Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – It Galled Me…But No More

I must warn you that if you’re sensitive regarding medical procedures, please skip this article. I certainly do not intend to become gratuitously graphic, but I will be describing a bit of the pre and post care for my gall stone/gall bladder removal surgery.

Let me just state that I was absolutely terrified. If you recall, faithful readers, the only surgeries I’ve ever had have been on my failing eyeball. I was, however, worried about any complications. It was going to be a stretch affording the initial office visit and surgical fee asked by the surgeon suggested by my primary care physician, but I did contact his office and was prepared to pay at least the initial office fee. I received a chuckle in the process. The administrator asked for the name of my insurance plan and when I told her, she jovially repeated that the surgeon did not accept any insurance. She finally advised that I submit a claim and take my chances. No thank you.

Putting my procrastinating ways aside, I called my health insurance hotline and was provided a list of in-plan surgeons and picked one that was in my neighborhood. My main objective was to have the procedure done at the highly recommended Lenox Hill hospital and I got lucky with the first surgeon I chose. I trusted him from the moment we met at his modest office in Harlem, but was later to learn that he works out of at least two others. We shared a few laughs and even joked about a hernia that I didn’t even know I had. There was no turning back.

I’d recently had a physical, but had to undergo pre-op procedures, including an EKG, chest X-ray, and blood tests as well. My primary doctor even added another medication to my daily cocktail of high-blood pressure meds. She said she just wanted to “take the edge off.” Additionally, it seemed I asked and answered a barrage of questions a million times. Knowing this was all in an effort to ensure that I was fairly healthy enough to withstand the procedure, I slogged through them with my characteristic humor.

On Tuesday, August 21st, we arrived at the hospital at 7:11am having no idea that I would not be leaving until 7:00pm. A few things stand out in my mind. One, that I, not my nurse, used sterilized pads to clean myself; two, that I am allergic to iodine; and three, that a two-hour surgery took five hours and it took an additional hour for me to float up from the depths of anesthesia. When I awoke, I was greeted with beautiful smiles from all assembled.

Fearful that I would have to stay overnight, I was thrilled to be told I could go home. To say I was fuzzy-headed would be kind. Honestly, Maria, my sister, and my niece had it the hardest, as they patiently struggled through every grueling hour. I was relieved to learn that several members of the surgical team came out to give them the good news.

I recall the ride in what seemed like an antiquated, rather rickety wheelchair being a bit scary as we boarded the elevator and then plummeted 10 floors. I could feel every rattle as we bumped along the sidewalk to get to the curb in order to catch a taxi.

Up and out the following day, I needed to see my surgeon to have the drain removed. I am very grateful I did not look up that really painful procedure. It was more gruesome than the surgery, as I was awake during the removal. My sister acted as his assistant and my hand-holder. I let out a silent scream, but maintained what shred of dignity I could as he pulled out what seemed like a mile of tubing from my abdomen. Incredibly, I gave him a big hug before I left, as he is ultimately responsible for my now being able to eat regular meals without fear of excruciating pain and other unpleasant side effects.

I am not yet at 100 percent of my energy, but I’m feeling stronger every day and am glad that I decided to have the operation done electively rather than urgently. Additionally, although there were some odd practices, I cannot fault the team at Lenox Hill. From the time we walked through the doors to the time we left, they were unfailingly courteous, efficient, professional, and, most of all, highly competent. I will always remember this as a mostly positive experience.

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing excessive and excruciating pains on the right side of their abdomen, I urge you (and/or them) to see a doctor as soon as possible.

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