Surgery No. 9 — a new surgeon, but a familiar process

We are in Houston for another surgery. This one is elective for Jenny and strategically planned in time to recover before our summer vacation plans.

Why the surgery? It’s a revision to her reconstruction. Jenny will post in more detail in the days to come. I (and others) are encouraging her to post some of her thoughts and reconstruction details.

So she will, she says.

After all, one of the big reasons for this blog was to document the journey for others that might come across it. I remember what Jenny was doing after she was diagnosed in September of 2012. She read blogs like this. She wanted to know what to expect.

So we all agree that she needs to document all the recovery, even if she feels it’s trivial in the big picture.

People, whether they know her or not, need to see how she’s come from diagnosis to treatment to recovery — and for lots of cancer patients, the recovery is the longest journey.

So forgive this timeline for today’s surgery. Jenny feels awkward about getting more attention for reconstruction surgeries when she’s no longer fighting the immediate cancer threat.

We didn’t plan to blog about this surgery in this format, but I don’t know what else to do with the day, so here goes …

8:08 a.m.: Arrive and check in. We’re early. Houston traffic was no match for us.

8:40 a.m.: I make Jenny choose her dinner for this evening when we’ll return to the hotel. I don’t want to be responsible for these decisions. Oddly, we can’t seem to remember exactly how hungry she will be. I’m taking no chances.

8:58 a.m.: Jenny’s never seen the waiting room before. Her surgery is later in the morning than it has been in the past. She’s never seen how the volunteers run this big room and set the rules for all the families. It’s a new world for her. But I know what she’s really doing; She’s evaluating how it might work a little better with just a few work flow tweaks.

9:08 a.m.:I’m hungry,” says Jenny. Oh crud. They need to get her moving.

9:12 a.m.: Bill and Linda arrive and are as surprised as us that she’s still waiting to get called back to start the surgery.

9:15 a.m.: They call Jenny back. She gets settled into the pre-op room. Everything gets moving.

9:35 a.m.: The nice nurse says Jenny looks familiar. We talk about being from Oklahoma. The nurse says she’s from Duncan. That sounds familiar. We realize we’ve had the same conversation before — for Surgery No. 7 on Dec. 3, 2014.

Same picture, different year.

Same picture, different year.

9:41 a.m.: The nurse allows Bill to come back to the room. There are only supposed to be two guests in the room, but Oklahomans get special treatment, I guess. Woo hoo!

9:46 a.m.: The room gets very full. There’s the nurse, the familiar nurse’s assistant, an anesthesia nurse, the anesthesiologist and Katie, our favorite PA. Katie has been our translator for Dr. Kronowitz, but we have a new plastic surgeon now — Dr. Patrick Garvey (Jenny will detail all of that in a forthcoming post).

9:48 a.m.: The anesthesiologist comments on the crowded room. But, hey, we only are breaking the rule by one body. We continue to escape the law.

10:03 a.m.: Here comes the IV kit and the anti-nausea pills. We’re on our way.

10:20 a.m.: After a painful IV stick (it took three tries and two nurses), Jenny finally gets a cocktail. “It’s worth it,” she reported a few minutes later.

10:27 a.m.: They wheel her away. The surgery is supposed to take 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours.

10:45 a.m.: Bill, Linda and I are led to a second-floor waiting room. We check in and go eat an early lunch. I stock up on a breakfast bar for Jenny tomorrow — always have to be prepared!

11:11 a.m.: The surgery officially starts. That’s the word the volunteer in the waiting room gives us, anyway.

12:30 p.m.: Dr. Garvey walks into the waiting area. He’s finished and ready to update us on the surgery. In the Consult Room, he explains what he did — swapping the implant on one side to a different style of implant and doing some fat-grafting. Dr. Garvey is very different from Dr. Kronowitz, who was the plastic surgeon for six of Jenny’s surgeries. (Again, Jenny will explain how and why we changed doctors in another post.) All I’ll say is that Dr. Garvey is very different.

OK, I’ll say this, quoting what Jenny has said: “I appreciate everything Dr. Kronowitz did to get me here, but nothing since Dec. 2014 has been good. I’m excited about a new approach.

12:45 p.m.: She prescribed herself Percocet (it was actually a special request; she particularly dislikes Hydrocodone), so Dr. Garvey gave me the paper to take to the Pharmacy. Once I do that, Bill, Linda and I wait to see her again.

1:24 p.m.: Bill says, “It seems like it’s been an hour.” I report, “In six minutes, it will have been an hour.” That’s why I keep the timeline.

1:35 p.m.: Another husband in the waiting area asks the volunteer to call the recovery nursing station. It’s been 2 1/2 hours for his wife. He’s getting antsy. I might be here awhile.



2:20 p.m.: We get the call and are allowed to go see Jenny. She’s pretty alert, but sore and dizzy. I feed her ice chips upon request, so that part is just like any other weekend evening.

2:45 p.m.: I go pick up prescriptions. The pain meds still aren’t ready, so more waiting.

3:20 p.m.: The anesthesiologist on call comes by and says she’s good to go. We ask the nurse for a belt that she used to have to attach her drain when she wears normal clothes. That could be an issue. Despite Jenny’s insistence that we have such a belt today, this is the first the nurse knows of it. She has to place an order for the belt, so we’ll be waiting here for awhile. That’s too bad, because Jenny really likes that belt.

3:30 p.m.: Jenny is still spacey, but she gets up and goes for a walk. She’s upright.

3:55 p.m.: Jenny gets some graham crackers. Everything is good. She does not ask for chocolate and marshmallows. That’s a shame.

4 p.m.: The nurse tells us that it’ll be a bit before we get that belt. That’s what we’ll be waiting for to finally leave. We’re getting that belt.

4:15 p.m.: We convince Bill to try Pappasitos or Chuy’s tonight when he and Linda go out to eat tonight. We then talk about our affinity for Chuy’s and that he should visit the one in Norman sometime. It’s really good. As good Oklahomans, we like Ted’s, but if I had to choose a Tex-Mex meal, I’m going with Chuy’s. #TeamChuys

4:30 p.m.: Another nurse comes in to take out the IV. She wonders why there are so many bandages on her hand and arm. That’s the IV debacle of 10:20 a.m. Then we wait for a wheelchair.

Jenny sleeps while waiting.

Jenny sleeps while waiting.

4:50 p.m.: A wheelchair finally arrives. We’re on our way.

5:55 p.m.: As we open the hotel room door, Jenny says, “Wanna bet on how fast I can fall asleep?

It’s definitely just like any other Wednesday night.

That seemed like a great ending, and I was about to post, but then we realized that Jenny was bleeding through her bandages in the abdomen where they harvested some tissue. We thought we’d give it some time and compress the area with a towel as she slept. But realized at about 7:15 p.m. that we should probably head to the MD Anderson Emergency Center — which is really not a fun place to be.

7:50 p.m.: Arrive and check in at the E.C., as they call it. We expect a lot of waiting. We are lucky that Bill and Linda are in Houston. They are picking up new pants for Jenny to wear on the drive home tomorrow.

8:40 p.m.: Jenny gets seen by the E.C. doctor. He wants to avoid having her wait for a room. Apparently, there are no rooms, and we might be there all night. He sees the bleeding and says he’ll call our surgeon’s on-call doctors.

9 p.m.: As we continue to wait in the triage area, Bill and Linda drop off new pants for Jenny. They are very nice.

9:15 p.m.: After listening to the madness of the E.C., where the triage nurse doesn’t have beds for people who were told to go there by their oncologists, we start to think that we might be better off getting bigger band-aids and going back to the hotel. About that time, the on-call doctor comes by and says that we probably need bigger bandages and pads and to go back to the hotel. It will be OK. It’s not abnormal. Who knew?

10 p.m.: After a chat about how sad the E.C. is for all those patients, a quick stop at CVS and a slow walk back to the room, we start the night over again. It was fun when a tipsy traveler on the hotel elevator asked how our night was going. Bad timing for the friendly fella. Not as good as yours, unfortunately.

6 thoughts on “Surgery No. 9 — a new surgeon, but a familiar process

  1. I appreciate the timeline very much. Thank you for doing that. What a great guy with the feeding of ice chips every night! I hope the E.C. visit is the last of the hurdles. Much love Jen Jen!

  2. Glad Jenny’s procedure went well. Your timelines and insight are an interesting part of the story.

  3. Awesome blogging Alan! I’m so glad that this surgery is behind you Jenny and that you are on your way to recovery! Praying for you. You’ve got this now!

  4. So glad she has this one over. So glad that you are such a wonderful husband. Love to you both. Saying a prayer for quick healing and no more surgeries.

  5. So happy that this surgery is over! Prayers for an uncomplicated, complete recovery Jen Jen. You’re great nurse Alan! Xoxo

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