Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sleep Apnea - A Thief In The Night (part 2)

As I said yesterday, after a sleep study my doctor determined I have sleep apnea and needed treatment.  (I really already knew this but had never gotten a professional opinion.)  Since Arden was practically begging me to do it (because she didn't want me to die), I agreed to have surgery over the option of a CPAP machine.  If it was fixable, I wanted it fixed!

They scheduled me for surgery on Friday, November 9th.  With Monday the 12th being a holiday, Arden would have a long weekend to care for me and not have to take too much time off work.  Plus she works from home on Tuesdays so that gave her an extra day with me. 

The hospital had me come by a couple of days before to do all the pre-op stuff and get registered.  That took nearly three hours, culminating with a visit to the lab for blood work.  The hospital told me my doctor would tell me what time to be there on Friday morning.  My doctor called later that day and asked me what time the hospital wanted me there.  They (the doctor's office) said 7:15am.  Nothing to eat or drink after midnight on Thursday but take my medications 9particularly my blood pressure medication) early in the morning with a minute amount of water Friday morning.

The hospital called me on Thursday and said be there at 7:00am.  Why they didn't tell me that from the beginning is beyond me.  Then, Thursday evening, the anesthesiologist called me to go over everything and told me not to take any medications at all the morning of surgery.  She specifically said don't take the blood pressure medication because the anesthetic was going to drop my blood pressure already and if I took my medication on top of that it could be dangerous.  Wonder why my doctor didn't think of that?  Hmmm....

Anyway - after all  that was settled and I had all my post-op supplies, I was ready.  Post-op supplies...   tissues, saline nasal spray, Afrin nasal spray, saline nasal gel, prescribed antibiotics and pain medication.  Check.  Ice cream, popsicles, pudding, fruit punch, apple juice, soup, whipped cream...  check.  They told me to have plenty of cold liquids and soft food on hand for the days following my surgery because my throat would be sore.  (In fact, the nurse at the office told me my throat was going to hurt so badly that I would hate my doctor for the first few days post-op.  Gotta tell you that was encouraging...)

I told the anesthesiologist I would make things easier for her and show up rip-roaring drunk Friday morning.  I told her I think anyone having surgery should be able to show up drunk or stoned just to keep the nerves at bay.  She didn't seem to see the humor in it and went through a five minute explanation of why that was dangerous.  Geez, I was just kidding.  Sometimes doctors have no sense of humor.

We got up around 5:45am on Friday and got ready to go.  The hospital is literally five minutes away from our home so we didn't have to hurry.  I wasn't happy that I couldn't have any coffee but I just had to suffer.  Fortunately for Arden, I'm not one who gets jealous or selfish so I made coffee for her to take along.  That's just the kind of guy I am.

We got to the hospital and checked in.  A nurse took us back to the pre-op area, put me in a room and told me to change my clothes into the famous hospital gown, with the opening in the back.  They started an IV and took my vital signs, then it was "hurry up and wait."  My surgery wasn't scheduled until 8:30 and they usually run late so I had time to just lay around and wonder what it would be like.  After about half an hour the anesthesiologist came in.  She was a very pretty young lady who looked to be all of about 23.  She asked me a lot of the same questions she had asked on the phone and told me I'd get something in my IV "in a little while" to help me relax.  A minute later she was gone and I was waiting again.  Arden was by my side and we talked and tried to stay calm. 

The doctor came by to see how I was and let me know everything was going to be fine.  He was dressed in all black scrubs - something I hadn't seen before.  I wouldn't mind a pair of those myself.  Scrubs are very comfortable.  I had a few pair when I was a paramedic in the Air Force and wore them around the house a lot.

As the time drew nearer to 8:30, Arden was getting more nervous than I was.  I mentioned that they promised me something to relax.  I figured if they gave me that I could just take a nap until it was time to go.  Arden went to ask about it and they basically said "They'll give it to him when they come back to get him."  So the idea of a nap went out the window. 

About ten minutes went by and the anesthesiologist returned - with a syringe in her hand.  She said "This is going to help you relax.  It's time to go."  She put the needle into my IV and emptied the syringe into it.  I said my goodbyes to Arden and they wheeled me out of the pre-op area, through a door and around the corner into a hallway.  By the time we made the turn I was feeling the meds and told them so.  Their response was "Good.".  We went through a door to the right and they helped me get on the table.  That's the last thing I remember until I woke up in recovery.

I remember waking up slowly with my throat on fire.  The nurse asked me if I needed something for pain and of course I said "Yes."  I wasn't going to refuse free drugs.  And my throat did  hurt.  Not as much as I expected it to (at the time) but it hurt. 

Arden was there on my right side and said "Hi, Baby."  I reached up and touched her.  That was good enough for me.  I don't remember much about the first few minutes in recovery other than having pain in my throat and the nurse giving me medication for it.  Then came the dreaded words...  "That's the last of the IV medication.  If you need more I'll have to give it to you by mouth."  I still needed it.  She disappeared for a few minutes and returned with a pill that was at least as big as a boulder.  It was Tylenol #3 (with codeine) and while looking back I'm sure the pill wasn't really as big as a boulder - to my sore throat that morning it might as well have been.  There was no way I was going to swallow that.  If my life depended on swallowing that pill at that time I'd have died.  They had given me Tylenol #3 liquid for use at home post-op and we told the nurse that.  She said "Oh, OK" and went to get that instead.  She returned a few minutes later with the medication in a small cup.  I took it and drank it and was instantly breathing fire! 

One of the things they told me about post-op liquids was to avoid citrus of any kind.  The acid would be very painful.  So, of course, Tylenol #3 liquid is orange flavored and by the way it burned going down I'm pretty sure it has citric acid in the flavoring.  Really intelligent move there!

My doctor gives most of his patients hydrocodone (Vicodin) after this type of surgery.  It's his drug of choice, I guess.  I can't take Vicodin.  Several years ago I popped a cartilage between my ribs on the right side.  I went to the urgent care clinic because it hurt terribly just to breathe.  They gave me Vicodin and an anti-inflammatory.  Being someone who doesn't take drugs as a rule, I took one whole Vicodin when I got them just to get rid of the pain for a while.  After that I took 1/2 of one pill at the prescribed intervals. 

After two days I began to feel odd.  I had gone up to my dad's home in Ohio for an overnight visit.  I went to bed at around 10 and was unable to sleep.  I figured it was just pain related so I took the other half of the pill thinking that would put me to sleep.  I began reading and was up for several more hours before I began to get drowsy.

I headed home from Dad's the next day and again went to be around 10pm.  By 2am I was out of bed, pacing the floors, heart racing, unable to sit or lay down for more than a minute or two at a time.  I was in near panic mode and had no idea why.  Thank God for the internet.  Since the Vicodin was the only thing new in my life I researched it.  There it was, plain as day.  In some people Vicodin can cause anxiety, nervousness and trouble sleeping.  I can tell you from experience that it can also cause claustrophobia as well.  Around 4am I decided to take a shower and between the closed shower curtain and closing my eyes to wet my hair I was in panic mode again.  I stopped taking them at that moment and didn't take another one.  It took nearly two weeks for the effects to wear off. The claustrophobia was the worst thing.  I couldn't even shower without feeling it.  It was absolutely the worst reaction I've ever had to a medication.  I told my doctor he could prescribe anything else but Vicodin was out.  So he prescribed codeine.

To be continued...

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