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Breast Cancer Chronicles: A Partial Mastectomy, A Fat Lip and A Missing Tooth
So Surgery Went Well, Kinda...
A week ago, I had a partial mastectomy. The good news is that the cancer has not spread and the lymph nodes are clear. I am recovering, but it has been slow and difficult. After I heal, I will begin a six-week course of radiation therapy. I consider myself very fortunate. My kids were with me and if I ever had any doubts (which I didn't) that they would always protect me, those doubts were baseless. I would rather face a rabid pit bull than my three grown children if they sense something wrong. And they did...
From the moment we entered the lobby of the outpatient surgery center, something just did not feel right. From check-in to post-op, there were too many little things that when added up, turned this surgery into a far worse experience than it should have been. My older daughter, a veteran in the patient care field, summed it up quite succinctly, "This place is a factory." She was right. They do more than 60 surgeries a day. There is little patient privacy and they were insistent that there be only one family member with me in pre-op.
Prior to pre-op, I went to radiology and was injected with a local anesthesia. The radiologist then placed a very thin needle into my breast which would serve to guide the surgeon. After that, I walked to radiology and was injected with dye for the lymph node biopsy. During the ultrasound, I noticed that the tumor had grown since I first saw it over two months ago. It had also changed shape.
Then I had a mammogram. After that, I walked to the surgical suite and was told that only one of my children could accompany me. Well, my older daughter was by my side and less than 2 minutes later, the other two sneaked in. Geez, I wonder who they take after? I was in a hospital gown, sitting on a flat-backed chair and my daughter was sitting on the recliner reserved for the patient. The recliner was too uncomfortable for my neck (previous back surgery) and when the first person came in, she flipped. She was angry that there were 3 family members with me and she was angrier that I was sitting where I was sitting. The kids didn't leave and I didn't move.
The anesthesiologist was a piece of work. I have always loved anesthesiologists! They are the people that keep you alive during surgery and they have always been, in my experience, very friendly and reassuring. I have had ten major surgeries and this was the first time I had doubts about the anesthesiologist.
I got into a wheelchair and was taken to surgery. I climbed onto the surgical table. My arms were strapped down and then the anesthesiologist put the oxygen mask over my mouth and nose. There was something wrong with it. The inside right side was rough and uneven and hurt. I started to fight and yell, "No, stop! You are hurting me", but he pushed down harder. Then I was out...
When I woke up, my breast was burning. Not hurting so much, but a burning feeling. The nurse dispensed pain medication, brought my son in and told him to go get the car, that I was ready to go home. My son helped me into the car and we left. About 5 minutes into our ride, the girls, who were sitting in the back seat, said that I was talking funny. My older daughter asked me to turn around. She said, "Oh my God, mom! You have a fat lip! Mom, you have a missing tooth..."
It was that damn mask, I know it. I was unable to walk until three days later. My body felt as if I had been hit by a truck. I am convinced that as I was moved from the surgical table to the gurney, that they dropped me. Not onto the floor, but from table to gurney.
I did not hear from the surgeon for two days. I found out on my own that over one third of my breast had been removed. When I complained to the surgeon about the pain, he told me to take extra strength Tylenol.
Don't Ever Go To The Hospital Alone
As I said before, I have had 10 major surgeries. I have never had an experience like this one and I have omitted many things. I have never filed a complaint with quality assurance, but now that I am feeling better, I will be filing a formal complaint.
I will never have another surgery at this hospital. Pretty bad, considering that this is the only surgery center that my insurance covers. But one fat lip and one missing tooth later, plus a nagging, gut feeling that I was dropped has convinced me to just say "No".