Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Re-Engineering of the Colon

The Colon is a complicated organ. Anyone who tells you it isn't is lying to you to make your procedure seem less traumatic. Trust me, any work done to this "n" shaped organ is filled with lots of crap...literally...and figuratively.
This is the story about the re-engineering of my colon. After the finding of the mucocele in my cecum, then the subsequent hasty removal of my appendix, then the pathology report calling it severely dysplastic (precancerous), and a colonoscopy to find out how involved my colon was with the whole thing, it was decided that I needed a right hemicolectomy. That means a removal of the ascending right side of my colon, from where it attaches to the small intestine down on the lower right side of your abdomen, to where it turns west (or east depending on how you look at the map) in the right side of your upper abdomen. All a very simple laparoscopic procedure the doctors say, involving two small one inch incisions and a larger 2-3 inch incision above your belly button.
I went into the hospital on a Tuesday. Kari, Wren, and my Mom were with me. River was at my In-Laws. Three year olds don't fare well at a hospital for long hours. I was slightly nervous, but I just kept telling myself that I was ready for it to be over and to be back to normal. In pre-op, they put me in a pretty light purple paper hospital gown, light blue socks, and put me in a little room. I was visited by my friend Ben, and a nurse who asked if I minded if they harvested my organs for science. Well, she didn't put it quite like that. Then the party started.

In quick succession nurses and doctors and anesthesiologists came in one by one. They all asked if I understood what they were about to do to me. I would look at Kari with each one, and then state "yah". (I was getting pretty nervous). Then a young guy, who was most likely still in college, and most likely spent most of his day in the gym based on the size of his biceps, came in with two red-capped needles. He said "are you ready?", as if I had a choice. And then, I remember nothing. Kari may remember more, but the next thing I remember is waking up in post-op, and in pain.

"Ryan, remember to breath!!". The nurses kept yelling at me from across the room as they worked with other patients. I was in a big post-op room that resembled more of a car dealership service garage than a place to care for patients. Each patient had their little bay separated by a hanging curtain. Each time I would fall back asleep I would stop breathing, so the nurses would have to yell at me to keep me awake. I guess the good sleep juice hadn't worn off yet. Over the next little while I was visited by Kari and Mom, Ben, Jim, my boss Steve, and well, I'm not sure who else. I was so out of it I don't remember much. If I forgot anyone, don't feel bad. Drugs are bad for remembering things.
The one thing I do remember is the guy coming to get me to take me to my room. He wheeled me past the waiting room, and Mom and Kari were there to follow me. It felt good to see them, to know that the worst was over, and that soon I would be in my room, watching free cable, eating applesauce, and getting visits from my friends...
I don't remember much about the next 6 days. Here are a few highlights. Pain and nausea and sleep. I don't remember so much that I don't even remember writing two blog posts that I just realized I published in my drug induced stupor.
One of the things I do remember is a couple of days into my time at the hospital. I had been on a liquid diet for at least 4 days at that point, and I couldn't touch another spoonful of jello or chicken broth. I told the nurse that I was ready for something solid, like a piece of plain toast. The nurse agreed and said she'd put an order in. At lunch that day I was surprised by a much different looking food tray than I was used to at this point. The brightly colored jello and heavily aromatic chicken broth were replaced by a plate consisting of Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, and green beans. So what's a guy who has eaten nothing but liquid for 4 days going to do? I gobbled down the whole plate in no time flat! That was a mistake I would regret in the days to come...
I spent most of my time sleeping. I was on a pump of really good pain meds, and I had moved my way up to a nausea med that basically just put me to sleep. I would wake up nauseous and request more medicine, then I would sleep again. If I timed it right, I would wake up right before a meal, eat a few bites, get some medicine, and sleep again.
My Mom was with me most of the time. Kari would bring Wren during the day, and then take him back to the house at night. I can not give enough appreciation to those two women for being by my side the entire time.
I had some rough days and some better days in the hospital, but on Easter Sunday the nurses and doctors had done about as much as they could do to get me back on the road to recovery, and so they let me go home. I was wheeled out to my Mom's car, given a bunch of prescriptions to fill, and sent home. It was quite a relief, but up to that point, 6 days after surgery, I had not used the bathroom yet. I had been eating on and off, but nothing had come out the other side. It would catch up to me the next day.
Monday I felt horrible. I was weak, nauseous, had a headache, and couldn't eat or drink. I couldn't force anything down the 'ole gullet. I called the doctors office and they asked me to go to the ER straight away for some fluids and electrolytes. It was the last thing I wanted to do at the time, seeing as I had just gotten home from the hospital the day before, but I followed their directions and Mom drove me. I am not a fan of the ER, and this day solidified that feeling. I was as sick as I had felt the entire post-op period, and I had to sit there in a smelly, loud room with a bunch of other sick folks, waiting for a room in the ER. They eventually gave me an IV, which helped some. Then, after waiting for quite a while, they took me back, xrayed my belly to look for blockages, and then put me on a cot in the hallway.... Me and my Mom were both sitting there in the hallway of this busy ER on a cot, in the way of just about everyone. But unfortunately it was the only place they had for us, and I am glad they put me there, because it was right beside a private, one seater bathroom. While we waiting on a nurse to see us, all of a sudden, one of my surgeons ran by us. "Hey!" I said. He stopped and told me that he had been looking for me. He and I discussed what was going on and he decided that I had been putting stuff in the top chute, but that it hadn't been coming out the bottom chute, and that there was only so long you could do that before it made you sick. It was good to see someone familiar. At about the same time a guy I work with on the ambulance that also works at that particular hospital happened by and checked on me.
They gave me a bunch of electrolytes, made me drink some nasty vitamins, and then gave me the all important suppository. A short wait later I was sitting in my private, one seater bathroom, and the bottom chute began working. As painful as it was, I was very very relieved. We stayed a bit longer and then we were able to get released just before shift change.
I have been home now 4 days since that time. I feel better every day. I have been going on walks, and doing more and more around the house. After all of this, I am finally beginning to feel somewhat normal again. I am ready to be completely normal and all healed up, but it is an experience I will not forget. Over the last couple of months I have lost one and a half organs and I plan on losing no more in the near future.
Thank you to everyone who helped, visited, prayed, and thought about me and my family during this time. I am very humbled by the amount of support we received.

Me and my Purple Dress

Post Op, in my room

The nurse got cute and cut my dressings into hearts
A bonus pic of the boys


Babyboo said...


Anonymous said...

It was sooooo good to see the sweet little Jenkins family today! And so glad that I got to meet Kari, River & Wren!!! I feel like I know them already just from reading your blog! I am so glad that you are doing better now, Ryan!!! Hope you keep improving. Take care! Dana

Daniela said...

THE bear paws dress. At least you can get some good hot air flow...