by Dee Storey
January 15, 2003
It’s been three weeks since my operation for tracheal resectioning. I received wonderful care at the U of Michigan Hospital.
I read up about tracheal resectioning. The night before my surgery I spoke with someone who had had the same surgery at Mayo Clinic. This person told me that the post-surgery week was the worst in her life, but that her life after surgery was so wonderfully improved, that one week of supreme misery was well worth the pain and suffering. I was glad that I had a chance to talk to her before I went off for my surgery. Yes, knowledge is power.
I remember waking up in the surgery room. I recall the surgeon telling me that he had stitched my chin down to my chest so that I would not yank my head around, possibly disconnecting my resectioned trachea. I remember telling him that he had said he was not going to stitch down my chin. Promises, promises…
I also remember my surgeon telling me that it was so good to hear my voice. My voice indicted that my vocal cords were intact and working. Hmmmmm. That made the situation sort of like a good new/bad news situation. So, I learned how to cope with having my chin stitched down to my chest.
I have a lot of memories about being in the hospital. I had a lot of fears about having surgery and being in a hospital after my lengthy hospital stay when I was in ARDS crisis. This time around, doctors and nurses knew about my ARDS background. It was not unusual for me to hear “Ahhhh…you survived ARDS. That’s really something!” I began to feel that if I could survive ARDS, I could survive this first week after surgery! My health team did a great job with my pain management so that also helped me think I would survive my current problems.
I will never forget my first walk down the hall! I was so amazed at how easy it was to breathe! Scar tissue had formed in my trachea after I was intubated during my ARDS crisis. My breathing was really hindered due to this scar tissue. I sounded much like Darth Vader when I inhaled and exhaled. However, during my first walk, I did not have to struggle to breathe! I somehow forgot about my chin. I somehow forgot about only being able to look at the floor when I walked. I somehow forgot about how afraid I was to be in the hospital again. I could breathe without the struggle.
Recovery after the hospital is being made very possible due to my friends and neighbors! I was very intimidated about going home alone after surgery in that I did not have family who could stay with me after the surgery. I stayed with a friend and her family for the first three days. When I went home, friends and neighbors called me and visited me several times a day. Food appeared. Snow magically got shoveled. Grocery shopping got done. My friends and neighbors made a difficult situation very possible. I have certainly learned that there are many wonderful people out there! My friends and neighbors have taken extra steps to make my recovery successful. I’ve laughed. I’ve complained. I’ve struggled. Throughout it all, I did come to find out that I am surrounded by some really thoughtful, caring, and helpful people.
I am constantly reminded about my post ARDS journey. It’s an ongoing journey fueled by support. The support has been what has helped me continue to look forward to the future.
And today, I learned that I could now lift my chin. WOW! I will be able to carry my chin at a 90-degree angle to my neck. This is cause for celebration. I have been warned that this will be painful because I have been looking down for three weeks. So my recovery will be entering a new phase; a phase that I will learn to handle with the help of my friends and neighbors.
As a Pastor Ian Robb says:” The Task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us!”