Please join Mike and I in quietly celebrating my successful stomach bypass surgery on Tuesday, Sept. 8th. Throughout the three very long days at UCSF in pre-op, the operating theater, post-anesthesia clinic and then a private hospital room, with many ups and down, I am quite convinced I made the right decision to go under the knife.
Huge thanks to all of you who've expressed love and support, shared prayers, and gave me reason to chuckle and smile. I also say I'm sorry not to have the energy to reply to everyone.
I was discharged Thursday, Sept. 10th, and my gut feeling, ahem, that getting a ride home from our friend Bill Wilson, who was his usual light and giggly self behind the wheel ("Driving Miss Michael"), would be a most welcomed reentry to life outside the UCSF medical center was correct.
The lifestyle changes begun in the past ten-months are now greatly expanded, but on a very slow hour-by-hour basis, to shed additional excess weight and related health morbidities. Updates provided when necessary and now it's on to the best and worst of what I've been through. Let's start with the best first.
1. The promises I made to myself to have the surgery and first lose a few pounds in preparation were kept.
2. Waking up post-op and severely doped up, hearing and seeing Mike was a fantastic comfort. He took vacation time this week from his job, as if taking care of this gay grouch is anything like a holiday!
3. Three UCSF nurses deserve medals for dealing with me in my most painful and confused states, while always keeping info simple. Valerie, for her wealth of knowledge, patience and good humor, made me look forward to her time in my room. Thanks for the good-bye hug, Valerie! Katie, with a smart-ass attitude, tenacious follow-up with various docs and discharge papers, and party-girl attitude.
Then there's Kathy, a fellow New Jersey native with her small physique and deeply caring and can-do approach. A few hours post-op, while still feeling the effects of the anesthesia and getting as much self-administered morphine as allowed, Kathy looked me in the eye and said "we" were getting out of bed.
Using simple language and directions, she guided me to sit up, move my legs off to hang over the side, then grab her thin forearms and I stood upright. Sure, I was dizzy and fearful but she had me take some steps before getting me back in bed. This was the turning point to recovery. Before I was discharged, Kathy saw me walking in the hallway with Mike and came over to share her smile, then kissed my left cheek.
4. The student surgeon, Dr. Phillip Bilderback, a handsome 31-year-old openly gay man who assisted the primary surgeon, Dr. John Carter, stopped by on day one to check on me. I got on the topic of my decades of activism, the importance of questioning doctors, and Mike mentioned I was among the original founders of ACT UP.
Hearing that homo history, Philip asked: "Oh, were you at the Stonewall Riot?" Mike and I cracked up. Felt good to be thought of as old enough to have been at the NYC gay bar rebellion in 1969.
After Philip examined me the next day, I was high on morphine and blurted out with no forethought: "So, how long were you in me yesterday?" Seconds after starting to laugh, Philip blushed, looking even more adorable and told him he needs to blush more!
5. My last dose of liquid narcotic painkiller was right before leaving the hospital. Liquid Tylenol has been managing the minor pain very well. Yes, I said minor pain. Amazing what strides I've taken on my short recovery path.
Mike and I have adapted my my protein and water intake to included the various meds and vitamins necessary for my wellness. Proud that on Friday, had no problem down 64 ounces of water and getting 70 grams of protein.
Have been to my chiropractor Dr. Andy Lesko three times since discharged and will get daily adjustments from him. Totally helping reduce body stress and knots, aiding my healing.
What were the worst parts of this week?
1. My liquid and crushed meds were not all arranged prior to surgery, despite taking the initiative two-weeks before with the Walgreens specialty pharmacy on 18th Street in the Castro and my HIV doc.
The day after surgery, a student pharmacist based in the hospital came to my room six times trying to go over my old and news meds, and arrange new prescriptions for everything. He had to run back with my answers to his supervisor who soon showed up to question me. Sure didn't need this annoying stress.
What I strongly recommend to UCSF's bariatric clinic is that patients deal with all/most medicine needs the week before surgery and not in hospital, and don't put the patient through rounds of questioning with a student pharmacist when trying to recover from surgery and grapple with all the new blood work and other results.
2. Without any notice, a team of four doctors and students showed up right after self-dosing with morphine and I needed desperately to pee. I ordered them out, especially since I had already received a visit from Philip.
When the team marched into my room the next day and didn't ask for permission for all of them to be present for the consultation, I said only one person could remain. Turned out the visit was around five minutes and the doctor said I should have allowed the full team to remain to help them gain knowledge. No, my responsibility is my body and health, not training all these students and certainly not when they're being bossy in their white coats.
3. When a blood test came back showing my potassium level was at 3.8, the low range for this electrolyte crucial to heart health is 3.5, I was given a potassium drip ordered by the physician's assistant Dr. Lea Ross at the request of the surgeon who performed the operation, Dr. John Carter.
Valeria the nurse had warned me the potassium caused a burning in many patients and she was quite concerned I quickly let her know if I felt the burn. When I did, I had to ring for her, say what was happening, then she went to the nurses' station to call Dr. Ross who had to check with Dr. Carter.
Meanwhile, the burning got worse and after forty-minutes of awful pain in the right bicep and shoulder, the potassium drip was removed. For the next five-hours, I hit the morphine drip at every available opportunity. The next day and even this morning, the lingering pain's been felt.
Okay, that's plenty of info for now. Here are some pics during my hospital stay and were a lot of fun to take. Hope they make you smile and giggle.