Surgery No. 7 — Lucky No. 7

Jenny is back for another surgery. She detailed the plan in a post on Tuesday, where she talks about the continued reconstruction phase of this process.

We know we are near the end — Jenny wants a finish line — but she also knows the cancer that she found in 2012 will always be a part of her life. But she has said out loud that this is the final surgery for awhile:

“I have declared this my last surgery for two years.”

Today’s was an elective procedure, only in the fact that she didn’t need it to survive. But it was definitely a necessary procedure to complete what drove her to MD Anderson in the first place back in Oct. 2012 — finding a team of doctors that will map out the planned route to the finish line and guide her through the entire process to wholeness.

That’s her advice to anyone newly diagnosed that asks her. She felt like she was on an assembly line with her first doctors that she met with — first surgery, then chemo, then radiation … and then, maybe, reconstruction. When we came here in 2012, it was nice that she met with all doctors and could share and envision their path to her desired outcome — healthy and whole.

That’s what makes today special. She’s declaring it the finish line.

It’s a tradition to provide a timeline of the day for Jenny’s surgeries. They are probably repetitive to read, but it keeps me busy. This is for me and for posterity’s sake.

5:45 a.m.: Up and at ’em.

6:14 a.m.: After a short drive, we arrive at MD Anderson. Houston traffic is much better before 7 a.m.!

6:18: a.m.: We arrive at the 5th floor for surgery check-in. They’ve changed things since August. I don’t like this change. Now there is a long line as if it were a Black Friday sale about to open. It’s a loooong line. It seems that people who need surgery should be able to sit as they wait to be checked in rather than stand in a line.

It’s amazing how many people are having surgery — just in the morning and just at this one hospital in just this one city.

6:29 a.m.: The line moves fast, and soon Jenny is taken to a room. Yes … a room! Not the community pre-op area that we are used to. This change I very much like.

My artsy photo of the room.

My artsy photo of the room.

6:39 a.m.: A chaplain stops by to say hello. That’s nice, but it has to be a hard job to go from room to room without knowing the people in the room or knowing what level of service the patient might seek from a chaplain. It was nice too see a friendly face, though.

6:47 a.m.: After seeing Jenny shiver for 15 minutes and realizing that the nurse isn’t coming to the room to get things started as quickly as we suspected, I finally wake up and fetch Jenny a warm blanket. From the nurses station, I see Jenny’s favorite breast surgeon — Dr. DeSnyder. She’s preparing for her day of surgery and surely has a patient in a room nearby. I bring Jenny her blanket and update her on Dr. DeSnyder’s hair color. It’s the little things.

Jenny with her warm blankets

Jenny with her warm blankets

7:05 a.m.: The nurse arrives to prep Jenny and ask all the questions they have to ask. The nurse is from Duncan. We each briefly exchange all our connections to Haliburton.

7:30 a.m.: Bill and Linda arrive at the room. They hypothesize that the pre-op room is a result of Jenny’s frequent-flyer miles at the hospital. I assure them that it’s a change for all patients.

7:35 a.m.: Katie, Dr. Kronowitz’s PA arrives. She finishes the markings on Jenny’s body. Dr. Kronowitz marked part of the plan on Jenny on Tuesday in our pre-op appointment. But he left shortly after Jenny cried while she expressed her wishes that this be the final surgery. We think he made his exit without realizing he didn’t finish. Jenny’s tears will do that to a man. He did say as he made his escape on Tuesday: “I think I’ve done enough here.

8 a.m.: The anesthesia team arrives. The process moves quickly once they get there.

8:07 a.m.: Hugs and kisses for Jenny as they give her the first cocktail. Within seconds, Jenny is loopy. That’s always fun to watch. They wheel her out, and Bill and Linda join me in the waiting area.

8:30 a.m.: I go get breakfast. I’m choosing breakfast over lunch today. In August, I left for lunch and missed Dr. Kronowitz’s report after the surgery ended. That wasn’t going to happen today.

9:06 a.m.: The surgery begins. That’s what the lovely volunteer (the same one we had in August) told me at 9:16 a.m.

10:35 a.m.: Dr. Kronowtiz is finished. As we stepped into the hallway, I remarked that it was faster than I thought. “I operate quickly!” he said. He gave a good report, noting that they “harvested as much fat as we could find on her” and did everything else that he told us he would do. Everything went well … he took away skin here … he added Ala-derm there …he placed fat in here, there and yonder … he placed two drains … etc. … etc…. etc. “I think she’ll be happy,” he says.

10:38 a.m.: Still chatting with Dr. Kronowitz, we’re discussing how we remove the drains with the help of Dr. Wayman, Jenny’s OB in Oklahoma City. He talks about how many of his patients are from out of state and that he’s happy that doctors cooperate with patients for these types of things these days. He adds, “I’m pretty well known …” while chuckling, “… they don’t want to offend me.” He was joking, but I’m certain Jenny will get a kick out of that. It takes a special breed to be a world-class surgeon, I think.

11:44 a.m.: After another cup of coffee, we start guessing about when we’ll get to see Jenny again. I review past timelines. Usually, we have to wait about 90 minutes after the doctor gives us a post-op report. This is why I keep these timelines — to document. We review each surgery timeline, and find that it’s pretty impossible to predict when we’ll get to go back.

12:36 p.m.: Still waiting. This part is the worst. You always wonder if someone forgot to call someone.

12:50 p.m.: We finally get the call. Two of us get to go see Jenny. There is a new protocol with the new post-op system at MD Anderson. We aren’t supposed to stay long. They want to focus on letting the patients rest. Jenny is quite alert, though. She seems way more alert than she has seemed after past surgeries. The very nice nurse doesn’t enforce the new rules, and Bill and Linda are both in the room before long.

1:35 p.m.: Jenny is already discharged. They are happy with all her metrics. It’s just a matter of getting our prescriptions filled and getting dressed. The prescriptions prove to be our greatest obstacle to leaving this time. The pharmacy is swamped. They tell me it will be two hours before the pain medication can be filled.

2:40 p.m.: Fire alarm testing at MD Anderson while I search for over-the-counter Benedryl for Jenny. (The doctor in the post-op area didn’t want to give Jenny more Benedryl because it would put her to sleep.) It’s exciting to have the doors of the gift shop automatically shut quickly while a loud alarm goes off. I took video of the alarm to post just for fun, but it didn’t turn out. Sorry.

3:15 p.m.: Jenny is dressed and ready. She’s hurting, and still a bit nauseous — but she’s ready to go home.

4:12 p.m.: After lots of waiting for the medication and a Smoothie King for Jenny, we’re finally waiting for the car. The day is coming too a close.

4:50 p.m.: Jenny has taken her pain medication and is resting. That’s what she’s been needing the last couple of hours. The pain meds they gave her (the ones that made her so itchy and needing Benedryl) have worn off. She’s sore.

The traditional photo of Jenny resting.

The traditional photo of Jenny resting.

But all in all, her recovery seems much better than in previous surgeries. We’ll see how the next few days go.

Jenny has a follow-up appointment tomorrow, then she rides home with her parents as I fly to Iowa for Grandma Nelson’s funeral. From there, Bill and Linda will watch after her until I get back on Saturday.

She has high hopes to be at full speed by Monday or Tuesday. I told her to shoot for quarter-speed.

6 thoughts on “Surgery No. 7 — Lucky No. 7

  1. Alan – I’m so sorry about your Grandma. My prayers are with you all.

    I am glad this is Jenny’s finish line for now; but I will miss your updates. Always informative and always entertaining.

    Much love to you all!!

  2. he update! We’ve been praying for Jenny. Your posts make me smile after a sad week for us. Have a safe trip to Iowa. Love Aunt Dora

  3. I appreciate your attention to detail and the traditional photos, Alan. Thanks for taking such good care of our Jenny, “my work Jenny” as my friends and family know her 🙂 My deepest sympathies for the loss of your grandmother. I’m praying for good rest, pain relief and a speedy recovery for Jenny, and comfort and safe travels for you and your family, Alan.

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