Post Surgery Hummingbird


Post Surgery Hummingbird

Recovery from major surgery has not been without hurdles. Being dependent on IV nutrition (TPN - total parenteral nutrition) meant being tested every 6 hrs to make sure her blood sugar levels remained stable. Emma's dipped dramatically one night and she was brought apple juice to drink. Fortunately the apple juice seemed to settle okay. She was being watched carefully for any signs of leakage in her gut where the intestines were reattached. Leakage would mean another trip to the OR, another surgery to clean up the abdomen and give her an ostomy. Signs of leakage included fever, high heart rate, pain, distention, nausea, vomiting... any, or any combination, of those symptoms would be cause for serious concern.

Day 3 post-surgery, they started Emma on clear fluids. She enjoyed some soup broth, jello, and tea. She drank water when she was thirsty. She had been told that walking would be the best way to help move the gas that naturally forms after abdominal surgery. I walked with her around the floor and suddenly, magically, we were surrounded by nurses asking Emma how she was feeling. Was she light headed? Did she feel faint? Did she have a head ache?  No, no.. she felt okay. Tired, but okay. Did she feel like her heart was racing? No, not that she had noticed.

I'm post-menopausal. Sometimes my heart rate goes up over 100 beats per minute. When it does, I feel it. I want to sit down and breathe deeply and close out the world for awhile. My daughter? Her heart rate was going up into the 140's and 150's and she hadn't noticed anything. She was wearing a heart monitor, however, and the nurses did notice. Alarms had gone off, nurses were called, and her doctors alerted. This was repeated several times during the day, every time Emma got up to use the bathroom or walk anywhere. We were a bit confused by all the fuss as she still seemed just fine. Her nurse came and let us know Emma was going down for a CT scan to check for possible blood clots in her lungs. Her docs also wanted to see what was going on in her gut.

An hour later, the surgical team descended upon us. They felt her belly, asked her about pain. The CT scan showed her stomach distended and filled with the fluids she'd been allowed to drink and her intestines distended with gas; not a good thing. They seemed shocked Emma wasn't nauseated and vomiting. They left, undoubtedly to converse in another room. Her surgeon came back soon after and asked her questions again. He said they would watch her during the night and if things went south, they'd have her back in the OR in the morning. Then he left. Emma started to cry. She had been so excited to not have an ostomy, the thought of going back to surgery was frightening and discouraging. Five minutes later, the surgeon came back in, looked at her, and asked her why she was crying.

Say what?

I think he was honestly bewildered and wasn't sure how to respond to her. After all, it was his job to make sure her body was functioning properly and everything inside was fixed. I think some surgeons (oftentimes the best ones) have an easier time dealing with the insides of our bodies than our outsides! He obviously was trying very hard because the next time he came in to check on her that evening, he gave her an awkward fist bump on his way out.  As he came in the door that time, he told Emma how pleased he was to see her heart rate coming down. He took her wrist in his hand to check manually and gave a funny smile, "It's going up again. As soon as I walked in the door, it went up again. Interesting."

All along, I kept thinking, this doctor reminds me of someone. Who? After this last visit, I knew. He had a sort of Dr. Who personality. This helped us both to warm up to him. We are big Dr. Who fans!

Eventually, after lots of checking, the team decided several things. Emma's heart racing seems to be in response to her surgery and the healing process. There are no abnormal rhythms or anything wrong with her heart; it just beats fast. I asked for some parameters. We were told Emma should still walk, but then when her heart would race, she'd be told to lie down. New rules: She should still walk. The alarms wouldn't go off unless her heart rate went above 140. If it went above 160, she was to lie down for the rest of the day. I decided she was just part hummingbird.

They also decided to wait and see how she did over the next day or two. Perhaps they had started her on fluids too soon. Breathe out time. She escaped having to have another surgery.


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So much to experience for all of you! I feel like I'm in the room with Emma. Even a few lines of print represent hours and hours of living with doubt and anxiety. Bless your hearts.