Tuesday, February 03, 2009



Step 1 - Remove nasty lung nodule. Check.
Now on to Step 2 - Defend Thesis. (Feb. 13th, 9am, Packard 202 at Stanford)

I'm out of the hospital, minus a chunk of my lung that I left there for the pathologists to poke and prod. We showed up yesterday at 8am for a 10am surgery that started around 11 and finished before noon. Strangely, the waiting and anticipation beforehand was more annoying than anything else. This time I wasn't really nervous, since I knew exactly what they were going to do and it was supposed to be pretty straightforward (luckily, it was). I was one of just a few patients in the pre-op area at first; then more and more were brought in while I answered the usual random questions ("Do you have allergies to medications? Does anyone at home hurt or harm you? Have you fallen down in the last six months?"). My mom and sister came in after the question/answer session with the nurse, and we basically waited around for half an hour or so. The attending anesthesiologist had a laughably gruff bedside manner - he basically rattled off a bunch of words in sequence in a total monotone - but I guess I didn't mind since I'd been through surgery before. The resident was perfectly friendly and intelligible, and luckily he didn't have the med student practice putting an IV into me. That honor was left to the next lucky patient. My surgeon said a quick hello and then scurried off to prepare things. Finally it was time to go in. I remember the anesthesiology resident giving me an injection and putting the oxygen mask over my nose and mouth, then voila, I woke up in the recovery room with a sore throat (from the breathing tube) and some pain in my left side (from the, um, holes they poked there).

They moved me to my room in one of the post-surgery wards, and the next few hours were interesting. At first I was pretty awake, and the pain wasn't terrible, until I tried to move around. I got up from my bed to sit in the chair for a bit, and then the pain shot up on my left side, so the nurse gave me some IV pain killers, which made me instantly drowsy, woozy, and a bit dizzy, such that I had to get back in bed again. Then I felt nauseated, so she gave me some anti-nausea meds, and I basically spent the next 4-5 hours drifting in and out of sleep, as my various visitors will attest to (thanks for coming, guys!). Then, since I couldn't really get up to walk around, they kept these leg pump cuffs wrapped around my legs to prevent deep vein thrombosis. Basically, they're like blood pressure cuffs that keep inflating and deflating to keep blood flowing in your legs and prevent clots. If you just imagine an octopus or something alternately squeezing each of your legs while making a loud, low-pitched buzzing noise every couple of seconds, you'll get the idea. This, plus the gurgling water pump they had hooked up to a chest tube to drain the blood out of my chest and my neighbor's snoring made for a tough sleeping situation. Also there was the pain, dry mouth, and general discomfort from just having had surgery. Oh yeah, and of course don't forget the nurses and technicians coming into the room every couple of hours to draw blood, check temperature and blood pressure, etc. I'm sure I've said it before, but a note to anyone who has to spend a night in the hospital: be sure to ask for ear plugs!

Anyhow, this morning was much better, although the pain was still pretty bad when I got up to sit in the chair and nibble at my breakfast. It turned out, though, that the bulk of the pain was due to that stupid drainage tube stuck in my back. I spent most of the morning waiting for the resident to come by and take the thing out, and meanwhile I kept getting conflicting reports of when I was going home - my doctor (the surgeon) said they would discharge me later in the afternoon, then his nurse practitioner came by and said it might still be one or two days after the tube came out. All in all, though, the morning after was much more pleasant than the night before. Finally, the resident came in to pull the tube out, but she wanted to give me some pain medication first - having learned from the previous day's response, I negotiated a reduced dose of Dilaudid (Strong stuff! Either that, or as my sister said, I'm a drug lightweight). While she pulled the tube out I had to puff up my lungs by blowing against my wrist so that no air got in the space between my lungs and chest cavity. It definitely stung a bit, but I'd have to say insertion and removal of urethral catheters take the cake for pain and discomfort. Once the tube was out, the pain was immediately 10x better, and my range of motion increased dramatically. I haven't even needed any pain medication since then, though I'll probably take some tonight before I go to bed.

Now I just have to wait for the pathology to come back. While I continue to prepare for my defense, of course. One step at a time. . .


jeff said...

What's with the "have you fallen down in the last six months" question? Vague test of neurological normality? Also, you are awesome. Seriously, so interesting to hear about this from your perspective. Why did removing the tube increase your range of motion? What was it doing in your back? Did the three holes correspond to one tube for cutting, one tube for sucking/draining and one tube for watching? Well, hope you're feeling all better now. Wish I could've been one of the various visitors coming in while you drifted in an out of sleep. See you before too long, i hope!

Alex Tung said...

Dunno about the falling down thing. I suspect that's mostly for older patients. It turns out that having a tube stuck in your chest makes a lot of motion painful. I think you're pretty much right with the three holes, though the doc did say at some point he shoves his finger in there to feel around. That's a bit weird to think about. Somehow having instruments poking around inside me isn't as weird as a finger. < And the door opens for a slew of lewd jokes. . . >