Dear Friends & Family,
Greetings! We wanted to give you an update on Paula’s mastectomy surgery, which was scheduled for 9:45 AM on Thursday, May 12.
The surgery went well, with no apparent complications. Paula came home yesterday (Friday, May 13), is dealing with pain and the side effects of the pain medicine, but has been doing somewhat better today. Thanks for your prayers!
THE DETAILED VERSION
Paula and I left home around 7 AM, driving down to the outpatient surgery center at Florida Hospital Orlando, about 25 miles from our home here in Sanford. My sister, Kelley Oliver Douglass, Pastor Mark Benson, and our friend Deb McCrary came by to encourage and support us.
Our friend, Laurie Steffey, picked up our kids Thursday morning and took care of them until Friday afternoon.
They took Paula back around 8:30 AM, prepared her for the surgery, and then Pastor Mark and I were able to spend a little time with her before the surgery.
Around 11:30, Paula’s breast surgeon, Dr. Rahm, came out and reported to us that the surgery had gone well with no complications. Paula was in the recovery area, and we were expecting to see her around 12:30.
Around noon, the recovery nurse, Jill, called and indicated that Paula was slow in coming out of the anesthesia (this is normally the case for Paula, as a little anesthesia tends to go a long way), so it would be another hour or so before I could see her.
Around 1:30, they allowed me to go back and see Paula for a couple minutes. Jill indicated that Paula had had some difficulty breathing – larynx spasms – likely due to the breathing tube that had been down her throat (Paula later told me that she had felt like she was suffocating, but was unable to speak); they had given her medicine and breathing treatments to help with that. When I saw her, Paula had her eyes closed, an oxygen mask on, and was pretty much still out of it. She could tell that I was there, though, so that was encouraging.
They invited me back again at 2:30 PM. Kelley, Pastor Mark, and Deb had already left, but Deb was able to return after and join Paula and I in the recovery area. Dr. Rahm also stopped by to check in on Paula.
Around 4 PM, Paula was moved to her (our) overnight room in the recovery area. It wasn’t exactly what we expected, but it was for only one night (we hoped). It was a private room (well, except that instead of a regular door, it had a sliding glass door with a curtain in front) with a sink. The main surprise, though, was that it had no bathroom.
There was a single bathroom down the hall to be shared by all six of recovering surgery patient rooms; inside the bathroom were six shelves, one for each patient, each with their own container to be placed on the toilet to measure urinary output.
I was instructed that overnight guests (such as myself) were to exit the patient area, use the restroom in the waiting area, and then knock on the door to have a nurse let me back into the patient area – not ideal, but workable.
We found out later, in talking with one of the nurses, that the normal overnight recovery area had been flooded (?), so these overnight accommodations were apparently a temporary solution.
As you can imagine, our room didn’t have a king bed, or even two full beds or two twin beds. It had a hospital bed (as you might expect) and a hospital chair that reclined. In retrospect, I should have taken some pictures of our accommodations, but this did not occur to me at the time, as I was somewhat occupied with other more important matters.
As a matter of fact, I had no clue as to how busy I was going to be during our stay there. Now I understand why Paula was so clear that she wanted someone (preferably me) to be with her 24/7 (ok, 24/1 – we were only there one day).
As a patient, you have to look out for your own well-being. The nurses have good intentions, of course, but they have multiple patients, many tasks to complete, and sometimes things are overlooked or mistakes are made, and so you need to look out for yourself.
I also had not realized how disabling this surgery would be during this initial recovery period. In any case, as Paula’s personal care assistant and advocate, I learned that I pretty much had a full time job.
Paula was hooked up to a clip on her left finger (to measure her pulse and oxygen level), a cuff on her right ankle (that periodically measured her blood pressure), an IV tube in her right wrist, two of these air pressure thingies (ok, as an engineer, I should probably use more accurate terminology – inflatable cuffs), one wrapped around each leg, that kept inflating and deflating to simulate muscle usage and thus hopefully prevent blood clots.
As Paula continued coming out of the anesthesia (and I was very encouraged to see her normal faculties returning), she was (as might be expected, since she hadn’t been allowed to eat or drink since midnight before) quite dehydrated.
Even though Paula was no longer on the Gerson therapy, she still recognized the nutritional benefit of freshly juiced organic fruit and vegetables. In preparation for our overnight stay, Paula had thus enlisted the help of two dear ladies at NTM, who were so kind as to juice a number of carrots and apples in advance of the surgery, and so we had brought 5 bottles (approx. 112 oz.) of carrot and apple juice with us (half-frozen in a cooler) and obtained the surgeon’s approval in advance – duly noted on Paula’s chart, so that the nurses wouldn’t object.
So, as soon as Paula was up to it, she started drinking, lots of good healthy juice. I was really proud of her, and of course it was good for her to get well-hydrated again. But with all that drinking came many bathroom trips, which required disconnecting from everything, a quite painful exit from the bed, and a slow walk (Paula, the IV pole, myself, and, at the beginning, a nurse assistant to help us) to the bathroom. We learned pretty quickly that it was best for me to make a solo trip down the hall first to verify that the shared bathroom was indeed available.
I think Paula may have set a hospital record (for liquid input and urinary output during those first hours after surgery); it seemed like we were making a bathroom trip every hour or two all night long. After a while, they even quit measuring her urinary output.
I want to also give my resourceful wife credit in that she had contacted a hospital dietician in advance to request some healthy meals that would be compatible with her diet – in particular, some raw fruits and vegetables. The dietician gave us her phone number and arranged to have a wonderful fruit plate delivered for Paula’s late afternoon “lunch” with a very nice salad delivered later for her dinner.
Paula liked the fruit plate so much that she requested another to snack on that evening and then two more for breakfast the next day. The dietician also supplied Paula with several bottles of coconut water, a large bottle of apple juice, and several bottles of water, so we were extremely pleased and appreciative of her help and service.
As I mentioned, it was quite painful when Paula exited or re-entered the bed, as the nurse assistant had her exiting the left side of the bed, which resulting in pressure on her left side, where the surgery had been performed. After a while, it occurred to us (or maybe someone mentioned it – I don’t recall) that it would be better for her to exit/enter on the right side, thus causing less pressure, disturbance, and pain to her surgical wound; we only wished that someone had helped us with that earlier.
In any case, we had a somewhat sleepless night (I would not recommend this option to your typical Orlando visitor, but in this case, our choice of accommodations was, shall we say, quite limited), but morning (and the prospect of being discharged) came.
As the anesthesia pretty much out of her system, Paula was realizing that the pain was significant (those nerves just don’t like being cut), so they had given her some pain medicine (in anticipation of removing her dressing and our ride home).
That helped somewhat with the pain, but then Paula (who rarely ever even takes Tylenol) was having some pretty lousy side-effects from the pain medicine. In any case, though, we were able to check out and made it home around 2 PM yesterday.
Paula is now continuing to recover from the surgery. There is still plenty of pain, especially since she’s supposed to be using her left arm as much as possible, so she’s continuing with the pain medicine and thus has some dizziness. She’s had a better day today overall, so that is encouraging, but she would appreciate prayer for the pain and for the swelling that she’s having in her arm, back, and side.
In summary then, we’re thankful that the surgery went well. Paula is thankful to the Lord for the grace, peace, and strength He gave her – both before and after the surgery. We’re also very thankful for your prayers, and a special thanks to everyone who has been encouraging and/or helping us in so many ways!
We invite you to subscribe to our Pilgrim’s Pathway blog (by clicking Subscribe on the menu above) and/or to join our Paula’s Partners community (by visiting our website, www.JPOliver.com, and clicking on the link, on the left-side menu, to Paula’s Partners). We appreciate your continued prayers as we continue down this path.
Thanks for your love, prayers, and encouragement!
By His Grace,
John & Paula & Family