Tag Archive | hospital stay

Improvements

It seems that the antibiotics are working. I saw Dr. Kang yesterday and he thought the redness had decreased since the day before. When I woke up this morning, I thought it had improved even more. The oozy spot seems to be smaller as well, and not as oozy. (I’ll save you the pictures.) Dr. Kang said if the infection continues to respond to the IV antibiotics, they’ll put me on oral antibiotics on Monday. If those work, I could leave on Tuesday, and still have the exchange surgery on the 10th. Good news to my ears. If the antibiotics aren’t working well enough, the expander needs to come out while I’m in the hospital, and the implant will be put in at a later date.

I saw the Infectious Diseases doctor yesterday as well. She wasn’t very helpful. She talked a lot, but I realized when she left, she didn’t say much of anything. The one bit of information she passed on what that it didn’t seem likely the blood cultures would come back positive for anything. I wasn’t showing any signs of infection (like a fever) beyond the localized site. (My nurse this morning said the 24 hour preliminary blood cultures came back negative.) Since they wouldn’t have any detailed information, they’d just keep me on the Vancomycin.

I slept better last night, once I was able to go to sleep. I’m sure it helped I didn’t have the nasty squeeze-your-leg wraps on. They’re used to make sure you don’t get blood clots because you’re not up and around. Thing is, I’m up and around, so I don’t need my legs squeezed regularly. The only thing worse than the squeeze-your-leg wraps is the fact the nurses need to monitor my kidney function. So, every time I pee, I’m supposed to pee into a “hat” in my toilet and then call the nurse to empty it.

The hat in my toilet

The hat in my toilet – so lovely

I did have a lovely breakfast this morning.

Breakfast - I've learned to order lots of things so I get a full meal.

Breakfast – I’ve learned to order lots of things so I get a full meal.

I’ve got leftover Thai for lunch, and Firefly on TV for the day. Should keep me occupied for a while as I wait for my antibiotics every eight hours, and another visit from Dr. Kang.

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In the Hospital

Turns out that area of redness over my expander that started oozing pus was cellulitis, and it had advanced to the stage that Dr. Kang recommended I check myself into the hospital immediately in order to start a course of IV antibiotics that would last days. Lovely – just how I don’t want to spend my time, sitting in a hospital room, hooked up to an IV pole.

My IV pole, complete with antibiotics and two different kinds of saline

My IV pole, complete with antibiotics and two different kinds of saline solution

While Dr. Kang was surprised I didn’t go to the emergency room, instead of scheduling an appointment (I thought I was doing good and seeing a doctor. Who wants to go to the emergency room when you don’t feel like you’re about to die?), going to his office first meant I went right to admissions at the Women’s Hospital. Even so, checking into a hospital after 5pm on a Friday night is not the most efficient of processes. I got checked in and told to go to the fifth floor, where someone would meet me. I made it to the fifth floor, but there was no one around. I even went onto the floor a couple of times. The nursing station I could see was dark, and there was no one around. Back out to the waiting room and my book I went.

Eventually, someone did come out and bring me to a room. I updated my file on the computer, and then proceeded to get poked many times. I needed an IV first. Apparently, while I have a lovely vein at the crook of my arm for drawing blood, any other vein in my arm is tiny. The first vein the IV nurse tried didn’t work, so let’s try above the elbow instead. With all the tape, it makes it uncomfortable to bend or straighten my arm all the way.

My arm after four needle sticks.

My arm after four needle sticks. The allergy tag is for steri-strips.

I also had to provide blood for labs and blood cultures. The blood cultures are to try to narrow down what specifically is causing my infection, in case the doctors want to change the antibiotics I’m getting. They started with the big guns, Vancomycin, so I’m not sure what they’d change to, but knowing what’s causing the infection would be a good thing. The blood cultures need two blood draws, an hour apart, to provide a backup on the analysis (although which one do they believe if the results come back different?). Four needle sticks in two hours has to be a record, even for me.

Blood culture bottles

Blood culture bottles

I’m still waiting to see a doctor to find out how long I’m going to be stuck in this hospital room. It’s a nice room, but I’m still stuck in it. Let’s hope the infection responds rapidly and it’s a small number of days, and not close to that week Dr. Kang mentioned was possible.

Surgery day

Dr. Engel performed a modified radical mastectomy, taking some of the lymph nodes under my arm as well. He was able to get all the tissue he needed, and none of the lymph nodes were obviously abnormal. I’ll have the results from the pathologist early next week to see what it looks like under the microscope. Dr. Kang worked next, putting in an expander. Because of the amount of skin Dr. Engel had to remove, Dr. Kang was only able to put 50 ccs of fluid in the expander, while the breast tissue removed was just under 200 ccs.

My collection of bracelets

My collection of bracelets

Before I went into surgery, I got a collection of identifying bracelets. The red allergy bracelet refers to the reaction I had to steri-strips when I had my biopsy. The white bracelet is my personal identification bracelet. It even had a QR code on the front the nurse would scan any time she gave me medicine. The pink bracelet says “Do not use this extremity” since I shouldn’t use my right arm for blood pressure or giving blood ever again. The yellow fall risk bracelet is because I’m getting full anesthesia and the first time I get up afterward surgery, the nurse needs to accompany me to make sure I’m stable on my feet.

My gown pattern - not too bad this time.

My gown pattern – not too bad this time.

I had an IV put in my left hand. The anesthesiologist who was did it remarked on how small my veins were. It probably didn’t help that it had been almost 12 hours since I had anything to drink. Unfortunately, he put it so close to my wrist that any time I bent my hand back, it would hurt. That made it really tricky getting out of my hospital bed since I couldn’t push with either arm comfortably. I also found out my airway is classed as a one out of four – who knew I had such a high quality airway! It’s just one of the many fun facts I’ve learned by talking to the techs, nurses, and anyone else I come into contact while I’m being treated.

When I woke up after surgery, I had an Ace bandage wrapped tightly around my chest, and two drains snaking their way out of the bandage. Every once in a while, a nurse would want to look at the incision, which was always a bit tricky because she would just stretch the bandage a bit more to look under it. The bandage was so tight to my chest, it would hurt a bit to check under it.

My pain levels weren’t too bad. It certainly didn’t hurt much to lay in bed. Getting up was probably the hardest thing I had to do since I couldn’t push my torso upright with either arm. I didn’t realize at first that I had to ask for more pain meds, so I probably let the pain build a bit more than I should have before asking for another dose, but I paid more attention after the first time. I find the pain feels mostly like I pulled a muscle, or a set of muscles. Every once in a while, I’ll get a spike of pain if I move the wrong way and activate muscles across my chest, but it usually isn’t too bad.

The worst thing about being in a hospital is the lack of sleep. A nurse came in every two hours to check my vitals. She skipped the 2am time slot, but my IV drip ran out at 3am, so I got less than three hours of continuous sleep. At least the pain meds kept me sleepy so I had no problem going right back to sleep. Even so, I looked forward to a good night’s sleep in my own house.

Pre-surgery

My mastectomy was Tuesday morning, and there’s lots to say about it, so I’ll put up a couple of posts about it. Long story short, it went well and I don’t hurt too bad today (the next day). If you want all the details (I’ll spare you the gory details, I promise), keep reading.

I met with Dr. Kang the night before the surgery so he could mark up my breast to assist him in reconstruction. By the time he was done, it looked like he’d drawn a target on my breast in black Sharpie.

Sharpie lines on my chest.

Sharpie lines on my chest. You can also see my port on the upper right of my chest. The shadow on the left is just marker smear.

Dr. Kang marked the inframammary fold as well as the extent of breast tissue on the inner and outer margins, and a line right down the middle of my chest.

The night before surgery, I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping all that well so I stayed up late wrapping Christmas presents. I didn’t get quite all of them done, but I put a sizable dent in the pile. The other advantage of staying up was I could eat and drink up until midnight. I had a snack about 11:30 and kept drinking water right up through midnight. I felt a little like a gremlin with the number of times I was reminded not to eat or drink after midnight.

I had to be at the Women’s Hospital by 8am for my surgery. We were a little late, which didn’t really matter since I didn’t head down to pre-op until 11am. I was quite impressed with the size of the room – it is bigger than some hotel rooms the family has stayed in with a fold-out couch, a recliner, and a table and chairs.

The impressive room

The impressive room – there’s a flat-screen TV on the opposite wall

The bathroom even had a shower - not that I could use it.

The bathroom even had a shower – not that I could use it.

Too bad the hospital didn’t exist when I was giving birth to my kids. There was even an awesome view of Presque Isle Bay out the window.

The frozen waterfront

The frozen waterfront

Sadly, it was too cloudy to see a sunset, not that I would necessarily have remembered it after surgery and all the good drugs they gave me. I’ll provide the details of post-surgery in the next post. This one is long enough, and the lack of sleep is catching up with me.

What to bring to the hospital

I’m did a little research on what to expect for my mastectomy, and came upon some suggestions of what I’ll need in the hospital and afterwards. I’ll put the list up now (so I don’t forget), and then let you know whether or not they were useful afterwards.

Things to bring to the hospital, in no particular order:

-lotion and lip balm (everything is always so dry)

-hard candy for my dry throat after surgery

-a small pillow to hold the seat belt away from my chest on the way home. I got one after my initial appointment with the breast cancer facilitator. Now I just have to find it…

-toothbrush and toothpaste (for some reason, I tend to forget these things)

-my iPod so I have some music and podcasts to listen to while I’m sitting in the hospital. Better be sure to update the iPod before I head into the hospital

-a good book, or maybe just my Kindle so I have lots of choices

-elastic waist pants and a front button/zipper shirt since I won’t be able to lift my right arm up for a while. In fact, I’m heading out this weekend to buy a set of warm pajamas that button up the front as well

-my sleeping beanie hat so my head doesn’t get cold. Speaking of my head, check out the hair growth:

Look - you can actually see hair!

Look – you can actually see hair!

It’s not long enough to go out in public without a hat yet, especially in this winter weather, but there’s definite growth happening! (Compare it to the photo taken two weeks ago in this post.) You can even see a shadow of my eyebrows. I still haven’t had to shave, but hair is definitely growing. And yes, I take the pictures in my bathroom because that’s where I can find the most light.