Once a room became available in the “close observation” unit on Tuesday afternoon my bed and I were wheeled over. I believe there were three other patients in there, each of us tucked behind our privacy curtains, and it was quiet for the most part…except for one woman visiting her dad who talked VERY loudly trying to get him to wake up and recognize her voice. It was sweet of her to be there for him, of course, but her volume was *slightly* less restful for the rest of us.
Once I settled in there I had more visitors. My mom, husband and stepdad came by throughout the day, and my dad, sister and good friend were able to come in and out a bit too. At first I wasn’t totally sure I wanted visitors because I felt and looked like a wreck, but seeing their faces and feeling the love was uplifting. They brought flowers and gifts, which was sweet. (Later the nurse said that flowers aren’t usually allowed in that room because neuro-patients are often sensitive to them, but she let me keep mine.) All different nurses came and went over the next two days.
My vision was still crazy. Depending on my head position I still saw things that were normally vertical as horizontal. I had pretty severe double-vision at a distance. For instance, when a nurse walked into the room I would see her, but there would be a super tall version of her and a super short version of her. I tried to use my phone to post a Facebook update for friends and family. Seeing and typing was challenging, but I had all the time in the world to spend on the task, so I managed to pull it off. It’s crazy to think that a person who’s been out of brain surgery less than 24 hours can be conscious enough to write their own Facebook post, but clearly, modern medicine is pretty amazing. I included a picture of myself all hooked up in my bed, and wrote,
“Scenes from the hospital and an update. The surgery took closer to 14 hours because the tumor was at a tricky angle and had been stuck to cranial nerves. I am not in pain, but I am having to relearn to walk, eat and drink. My speech is a bit slurred, my face is swollen, only half of my smile is working and my vision is kooky. Being patient. Baby steps! 🙂 This is all common, and is expected to be temporary.” So…yeah, I was a lot more “with it” that soon after surgery than I thought I would be!
I was hooked up to many devices, as you can imagine, and I definitely struggled to sit up , let alone try to stand. Since the catheter was removed in the ICU, I needed to finally consciously go pee. At first they tried to set me up with a bedpan, but that wasn’t so successful, so I had to have a nurse help me out of bed and use a little portable bedside commode. (There was a bathroom about 5 feet away, but I couldn’t travel that distance yet.) I was given various medications all throughout the stay, from steroids, to pain meds, to anti-nausea meds, to a Stool softener, to stomach antacid. Every hour I was given eye drops and had my eye re-taped, but that was kind of an ordeal. Different nurses were coming and going using different tape and different taping methods, and my eye was flaring up more with each hour because of it. As it turns out, the tape and method you use is critical to saving your vision, even if one is less comfortable than another. If you use gauze or any other material against your eye and your eye opens underneath it (which it’s always trying to do when you have facial paralysis), then the cornea can be scratched by that material, and can be severely, permanently damaged. After much trial and error going around and around with different doctors and nurses coming by with different opinions about what was best, the end winning result was the soft blue medical tape, taped horizontally across my eyelid. It was gentle enough that if the eye opened underneath, it wouldn’t damage it, and gentle enough that it didn’t rip out my eyelashes and make my eyelid totally raw every hour when it was removed.
Wednesday, I believe, was the day the physical therapists came around with a walker, and had me try to practice strolling up and down the hall. My legs were super weak, and I couldn’t really stand up straight. My neck was EXTREMELY stiff after the surgery, so that was making my whole upper half sort of want to bend to one side, and my balance was way off. I definitely could have tipped over sideways WITH the walker if there hadn’t been a support crew. So…they wanted me to try to practice a few trips up and down the hall every few hours, with a helper.
My husband was spending the days around the hospital checking in on me, and heading home to be with our kids in the evenings and mornings. He was texting me for requests from home, and mainly I continued feeling good with the green juice and healthy jello he brought, in addition to my pureed carrots and broccoli from the hospital cafeteria. I was really happy to be able to text with my kids. We never actually had them visit me there, as the scene probably would have freaked them out, so being able to connect through texting was just right.
The left side of my face was very swollen at the hospital, but I was not in pain or nauseous at all, so I was grateful for that. My belly incision from the fat graft was taped up tightly, and I really didn’t notice it there at all. The nurse checked it and said, “Oh good, that’ll be below your bikini line!”…but then when I finally looked at it I decided she must have been picturing bikinis from the 1950’s. It’s maybe two inches below my belly button, is about 3 inches wide, and will DEFINITELY be above the bikini line. (Oh well, scars tell stories, and in this case, when someone asks about my belly scar, I can truthfully answer that it’s from brain surgery! Ha!)
So…between all of my practicing walking, eating and drinking, and some visits from friends and family, my time went by pretty quickly. I never read or watched anything (because my vision was kooky), and I never listened to anything (I just wasn’t in the mood), so really the only other entertainment I used was my iPhone. I don’t even think I napped as much as I thought I would. I guess I was as comfortable as could be expected, except for how swollen my face was and how irritated my eye was. I used ice packs a lot on my swollen face, and that felt soothing…. I was feeling very fragile and out of sorts, but was pretty settled in and was really not expecting to be discharged the next day!