The gash is the remnants of my operation from this past Thursday to remove a tumor in my parotid gland, along with some suspicious looking lymph glands surrounding the tumor.
My wife, mother and I had to be down at the Cedars-Sinai hospital by 5:15 AM. We arrived 20 minutes early and were the only three folks sitting in the lounge. Within 10 minutes of our arrival, there were at least 30 other people packed into this waiting area. I thought it was amusing how the preparation for my surgery was like meeting a clandestine CIA agent. A guy calls my name and tells me to go up to the third floor, dial a number and then someone would come and get me. I do this, and a monotone female voice tells me to take a seat. We wait around for about 10 minutes in another waiting room lounge area. Except for a couple of other folks, the hospital appeared to be entirely vacant. The monotone female emerges from a non-descript door and she registers me into the hospital. I finish up with her and I am told to go back and wait to be called. When I return to the lounge, it is now getting filled up with people.
After another 30 minutes or so, a lady appears at a door, calls my name, along with about 5 or 6 other people. She takes us down a corridor into the pre-op room. Each of us were assigned our curtained cubicles and told to change into a gown with little booties and a paper hat. I asked the lady coordinating all of us if I needed to take off my underwear. She asks me what area of my body is being operated on. I reply my neck and she tells me I should be OK wearing them. Later on, however, when I got to my room, I was disconcerted to discover they were gone. Anyhow...
The pre-op folks weighed us, took all our stats, and began interviewing everyone as to what procedure they were going to have. For all the emphasis on patient privacy, I could hear everyone sharing his or her medical problem. The guy to my right was there to have his sinuses worked on, another fellow was there to do something with his lungs, and still another guy to my left had something going on with his knee. I really got to know my fellow patients.
I had one funny experience. My tumor is on the right side of my face. A report in my file said it was on the left side. So, when the first nurse asks me, "Are you here to get a tumor out of your left parotid gland?" I quickly told her no, the right gland. She then goes and changes the paperwork on the computer. While she is doing that, another nurse comes over and asks me about my left parotid gland. I told her no, my right. She immediately went to investigate the paper work. I had even another nurse ask me the same thing, to which I told her no. There was a flurry of activity with nurses buzzing about to find out what the truth was as to the nature of my operation. One nurse even questioned me, "Are you sure it is your right and not your left?" I had to make her feel it so she would be convinced.
When my surgeon arrived, Dr. Osborne (see photo on the left), he says, "Well, I would think the patient would know more about his own body than a piece of paper" and then he looked over all of my other reports, charts and scans and says, "These all confirm it is on the right, so it must be on the right." I was happy I did not have to become insistent to the point of being belligerent.
I was wheeled into the OR, slid from the gurney to the operation table and introduced to all my nurses. Jennifer is the only name I can remember. I mentioned how I was told that when you go under, the last thing you think of will be the first thing you think of when you wake up. That is a myth. I tried, but it does not work; at least with me. I was thinking of my wife when I went under, when I woke up I was thinking about being thirsty. I first thought of her when the nurse informed me the doctor had spoken to her and my mother. I have to say how much I love and appreciate my wife. It took a long while for my hospital room to be prepared and she and my mother were out in the waiting room hurting to see me. I praise God for her persistence, because one of the nurses let her come back to the post op area - an area forbidden to anyone but staff and patients - to see me. She fed me ice chips and swabbed my mouth with a sponge.
After a long time in the post-op room, I was finally carted off to my hospital room. As I became more aware, I noticed I had a neck brace, but I also had drainage tubes coming out of my head. One from behind my ear and another down near the base of my neck. The one behind my ear was 6 inches into my head, the one near the base of my neck was 8 inches up into my face. The idea of plastic tubes draining my personal juices out from my body into another plastic container does not sound natural. It is almost like a horror movie. Having plastic tubes with little suction bulbs dangling at the end of them is probably the more disturbing aspect of my whole ordeal. Even worse was when the doctor had to remove them. He removed the one behind my ear on Saturday. He cuts the plastic tube and then yanks it out. It hurt. A lot. But removing the second one from my neck, however, is a pain I never want to feel again. I shudder to think about it.
Now I am home. I stayed in three, long and arduous days. I don"t know how many people have ever been in the hospital for an extended stay, but I just marvel at how slow the passage of time is. It was truly the oddest phenomenon. I would go to sleep at 10 PM. I would wake up, believing I slept a good solid 4 hours or more, but it would be 10:45. I would go back to sleep, wake up again think I slept a good 2 hours or more and it would be 11:30. It was like this all night long. The first night was as if the morning would never come. And it was like this on Friday night as well. I wanted to catch up on my reading, but could not concentrate. Plus, trying to prop up my body to read was a chore. So, I went to TV surfing. Did you know that after a certain time, like midnight, channels begin to repeat the same shows? I think I saw the same airplane documentary on the Discovery channel 10 times during the weekend.
On top of the foot long gash, almost the entire right side of my face is numb. It is not paralyzed like we had feared could have happened, just numb. Dr. Osborne did an expert job pulling out the tumor from around all those nerves, so we are praising God for his skill. I guess you can say the nerves are still traumatized from the operation. I cannot express how weird it is to touch my ear and not feel it, or shave over that area of my face and not feel the razor.
As I close this up, I would just like to say how much my wife and I have been overwhelmed with the well wishes, thoughts of prayers and general all around concern from all sorts of people. It is a tremendous testimony of the Body of Christ caring for one another. It is especially cool to know I have readers I may never meet who were thinking of me during this time. You are deeply appreciated from a far.