Thursday, April 09, 2009
Surgery for Acoustic Neuroma
Please see the follow-up for this post at: http://www.ameliamarzec.com/rewired/
On Thursday, April 2nd, Daughter #2 had surgery for an acoustic neuroma, which is a non-malignant, slow-growing tumor in the ear canal. Due to the tumor, she lost hearing in her left ear and often suffered bouts of dizziness. The tumor was not small and it seemed the best option was to have it removed. :^(
Daughter #2 lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and works in Manhattan. The surgery was done at St. Vincent’s hospital in lower Manhattan. Hubby and I decided to camp out on the futon at Daughter #2’s apartment while she was in the hospital. We drove up the afternoon before the surgery and took Daughter #2 to a Thai restaurant for supper.
She worried about us using the subways—and getting lost. She worried we would break the toilet in her apartment—so she put a sign on the wall. She worried that we would not be able to get up at 4 a.m. to accompany her to the hospital.
I think she believes we are already senile. :^)
I did not sleep well that night fearing that I would not hear the alarm on my cellphone. But I did hear it—so did Daughter #2 even though she had her bedroom door closed.
It is very, very quiet in Greenpoint at 4 a.m. Hubby and I dressed quickly and ate raisin bran. Daughter #2, of course, had nothing.
Usually, it takes 45 minutes by subway to reach lower Manhattan. We had no idea how long it would take by car because it depends on the traffic, but we thought it would be easier on our daughter to ride in a car.
The limo arrived and by 5 a.m. we were whizzing through Brooklyn. There was no traffic. It took 15 minutes to get from Greenpoint, Brooklyn to St. Vincent’s hospital—a very smooth ride that cost $16 plus a tip.
At 5:30 a.m. Daughter #2 was ushered into the admitting room where she signed a bunch of papers. Then we all went upstairs to the fourth floor. By 6:30 she was ensconced in a big chair in a small curtained alcove. She had donned a hospital gown, had blood taken, had signed more papers, and met the anesthesiologists who explained their part in the surgery.
There were plenty of other people being processed at the same time—all very efficiently.
We talked with Amy’s surgeon and the ear doctor who explained what would be happening. The tumor would be taken out, bit by bit in order not to disturb the surrounding nerves. It would be long and delicate surgery.
Daughter #2 signed more papers. The surgeon wrote “Yes” behind her left ear and reminded her that a piece of fat would be taken from her abdomen when closing up the wound on her head.
She looked at her flat stomach and said, “Good luck in finding that fat.”
Finally, one of the anesthesiologists led her down the hall. She gave me her glasses at that point—reluctant to part with them since she is very nearsighted.
Hubby and I walked into the Spellman waiting room and started reading. Hubby had finally begun to read Sea Of Hope, which was published in 2001. He laughed out loud when he read the scene about the meatloaf. I think he knows where that idea came from. :^)
By nine, I was starving and in desperate need of caffeine. We went downstairs to the cafeteria to load up on eggs, sausage, hash browns, and coffee.
Afterwards, we took a walk outside toward Washington Square Park. Hubby was looking for his favorite sandwich restaurant—Subway. We didn’t find one—though we did see a McDonald’s and a Domino’s pizza restaurant. There were plenty of other restaurants but hubby insisted on his favorite.
At ten o’clock, we were back in the Spellman waiting room (named after Cardinal Spellman). Hubby proceeded to nap.
While he dozed, I read a book, talked to Daughter #3 on the cellphone, and typed up some of this blog.
At 1 p.m. the doctor called the waiting room to let us know that all was going well with the surgery—but it wasn’t finished yet.
I finished the book I was reading. Hubby finished Sea Of Hope. I started reading another book. Hubby read his latest issue of Smithsonian. I talked to my northern sister on the cellphone.
Around 4:30 we got word from a nurse that the tumor was out—all of it. We would be allowed to see Daughter #2 in two hours. We took another walk outside, found a Subway one block north of the hospital and ate.
Hurrying back to the hospital, we talked to the surgeon who said Daughter #2 had been given blood. He said her facial nerves looked good—they had been checked out electrically. However, due to the long surgery and resulting pain, he was going to keep her sedated overnight and wake her up tomorrow.
We were allowed to see her, but we couldn’t touch her. She had a breathing tube in her mouth, and IV drip, and lots of other tubes and wires monitoring her condition. It was difficult to see her like that. She was scheduled to have another CT scan and would be in ICU afterward.
We left to return to Greenpoint. The G train had signal problems so once we got off the L train we had to walk. It was a nice evening but it was a long walk considering the fact that we had gotten up at 4 a.m.
Once we reached the apartment, we called Babci, Mom and Dad, as well as Daughter #1 and Daughter #3.
It was a very, very long day.
Despite that, I spent the night tossing and turning. I finally gave up trying to sleep and called ICU to ask how Daughter #2 was doing. According to the nurse, all was well and the doctors were beginning to make their rounds. The breathing tube would be taken out and Daughter #2 would be able to wake up.
Meanwhile, hubby had to move the car to another spot due to the alternate side of the street parking rules. Twice a week the street sweeper comes by and everyone has to move their cars. Once the sweeper passes, everyone runs out and moves their car back. It is crazy. There are cars in Brooklyn that never go anywhere except from one side of the street to the other.
Hubby found a parking space several blocks away.
Afterwards, we had to do a little shopping for more coffee and milk. It was raining, so we didn’t go far—simply around the block to the little fruit store.
When we returned to the apartment, I saw the street sweeper go by. Hubby rushed out and managed to get the last parking space on the block.
Afterwards we got on the G train again to go to the hospital. It was raining hard. Daughter #2 was still in ICU, but she was awake, though drowsy. She claimed she didn’t sleep all night. I told her she was sedated all night—but she insisted that she was awake. She said she was writing notes to the nurses and crying. Her lip hurt where the tube pressed against it.
So maybe she wasn’t completely sedated.
At any rate, now that she was completely awake, her head hurt. Her throat felt raw. Her tummy hurt where a chunk of fat had been removed to patch the hole in her head. She said her derriere hurt as well. She hated the uncomfortable bandage on her head. It covered her left ear and she could not put on her eyeglasses.
She dozed off after a while. Hubby and I went to eat our lunch in the cafeteria. St. Vincent’s has good food—and since this was a Lenten Friday, they had plenty of fish. :^)
Afterwards, we went back upstairs to check on Daughter #2, but she could not keep her eyes open. We went to the waiting room so she could sleep.
After an hour we went back upstairs. The nurse removed the catheter and got Daughter #2 to sit up in a chair. But her head hurt worse and so the nurse gave her pain medicine.
Daughter #2 was supposed to eat some soft food for supper.
The rain ended and hubby and I headed back to Brooklyn. Daughter #2 told us to go to the Associated food store on Manhattan Avenue for our groceries but she warned us that it closes at eight.
The Associated food store is not Walmart, but while their prices aren’t rock bottom they do have a surprising variety in what they offer—and this being Greenpoint, there’s a lot of Polish food.
I called ICU and Daughter #2 was sitting up and eating. That made me happy. Hubby and I had take-out pizza for supper. I slept fairly well for the first time in three days.
Saturday was extremely windy. The wind made a lot of noise on the skylight in Daughter #2’s apartment.
When I called to see how she was doing that morning, the nurse told me she wanted her cellphone. I was ecstatic. I thought that was a sign of progress. However, when we got to the hospital, Daughter #2 did not feel well. She felt nauseous. She did not want any food.
The doctor said the bandage which she hates because it is very uncomfortable would not come off until Tuesday. She said that’s too far away!
The nurse said she would be going into a regular room Sunday. Another plus because while ICU is a good place for serious health situations, it is really depressing. The man in the bed on her left moaned and groaned most of the day. The man in the bed opposite hers was in terrible shape—barely alive.
Daughter #2 thought some Gatorade might be helpful for her tummy, so hubby and I found another Associated food store on 14th Street. There are too many flavors of Gatorade and I had no idea which to choose to tempt our daughter’s palate. As I was standing there, one fellow started loading his cart with the Gatorade because it was on sale.
I asked him which was the best flavor. He swore that the fruit punch was the best. He claimed it was even better with vodka. :^) So I bought it and offered it (minus the vodka)to Daughter #2 but she only took a few sips.
I hated to leave the hospital with her feeling so crummy, but we trudged back to hop on the subway to Brooklyn. Hubby asked if I felt like a real New Yorker yet.
Nope. I felt like a rat in a maze of tunnels. Every now and then the musicians in the subway cheer things up a bit—but only briefly. And sometimes I find even the musicians to be a bit depressing—like the one fellow who bangs out rhythms on plastic buckets. Poor guy needs a set of drums!
Besides, I like grass and trees and space. I feel claustrophobic in the city.
Hubby and I ate at his favorite Polish restaurant. Then we went back to the apartment to call all the relatives—Babci, Mom and Dad, Daughter #! and Daughter #3, Niece, and Nephew—and a few others.
Sunday morning—Palm Sunday—hubby and I went to Holy Family church. It is a small jewel—100 years old. The hymns were very old-fashioned, much like the church itself.
The day turned warm and sunny. We got on the subway again and headed to Manhattan. Daughter #2 looked far better than yesterday. We talked to the surgeon who suggested that we take off the left arm of her eyeglasses so she can use them. He said even after he removes the bandage she won’t be able to use the left arm of the eyeglasses because of the incision.
We dashed to the Duane Reed store and bought an eyeglass screwdriver. Hubby removed the left arm of her eyeglasses. At last, our daughter had a clearer view of things.
She was moved out of the ICU and into a regular hospital room. The move exhausted her and she was dizzy again, but now she had a window with a view and television. Hubby and I bought her a small cup of rainbow sherbet from Baskin Robbins and she ate half of it. She did not eat much else.
That evening when we got back to Brooklyn, we ate at a Mexican restaurant. The nice thing about Greenpoint is that everything is so close.
Finally, we went through the rounds of phone calls as usual. I send text messages to most of the relatives throughout the day informing them of Daughter #2’s progress, but everyone wants more details than they can get in two sentences. Daughter #2’s experience had become the Marzec soap opera.
Monday dawned in downpours. Hubby hoped to get a parking space right in front of the apartment. He succeeded in getting one right in front of the apartment next door.
By the time we arrived at the hospital, Daughter #2 was sitting up and looking alert and strong—relatively speaking. However, she still had the bandage on her head and it wasn’t going to be removed yet.
She complained about the nurse always taking blood. The doctor had given her somebody else’s blood, but the nurses kept taking it away. :^O
One of her high school friends popped in to visit, which was a nice surprise. After he left, hubby and I guided Daughter #2 around the corridors. She was still having an issue with dizziness. The doctor claims that should eventually go away.
She did not care for the turkey dinner served for lunch but she ate the entire apple pie served for dessert. We bought her some French fries and she ate half of those. One of her coworkers also came to visit later in the evening.
At one point, when she was taking a nap, hubby and I quietly sat and read. He read the first two chapters of Heaven’s Blue—and chuckled when he found the names of the guinea pigs in the story.
Hubby and I returned to the Polish restaurant for supper. Nothing like comfort food when times get tough. Still, we found the ordeal sapping our strength. We went to sleep early.
Next morning, hubby wanted to move the car again. Before he did we went to the food store again.
Daughter #2 sent a text message to tell us that the bandage was removed.
When we got to the hospital, I was surprised to see the incision. It was huge with big stitches. I know the scar will fade and will always be hidden by her hair—but it was a bit of a shock.
Seven of Daughter #2’s coworkers came to visit in the afternoon. They brought grilled cheese sandwiches knowing how much our daughter loves those.
Daughter #2 had more visitors around six. Some friends from high school, some friends from a place she used to work, and a new friend. It was like a party! She held court in the lounge.
Hubby and I left then and took the trek on the subway back to Brooklyn. I tried to read on the train because I wanted to be like a real New Yorker. I had seen people reading while standing in a subway car, holding on with one hand while the train went rocketing through the tunnel, shifting left and right and stopping suddenly—but they never lost their concentration.
However, hubby and I were lucky enough to get a seat before the train became crowded. So I started to read, but a little girl sat next to hubby with a box from PetSmart. She opened the box. Inside was her new hamster, Chelsea.
The girl kept picking Chelsea up while Chelsea kept looking for an avenue of escape. Hubby held out his hands just in case. But fortunately, the little girls’ mother warned her to keep Chelsea in the box.
We ate at the Polish restaurant again.
Hubby and I got up early the next morning. Daughter #2 was to be released from the hospital. I packed up her clothes and we headed to Manhattan again.
It took forever to get the discharge papers. Once our daughter was allowed to leave, I stood outside the hospital and hailed a cab. I felt so cool.
Hubby told the cabbie the quickest route to Brooklyn. The cabbie drove like a demon whenever he had the chance. Quite a thrilling ride—and for only $16.50 plus tip. Better than a roller coaster.
Once we reached our daughter’s apartment, hubby went to the Rite Aid pharmacy with Daughter #2’s prescription. The pharmacist would not fill the prescription—absolutely, positively, no way. He would not speak to the doctor at the hospital—he would not accept a fax.
Hubby went back to the hospital in Manhattan, got another prescription, and had it filled at a Duane Reed pharmacy near the hospital. That took hours. Meanwhile, I fed Daughter #2, packed up the car, and put all the garbage outside for pickup.
At last hubby returned with all the pills. We got into the car and headed back to NJ. Daughter #2 will be recuperating at home where I can feed her until she is nice and plump. :^)
I am so glad to be home.