It's been over a week now since one of the biggest things to have happened to me in my life. Things are starting to go back to normal...except for the fact that I can only eat soft mushy food for the next 6-8 weeks! More about that later though..
I had to get up really early last Monday morning to ensure I got to Middlemore Hospital by 7am. My parents took me there and during the ride I just kept thinking about what would and could happen.
When we got there we had to find the DOSA (Day of Surgery Admissions) where I showed them my letter. They put this information bracelet around my wrist and gave me a gown, robe and a cap to wear. At first I wasn't too sure how to wear it but I soon figured it out! Before the nurse gave me my final blood pressure test I put on my pressure socks.
After the dressing and the blood pressure tests, I went back to sit with my parents in the corridor for about a half an hour till the anaesthetist came out to ask me some questions and tell me what the plan would be. I asked her all the questions I had, such as waking up, if there were hidden complications, etc. but she kept reassuring me that I was healthy and all would be fine!
Next was a surgeon, I can't remember his role, but he had a whole list of questions he wanted to ask, before the surgeon Dr Peter Hill came to talk to me about the procedure and what he would be doing to me. I gave my parents instructions to take as many photos and record as much video of my time in hospital as possible, and so I asked the surgeon if anyone could take photos while I was in surgery, but he said that wouldn't be possible but that was all right.
The surgeon then led me down another corridor into this room where there was a reclined chair/bed in the middle of the room. It looked like a theatre but this was obviously where they'd give me the general anaesthetic to put me to sleep. The anaesthetist started talking to me about what I was studying at uni while she was organising the injection she'd put into my left arm. All I remember was saying to her
"I'm studying pharmacy but I don't think you'd want me as your pharmacist!..."
That's when I drifted into blackness. The next thing I knew I could hear voices discussing my surgery. While one did mention something about the excessive amount of something, another person mentioned the surgery was a success. That's when I asked if I was allowed to wake up. I slowly opened my eyes to find myself in a bed in a large room with other beds. The nurse sitting beside me monitoring my status told me I was in the recovery room. One of the first things I mentioned was that I had a runny nose and asked if I was allowed to sniff. The nurse told me I could and she'd use some vacuum to suck it out. She then went on to ask me to rate the pain I was feeling out of ten. I said five...six...five....
After a while they pushed me and my bed to an isolation room in Ward 21, where I would remain for the next three days. For most of the first day I found myself lying there with all these tubes attached to me. I had two plastic containers coming from the bottom of my chin, apparently to collect the excess blood floating around. I also had a couple tubes going into my left arm, one including an IV drip, and worst of all...I had a catheter up me!
I had a love-hate relationship with the catheter. Whenever I felt I was about to wet myself I got a little concerned, but then before I could stop myself it was all gone and I was still dry! In fact on that first day after my 6-7 hour surgery I was quite out of it. I had a really swollen face and felt dizzy for most of the time. Fortunately the nurses who were really nice regularly checked up on me. I had a buzzer throughout my time in hospital and they would come not too long after I buzzed!
Time went by really slowly and I would try take a rest, having to ensure I laid on my back and not my side. The nurse would often encourage me to try drink some water, and would help me by using a syringe to squirt some into my mouth (no needles used!). Along with that she'd come in to inject some antibiotics and change my fluids, check my blood pressure or empty my urine container.
Visiting hours were 2-8pm so I was looking forward to seeing my parents but as expected they showed up at 7,30pm, half an hour before they'd get kicked out! It was good seeing them though, with Hamish filming me and taking photos (which is what I wanted! haha) By 8pm though I was extremely tired and really wanted to sleep.
I may have wanted to sleep, but getting to sleep was another thing. Throughout my time at hospital I always found it difficult to get to sleep! The first night was probably the worst. I would wake up whenever a nurse came in. She was fiddling with a connection when she accidentally spilt blood all over me! She got me to try stand up while an orderly changed the sheets as fast as she could.
The next nurse who took over at around midnight would come in quietly and shine a torch at me. I woke up and saw her do it and she told me she has to shine her torch at my stomach regularly just to check I was still breathing. I found this amusing! I once caught her kneeling on the ground by the table shining at me! She did offer to feed me whenever during the night though since she had been assigned to look after me. I took her up on that a few times and she would squirt water or custard into my mouth with a syringe.
The next morning came, along with two new nurses, one being a recent graduate. They wanted me to try see if I could stand up and sit on a couch for a little bit just so I'd get out of bed and get used to it Before that though it was finally time to disconnect me from a few things. First of all was the catheter. I was told this would be the most painful thing I'd have to experience during my time at hospital and how right they were! They had to deflate something before they slid it out (all the while reassuring me I couldn't see anything!). The next were the plastic containers which were starting to be a little bothersome. They replaced it with a giant plaster!
After they lifted me slightly to wash my back and allow me to slide into some pyjamas under my blanket, I attempted to sit in the chair while they changed the bedsheets. It was also time for me to move out of the isolation room and into the ward with others. Once again I hopped back into bed and they wheeled me into the ward with four others. One guy was about to be discharged, one had been in hospital for more than two weeks while the guy next to me was almost ready to be discharged. He had had jaw surgery too, but I think it was after he had his jaw broken! He was really nice, he adjusted his TV set so I could see it too. It wasn't too exciting but at least it was better than doing nothing.
He was about to be discharged so he plugged in his remote into my bed and let me watch my TV. I thought this would be cool, it'd help pass the day away faster and take my mind away from my jaw and not being able to eat (I was still on IV so I wasn't too hungry at that time). However, not too long later the TV guy came in to repossess the remote! It'd cost me $8 a day if I wanted to watch TV!!
So I spent most of the day lying there not knowing what to do, just trying to get some rest, only to wake up and discover 10 minutes had passed! The hospital setting was extremely boring there was absolutely nothing to do, not much to say to the others, and I had become frustrated at not being able to drink my water properly or even eat the lunch they served me, which was mashed potato and some mashed fruit salad! I completely bypassed the potato and tried the fruit salad but only managed to eat a little before I gave up. I had enough trouble trying to get the food in my mouth let alone the spoon!
I was at my lowest point that day, feeling quite down.It was not till when my aunty, uncle, cousin and his girlfriend came to visit. They brought with them some reading material such as a newspaper and a couple of magazines, along with a 'Get Well Soon' card and a 'You're a Champ' teddy bear. It was really nice of them to come by, especially since Middlemore Hospital is such a long way from West Auckland! They stayed for a while till my family came. My aunty tried to feed me a little bit. It sorta made me feel like a little kid for a moment there!
Just as they left, Karvin, a pastor from our church and one of our youth group leaders came in to visit. It was quite a surprise and it was a really nice thing for him to do! He hung around and talked to me for a little while and just before he left asked if he could pray for me, so we all prayed together. That was probably the most touching thing for me, for him to pray for me especially during such a tough time for me. I admit...I got a little emotional! haha
I'm so grateful to them for caring so much to have taken time out of their lives to travel all the way to Middlemore Hospital just to see how I was doing (wow how many "to's" were there in that sentence?). It really meant a lot to me. There were also a few people who kept texting me, keeping me company throughout my time in hospital, such as Mischa and Jenny and so thanks heaps guys that also meant heaps to me!
So anyway I got tired and my family left. I was going to try get some sleep this time round! Unfortunately just before my family left I got a pain in my stomach, which didn't make me feel so good throughout the rest of the night. I couldn't describe the pain to the nurse and so she could only give me paracetamol. I tried to sleep to forget about the uncomfortableness, but the clicking noise of the IV drip and the new patient moving in didn't help too much!
The surgeons came to visit early next (Wednesday) morning to tell me about my surgery and check up on me. They told me my surgery was a textbook surgery and was successful. They thought everything was looking good and if things kept going the way they were then I'd be out by the following day. I was already feeling a lot more positive after hearing this! They also wanted me to go for a much longer walk than my dizzy stumbles to the toilet.
I spent much of the morning reading the newspaper and the magazines my relatives had given me, till the nurse came to check my blood pressure and give me antibiotics. I told her what the doctor had said about getting up and about, and that's when she suggested to the new patient right beside me that I go out for a walk with him. Once the nurse was done with me he called me to come with him, and so I followed. We left our ward and went outside the hospital, walking through the carpark and all the way to the other side before we came back. It felt great to be outside and to breathe in the fresh air! You couldn't get away from that hospital smell though and that's what made me silghtly nauseous towards the end of our walk. I hopped into bed after that long walk, wanting to take a bit of a rest. Lunch was served not too long after and I was determined to eat and drink more. I had only recently been disconnected from the IV drip and told that if I took in enough fluids I wouldn't have to be reconnected. That would save so much hassle for me, not having to call the nurse in to disconnect me from the drip whenever I wanted to go to the toilet, and to finally have the last tube removed from me!
I was getting a lot better! I was drinking more and starting to eat more, albeit at a very very slow pace! Because half my face was still numb (I was given qutie a bit of anaesthetic, according to the doctor) I couldn't tell if I had food on my lips, so I'd constantly wipe my mouth. It was like I was an old man!
The rest of the day was spent listening to music on my phone and trying to read or maybe rest. My family popped in around the same time as usual. I told them that I might be discharged the next day but my mum told me she wanted me to stay as long as I needed because they could look after me better than if my parents if I went home. I was starting to feel they didn't want me back home!!
I don't remember much about the sleep that night but I'm sure it was another one of those interrupted sleeps where you get a period of good sleep then you're up, then another period of good sleep.
On Thursday morning, what would be my final morning at hospital, the nurse came and told me a doctor would check up one me and see if I was fit to be discharged. I asked her about my eyes because they'd get irritated if anything came into contact with them, and she said it wasn't normal and to ask the doctor. When the doctor came to check up on me, he thought I was ready to be discharged by midday. As for my eyes, he said my eyes were taped shut during surgery and so they might get a little irritated for a while, but it would go away soon. Phew!
My phone was dead that day so I went out for a walk again with my neighbour. This time we went as far as we could go in the hospital without having to go outside. It was amazing just how many corridors there were at Middlemore Hospital! I'm sure you could run a marathon inside there and not cross the same path twice! Well he showed me some places he had come across on his midnight walks (he usually works early in the morning and so he was finding it hard to sleep at night...not so good for the nurses wondering where their patient had gotten to!).
We managed to find our way back to our ward where we had our lunch and I tried to lie down to get some rest and wait for the moment I would finally be discharged from hospital. I felt a little sorry for the guys opposite me in the ward as they both required skin grafts and were really frustrated at being mucked around by the doctors. One guy was told he'd get surgery the day before but then was later told only two doctors were willing to operate on him and only in the next day. The other guy had already been in hospital for two weeks and he lived just down the road! He had an infection in his leg and required a skin graft. The physio came that day to try get him to get up and walk a little to see if he was ready to leave. Yeehaa he was successful and he was over the moon at the news he'd be discharged sometime in the next one or two days!
As I lay there I was starting to wonder if they had forgotten about me! It was about 3pm now and I hadn't heard anything on when I'd be discharged. It was not till 4pm when a nurse came in and told me the doctor was completing my discharge papers and I could call my family to arrange transport home. I rang my mum but she said Aonghas had just gone to the gym (he had been away at camp for the whole week!) and so I might have to wait till 6pm before they'd arrive! I asked her if they could come as soon as they could because I just wanted to go home!
When I got back to my bed I got dressed into the clothes I had arrived in on the first day, which had been put in a large brown paper bag. The nurse helped pack my belongings as my bed was needed. The doctor came to see me to give me some advice on how to look after myself, as well as the prescription for the drugs I'd need to take. One more thing he needed to give me was - my medical certificate! I'd need that just in case I couldn't finish my Stats assignment due the following Monday!
After I crammed everything into my bag I farewelled the other guys in the ward and went to the Day Room to wait for my family to come pick me up. By this time I felt really weak and unwell for some reason! I was pretty much slouching in the chair as I struggled to follow Everybody Loves Raymond on TV.
I did this for another couple hours as my family got stuck in traffic. I even managed to watch the news, and what a day for the news - Don Brash got pushed around at Waitangi and murderer Antonie Dixon killed himself in prison! Hearing all this didn't make me feel any better either!
It was not till 7pm that my family finally arrived. I slowly made my way to the car and we headed home, picking up the drugs and some food along the way.
While it was good to be back home, I was feeling too unwell to enjoy it! I trid sleeping in my mum's bed for a while before she woke me to give me my pills and a bit of food. Once again I tried to get some sleep that night but this time it was my mum's snoring that kept me awake!
The next Waitangi Day morning I was feeling a lot better though. It was the start of a life with a new jaw. From that week I was to put behind me 20 years of eating with a crossbite and try learn a new way of eating. While most people don't even notice the position of their teeth and jaw, even now for me I notice just how different it is, but I'm determined to make this work!
I was initially fearful of the surgery itself and whether I'd get through it. Well I didn't wake up during surgery, I didn't even feel a thing! What I should've been more worried about was the recovery period after...