Three days sans thyroid and I’m still standing. Nothing earth-shattering has occurred, in spite of my inner buzzing and fussing in the days leading up to surgery. The whole day of the surgery transpired in a rapid succession of vignettes…
Scene 1: I can’t believe it’s 3:30 a.m. already. After a night of periodic waking, looking at my phone, and drifting off to sleep again, it felt like no real sleep really occurred, like I only briefly staved off the full rush of waking life to pause for moments of deep meditation. I grabbed the dog, who was “rarin’ to go” at any hour and we circled the block in the chilly pre-sunrise air. I’m in “go” mode; no emotion, no real processing. I get ready for Cousin Nathalie to pick me up to go to the hospital.
Scene 2: The check-in staff escorts me up to the 7th floor by myself, where I sit in another waiting room. I look around at all of the strained faces of the people waiting to have surgery, gently clutching the hands of their spouses, and I feel overwhelmingly and immeasurably alone. I’m trying to distract myself from the encroaching fear and loneliness that is creeping up my chest and stinging my eyes. I look at the art on the walls as I scuffle down the hallway. They call me to check-in and I get a bracelet.
Scene 3: I sit in my pre-op stall and wait in my backless hospital gown, shower cap thing, and some warm socks with grippies on the bottoms for my nurse to get around to me. He’s asking the older woman next to me a litany of questions, including the last times she took each one of her seemingly hundreds of medications. After today, I’ll be a medication-taker, I think to myself. Everything is going to change. No one here cares. Suddenly the anesthesiologist comes, a resident, who has a dry personality and asks me a litany of questions. I try to jostle him out of his cardboard-like, boxy demeanor, but he gives me a look that’s like soft sandpaper, and I decide to just go along. He has trouble with finding a vein for the IV, and brings in the lead anesthesiologist, who specializes in children, to poke me. This guy is spun sugar compared to the other guy, and he tells me my veins are rubbery and tiny, like baby veins, but he is persistent and eventually finds one. The nurses and doctors come by, bombarding me with information, questions, introductions and the like. My OR nurse shows me her thyroidechtomy scar and tells me it will all be okay, and that she will be with me throughout the procedure. They wheel me into the room and I get onto the table. More introductions to more nurses and staff, as if we’re going to have a dinner party…only my OR nurse and sugar Doc are saying they’ll see me later, when I wake up, and I think, What the heck are they talking about? Then the meds hit me and I’m out like a light.
Scene 4: Everyone’s all happy and laughing, like Wasn’t that a lovely dinner party? I clearly don’t remember any of it. I don’t feel much of anything at first. I see the doctor, on the phone with my mother already, telling her how things went. It sounds good. The recovery room nurse is flitting around me, asking if I need anything. She doses me with pain meds and I suddenly feel like I’m going to vom, all over the place. I can’t vom, my stitches will explode. I call the nurse. She shoots some kind of nausea medication into my IV. Shortly thereafter, the pain becomes unbearable again. She gives me more pain meds, which lead to more nausea. I’m beginning to think I’m going to feel horrible for the rest of my life. After the second IV infusion of nausea meds, I feel a moment of calm, where I can drift in and out of sleep.
Scene 5: My nurse’s name is JP. I’m beginning to hate his face, as, it seems like every five minutes he’s waking me up to pester me about something: pain meds, how am I feeling, etc., etc. I just want to sleep and I’m uncomfortable, for life. I don’t understand why everyone’s goal at this place is to poke and prod and pester me, when all I’m trying to do is recover. My neck hurts and my throat is sore. It feels like I have strep throat. My room phone is ringing off the hook and I don’t answer it for a while, until JP comes in to force me to answer it, because my parents have called the nurse’s station and want to talk to me. I waveringly talk for a few minutes, and then lapse back into this restless-restful cycle. JP keeps insinuating that we will go for a walk. Ha, I think. That’s what YOU think, JP. I make doubly sure I’m sleeping whenever he enters the room, just in case he comes in with any of those crazy “let’s walk around” ideas.
Scene 6: I decide that JP isn’t a bad guy. In fact, he’s pretty cool. We talk about How I Met Your Mother and X-Files, and he seems to genuinely give a hoot about my pain and comfort. I’m almost sad when his shift ends, and my night nurse, Alex, comes on board.
Scene 7: Alex is pretty cool too. She reveals that she may have to undergo a thyroidechtomy as well, and has a lot of questions for me. By this time, I’m not feeling quite so awful and am able to converse fairly regularly, as well as get out of bed to pee (apparently anesthesia makes you not have to go for a while). My general physician, Dr. Shammas, comes to check on me, and I am so grateful to see her. She has a very motherly quality, but in such a way that she understands exactly how I’m feeling. She gives me further instructions to help with recovery and I hang on her every word. At that moment, she is my favorite person on the planet. She cares, she gets me. Alexis still doesn’t let me sleep, but I’m not quite as sleepy now, and watch a bunch of sitcoms, plus the movie, “Win A Date With Tad Hamilton” (totally predictable and unrealistic rom com—yawn).
Scene 8: I don’t like the day nurse.I was hoping JP would come back. This girl seems to have as much personality as a dead rectal thermometer. Luckily I get to go home after breakfast, which comes in freakishly copious abundance: oatmeal, yogurt, a bagel, hardboiled egg, two juices, tea, and soy milk. It’s a lot of stuff. I eat most of it, of course, because I figure I need to eat for recovery. I don’t end up eating lunch that day anyway.
Scene 9: It’s weird to come home and be thyroid less. I’m not sure what to do with myself, still in pain, but trying to get on about my normal life. I’m grateful that my friend, Kristie, is staying with me to help deal with the Beags and also to make sure I am okay, just in case. It’s comforting to have that. She stays for the whole day and overnight, and she leaves early in the morning, after taking the dog out, of course.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”
I don’t think that I feel much different without a thyroid than I felt before. If anything, I think I might feel slightly better than before. I don’t know if it was the stress of the surgery or the synthroid, but I feel as though there is a low-grade depression, a heaviness, that has completely disappeared. I hope that this is a good sign, that things are going to be better now that I don’t have a thyroid, that I’ll have more energy and be faster and stronger, and a much more awesome version of me, but let’s just take one day at a time.