was!
    I bet I would be the same type of patient your mother was.
    A long time ago, under the influence of Demerol, I flung rice at the nurse and my family while explaining, "Look at the rainbows!!"
    Yes, I was in a hospital.

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  21. What a frightening experience. You feel so helpless, don't you, when someone you love is in that situation. There's nothing you can do but wait, and the waiting makes you crazy. Good for you for complaining about the attending physician--good grief, what was he *thinking*?!

    I'm so glad your mum came back to her old self.

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  22. Julie - The funny thing is that I wanted to write about my mom for my A to Z theme, but she didn't want me to. Although she's let me sneak in several stories! Thanks Julie!

    Thanks Susanne!

    Al - I hope there's a video! I've said some pretty silly things under sedation myself, but the scary part was not being able to wake her up for hours on end. BTW, I'm still laughing about your "Shoe Tying" adventures!

    Kern - It just didn't make sense that he just threw up his arms and walked out. We were so fortunate that things went uphill from there. Thanks Kern! Julie

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  23. People never seem to act quite right when in the hospital. It's such a stressful event. I guess her feistiness was a welcome relief.

    Catch My Words
    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

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  24. My husband just had an MRI. He has severe anxiety, but declined the Valium. I wanted to smack him. He said it was like being in a tiny coffin, and I'm surprised he didn't have a full on panic attack in there.

    AtoZer!
    prose-spective.blogspot.com

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  25. Joyce - We really were relieved. Thanks for stopping by Joyce!

    Rena - Hope your husband is doing well now. Open MRI's are a little easier to take, but I think the loud pounding noises are the worst. Thanks for following me, and I hope to see more of you! Julie

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  26. Oh my gosh that is scary. I hate the hospital and dread any kind of procedure. I'm very happy to hear things all worked out.

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  27. Very scary story. You just never know how anyone will react to anything. My mom has had a few hospitalizations in the last year or two and had some strong stuff, but the meds that gave her a different reaction was a Clariton (over the counter drug) they gave her for her runny nose. Mom never took antihistamines in her life, and she slept for 6 hours. No more of those for her.

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