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recovery

There is nothing so simultaneously exhilarating and bizarre as running a marathon and realizing that there are people you don’t know cheering for you. There are thousands. They are pressed up against metal grates, leaning into the road rattling cow bells and party whistles. They are lounging on their front stoop in a lawn chair next to a case of beer with a sign that says, “This one’s for you!” They made you jello shots. They brought you pretzels and orange slices as if you were their guest at some strange party. They give you a dixie cup of beer at mile 23 and don’t deny you when you circle back for another. They’re your significant other who won’t protest too much when you cover them with sweat as you steal a kiss in passing. They’re still in their PJs, coffee in one hand. They’re tiny kids, 4 or 5 with their arm outstretched waiting for a high-five from the next passing runner. They let you stop and pet their dog who got all dressed up for the occasion in a tutu and a race t-shirt. They’re active duty in fatigues pacing you at the water stop so you don’t have to slow down. It’s a police officer who tells you, “lookin’ good” as she holds back traffic for you to pass even though you know you’re slow and far behind the pack.

If you ever want to feel like a rockstar, without really doing anything special, take a few months, do some running and sign up for a marathon – you’ll feel like a star but will soon realize that you’ve bought yourself front row seats to the best show in town. And while I am sad about the events at the Boston Marathon, and I am sad for the runners who worked so hard to participate in such an epic endurance event, my heart is broken for the spectators who were just there waiting and supporting the finishers. Those who are standing, waiting expectantly, cheering runners to the finish line. Who else would bear the brunt of this kind of attack?


day 5

Originally uploaded by l@in.

Recovery has been both better and worse than I anticipated. I think I already mentioned that the implant was removed (and reinserted!), which resulted in the increased level of pain that I’m experiencing. And again, the drain didn’t help (although, I know not having it could have been disastrous.) However, I am feeling better quickly. My range of motion is pretty good and while I’m not trying to lift anything of any significance, I can pick up a glass or a plate in my left hand and carry it a short distance without an issue, which is nice. I’ve even been able to knit small projects! I listened to my Dr.’s exercise mantra, “you can walk”, and did 30 minutes on the treadmill today at a really slow pace. It’s better than nothing, and I’m so happy we were able to get that before the surgery.

I’ve done this enough that I feel like I kind of have a system. I try to do whatever I feel compelled to. If I feel like laying down, I do. If I feel like I need more pain meds I take them (and if what I feel I need seems unreasonable, I know there’s a problem). If I think I can tackle some house work I try and if it doesn’t hurt, I do it, and if it does – forget it. It really helps that I’ve been able to work from home this week, and can hang out with the laptop in bed if I need to.

And if I’m hungry, I eat. This is probably the most complicated thing for me because I do love to eat. I’m also trying to be healthy for many reasons, one of which is because I’m, of course, concerned about the cancer returning. So I try to eat healthy, exercise, and do all the things you’re supposed to do to stay in optimum health. Did I mention I love to eat? And I love sweets? I know when I’m exercising a lot, I feel like I can cut myself some slack, but now that I’m struggling with a 28 minute mile (ugh! it hurts just to type), I don’t really have that luxury. So I stocked the freezer with pasta sauce, chili, and soup, and Joanna has been great about getting me out of the house to find yummy healthy things with the occasional flake (like a delicious chocolate cake from whole foods). I am looking forward to being able to handle the damn blender again – I miss my green smoothies!

So, I had another surgery today. My left implant seems to be encapsulating slightly. It’s certainly not terrible, but the changes have been noticeable over the past few months, prompting me to see my plastic surgeon. When I saw her she agreed that it looked as if there was some encapsulating going on and told me to wait , and come back in a few weeks to see if things seemed to progress, and they did.

So today I had a revision done to my reconstruction on the left side. Dr. Otero took out the implant, removed some skin, made a revision to the dent (seriously a dent developed around my armpit), and then popped the implant back in. I don’t think I realized that the implant would be taken in and out so I’m feeling a bit more rough than I expected to. And I have a drain, which I was hoping not to have but Dr. Otero said there was a lot of fluid in there, so better safe than sorry. Certainly better than an emergency drain insertion as I’ve had before and it can come out first thing Monday, which is great. Essentially one of my fake boobs needed a lift. WTF?

I didn’t have to spend the night, so I’m home. Joanna is on a prescription run. I feel pretty rough and am in more pain than I expected, but I’m hoping the recovery will be speedy and the pain will dissipate quickly.

Tonight I’m going to watch Wife Swap, eat matzo, drink diet ginger ale, and pill pop. I’m hoping for a weekend of movies and bad tv on cable. Pedestrian as it is, I am okay with that.

Part of my recovery plan was determined by an impulse buy of the second season of Big Love, which of course, necessitated the purchase of the first season. We watched both seasons in approximately 5 days and really binged on the second season friday and saturday. I have to say that I really enjoyed both seasons and find this show to be right up there with the Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, etc. in terms of quality. Both the acting and writing is incredibly well done.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, I strongly suggest giving it a whirl. Next up in the queue? Season 4 of The Wire – woo-hoo!

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to relay my experience at Washington Hospital Center on the December 20th-21st.

I was scheduled to have the 3rd step of my breast reconstruction with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Susan Otero, after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and undergoing two mastectomies at another hospital in 2007. Prior to my surgery date the WHC staff called me for my pre-op check-in and were also very attentive during the check-in process at the hospital. I was very pleased with the treatment and care I received prior to surgery and post-op during my recovery. Three nurses in particular, Birdie, Claudia, and Joan provided me with very high quality care. I was very pleased with the treatment I received in recovery.

However, the first major problem came when my initial recovery nurse, Birdie, called repeatedly to find me a room. My surgery was over between 2-3pm, and I recall being fully awake and able to be moved to a room around 5pm. Around 8pm I was moved to a different, larger recovery area and put under the care of Joan and Claudia, and told that I would be moved to my own room soon. After over a four hour total wait, I was finally transferred to my own room around 9:30pm.

By this time I had missed all the meal times and was hungry and tired and wanted to be in my own room, which should have been much quieter than the hustle and bustle of the recovery area. When I finally got to my room I was checked in and asked about getting food of some kind. I was told that the meal times were over. I pressed the issue as I was very hungry, not nauseous in any way, and definitely feeling up to eating a small meal. I was told that a boxed lunch could be ordered for me. In the interim, my nurse brought a large cup of juice.

Around midnight no food had arrived and it had been about four hours since I had received pain medication. Around 12:30 when my nurse, Jillian, came into my room I told her that my pain was increasing and asked for more pain medication as well as lozenges for my throat which was very sore after being intubated. She said she would order the medication and told me that no meal had been brought. She eventually found some cereal and milk for me, which was kind of her, as the food that was ordered apparently never arrived.

At approximately 1:30 I received throat lozenges. Around 2:30am I still had not received any more pain medication and my incisions felt like they were on fire. It was almost impossible for me to rest. I had not been seriously uncomfortable post-op until around midnight when I had asked for the medication and as I stated before, had been very well cared for. In recovery I was asked about my level of pain and the nurses responded appropriately. Therefore I went from being very comfortable to being in an unacceptable amount of pain for an extended period of time even though I knew that my surgeon had ordered Vicoden for me during my recovery in the hospital. I paged my nurse. She said that the drugs hadn’t arrived from the pharmacy yet but if they didn’t arrive in 10 minutes she would go check on them herself. About 15 minutes later she came with the pain medication, apologized and she told me that it would probably take me two cycles of drugs to really feel better since the drugs I had received so much earlier were almost completely out of my system.

Around 6am my surgeon arrived and told me that I would be discharged that day, which I had expected. My nurse followed shortly thereafter and brought another round of medication. I was feeling much better by then and was awaiting breakfast since I had yet to really eat anything. When breakfast did arrive, I discovered chicken broth, jello, and more juice even though I had already eaten solid food and had requested a vegetarian meal. I was not able to eat any of the food that was brought for me. I paged a nurse and a tech arrived. When I told him about the problem, he got the person who was delivering the meals and explained the situation. The delivery person said that he had an extra breakfast and would bring it to me. It never arrived. By this time I wasn’t surprised and simply wanted to get out of the hospital so I could recover properly.

I am amazed that I was able to receive both the best and the worst care I have ever had in a hospital at the same facility in 24 hours. My diagnosis has necessitated six surgeries in the past 14 months and I have never had to wait so long for medication or food in any hospital – especially things prescribed for me by my doctor and/or things that I could have had at home. I would have fared far better if I had left the hospital and gone home after my time in the recovery area, which is unacceptable. I am at a loss as to the reason why I was not able to get the medication prescribed for me, in the hospital. Considering that during previous recoveries in other hospitals I had serious issues with nausea and required far more pain medication, my experience at WHC does not make me feel confident that it could provide me with a level of care that would keep me well and comfortable. If it was so difficult to get the medication specifically prescribed for me, I can only assume that if I became nauseous or needed a non-prescribed drug right away there was no way I would have gotten it.

While I appreciate the kindness and dedication of the majority of the WHC staff which I came into contact with, overall I am appalled by my experience there. As portions of the WHC were rated among the US’s best this year, I have to believe that I experienced huge flaws in an otherwise well-functioning system. Nonetheless, I consider my experience to be unacceptable and I feel I would be remiss if I did not relay the details of my situation in the hopes that the system can improve and others can enjoy at least a modicum of good quality care that was missing in the majority of my experience at WHC.

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