Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sleep Apnea - A Thief In The Night (part 3)

When I was fully awake and had taken one dose of oral pain medication, we were allowed to leave.  We made one quick stop on the way home from the hospital to buy Chloraseptic spray, thinking maybe that would help stop the pain.  Wrong!  The spray merely irritated the incision area.  All I had was the codeine (which burned terribly when I swallowed it) and ice chips.  The ice helped more than anything at first.  Arden kept me supplied with it all afternoon.  Fortunately the lasting effects of the anesthesia helped me sleep off and on throughout the day.  I would read a paragraph of my book (the same paragraph about 10 times) then sleep for half an hour, then read it again, then sleep.  (The Chloraseptic did start helping about 4 days post-op, when there was no longer a fresh wound in my throat.  I'm still using it now.)

I don't remember having anything to drink that day except water.  I may have had a little bit of ice cream that evening but I don't think I did that until the next day.  I took my codeine every three hours like a good boy, trying to ensure I didn't hurt any more than I had to.  I kept ice water and ice chips in two separate cups by the bed and had all my medications and supplies within reach.  And I apologized to Arden numerous times (before she even got into bed) for disturbing her, as I knew I would throughout the night.  She was great and told me not to worry about it. 

I did sleep off and on that first night - mostly off, I think.  After dozing all afternoon my body wasn't really sleepy anymore but the drugs helped.  The next morning I felt well enough to get up and go to the kitchen for coffee.  It was an experiment - I wasn't sure I could drink anything hot but the coffee actually went down pretty easy.  I let it cool a little so I wouldn't scald my throat and it tasted good.  I drank one cup and started on a second before my body said "It's time for you to go lay down now."  Arden wanted me to try eating something but I wasn't up to that yet.  I went back to bed and read and dozed and read and dozed....

As I said earlier, I think I ate a little bit of ice cream that day.  I'm not a big fan of sweets or dessert so ice cream and pudding, etc., weren't really something I wanted anyway.  But I knew I had to be careful what I swallowed and the doctors and nurses all recommended cold things rather than hot.  (They obviously didn't understand about the coffee...)  The ice cream did help my throat feel better and I ate as much as I could, knowing I needed some kind of nourishment.  That night I didn't sleep well.  I read on my side of the bed (with a book light) while Arden went to sleep and was up until around 3am, I think.  It seemed the codeine might be having the same effect as the Vicodin - making me anxious and unable to sleep.  When the reading began putting me to sleep I put the book down and turned off the book light.  I wanted to sleep - just was having trouble doing it.  I think I slept about three hours that night.

The next day (three days post-op) I don't think I ate anything.  I was actually feeling pretty good - my throat didn't hurt and all my other aches and pains (arthritis and old injuries) actually didn't hurt anymore because of the pain medication.  But I just wasn't hungry.  Arden kept trying to get me to eat something, anything.  But my body didn't want it.  By then I had lost almost seven pounds (which was OK with me) and I was figuring I'd lose at least three more before it was over.  I was hydrated - between the ice chips and water I had no problem in the hydration department.  I just didn't feel like eating. (I did drink some milk to make Arden feel better.)  I actually slept that night as well, but it's because when I took my codeine I also took half a Xanex.  Probably not the smartest thing in the world but it worked.  I slept.

On day four I woke up in pain again.  I didn't understand it.  I was almost pain free the day before but woke up hurting even worse the next day.  I called the doctor's office and the nurse said it was perfectly normal to have different pain on different days.  She said scabs build up on the incisions and when they come off it leaves tender tissue underneath.  So while I was feeling really good the day before - feeling really bad today was normal.  I have to say I was less than thrilled with that answer...

Days five and six were up and down.  I'd be pain free for a while then would hurt for a while.  I tried hard to wean myself off of the codeine so I could sleep a little better but still had to take it a few times a day in order to eat without intense pain.  I was learning a new trick though.  While eating, if you  keep a glass of ice or ice water handy, if something hurts you simply take a drink or eat a piece of ice really quickly.

The thing about this pain in my throat is that it's different than a regular sore throat.  With a regular sore throat you can gargle with warm salt water and the pain will go away.  With this one, salt burns like crazy because it's an incision and not just inflammation.  Cepacol and Chloroseptic don't really work either for the same reason.  Ice helps and eating very cold, soft things but swallowing anything but liquids hurts as well.  Even scrambled eggs hurt going down.  I know it's all temporary but geez, it's difficult to live with.

Friday, a full week after surgery, I had a good day.  I took a small dose of codeine (less than half the actual recommended dose) in the morning and didn't take any more until we were getting ready to go out for dinner.  I decided to take a full dose to prepare for dinner so I could hopefully eat in relative comfort.  We went to our favorite Italian place and I ordered gnocchi with an Alfredo sauce -  no spices, soft.  I thought that would work well.  But the sauce had some spice in it I wasn't expecting so, as good as it was, I still had to sip on ice water while I was eating.  (The good thing is I brought half of it home and I can eat it in a couple of days when I'm finally better...)  One other note - it's amazing how many foods have more salt in them than we realize.  Salt really hurts my throat right now and I can tell you from the first bite whether or not there's an excess of salt in something.  

This morning I'm feeling pretty good.  The first conscious swallow of the day (I took a drink of water) hurt quite a bit so I took a half dose of the codeine to get me started and hopefully won't take anymore the rest of the day.  One thing I can say for sure about this surgery....  I NEVER want to do it again!  One of the good things, however, (besides the obvious life-saving benefits) is that I've lost eleven pounds from not being able to eat solid food.  That's a great start on the twenty I've been wanting to get rid of!

Since I started posting this blog I've heard from several friends who also have this condition.  They all use a CPAP at night and that's quite acceptable to me.  I have a touch of claustrophobia anyway so if I can avoid the CPAP I will.  Hopefully I haven't discouraged anyone from taking their own steps to correct their sleep apnea.  It's a dangerous condition that some people don't even realize they have.  Of course, there are stubborn people like me who know they have it but just keep putting off getting treatment for it.  Sleep apnea can and does kill.  If you think you may have it, have the test done.  Your loved ones will appreciate you for it - even if it simply helps them sleep better at night.

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