Sunday, February 5, 2012

The "Waking Up" Chronicles

Waking up after surgery this time was different.

I have some very traumatic memories of waking up from surgeries, actually starting *long* before the hernia surgery. The first traumatic waking up was... when I was seven years old, from a tonsillectomy. Yup. I remember it so vividly. Nobody was around, the had nurse just gone out "for a second". I *yelled*. Searing pain went through my throat and neck, but I kept yelling, for my Mommy. I yelled and yelled, for what seemed to me like five whole minutes, but it was probably just a a half of a minute. Finally  the nurse came and told me she would immediately bring my Mommy. She did and that is the end of my memory at that point.

Then the next awakening from anesthesia was 32 years later, at the cesarean, when Azriel was born. Going under anesthesia, I was pregnant (duh), with the entire neo-natal resuscitation team ready and waiting for this baby to be born; the prediction was that he'd be sick. His Mommy (me) was sick, and they didn't know yet what I was sick *with*. The baby's heart rate was way high for way too long (he was in a hot tub of amniotic fluid heated by my relentless fever), and preparations were made for the worst case scenario. That is what my last sight was before I went out.

When I woke up, I was in excruciating pain, Robert was next to me (the first time of many, little did we know), and I did not have any information about the baby. The little guy was nowhere to be seen. I looked around for a bassinet next to me, and there wasn't. I got immediately terrified. This was a mere 5 or 10 second time span until panic set in. Robert, noticing I had woken up, told me the baby was fine, and he was born strong (Baruch Hashem!). But the sheer panic of not seeing my baby is a memory I will never forget.

Next was a year and a half later, at my hernia surgery in 2007.
When I woke up, Robert actually wasn't by my side yet, but my surgeon came to me when he noticed I was awake.
He said "the surgery went fine, but there was one small complication, which you don't have to worry about". "While I was in there, I saw a tumor mass which I took out. We call it a Lipoma. It is a fatty mass, nothing to worry about". "I have seen a lot of cancers in my time, and this was not a cancer. This sort of tumor forms when there is a trauma to the area, or an infection which the body is wrapping fat around to protect it from the rest of the body. Can you think of any reason there would be this sort of protective mass in your thigh"? "This one was filled with Lymph nodes. Ever have any infections in that area before?" To which I answered "nope, not that I can think of".

If that information was a little unsettling, what came immediately afterward was that I didn't have feeling down the side and front of my thigh, straight down to my knee (a condition that remains exactly the same today.). This was supposed to be a standard, small hernia surgery. I was *alarmed*. This all happened within two or three minutes from waking up after anesthesia.

Many of the readers here know about the next few awakenings. I have written about them all at one point or another, but I have never categorized them all together like this.

After the hernia surgery, 
I became infected by the Strep A bug, 
which led to Necrotizing Fasciitis.

  Life. Changed on a dime.

I was taken into exploratory surgery after I was in the hospital for three days of unrelenting pain.

In preparation for this surgery (my blood pressure already having dropped dangerously) my hospital gown had to be cut off me because I could hardly move. I do not remember going under with the exploratory surgery, but I remember waking up.

Before I will discuss waking up from a coma, I will refer to a time somewhere between exploratory surgery and finally waking from the extended coma. There was a time in there when I thought I was waking up, and that I was dying. I woke up in a CT tube, but I didn't know that. I saw a white tube, bright light, I couldn't move or feel my body, and I heard non-distinct voices. I thought to myself, this is IT. I cried; I think I felt tears down my face. I only thought of my kids, how they need me. I thought about saying "Sh',ma Yisrael" (which Jews say when they think they are going to imminently die), but I didn't. My kids were in my mind.

Waking up from the coma was traumatic. At first, I had a sort of half-wakening. I became aware of voices all around me. I wanted to talk, but the breathing tube stopped me. Confused, I took my hands to my tube and tried multiple times to take it out. Later I learned that what Robert saw was that I was ever so slightly and slowly moving my hands in the up direction, with no clear destination. Inside my head, though, my hands were violently trying to get that tube out. Isn't that wild?

I woke up more. I could see and think, but there was a tube in my throat and I couldn't talk. Robert was right there at my side, crying. He told me I am OK, that I had an infection, but that I am OK now. I didn't know what time it was... then I found out I needed to know actually what *day* it was. We had come a long way from the exploratory surgery which was my last clear memory.

Then came the next surgery, the skin graft. I was *terrified* to go under. It had been three weeks since I realized I had a huge hole in my gut, and now they wanted to close it up with skin from my other leg.
Before I went under, I actually *stood up* out of my bed to daven (pray) the morning prayers. Standing up, at that point, meant holding all the bandaging and packing that was piled onto my abdomen, with one hand, and my siddur (prayer book) in my other. I *needed* to show Gd that I am worthy of saving. I was going under again after almost dying three weeks beforehand. Nothing about this was OK.

I woke up after the skin graft surgery. My immediate sensory message was PAIN! RIGHT LEG ON FIRE! The "donor leg", where the skin was taken from, felt like it was
{{{{{{ ~b u r n i n g~ }}}}}}
It was hell. But, thank Gd, my loving, steadfast, faithful husband was right at my side. I immediately asked if we are in ICU. No, he said, we are in a normal recovery area. Everything had gone well. Then he went to call a nurse for more morphine (for me, not him. :-))

Next time I went under was for the PVNS surgery in 2009. The waking-up was again traumatic. Robert was there and witness to it all. "Where am I? What happened? Am I OK? What happened? Where am I? ICU? Am I OK? Was the surgery a success?" Over and over. I think after a while Robert started to chuckle, although he tried to hold it in. For some reason, I was stuck in a loop, deep in trauma vortex.

Six weeks later I was wheeled into emergency surgery for an acute appendicitis.

Again, the waking up was the trauma loop, not unlike what had happened last time. Robert started to get used to this. (Getting used to how your spouse wakes up from surgeries. Odd, that.) I, however, was definitely *not* used to this, the trauma feeling fresh and real each and every time. It is was so awful.

Then, a year and a half ago, in 2010, I had the surgery to put a mesh into Gapey to hold in my guts from pushing against the skin graft. The stomach wall muscle had partially been removed at the NF debridement, and was weakened such that a huge hernia had formed against Gapey (the skin graft).

Again, the waking up, a similar scene to the past few times: Trauma loop. "How did it go? Am I OK? Where am I? Is it the ICU? How did it go? Is everything OK? How long was it? What time is it? Am I OK?"... you get the picture. Robert was there, internally (and, as I remember, externally slightly) chuckling. Glad he can take it so lightly. One of us has to!

We finally get to NOW.
I'm too tired to keep writing. Going to sleep. See ya.
Stam!!! ("Just kidding!" In Hebrew)
Actually I am on a roll, and it is quite late at night. 
I often get on a writing roll late at night. Problem....

I woke up from this surgery, 
the one to fix the cartilage and bone problem in my thigh joint,
(Femoroacetabular Impingement, or FAI,
[I had a combination of both types])
five days ago,
*not* in the trauma loop.

I looked around, saw Robert, and he told me immediately that everything had gone extremely well. He told me the surgery was 2 1/2 hours.
I felt the urgent, intense pain in my hip, and told him so. He asked for more Morphine. I then stepped out of the loop.

I asked to have his hand on my cheek. 
He put it there, sort of knuckle and finger side on my cheek. 
I said no, I want it the other way,
with his hand open, full palm on my cheek. 
He happily obliged. My face felt his solid, full love,
and off I went, into anesthesia blur.

Next I need to write about the hours and days after this surgery.
It was so intense and quite awful for me. 
Nobody *ever* can get used to what happens next.
For now, I am handling it OK. Still in quite a bit of pain, but it is easily controlled.
I am enjoying quality time with my kids.
Watching "Tinkerbell", in entirety, snuggling with Shifra on Friday was *wonderful*.
It made me feel so optimistic!
I am sleeping a lot, resting well. 
Navigating life on crutches after major hip surgery is *really* different than when I sprained my ankle 7 or 8 months ago!
Not easy. But "I get by with a little help from my friends".
And my family. :-)


  1. Sarah, you are handling it all more than "OK". As I read this, I wonder about the poem you shared re-the height and roots of the tree. The height being happiness the roots being sadness or pain. The balance of easiness / joy and difficulty / pain. I liked it as I read it but I'm not so sure it's correct. Roots give the tree it's strength and it's strength we need to handle the pain. The rain and storms which fall on or attack the tree are, too me, a better analogy for difficulties and pain. We grow from the waters of the rain and as for the storms, if our roots are strong we survive them and withstand them. The tree also needs good soil,perhaps for us the good soil is all the love and support we get from those who care about us. You have had rain. You have had storms. Your amazing inner strength, your sense of humour, your love toward others, your insistence to become better and not bitter through it all: these and much more are all part of strong roots of good character. That's it! The height of the tree doesn't come from roots of pain, but roots of character. This is the trees strength in the midst of the storms. Wishing you an end to the storms, and only "geshem l'bracha" the kind of rain that is easily handled. Sharing with you the desire to see bountiful fruit. Lots of love and a big hug, Darlene.

  2. wishing you a happy healthy week filled with lots of rest, eating well, and being warmly taken care of by your family! rochel.

  3. Not surprising you remember your childhood awakenings-I remember awakening from major surgery at 3yr.s old...and talking to the nurses-in the operation room at 5yrs.-they told me I was supposed to be "out" so close my eyes and don't talk!..I suspect they added some more sleeping gas!

  4. Healing and so much love- may both continue to multiply in your life!

  5. This was powerful reading.
    I love you.
    Hope the pain in your foot is settling (try a hot water bottle).

  6. Sarah, you’re holding all of this trauma in your body!!! Can I try to help you???

    Lots of love and hugs,

    Miriam Maslin

    "Gentle Healing for Women"
    Counseling and Bodywork
    Phone Sessions and Workshops
    Life Issues - Bereavement - Birth Trauma
    Sliding Scale Fee
    Office with Private Entrance
    Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel


    U.S. Number 718-838-3244

  7. Feel the love of all the people who care about you every step you take, Sarah.

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