PRE-OP-
My son was born on September 27. After a few weeks of enjoying his company, and having Thanksgiving with my family, the surgery date approached. I went down the night before, my pre-op was scheduled for that evening and some more for 5am on the following morning. The Pre-op for the night before consisted of blood work, and another grueling MRI.

I stayed in a hotel with my wife, my son, my Dad, and his wife. My dad gave me $50, and told me to go have a great meal with my wife.

It’s always a bummer, when you know someone is doing something for you based on the fact they think they may never see you again. I knew I was going to be fine, but nobody else did. I felt very confident in my choice of medical facilities. I had prayed, and knew that I was making the correct choice with everything. It was pretty easy for me to remain calm. There were no feelings of impending doom.

I’ve always believed that when you know you’re going to die, in a surgery, or from medical complications, you “just know” it, and take the precautions to secure your family, and God gives you peace with that. I had the same peaceful feeling, except I knew I was NOT going to die. I had too much other stuff to do in life. This being said, everyone else was still totally bummed about the whole event.

I enjoyed my dinner out, although I couldn’t partake of any beer, due to dietary restrictions. I went back to the hotel, kissed my son, and went to bed.

MORNING OF SURGERY

The alarm woke me up at 4 am. I felt totally ready to roll. I met my mom and her husband at the hospital, and everyone else showed up there as well. I registered in at the nurses desk.

“Hi, my name is Jaime, I’ve got a head to be drilled this morning.”

I don’t think the nurses were ready for someone so eager to have surgery.

“O-kay Jaime, have a seat, and the pre-op people will be with you shortly.”

The pre-op area had this huge flow chart written on a dry-erase board, with everyone’s name on it who was scheduled to have surgery that day, and the block of time they would require from 5am-10am. I didn’t see my name on the list. I went and asked the desk if they’d forgot about the “bore hole” I was supposed to get that day. The lady informed me that my surgery had been moved up to 11am.

“Well, crap, I could’ve eaten more, and slept in…”

“No, you couldn’t actually, you need blood work, and some prep, and all that takes time…it’s better to be here early”

So I sat, and I sat, and I sat. Finally I had to go get blood work done.

“I did that already, like yesterday evening.” I told them

“We, can’t find it…” the lady told me. “Plus the doctor wants to do a few more tests.”

I went back to the 3rd floor, and had blood taken out of my other arm. It wasn’t a big deal, although the fact they “lost” my blood work was a bit sketchy.

We sat in the waiting room for another hour, then the pre-op team called me in. Pre-op for my surgery required them to shave about 15 small circles in my scalp the size of half dollars. These would be the landing strips, for electrical sensors they would place on my head, to attach the wires on, to help generate images of my brain, for surgery…They were basically head pasties, with area to put wires in.

The man began to shave my head.

“Thanks” I told the man. “I was totally going to get this haircut anyway, and now insurance’ll pays for it…”

He kind of chuckled, and kept on shaving my head. When he was done, they had me get in my surgery gown.

I looked good. Real good.

I expected to be hauled off for surgery right after this, but instead they put me back out in the lobby, gown, new haircut, and all.

“It’ll be awhile yet.” They told me.

I went back and showed off my new haircut, and attire to the family. By this point they were all ready for breakfast, so I accompanied them to the hospital cafeteria. I had the pleasure of sitting and watching them all eat, while I could eat nothing, do to dietary restrictions.

“You can drink water.” They told me.

Thanks, that really takes the place of bacon, and O.J. It was hard to sit and watch them eat. It was funny to see everyone in the cafeteria stare at me, like I’d escaped from the loony bin with my head covered in ‘nodes’ and wearing a gown. Every once and awhile, just for fun, I’d say things like,

“Wow, they still don’t know I’m gone..”

People would stare.

Breakfast finished, and we all walked back to the waiting room. I hung in the back, and wandered around like I was a lost patient. It was good times.

Hours passed, then at about 10:45 a man with a bed on wheels came into the lobby. I guess he figured out who I was, although I don’t know how.

“You must be Jaime…we’re ready for you.”

“How did you guess?” I asked.

I jumped on the bed, and off we rolled. My family all sat there staring at me, like it might be the last time. That was depressing.

“See you in a couple hours….smile, this is going to be fun.”

The man started wheeling me through the hospital.

“If you want I can scream, like I’m in pain…it’d make the ride more interesting.” I told him.

“Wow…you’re in a pretty good mood for someone about to have brain surgery.” He said. “Most people don’t joke about their surgeries.”

“It’s not in my hands…” I said, “I’m totally at ease with all of this…if you can’t laugh about it, then you’ll go crazy, I’d rather not go crazy.”

“I guess that’s a good philosophy.” He said and he wheeled me up to the waiting area for surgery.

When I got to the waiting area, it made me laugh. There were all these beds in this little room, filled with people all about to go off to different surgery rooms, for various procedures. Everyone was very glum.

A man nurse came up to me, “Wow looks like you’re the big surgery of the day.” He said.

I was having my surgery done with fiber optics. A lot of technology was involved in the procedure. There were 3-D scans of my brain, tons of computers, etc. UC Davis was a medical school, so that meant everyone who was going into Neurology was going to watch my surgery from the galley.

I had told my doctor a hundred times to MAKE SURE YOU VIDEO TAPE IT.

The nurse then told me that, at this point I’d be visited by the different people performing my surgery, anesthesiologist, head nurse, surgeon, assistant surgeon, etc. Then he gave me an IV. I didn’t like the IV. The minute he started the fluid, my whole arm got cold, and I thought I was going to pass out. This was one of the worst parts of the whole ordeal.

The nauseas feeling finally subsided, and I felt better. Then they put these goofy leg warmers on me. They were like oversized, insulated socks, that went up to my thighs. They helped keep your circulation going, because the surgery rooms were kept very cold, to keep germs and bacteria from being able to grow, and keep you warm.

The first person who visited me was the anesthesiologist. He reminded me of one of my friends from college.

“Hey how’s it going” he said. ” You nervous?”

“No, not really.”

“Good, well I’m going to start you off with some medication that’ll help get you ready for the surgery. It’s going to feel like you’ve had a few cocktails with your friends.”

“That’s good, I suppose I’ll wake up with a headache after this too, Just like I really had a few cocktails.

He laughed and gave me the martini injection.

Shortly, I began to feel pretty mellow, much the same way I would have had I pounded a few shots of something. The next person who came in was my Doctor.

He informed me everything was ready, and asked me if I had any questions. I couldn’t think of any, other than asking him to make sure he set the VCR to record.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to record this.” he said, “maybe we can take some still images of the surgery.”

“Nope, I’m done. If you can’t record my surgery, you might as well wheel me on out.”

“…”

“Just kidding. So Am I getting more hair removed. For this?”

“Yes, they’ll shave an area around the insertion point, about as big as your hand.”

“Awesome. I’ll look like Moe… Also, NO catheter please. Put adult diapers on me, or let me mess myself, but DO NOT put any catheter in me.”

“I’ll see what I can do. It might be required though.”

“Seriously, put a depend on me, I’m cool with that, I just don’t want a tube in my wiener. I’d rather lie in my own crap.”

After a few more minutes, another doctor came in, asked me if I had any questions. I didn’t, and my doctor returned again.

“Hey I thought I’d let you know of another option. You can do the surgery with only the local anesthetic. It’s less of a stress to the system, and you’d probably be able to go home sooner. We just had a patient who had it done this way for a similar surgery, and he walked out under his own power.

“Uhm, let me think about it…no. For my first official surgery, I think I’d prefer to be knocked out all the way. I’m fairly certain about that. Spending one more day in the hospital for the joy of not being awake while my head gets drilled is worth it.”

“Ok. We’d give you medication, so you wouldn’t worry while the surgery was being performed.”

“Still no.”

With that, he left. In a few minutes some orderlies came in and wheeled me down the hall to surgery. When I entered the room, it was a lot larger than I thought it’d be. There was a large panel of computers screens, like airline departure monitors at an airport, all with different images, and views of a brain on them, my brain!

I began to ask a lot of questions. “So how many people are going to watch? What’s that picture of? What’s THAT picture of? How long is this going to take? Record it, don’t forget? How is this procedure going to go again? Can you make my brain move on the picture? Show me where the cyst is?”

Nobody was paying attention to me. They were busy injecting me with the medicine to put me out. Somewhere in the middle of my stream of questions everything faded to black.

POST SURGERY-

I was sitting at the table ready for Thanksgiving dinner, when I noticed Paco was there.

“Paco? What are you doing at Thanksgiving dinner?” I asked him.

“I’m not Paco? You’re not at Thanksgiving dinner.”

Yes you are. Why are you here, stop F***** around.”

“You’re waking up from surgery.”

Finally, my eyes began to focus, and I realized I was being wheeled out of the surgery room. I felt kind of dumb for vocalizing my stupid dream.

“DO you know who you are, and where you are?” Someone asked.

I answered their questions, and told them what day it was when they asked.

“Good. We’re going to wheel you to recovery now.”

Recovery was much like the surgery waiting area, only full of people who just had a variety of surgeries performed. Most people were still unconscious. I had a man nurse who was in charge of me, and another bed. I was the only one awake, so he and I talked for awhile, about education, and families and what not. Then, I noticed a tube coming out from under my blanket.

“Is this part of an IV?” I asked him.

“No, That’s the catheter, looks like they forgot to remove it. I’ll get that for you in a second.”

“A-holes”, I thought to myself The nurse went and got a few things, then returned to remove the tube. The tube was about as big around as one of those golf-course pens, or pens you get in a casino sports book. I knew exactly where it led to too. With a small jerk the tube was removed from my manhood. It hurt a lot. I was on a morphine drip, but I’ll tell you this, it hurt like you wouldn’t imagine.

“ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRG!!!!” I screamed.

“Yeah, that’s a bit uncomfortable” The man told me.

No kidding. A bit uncomfortable?

“Make sure when you feel the need to urinate you do so, it’ll burn for the first few times, but it’s important to do.”

Telling me it’s going to burn when I pee is no way to get me to want to do so. I lied there dreading the onset of urination. When the time finally came to pee, I informed the nurse, and he gave me a jug. Peeing in a jug, when your fearing horrific pain adds insult to inury. I was hooked up to an IV, and a drainage tube coming out of my skull, so getting into an actual restroom was not an option.

It burned when I peed. It felt like fire. It was horrible. No amount of medical strength pain killer helps that. It made me dread urination even more, and they kept forcing fluids in me.

“You need to keep your fluid intake up Jaime.”

“I don’t want to pee. I’d rather be thirsty.”

It didn’t work. I kept drinking water, and having IV fluids pumped in my system. For what seemed like every hour on the hour, I had to pee. It hurt every time. The only up side was that the pain decreased slightly every time. It would be 3 days before peeing became mundane again.

After several hours in “recovery” I was informed I’d be wheeled to ICU, spend the night there, undergo some more tests, then if all was good, I’d be allowed to go to a normal room the following day.

ICU-

ICU was cool. I had my own room, a TV, a phone, and a few nurses available at my beckoned call. I felt terrific too. My parents all came in to visit me, and were a little shocked how upbeat I was. I think they expected me to be lying there, hardly able to move, and looking like death warmed over. I talked with everyone, and they all left early to make sure I could “get some rest”. I wasn’t tired. I was actually afraid to sleep. I felt great, but I thought if I fell asleep, maybe I wouldn’t wake up again, so I fought sleep.

They brought me some jell-o, and pudding to eat because I was still on dietary restrictions, due to medications and whatnot. I ate it, and watched a little of the Knicks/Raptors game on TV. I was bored, so I called a friend back home.

“Hey E how’s it going?” I asked.

“Pretty well, hey your surgery is coming up pretty soon huh?”

“I already had it.” I told him.

“No way! when?”

“About 4 hours ago.” I said.

“NO F****** WAY!!!! And you’re coherent and stuff? What are you doing calling me, shouldn’t you be like recovering or something?”

“I’m watching the Knicks game.” I told him.

“Wow. That’s pretty impressive. I’ll let you get some rest.” He said.

Nobody really understood that I didn’t want any rest. After a few hours passed Eduardo and his girlfriend (now wife) showed up to visit. Eduardo, like everyone else was all quiet and apprehensive when he came into my room. I don’t think his girlfriend even knew what to say. I was still upbeat, and talkative when he showed up. He gave me a card, and kept talking really quietly to me, for some reason. I’m guessing I wasn’t really what he expected of a person who just had major brain surgery. They stayed for a few minutes, wished me well, and left. I could tell they were both a little uncomfortable with the situation.

The night in ICU consisted of a lot of testing. Every few hours, the nurses would wake me up to check if I was coherent [alive], then wheel me to have MRI’s done. At one point the nurses almost dropped me when they were transferring beds. In addition to poor bed transferring skills, they also had poor gurney driving skills. They ran me into numerous walls, and elevator doors. I was on some pretty kickin’ morphine, so it didn’t hurt much.

I just joked with them the whole time.

“I wouldn’t drive home tonight if I were you, you’re not having very much luck with this whole steering concept.”

“Yeah, it’s her fault.” Said one nurse pointing to the other, as they rammed me into the corner. “She drives too fast. You should see how many dings her car has.”

One of the other rooms in ICU had a uniformed police officer standing guard outside, armed. I was curious who was inside that room. I envisioned someone like Hannibal Lector lying in there near death, but It was probably some petty thief who got shot trying to run from the cops.

I never found out who was in there.

The next morning my doctor’s came to visit. They were followed by a clan of med-students busily scribbling notes as they talked. They talked to me for a bit and left, to find some other patients. I heard them mumble something about.

“This patient’s recovery time isn’t too normal, most aren’t as alert, or upbeat as quickly. He’s going to be moved to a regular room shortly.”

THE “NORMAL” ROOM-

Later in the day they removed the drainage tube from my head, and put stitches in the hole. This hurt too. They didn’t numb the area or anything. It was only 2 stitches, so they told me it was easier to have me suffer, then to get all the stuff to numb it. They increased my morphine flow, to ease the “discomfort”. It felt like having gum in your hair, and someone pulling it out really, really hard. The funny thing was, it hurt, and I knew it hurt, but the morphine made it so I didn’t care. When the stitches were in they gave me two Vicatin to help the pain further.

I felt good.

Finally, I was able to be transferred to a normal bed, where I could have visitors come and go, and my son would be allowed to see me. It was going to be much better, the only setback was that I’d have to share a room.

Enter Mr. Estrada.

MR. ESTRADA-

Mr. Estrada was an older man, I’d say in his 60’s. He was Hispanic. He had a massive beard. He only spoke Spanish, and he also had brain surgery. [He looked like Saddam Hussein after he was captured] I had a small bandage on my head. Mr. Estrada’s bandage circumnavigated his entire skull. While I was lucky to bounce back from my surgery rather remarkably, Mr. Estrada was not so fortunate. He was perpetually in a state of confusion. He got up all the time and wandered around the room in his gown, a*s exposed to the world. A few times a nurse would be in the room, and lead him back to his bed.

“Mr. Estrada, you can’t be out of your bed. You need to push the call button if you have to use the restroom, or need something.”

Mr. Estrada would mumble something in Spanish, and lie back down to watch Loony Tunes. There were a lot of times when nobody would be around, and Mr. Estrada would still go “explore” our room, namely my side.

“Uhm Senior Estrada..necessita usar su cama” I’d say in my best Spanish.

He never listened to me. He just ended up wandering into the restroom. I always ended up pushing the nurse button.

“Yes, what can I help you with.” The voice would say.

“Uhm, Mr. Estrada is out of bed again…and wandering.”

“Thank you.”

Soon an orderly would come in the room and escort Mr. Estrada back to his side. In addition to wandering aimlessly, Mr. Estrada snored like a chainsaw. I had a hard enough time falling asleep as it was, let alone with his buzzsaw going on all evening.

I awoke several times to see Mr. Estrada’s semi-nude body seated on the toilet seat staring at me, while he relieved himself, and grunted. I was “fortunate” enough to be located right by the restroom in our humble abode. One night he just pee’d on his chair, which was near the foot of his bed.

Lucky for me I only spent 2 nights in the room with Mr. Estrada.

On my first night in the new room, I decided I felt good, and I needed to get up and walk, and get away from Loony Tune Estrada. I wanted a shower, and I also wanted to avoid bedsores, which could start to develop if you lied in bed too long with out moving to get the blood flowing.

I called the nurse in, told her I thought I was ready to walk, and have a shower. She said that was fine, and got me one of the hospitals, $500 bathing kits, which were basically trial sizes of your ordinary bathroom supplies, placed in a plastic pouch, and priced beyond reason.

When I stood up, the first few steps were fine. Then my equilibrium changed, and I almost passed out. It’s amazing, I never would have thought that I’d feel all woozy, and disorientated so long after the surgery. I had to sit on the floor for a few minutes before I managed get up. In the beginning I had to walk up and down the hall, assisted, then eventually by myself, then I was allowed to shower. I felt so much better afterwards.

One of the best parts about my room was the janitor. I would hear him whistling a tune up and down the hall al afternoon. He was a middle aged black man, he was always super friendly, and happy to talk.

“Hey buddy, you lookin’ good man, you should be out of here and home soon huh…man that’s great…glad to see you doin’ well.”

He was always very encouraging, and positive. It was reassuring to have someone like that come in my room everyday. I wouldn’t have expected it from a janitor either, but He was just as vital to my recovery as the nurses and orderlies were. I sent him a Christmas card when I got back, thanking him for being such a good guy, and brightening my day.

When Thursday finally came, it was time for me to be discharged. I couldn’t wait. It took forever. I had to be seen by all my doctors. They had to get release papers, prescriptions, more release papers, my stuff, more papers, etc. At last everything was ship shape, and I was allowed to leave. I had to be wheeled out by my wife in a chair though. To make it interesting, I made some moaning noises to mess with her, and draw extra attention. I reached my car at last, but unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to drive. Something about being heavily medicated, or something like that. It was up to my poor wife to drive her husband home in Sacramento’s rush hour traffic, for her first time ever. The exciting part was, I was high on Vicatin and Morphine, and responsible for giving her directions.

Somehow we got home.

WRAP-UP-

To show my appreciation to God, I was at church on Sunday morning, less than a week after brain surgery. I really wanted people to see, that all things are possible, with your priorities kept straight, and that prayer really works.

I spent the next week at my mom’s house, so I could rest without being woken up by a screaming baby. Soon my wife was sick of not having me around, gimped or not, so she made me come home. I was lucky to spend the next 6 weeks sitting at home on my rear, smacked on Vicatin, playing with my son. It was awesome.

To this day I’ve been just as healthy as I was prior to the surgery. I feel no ill effects from it. The headaches are still present, and I have a dent in my head the size of a quarter, from the “bore hole”, which is almost invisible. So really all I was left with as an increased amount of faith in God, and a good story, which I’ll take any day.