Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What I’ve learned from four operations in four weeks

Yes.  Four operations in four weeks.  No, I wasn’t the one operated upon.  It was my husband.  For a massive kidney stone.  The mother of all kidney stones.  A kidney stone for which he will always be remembered by his urologist and associated nurses, one which was so big that it was as big as his kidney.  (This was back in March and April, by the way, but I am only mentioning it now because it

We didn’t know it would be four operations at the beginning.  It was just going to be one, but they didn’t get it all in the first one.   (And get this—he needed at least one more after the four.)

But I’m starting to digress.  I was going to share what I learned from all this, which was plenty.

Lesson #1 is the importance of getting a priesthood blessing before the operation(s) begin.  My husband got one.  He was an absolute trooper throughout this whole ordeal.

Lesson #2 is the importance of the caregiver getting a priesthood blessing before the operation(s) begin.  I got an excellent one.  I was blessed to have a strong mind, which, if you happen know how badly I react to seeing blood and wounds (fainting, etc.) , was wondrously fulfilled.  I wasn’t bothered at all by changing my husband’s bandages and dressings, which to me was simply miraculous.

Lesson #3 is the importance of calling the visiting teachers and setting up a dinner to be delivered for the night husband comes home from the hospital.  Just do it.  Even if you are determined to be self-reliant, just do it.  And then have a good meal plan in place for the week that is easy and fast to prepare. 

Lesson #4 is the importance of packing a lunch and few good books for the family waiting room in the hospital, no matter how short you think the operation will be. 

Lesson #5 is that the Lord gives extra comfort through the Holy Ghost if you happen to have to watch general conference in the hospital on your ipad while your husband is operated on.

Lesson #6 is that if the operation takes hours longer than you were told it would take, then be prepared for… anything.

Lesson #7 is the importance of immediately writing down what the doctor tells you about how the operation went.  This information will be shared with all the close friends and family who are interested about how it is all going.  (If more operations are needed, writing down becomes even more important, just to keep things straight.)

Lesson #8 is to realize that if the doctor says he’s going to have to do another operation, be prepared for at least two or three more.  Having to do another operation means the first one only partially worked or didn’t work at all, so the doctor is going to have to figure it out as he goes, which means he’s going to have to try different things, and he may have to try several different things, each of which may require its own operation.

Lesson #9 is the importance of having a good attitude, expressing gratitude, and remembering as much as possible how wonderful modern medicine is.  Good attitude helps everybody deal better.

Lesson #10 is to carry a card with all medications being taken along with their strengths and what they are for.  This will be shared with various nurses, and it can help you have discussions with doctors and prevent unnecessary prescriptions.  (One doctor prescribed one antibiotic, and another doctor prescribed a different one.  Having a list handy would have helped clarify which one should be taken.) 

Lesson #11 is it is rather fun to read a satire such as a Terry Pratchett novel out loud in a hospital, especially the parts in which the character Death has dialogue or is mentioned.  A patient with a sense of humor might appreciate an excuse to laugh at Death. (My husband did, at least.)

Lesson #12 is to get a supply of bandages and dressings from the hospital before you leave.  Hospitals have a certain nice kind of wide tape that corner drugstores do not carry.  They also have bandages that the corner drugstore doesn’t have.

Lesson #13 is to ask nurses to train you on how to change bandage dressings. 

Lesson #14 is that instructions on care may strangely contradict between nurses and operations, in which case you should be prepared to ask questions and use your common sense. 

Lesson #15 is to pray for what you and husband need specifically, even medical stuff. 

Lesson #16 is to not to be concerned about the furniture when trying to find a comfortable place for husband to lie at home, even if his bandages leak.  Yes, even if those bandages leak urine. 

Lesson #17 is that stores sell nice big absorbent pads to put down underneath leaky bandages.

Lesson #18 is to tell the Relief Society president what is happening at the beginning because if she finds out only after the third operation, she will feel absolutely terrible.  She feels that if she doesn’t know about every major health difficulty that ward members are going through she has somehow dropped the ball.  (She hasn’t, and she knows she hasn’t, but she’ll still have a nagging feeling that she failed somehow.  So show some charity and at least keep her in the loop.)

Lesson #19 is to remember that sooner or later this will be over.  It is also important to remind one’s spouse of this, especially since after the third operation it will begin to feel to him as if he’s always been sick and won’t get better.  (What’s really happening is that by the time he’s just starting to feel better, he has to have another operation, which puts him back feeling wounded again. And by the time he’s starting to heal from that, he has another operation, so he never gets to the point of feeling 100%.)

Lesson #20 is that anyone (and their near family) who has to deal with a nephrostomy tube and a urine collection bag for two months is going to appreciate the body’s amazing plumbing waaaay more than they ever did before.