After a none-too-brief pause, we carry on with the story. It’s been two weeks, and I’m sure I’ve already forgotten some of the amazing details. But as best as I can recall, here we go…
As you might expect, I don’t recall much of Tuesday, March 30th. I remember going into the operating room, but that’s about it. Waking up afterward, getting to my room – all gone. (I do remember one of the last things said to me by the anesthesiologist – “remember, this is just a tool. You can regain all your weight back – it’s just a tool.” Um, thanks. I know that. Can I go to sleep now?…) The only thing I remember about being in my room is wanting that catheter OUT. NOW. And the happy feeling when my wish was granted. 😀
I remember somewhere along the line that I was told that the operation went very well. The WHOLE operation – both parts. The full duodenal switch. It was complete – my only prayer had been answered. That was a reason for joy. Other prayers were answered too – I was at peace through the whole thing, including the recovery. I was comfortable – no mind-numbing pain – it was all well-controlled, and I wasn’t having to “press the button” every 10 minutes for another shot of painkiller. Oh yes, I DID use that button, but I didn’t have to depend on it. I used it to keep things under control, not to deaden dreadful pain.
Like I said, there isn’t too much else I remember clearly. If there were horrible things, Vicki might remember, but she hasn’t mentioned them. Perhaps what happens in recovery STAYS in recovery…
I do remember, however, when the nurse said, “it’s time to get you up for a walk.” Now, I knew this was coming – we had been warned that about 4 hours after getting back from surgery, I’d be getting up and walking. But knowing that and being faced with the reality of it are two different things.
God was so gracious – He kept a peaceful spirit within me, so I didn’t turn into “Crabby Cal.” Did it hurt to try and get up? Oh heavens yes. Did I get snitty about it? No, by God’s grace I didn’t.
But moving from the horizontal to the vertical was the weirdest feeling I’ve had. It took a moment, when getting to my feet, to adjust. The feeling was one of things moving into place, and it was weird. Not really painful – ok, a little uncomfortable, but not a real “ouchie.” Just weird, as “stuff” found its new location. (In fact, it was kind of a test of my recovery. When I was able to get up and not feel “stuff” looking for a new place, I figured that I was healing pretty well.)
Ok – I’m now in an upright and locked position, ready for takeoff. So we walk – the nurse was moving my I.V. stand, and I was using my canes to stay moving. And I walked. Not very far, mind you, but enough for that time. First time up, walking down the hall, after having my innards remodeled. Weird and wonderful, to quote Elton the bard. And it got a little easier every time… Except at 4am. There’s something about having to get up at 4am to go for a walk that just doesn’t seem right. I tried to be gracious and accept that it’s something I need to do, but still…
I’m not a towering example of optimism. If you know me, you know that. Perky? No – not really. And yet, I have to say in all honesty that my feelings were feelings of gratefulness. I was thankful. I was overwhelmed with God’s goodness. I was amazed to be doing so well, just hours out of surgery.
Most of all, this phrase kept running through my mind:
“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.”
(As I type those words, tears come to my eyes. We sang that song last week at First Cov, and I’ve never sung it so loudly. It continues to be the tale of my body and soul – “I’ve been set free.”)
Our overnight nurse, Karolyn, was amazing. She was a dear saint who made me smile, even when rousing me at 4am for a walk. She encouraged me to keep walking, understood when I just couldn’t keep moving, and was a true blessing to Vicki and I. She was the one who said “His wife will be here soon, and he’ll be well-cared for.” I was well-cared for, both when Vicki was there, and when she was gone. God gave us some very special folks to look after us. We gave Karolyn one of my CDs, to try in some small way to thank her for all her care. I hope that little token lets her know just how much she meant to us. There were a few others that we gave a CD to – just to try and say thanks. After all, if they hate the music, they can always turn it over and use it for a mirror. (thanks, Dodd…)
If you’ve never seen the Lacks Cancer Center at St. Mary’s, you should. It’s incredible. The bariatric patients are housed on the 4th floor, the rooms are amazing, and the staff is wonderful. Vicki tells me that the food there is also great, since Lacks has their own kitchen. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to be – it was great.
Our favorite part is the 5th floor… When you see the Cancer Center from the outside, you’ll see what almost looks like a lighthouse tower on the corner. On the 5th floor, in that tower, is a conservatory. Lovely, with some incredible plants. There is an indoor path you can walk that goes around the Healing Garden, and it’s a nice walk. On my second night, Vicki took me up there and we walked all the way around the garden. The next day, I got to go outside…
Thursday, April 1st was one of those “what the heck is a summer day doing here in early April” kind of days. It was sunny, warm, and the kind of day you expected to see everyone heading for the beach. Except that it was April first – no foolin’. (sorry – couldn’t resist…) So, this was a great day to get outside.
The Healing Garden is in the middle of the 5th floor – an outdoor garden with a courtyard and a path around it you can walk in the shade. It’s a peaceful place, with places to sit and enjoy the outside. We’re guessing there’s water involved out there someplace – I’ll have to go back this summer to see.
I walked all around the garden, then a lap around the sunny courtyard for good measure. It felt so good to walk in the sun – the brightness outside perfectly matching the brightness inside me.
to be continued…