Roughly two weeks ago, I had major surgery: a mastectomy of my right breast and breast reconstruction. The surgery took 12 hours. Joan, on the other hand, experienced a “routine” procedure in a clinic, and died.
My procedure consisted of removal of my breast (due to cancer) and reconstruction, which involved microsurgery. The surgeon extracted an artery from my belly, and re-attached it through my breast area so that blood pumps through the “new” breast and keeps the flesh alive. The surgeon recreated a new breast from skin and fat from my belly, and sewed it up like Frankenstein.
A drain runs from my breast into a little “grenade” looking plastic cup, catching the excess fluid buildup . I also have a drain on each side of my belly. I empty the drains several times a day, and log into a notebook the amount of fluid extracted. Drain removal will be next week.
Stitches run across my belly, similar to a C-section, where the flesh was cut from one hip to the other to remove the skin and fat for the reconstruction process. Included in the procedure is a “tummy tuck” which brings with it pain and discomfort. Most of my body hurts.
I woke up in the recovery room as one of the medical assistants rubbed my shoulder and told me the surgery was completed. [ My experiences from this point forward will be the subject of upcoming blog posts: The roller coaster ride that is an average hospital stay.]
Meanwhile, Joan was to have an endoscopy, dubbed a “routine” procedure. We now realize that no procedure involving anesthesia is routine. Joan endured cardiac arrest during the operation, and though she lingered for several days, she ultimately died.
Heads are already rolling at the Clinic; investigations and digging into details is ongoing. A surgeon performed an unscheduled biopsy. An uncredentialed doctor was in attendance. Fingerpointing will surely continue. Newspapers and magazines will be sold.
If only the same care had been taken during Joan’s procedure as was taken with mine, she might still be with us.
I’ve endured aches, pains, discomforts, bedpans, rude hospital staff, and gross hospital food.
But I am so grateful that I woke up.