Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Not Another Horror Story Part 3

Part 1 and Part 2 of the saga.

   Part 3 of the thyroid saga. Whee! So I left off at surgery being set for March 11 where they'll remove my whole thyroid due to Hashimoto's and a 3 cm nodule. Whee!
   Since Denver is about a 3 hour drive and I'd spend at least one night in the hospital and need to be at the surgeon's office Friday for a post-op check up, Fella and I decided to head to Denver the night before the surgery and stay in a motel till Friday. Given the distance and the price of fuel, it just made more sense to do that. Both of our jobs gave us time off until Monday, so we were good to go! And since I have an aunt that lives within 30-45 minutes of Denver, she met up with us Tuesday and stayed with the Fella while I was in surgery until the weather got bad enough that she felt it might be best to leave.
   Prior to surgery I'd searched the web and found quite a few forums and such discussing thyroid issues and surgeries and a large number stated how they wish they'd never had the surgery. Not exactly comforting when you're about to do it yourself. LOL. However, after some of the rollercoaster of medical professionals I'd been to, I can see why. You get the wrong person or someone screws up and you have a hefty price to pay for it. They cut through the vocal cords and you're pretty messed up from it emotionally and physically. They remove all of your parathryoids or damage them severely and you're on calcium supplements for the rest of your life. It's a good surgery when done well, and a nightmare if it isn't. I ended up with a general surgeon that wasn't sure she could do it, so she referred me to someone that does this all the time. How come I was so blessed, I'll never know. Most I can figure is that God has His hand in it and I'm not sure why.
   So Tuesday morning, day of surgery. I hadn't had anything to eat since the night before and nothing to drink (including water) after midnight. Not exactly my idea of a great way to spend the morning, but it is what it is. Glad I hydrated myself well the day before or that'd have been hell since my surgery wasn't until 1:30pm. We didn't have to check in at the hospital until 11:30, so my aunt, The Fella, and I went over to Denver's Museum of Nature and Science and did a quick 2 hour stroll through there. Great way to get your mind off of things and it was neat to see a lot of the stuff in there. Headed over to the hospital, found a spot to park, and went to get checked in. Got all of that taken care of and left Aunt and Fella in the waiting room so that the nurse could weigh me, measure how tall I was, have me change into the hospital gown, get my IV started and they could do whatever other pre-surgery stuff they do. Talked to the surgeon for a few and after she left, Aunt and Fella got to come hang out with me for a bit. They did the pre-surgery pregnancy test (no surprises there!), got me entered into the system, we met the anesthesiologist (who was awesome!), and after a bit they wheeled me into the operating room. I vaguely remember talking with the nurse and anesthesiologist after getting on the table and next thing I know someone is trying to wake me up...
  I was hearing "Casey? Are you awake?...Are you with us?..." I tried answering, but it wasn't working so well, so I gave them a thumbs up. LOL. Then I sort of remember hearing the surgeon tell me a few details from surgery and I was fighting to open my eyes and keep them open. I remember being in a little bit of pain. No idea how long I was in the recovery room, but after some time I managed to come to enough that I could keep my eyes open better and someone asked if I wanted some water. I croaked out a yes and managed to get a sip of water down without choking. I don't remember the trip to my room, but I woke up again or became more coherent there. Not sure which. LOL. I wasn't in my room for very long with Fella came in. He said my aunt left early due to the weather (it was snowing and flurrying some), but wanted him to let her know when he saw me and how I was doing. They more I sat there and interacted, the better I did and it helped when I got more water into me. The more I croaked, the better my throat started doing and I started clearing out some of the phlegm. Fella mentioned what the doc told him (which matched what I vaguely remember her telling me). Here are some of the things I noticed after surgery:
  Effects of Anesthesia:
   I wasn't cold. At all. I couldn't figure out why Fella was constantly asking if I was cold...and why he got his coat after awhile. After the anesthesia wore off, I realized why-- the room's thermostat was set at 60F. Oops?
   TMI, but the first couple of times you have to pee, it's kinda tough. You *know* you have to go, but it takes a bit to convince your bladder to cooperate. Once you get enough water in your system, that'll clear out the anesthesia and you'll be more "normal".
   I wasn't sick which surprised me. When I had my tonsils removed when I was 5 or 6, one of the few things I remember was throwing up. This time though? I wasn't nauseous and felt just fine. Woohoo!
    When I was sleeping while it was still pretty well into my system, I'd quit breathing a little when dosing off. Nurse said that was a normal side effect, so when you jolt awake, just calm down a bit and take some deep breaths. Once the anesthesia cleared out more, I didn't have an issue with it.
 Effects of Breathing Tube and Oxygen Thing in Nose:
    Sore throat, but not horrific. Between pain killers and Cepocal lozenges I did ok.
   The phlegm. You will cough up some weird gunk. Just go with it and try and be careful when coughing because it does hurt some. You'll be doing this the next few days, so just roll with it. They give you this spirometer thing that they want you to use. Do it. It'll help with clearing that gunk out and keep it from settling int and becoming an infection. And if they let you take Mucinex, that helps too. Between that and lots of water, it'll help clear it out pretty well. Mucinex and water will thin it out a bit too and if you have sinus issues like mine, you'll want what help you can get.
    That oxygen thing in your nose? It will dry your sinuses out. Denver air is pretty dry anyway, so after a bit my sinuses were parched, cracked, and bleeding a little. Nasal spray or a sinus rinse/neti pot will help with that. I was kicking myself for forgetting my NeilMed sinus rinse kit because the nasal spray just wasn't getting it and boy were they unhappy!
   Recovery wise in the hospital, I did pretty well. My throat hurt some, so I hugged my ice pack...I hugged it a lot. LOL. Swallowing stuff hurt, but it was manageable if it was soup or soft food. I didn't keep up on my pain meds as well as I should have and the next day when they were discharging me and with all the commotion, I really let it slide. Bad idea. Try and keep up with it if you need the pain meds. I regret not doing that. I took the initiative to make sure I got up frequently. Partly because I had to use the bathroom, partly because my butt hurt from sitting mostly straight up. Uh, ouch. The nurses showed me how to turn the compression cuff things on and off and how to connect and disconnect the hose things and how to silence the O2 monitor temporarily so that I could use the bathroom or move around some without them having to come in all the time or see why my O2 monitor thing was making a lot of racket. LOL. It was nice to just know I had that little bit of freedom if I wanted it and could call them if I needed something if I missed them when they were checking in. Oh, and I had a drain in my neck too. That wasn't too bad though. I usually didn't notice it at all unless I accidentally move my hand or the ice pack across it and caught it.
  Next morning, Fella came back to hang out and the doc came in a little later. She went through what she did and found in more detail. The thyroid was way more inflamed and scarred because of the Hashimoto's Way more scarred than what the ultrasounds were showing. She ended up taking about an orange and a half sized thyroid out of my neck. Obviously, that isn't normal. LOL. 2 of the parathyroids were just fine. Once she had to cut out of the thyroid and moved to the muscle on the left side of my neck and it should work in time. The other parathyroid, well, she isn't sure if the thyroid ate that one or if it was hiding in my inflamed lymph nodes. The lymph nodes were really, really inflamed which is why I felt like crap all the time. And because of the size of the thyroid, nodule, and the weight of it, it was beginning to damage the cartilage of my trachea. It thinned out a small bit of a couple of the rings of my trachea. Not bad, but enough that there'l always be a little bit of a weak spot there because of it. Heavy exercise is probably the only time I'll really notice it. My calcium levels weren't bad and they were going up, so that was good. I was at 8.4 before I was discharged and she was hoping they'd be 8.6. They still decided to release me since I was in the area and had an appointment on Friday.
  When we got to the motel after they discharged me, I was in some really bad pain. And because I had been hunching and due to how they position your head while in surgery, my shoulders and the back of my neck hurt really bad. Fella got me some heat packs, so that helped a lot! Over the next couple of days stuff improved and stuff wasn't as stiff and painful.
  Friday, the surgeon removed the steri-strips, took out the thin thread of a suture they used, and put on a new steri-strip and told me to leave it for 2 weeks before taking it off. We went over some stuff (like take the 6,000 mg of calcium until they get my calcium results back) and were on our way home to Nebraska!
   Monday we got the calcium results back-- 9! I was able to halve the amount of calcium I'm taking from 6,000 mg to 3,000 mg and will have to take it for the next 6 weeks. And the pathology stated that there was Hashimoto's and the nodule, but no cancer which was what we wanted to hear. YAY!
   So far I've healed up pretty well. It took me about a week from surgery to regain full range of motion in my neck again and I've not had any side effects. The hoarseness is pretty much gone. Unless I talk a lot for a long time or try to sing, I do just fine. I've done really well with taking the levothyroxine and haven't had any troubles with that so far. We had an appointment with the Endo on the 19th of March and he said we'll test my blood mid-April and see what adjustments we need to make. It'll take some time to get the levels right, but it's been 2 weeks after surgery and so far I feel great. Now that the inflammation is gone I actually have energy. I can breathe normally and turn my hear without any trouble. I feel more like me, not crap heated up and walking around. And for that, this was definitely worth it.

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