Saturday, October 27, 2012

lung cancer surgery ICU

Waking up after lung cancer surgery (VATS with left upper lobe wedge resection, mini-thoracotomy with mediastinal lymph node dissection) back in March was one of the more memorable moments of my whole lung cancer odyssey.

Since I had died (flatlined) for 15-20 seconds during an outpatient EBUS procedure just a couple weeks earlier – waking up from anesthesia was something I no longer took for granted.

I awoke to the sound of a person bellowing about pain. Didn’t sound heavenly with the expletives but didn’t look like hell so I must still be alive.

I was just completing an inventory of my body parts, all of which moved or wiggled when a young blond haired female face popped into my curtained enclosure whishing me hello and welcoming me to post-operative care.

First a few inane questions about who and where I was. Next – “You just had major surgery, are you in pain?” ...  "No!"  Obviously she doubted my cognitive abilities as I was shown some silly pictures of smiley and non-smiley faces and asked to pick a picture. I picked the happy smiling face.

“That’s because of the epidural! They rarely last so I suggest you take some morphine now before it wears off. Is that OK?”

Sure why not! …

“What time zone am I on? What country am I in?
It doesn't matter, it's five o'clock somewhere.”
Alan Jackson

… Next I remember contemplating that I was laying on the most comfortable mattress I have ever been on or possibly I had become a floating smiley happy face.

Standing and walking were the next major buzz words. Sounded great to me except for the major freak out moment when I discovered a tube up my penis. A deal was offered to remove the tube and I would have two hours to pee in some plastic urinal to prove the epidural was not in control of my bladder.

I had no problems standing or walking since I felt no pain. I believe I was up and walking around post op within an hour or two of when I woke up. I even had my own roadie pushing my machines around on a cart. It was cool!

Obviously happy smiley faces are not welcome to stay in ICU. Surgery was at Noon and later that afternoon, I was waving good bye to ICU as I headed upstairs with my new best friend the ‘Epidural of Fentanyl’ to recover.

Patrick Leer
Caregivingly Yours, MS Caregiver @

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