When I was in the 7th grade, I had my tonsils removed. After years of battling strep throat multiple times a year, the doctors finally decided to take action and remove my tonsils to prevent strep from infecting those useless blobs of tissue in the back of my throat. I had never had surgery, but my doctors promised me that it would be easy and that I could have all of the popsicles I wanted as I recovered.
Vaguely do I remember being wheeled into the operating room and being put under anesthesia, as my main memory from having my tonsils being removed was waking myself up, throwing up blood. Pretty gross, right? Back in the 90’s, they still cut the tonsils (none of this high tech laser stuff we have going on now), so often times, blood would make it’s way into the stomach, irritating it to the point of sickness.
So here I am, this gullible 7th grader going from “this surgery isn’t a big deal,” to red, bloody vomit all over myself.
Where am I going with this story? I don’t have the best luck with anesthesia. I had a procedure a few days ago that left me slightly traumatized, but more about that in a minute.
When I was 16, I had to have my wisdom teeth removed. They were impacted, so the oral surgeon thought it best to knock me out because the cracking of the teeth would be quite miserable for me to endure. The surgeon assured me that all would be okay and that I’d wake up and feel fine. Lies.
I woke up much earlier than expected, alone, in a dark patient room. I had no idea where I was, I was completely drugged out of my mind, and all I could do was yell for my mom who I knew was somewhere out there. It was awful. It took a good few minutes for one of the nurses to realize I was awake before flipping the light on to a young girl in tears, her mouth stuffed with gauze. Luckily I didn’t wake up during the procedure, but waking up alone in a dark room wasn’t much better.
On Thursday of this past week, I had an upper endoscopy to check on some stomach problems I’ve been having lately, and I was nervous. The memories of having my tonsils removed and the wisdom teeth incident came crashing down on me, and as the procedure approached, I became more and more anxious.
My doctor was great at the appointment prior to the procedure, explaining that they give you enough anesthesia to put you into a “twilight” sleep. It’s where you’re drugged just enough to be asleep, but wake up quickly and bounce back faster.
When I got to the hospital on Thursday, things happened very quickly. I’m a planner. I like time to process what’s happening, and things were just happening way too fast for my liking. As soon as I completed my paperwork, they took me back to the pre-op room and before I knew it, I was in a paper gown and the IV was going into my arm. We were 25 minutes ahead of schedule. I began explaining my past experiences with the nurse and how I was nervous about being sedated. She promised that I would never be left alone, that the procedure itself only took about 20 minutes, and that most patients compare to the “twilight sleep” as “I blinked, and it was over.”
Before I knew it, they were wheeling me into the procedure room where things picked up even more speed. The oxygen tube was put in my nose. The doctor walked into the room. I saw the nurse fiddling with my IV, and I asked her if she was putting the drugs in yet. I like to know when the medicine will hit me because honestly, I hate the feeling and I like to be prepared for it. She said they were giving me something like Valium and some other drug I can’t remember. They put a thing in my mouth to keep it open during the procedure, and the next minute, I saw the scope getting closer and closer.
I wasn’t asleep. I was aware of what was going on, and my body was too. I was gagging, I was groaning, I was miserably uncomfortable. I could hear the nurses saying they were increasing the drugs, I could see the trees over my doctors right hand. It was….awful. Thankfully, I was never in any pain, but the whole “blink and it’s over” experience didn’t happen to me.
Post-op, I fell apart. They had pumped me full of so many drugs in such a short time period that my body couldn’t process it. I was shaking, sweating, shivering and on the verge of passing out. I begged for water and they refused, saying I had to wait. Wait for what? The procedure was over. My nurse came in, took one look at me and said, “uh oh, we need you to lie back.” I laid back, knees up and pleaded for my mom. Mom’s always save the day in these situations and she did.
My mom came in, immediately asked for a cold washcloth and I burst into tears. I wanted to throw up, I wanted to pass out, I wanted to sleep….I just wanted the room to stop spinning at a million miles per hour. When they doctor came in to tell us that everything looked fine, my mom challenged him on why I was “awake” during the procedure. He explained that there are different levels of “consciousness” that people experiences, and I was of the small percentage of the population who is simply more aware while under that level of sedation. What’s weird is that both of my parents have had procedures which have required this “twilight” anesthesia, and they both did fine and experienced the “I blinked and woke up” effect. Not this one! Note to self: Always request to be knocked 100% the eff out from here on out.
I hardly remember being wheeled out of the hospital (I just remember holding the washcloth over my face), and can only remember bits and pieces of the car ride home. I guess the medicine kicked in a little too late.
When we got home (zero memory of walking from the car to the front door), I sat down at the dining room table (I never sit there, why I chose to plop down in that seat is a mystery to me), as my mom tried to force food down my throat. The day of the procedure I couldn’t have anything to eat or drink, and by this time it was almost 5pm, so my body was just a mess. My mom got me saltines and water, and I went to the bathroom to dry heave my brains out. A few good burps later (they fill your stomach with air during the procedure), I felt good enough to make my way out of the bathroom and back into that stupid dining room chair.
Chris got home a few minutes later, made me some mac and cheese (I ate 2 bites before wanting to throw up again), and somewhere in there, my mom left (again, zero recollection).
I remember feeling so disoriented that I just stood there crying, begging to make it stop. Chris somehow guided me to bed, turned on my fan, and I slept for 4 hours. I woke up thinking dinner might be a good idea, I ate, and immediately threw up. With that, my drugged out self called it a night and went to bed for the next 12 hours.
Friday morning, I called out sick (lame, since the doc told me I’d be fine) and spent the majority of the day sleeping off my drug induced hangover. I was finally able to eat those saltines and rehydrated with some Gatorade. By dinner time, I was feeling much better with the exception of a small sore throat from where the scope agitated my esophagus.
Moral of this whole story? My body doesn’t do narcotics. I don’t get the giggles or the warm, fuzzy feelings. I get the crap end of the stick and will request to be knocked out completely if any future procedures are necessary.