Thursday, October 5, 2006

Reconstruction Surgery

I came home from the hospital today after a one-night stay following reconstruction surgery. It was supposed to be day surgery, but I was in too much pain after the procedure to sit up in bed, so they had to put me on a stretcher and into an ambulance to get me from the surgery clinic to the hospital across the street. I felt like a bit of a wimp that I couldn’t just get up and walk out. A friend of mine who had breast augmentation surgery said she woke up with no pain at all and just walked out of the clinic. That’s what I expected would happen to me. But when I tried to sit up, there was such a sharp, stabbing pain deep in the center of my chest that I couldn’t even catch my breath. I thought maybe something had gone wrong with the operation because I hadn’t expected it to hurt at all.

The most disappointing part of the experience was the helplessness I felt because the doctor and nurses had no clue about what I was feeling. The doctor never even asked me about the nature of my pain or where it was located. Instead, HE was telling ME where my pain was, saying the right side had undergone radiation so it would feel constricted, etc. I tried to tell him that the pain was deep in the center of my chest and NOT on the radiated side, but because I could only speak in a whisper due to the pain, I couldn’t make myself understood and no one made any effort to bend down to my level to listen to what I had to say. And one nurse in particular kept moving my body forward while I desperately tried to tell her in as loud a voice as I could (but I could only manage a whisper) that she was causing me a lot of pain. Tony was standing behind her and I tried to catch his eye to tell him not to let that nurse touch me again, but he too, seemed unable to hear me or understand me. I felt completely helpless and voiceless and they could do whatever they wanted with me because I had no power to stop them.

This experience has made it abundantly clear to me that if I ever have to undergo any kind of serious medical procedure again, it will NOT be in Singapore. And this was just a simple surgery. What if I’m ever really incapacitated? What if my condition deteriorates and I get to the point where I can’t actually speak or move my own body? I’m worried that no one would know what I needed or wanted. I’m glad I’ve filled out a Living Will, but what about before I get to that point? What if I’m just too weak or sick to express my wishes and nobody can think of a way to listen to me and see what I need? All I needed today was for someone to put his ear right next to my mouth so I could tell him what the pain was like, where the pain was, and what I wanted him to do. I couldn’t speak loudly enough to say all that. I was so frustrated and angry -- that was worse than the pain itself.

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