Eug91's radical nephrectomy story
[ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 29, 2018. Lost in the great CSN Outage of January 2019. Re-posted because I'm hoping it can still be useful to others.]
Left kidney robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical nephrectomy. Apologies for the length. I thought it'd be fun to share my experience, and hopefully be useful to anyone who's about to go through it.
After my pre-op check up to make sure I was healthy enough to go through surgery, I spent the rest of the week before my nephrectomy on the treadmill, stretching, push-ups/sit-ups/leg-lifts, drinking lots of water, using a spirometer to build up my lungs. I have no proof that this stuff helped, but I sure FELT better. The day before, I was put on a clear liquid diet.
Saturday morning I checked into the hospital, then got taken up to recovery. I was the second nephrectomy scheduled for the day. That's where I met again with my doctor and met the anesthesiologists. I told the anesthesiologists how nervous I was, and they assured me that they'd give me a really mild sedative in my IV before the procedure so that I'd feel better. The procedure & treatment nurse took my wife's cell phone number and would be calling her with updates.
My doctor told me that the procedure would be 2-3 hours, closer to 3 because (in his words) they were going to take their time.
At 1pm the anesthesiologist came to wheel me away. Whatever they gave me had calmed down. Said good-bye to the wife. Tried to say something funny. Failed.
Operating room was cold (better sterile environment). Saw the robot that would be doing the work and the work-stations where the doctors would be. They held the mask for me and asked me to do some deep breathing. I felt super relaxed, just chatting away with the anesthesiologists and nurses-
Then I woke up in recovery. Half-asleep, I remember the nurses telling me "great job" and "it went great". The next thing I clearly remember is lying in a super-comfortable hospital room bed. They put my glasses on so I could see. The clock read 7:00pm. I went "Is that right???"
Then the best sight in the world when my wife came in. I had failed to say something funny earlier, but this time I nailed it.
My wife updated me on what had happened while I was out. Apparently it had taken a very long time for the anesthesia to kick in. My tumor had a tangle of blood vessels feeding it, like a parasite. The doctor took his time making sure to carefully clamp off every one of the vessels before taking the kidney out. Thankfully the nurse was calling my wife with updates so she wasn't scared that the 2-3 hour procedure had turned into 6 hours. God bless those great doctors and nurses.
THE FIRST NIGHT
Texted my kids silly animated gif files to let them know I was fine. Didn't think I'd want to eat, but was given the best chicken broth and apple juice I've ever had in my life. The nurse thought it was too early to try, but I wanted to try to walk. The nurse was right, I couldn't get out of bed, so that would wait til morning. Then to my surprise, I fell asleep. Got a few hours of initial sleep, then woke up unable to sleep more. Watched a lot of MTV Classic, singing along to 80's music videos. Had my first gas, which was exciting.
The next day, I got woken up a few times for various tests - blood pressure, blood, shots, etc. I scarfed down a breakfast of scrambled eggs and wheat toast, did my first walk around the hospital floor, had my catheter taken out (ugh, super uncomfortable), used my spirometer, and dealt with diarrhea from the post-surgery antibiotics in my IV. Talked with my doctor and thanked him for everything. Ordered a mushroom chicken sandwich for lunch, but they accidentally sent a mushroom hamburger... which was SO GOOD.
Pain management - Tramadol in the IV, and regular old Tylenol. It was great. A little sore and uncomfortable, but never in any pain.
My most painful moment was trying to urinate for the first time after the catheter. I've never done anything with as much precision and fury as when I hit that CALL NURSE button. I was then told that removing the catheter inflames the urethra and it takes 4-6 hours for the swelling to go down. NOW THEY TELL ME. So I dutifully held it for another 4-6 hours before trying to urinate. Much better.
Less than 24 hours after surgery, I was discharged. For the first time in my life, got to ride in a wheelchair.
Sleeping - That first night at home, I couldn't find a good position. I usually sleep on my side or stomach - both now unavailable to me. Tried the recliner, but it was murder on my back. Tried the bed, which was also bad on my back, but better than the recliner. The problem was that I was trapped in bed. At the hospital, I could raise the hospital bed and climb out. No such luck at home. Unable to sleep for more than 2-3 hours at a time that first night. Took a LOT of trial and error to figure out a way to climb out of bed - put a backwards chair next to bed. Use my opposite left arm to grab the back of the chair and use the closest-to-the-edge right elbow/arm to push up off the bed. Fortunately, it gets better every night - both in terms of longer sleep, deeper sleep, and ease of climbing in and out of bed.
Pain management - I was given a prescription for Norco, but I haven't used it. I just stuck to a regular schedule of Tylenol and it's been great. First four days taking the proper dosage every six hours. By day #5, I was taking it every eight hours. I tried cutting the dosage to see if I'd notice, but definitely felt more soreness so I went back to the proper dosage but not as often. Also, HEAT PADS and ICE BAGS. Sore shoulders, heat. Sore sternum, ice bag. Sore back, heat.
Walking - Take it slow. Everyone said it to me before, but it is SO TRUE. Take everything slow. Everything gets a little better every day. I can't believe how well I'm moving and walking now, but I just had to take it nice and slow until my body was ready. I bought an audiobook and put it on my phone. Whenever I feel like walking, I put on another chapter of the book and shuffle around until the chapter ends or I get tired - whichever happens first.
Motivation - A silly little thing, but something I should mention. Before my neph, I went online and bought a Hockey Fights Cancer t-shirt. The back has in block letters: SURVIVOR. I wore that shirt on the way out of the hospital. A silly little thing, but it felt REALLY good. I have the shirt hanging near my bed right now to remind me.
THANK YOU EVERYONE
This message board has been heaven sent. You don't know how much your posts and wishes and advice have meant to me - keeping me calm, making me feel like I could do this. I had an amazing Christmas at home with my family, healing up and watching Christmas movies between long naps. I hope every one of you have a joyous holidays.
Of course, this is just the beginning. I've got a lifetime of scanxiety and follow-ups ahead of me, but I know I'm not facing it alone - I feel honored to be traveling with everyone here on this journey together. Here's to a happy and healthy and NED 2019!
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