Monday, August 8, 2011

You did remember that I'm resistant to lidocaine, right?

PS. This is a continuation of a blog series starting with "Breaking the Ice". You should read them in order because otherwise this will probably make no sense. Now, on with the saga.

Waking up, I remember being thoroughly confuzzled as to where I was and what I was doing there.

There was a woman's voice, talking to me soothingly. I could hear her voice as if she was at the end of a long tunnel. I slowly became aware that there were bright lights affronting my eyes. I finally woke up in a hospital bed, in the recovery room, a nurse's smiling face over me.

"Hi there! Everything went great, you are all done. You're going to stay in here for a while while you recover from the anesthesia."

A wave of relief came over me. But that was quickly followed by confusion. I struggled to speak, "How'd the surgery go?"

She patiently said, "Everything went great, you are all done. You're going to recover here for a while."

Five minutes later, I asked the same question. The nurse told me I asked the same few questions about 10 times. Each time, she answered me. She laughed and told me it was very common.

As I became more aware of my surroundings, I realized I was spectacularly uncomfortable. My back throbbed, under my arms hurt, and my throat was scratchy and sore.

During the procedure, the surgeon had taken a fist-sized chunk from my back, leaving an awesome six-inch scar with a small hole for a drain. Let me repeat that. Make a fist. That is how much skin was taken from my back. That is what is known as a "wide" local excision even though the initial size of the mole was less than 2 cm. The incisions under my arms were only about 1 inch, but every time I moved, they stretched. I had been intubated during the procedure because the surgeon needed to roll me a bunch to get at my arms and back: hence the sore throat.

Eventually, I became coherent enough to be rolled into what I like to call "Least Thought Out Room Ever". I've just had back surgery and what do I get to sit in? This:

Most uncomfortable chair ever

There is no good way to sit in a recliner that doesn't involve laying on my back. No, see, that really hurts because I JUST HAD BACK SURGERY.

My mom was there, looking haggard, relieved and worried all at the same time. By the time I lay awkwardly on my side in the recliner, I am in significant pain. Not the normal, "you just took a giant chunk out of my back" pain, but serious pain.

My breaths were coming ragged and I started to cry uncontrollably. At some point I started thrashing, trying any movement I could to get rid of the pain. For a while, I moaned. Then, I remember whimpering, immobilized with the pain, while the nurse came over at mom's behest. She agreed with my mother, this level of pain wasn't normal. While less intense than the lymphoscintigram pain, my back pain just wouldn't let up. It was a giant crushing weight with no relief. On the pain scale (not being a hypochondriac), I would probably rate it a 9.

I flashed back to my conversations with Dr. E during my consultation:

Dr. E: "After I remove the skin from your back, I put a long-lasting local anesthetic into the excision site before I sew you up."

Me: "Oh, I have this weird resistance to the -caine family. It doesn't work really well on me. You should talk to the person who did the initial biopsy. Is there any way you can use something different?"

Dr. E (looking confident): "I'll just put some extra in. You won't be in too much pain coming out of the operating room, don't worry."

Me (unsure): "Okay, but I think you are going to need to put a lot of extra in."

Then, we had the exact same conversation right before my procedure, with me warning: "Don't forget, Dr. E, I need extra local anesthetic in my back." He blinked and said, "Sure thing."

Sure thing, my butt.

So that's how I got to go on my first ever morphine drip. The nurse hooked me up and It. Was. Amazing. Words don't do it justice. Going from a 9 pain to a euphoric state was the most incredible feeling I've ever had. To date. Nevermind that the nurse and my mom kept shaking me awake to make sure I kept breathing. The important thing was that the pain was gone and the dancing butterflies were so pretty.

I felt like Charlie the Unicorn going to Candy Mountain. Surreal, awesome, confusing then ultimately crashing back to reality. No wonder people get addicted to Morphine.

PS. Don't get me wrong; I love Dr. E. He'll for sure believe me next time. And who knows, he might have put in extra. My body probably just giggled maniacally and ignored it.


  1. Wow, this has blog post has certainly stunned me. I totally felt your pain as I was reading and wincing. Based on this experience, how about Anesthesiology as your residency pick? The drugs are certainly great, haha. But this experience would make your more empathetic towards your patients which is good.

  2. Ow! Glad you're doing ok...

  3. @Anonymous - I'm certainly not opposed to Anesthesiology. I have a few more surprises left for ya'll eventually; my experiences would allow me to empathetic in quite a few different specialties.

    @Zac - Ha, guess I painted too clear a picture, both you and Anon are wincing.

    To all - I can't believe you didn't tell me I misspelled the word "resistant". Fixed, sorry for the affront to your eyes. =)