Thymoma Part 7: Surgery

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Yikes! It’s been months since I updated! I’m so sorry.  Here’s a brief run down on my hospital stay after surgery…

Leaving my daughter behind to drive to the hospital broke my heart. She begged me not to go.  We had our special superhero bracelets on and I told her everything was going to be fine and not to worry.  Meanwhile I was scared to death inside!

I dressed in my Wonder Woman t-shirt and my favorite Wonder Woman pajama pants.  I wanted to be super comfy AND call upon my inner “super powers” to get me prepared for this surgery!  For once, I was not in any hurry to get where I was going.  I didn’t want the car ride to end. . . I kept thinking. . .should I have written a letter to my daughter in case I didn’t come home?  NO WAY!  Writing that letter would have been bad luck.  I was coming out of the surgery just fine and would be going home.  I had to come home. . .there was no other choice.

We arrived at the hospital and had to go through the boring paperwork, signing away my life and paying the silly copay nonsense… Then I was taken to a surgical “waiting room” where I got to relax on a hospital bed wearing the finest in luxury hospital gowns… ok. It was a regular unflattering, breezy gown.  I looked hideous in it.

Quite a few tears were shed.  The nurses and doctors were so compassionate and wonderful.  I had a team of anesthesiologists just for me!  Their job was to ensure I didn’t die. I loved them. (We know that people with Myasthenia need to be super careful with anesthesia and muscle relaxers.  It’s critical not to get the wrong meds!). One particularly nice anesthesiologist came in to do my spinal nerve block and he told me he was aware of Myasthenia Gravis and even spoke at an MG support group once in Tucson!  (Awesome! A doctor who knows about MG! I made a mental note to look up this group when I got better.) The best thing was he offered me something to calm me down.  I gladly accepted.

Nerve block, an anti-anxiety something-or-other and IVs were soon in place… I was ready to go.  OMG! I was so nervous!!!!  I mean, incredibly nervous.  I did not know if I’d wake up with a bunch of small incisions (robotic thymectomy) or with my chest completely opened and stitched back together again (full sternotomy thymectomy if the tumor was larger than anticipated or adhered to the lining of my heart). I prayed for the former. I chose my surgeon based on her expertise doing robotic cardio-thoracic surgeries.  I wanted the less invasive option and potential for a faster recovery.
They wheeled me into the freezing cold operating room and I shivered uncontrollably.  They gave me a few layers of warm blankets after transferring me to the OR table… They put an oxygen mask on my face and I was told to count to 10, but only remember saying 9….Boom! I was out…

Next thing I knew I was waking up in recovery.  My husband was sitting next to me.  I was super groggy and nauseous.  I tried to look at my chest to see if they had to do then sternotomy or not and I didn’t see a big scar!  So, I knew that I had the robotic surgery.  I was so relieved.

In the recovery room after surgery, I was sooooo cooooold. I couldn’t warm up no matter what they tried to do! I was finally given an electric warming blanket of some sort. It took forever. I was shaking uncontrollably. It was scary. I still don’t know what caused that.

The more aware of my surroundings I became, I realized I had on these cool inflatable “boots” that would inflate and massage my lower legs and feet at regular intervals. That helps keep the risk of blot clots at bay…

I also noticed my mouth was incredibly dry I was so incredibly thirsty, yet so nauseous I could not fathom drinking anything! So, the nurse finally gave me some special mouth paste for dry mouth. It tasted minty, like toothpaste.

It was glaringly obvious as time went on that nothing was helping my nausea.  I couldn’t open my eyes because it felt like I couldn’t focus and that made me more nauseous.

Eventually I was stable enough to transfer to the cardiac ICU.  While I was in the ICU, we had to figure out how to get my nausea under control, as I could barely open my eyes or even slightly move my head. Finally, they changed pain meds around and I was able to open my eyes and try to sit up. Big improvement!!! I was told I had to be able to sit independently and get to the bathroom before I’d could be released to go home and that seemed like an impossible feat at that time. But at that point, my main goal was to get myself out of the ICU so I could see my daughter!  They would not allow anyone to visit except for my husband and even he was limited to certain times. It was pretty lonely.

Somewhere between recovery and getting set up in my room in the ICU, I lost my stuffed bunny from my daughter.  She gave me her stuffed bunny to keep me company in the hospital😢. Later, she brought me a stuffed hamster.  The nurses were on high alert looking for the bunny.  She was nowhere to be found…I told my daughter that she probably went to comfort a child who needed a friend… So, the next time she visited me, she brought me a stuffed guinea pig to keep me company.  I kept a close on on this one!


I also lost my glasses, but evebtusll found them the next day … in the large puke basin that followed me to my ICU room, of course!  Isn’t that where everybody stores their glasses after surgery when they are puking and nauseous!!???

MY ICU nurses in the cardiac unit were wonderful. My only complaint was one had on strong perfume…but overall they were all sweet, kind, very good and helpful.

One nurse saw me struggling to cough so she gave me a heart pillow (ha! I could barely breathe! My ribs felt broken). It helped some. But omg…it hurt so bad to breathe, let alone cough or vomit. My chest and ribs on my right side hurt so much.

Another nurse accidentally stabbed herself with one of my needles.  So, they had to do an extra blood draw on me to make sure I didn’t have anything she could catch from a needle.  I felt bad for her as she shared that it had been years since this happened to her and she felt badly that it happened. I assured her she had nothing to worry about.

Speaking of needles. . .they had a heck of a time with my IVs. . .  More pics of the gorgeous bruising that spread out and decorated both wrists over the next few weeks in my next post. . .LOL

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My difficulty breathing was mostly due to pain, but I was given regular albuterol breathing treatments, as well. It seemed to help a little.

At some point while I was in the ICU, two people from Physical therapy came to my room and tried to get me to walk. I couldn’t even stand.  So much pain.  But I was told I couldn’t be transferred to a regular room until I could sit up and transfer to a chair.

Once I was transferred to a regular room, the care was not the same.  Ugh. The nurses were not as attentive and not as friendly.  The first nurse I had all night long forgot to attach my heart monitor!  Nobody noticed until the next shift.  Guess a flat line on the monitor at the nurses’ station for Bed 1 was not a concern ALL NIGHT LONG??  LOL

The worst part of the hospital stay (once the nausea was under control) was when they pulled the chest tube out!!!  The doctor told me it wasn’t going to hurt much. Lies!! Such serious LIES!!!  I felt like my lungs came with it. The doctor stopped in the middle of pulling because I screamed (well tried to scream with a chest that felt like it was broken and hardly any air coming out. Lol) and the tears started flowing…  she finished and then apologized.  She said it was “stuck” in there.  Oh wonderful!  But anyway,  once that tube was out, I was on a mission!!! Get me HOME!

Killed me that my daughter wanted to stay with me after she’d visit.  She wanted me home.  That was my motivating force to push through the pain.

A dear friend came to visit and brought me magazines… One was in espagnol! But Pitbull was on the cover and I guess she got distracted! Who needs words!? Forget the articles…I can enjoy the pictures!  Lol!

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Nurses in the regular room were not as gentle or caring…one reeked of cigarettes and onions, which is an awesome combination when you’re nauseous…. BLAH!!!!  One nurse just didn’t show up at all when I rang for help! Fine. I’ll take myself to the bathroom! I gotta get outta here!

Before I was able to get out of bed by myself, they gave me a commode by my bed because the thrown was too far for me at first (especially when I had to drag the port and box it was attached to around with me) Omg. Stage fright with a full bladder!  NO FUN!!!  That was NOT going to work!  I had to get myself to the bathroom!  ASAP!  So, I pushed myself really hard to get past the pain to walk and made it to the bathroom all by myself the next morning.  I knew I was going to get home fast after that feat. Now, all I had to do was walk around the nurses’ station in the hallway in order to be found fit to go home!  So, I had my daughter walk with me… she was so happy for me when I did it. The nurses praised her for being a good helper. It was so cute.

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After that, we just needed the doc to release me!  Then I could go HOME.

More on going home later…promise it won’t be a bazillion months between posts again… so stay tuned!

Here’s a (graphic!) video that shows how a general robotic thymectomy is done… I found it on YouTube.  It’s not me!  In fact, I am pretty sure it is a guy. . .and this one in the video was performed in India!  Lol Not certain if the equipment is exactly the same as what was used on me, since things are always changing in the medical world and my surgery was a few years after this video was made.  But it gives a good idea what was involved.  So if you are not squeamish, take a peek at the video!  It does get graphic. . .so beware!!!!!

Robotic Thymectomy (credit to Dr Arun Prasad, MS FRCS, shows the steps of robotic thymectomy surgery for myasthenia gravis at Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, India on YouTube from 2013)

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