Open letter to the very talented team that fixed my ear1
January 1, 2011 by 8junebugs
Dear Dr. K and GU Hospital:
I’d be the last person to tell you how to administer anesthesia or operate on someone’s ear, but I do know a little something about communicating instructions. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I was far better prepared by friends who’d had the procedure (and, later, reassured by the internet) than by your staff.
If your on-call residents say, “We get questions about that all the time,” write it down and tell patients from the start. They’ll stop asking that question.
The person who knows the most about the recovery expectations should write the instructions, then have them edited for clarity. At the very least, there should be more than 50% agreement between the instruction sheet and the doctor’s directions. I don’t want to get too picky, but it would also be helpful if the instruction sheet agreed with itself.
If it helps, here are a couple other things I learned during my stapedectomy recovery that it would have been just awesome to have known before it happened:
- Day 3 and 4 tend to be the worst in terms of pain and/or drainage. This is completely counter-intuitive, y’all — a little preparation would be helpful (this is that question the on-call dude said they get all the time).
- The drainage can continue for a week! W00t! Also ick.
- Escape of the packing material is no reason to panic — this particular doctor tends to fill the entire ear canal and it’ll all dissolve eventually anyway.
Thank you for doing a very nice job on my left ear. You guys really are rock stars, your nurses are fantastic, and I’m sure I’ll hear better as soon as all this crap is out of my ear.
P.S. I apologize for getting a little salty with the anesthesiologist. I promise my veins really are quite plump (and my attitude quite pleasant) when I haven’t been fasting for 14 hours.
Surgery details after the jump…
Unlike the only other real surgery I’ve had, they took me to the OR before they put me under. I’m not a fan of this. I didn’t need to see all the instruments, and G missed seeing the effects take hold, which I’d promised as the day’s entertainment.
My surgery took a little longer than expected. Apparently, one of my nerves hangs low (in its apple-bottom jeans), so they had to use a smaller prosthetic. The doctor also noticed an arrhythmia during the operation. It didn’t affect this procedure, but I’m supposed to get it checked out at some point*.
I came out of the anesthesia really abruptly. I was dreaming something ENTIRELY DIFFERENT and woke up not at all where I expected. I also have two needle sticks and bruising on my right hand that I can’t explain and weren’t there when I went in, one on the first knuckle and one directly back from that knuckle, between my thumb and wrist. (Any ideas?)
I simultaneously failed at using a bedpan and graduated to recovery phase 2 — because I could get to and from the bathroom without falling or throwing up, I was ready. I did have some pain and they gave me something through the IV that really didn’t seem to do anything.
As for recovery, the first two days seemed like a piece of cake. I got off easy on the nausea and the vertigo has been manageable and kind of hilarious. I remain hesitant to use the pain pills — I took two as directed the first night, dreamed I elbowed G in the eye, and walked myself out to the kitchen to get him an icepack (wrapped in a dishtowel), which is exactly the kind of thing I wasn’t supposed to do.
Day 3 really was worse than days 1 and 2, and there’s still some pain today, so I’m resigning myself to a quiet, hazy weekend. But I really, really don’t like it. The pain’s not that bad, but it causes me to stress out, which doesn’t help my recovery, so…I’ll use the medicine they gave me and get some rest.
I’ll still be “in recovery” for the next month or so, keeping the ear dry at all times and trying not to freak out as my ears recalibrate. No flying, no nose blowing, and mild exercise only for the duration. Finally, a reason to look forward to Groundhog Day!
Once again, I couldn’t have done this without G’s love and support and the help of our friends. Many thanks, guys — if goodwill could heal on its own, this recovery would already be over. MWAH!
*I’ve had this checked out before when I had what felt like palpitations, generally linked to stressful periods in my life. (I also, reliably, stop breathing for a split second before I drop into REM sleep.) He didn’t say whether the rate was too high or too low, but I’ll keep an eye on it.
If it makes you feel better I got handed a discharge sheet after having an ultrasound that said in bold letter “There are no discharge instructions” and then went on to give you the numbers to call in case you had any problems. And it was an ultrasound not related to pregnancy, so there wasn’t any of that to worry about.