CASSIDY’S COLUMN: My Surgery Day Walk-through

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Cass Huff is a 13-year old special needs student at Burien’s Sylvester Middle School. She is also our newest columnist…

by Cass Huff

Hello B-Town Readers!

Recently, I’ve been asked to write a blog about what it’s like on surgery day. And since I’ve had 36 surgeries, I feel like I’m highly qualified to walk you through a regular surgery day.

So let’s just start at the beginning…

Normally, my surgeries are scheduled in the mornings. Let’s just say my surgery check in time is at 6:15 AM. I have to stop drinking liquids at about 4:00 AM and I have to stop eating at about 2:30 AM. So I’ll wake up at about 2:00 AM and fix myself a peanut butter sandwich. Then, I will go back to bed (or not depending on how tired I am) and then wake up at 3:55 AM to have a glass of water. And then, I’ll go back to bed and wake up at about 5:00 and we will leave at 5:30 for the hospital.

I have now memorized the dreadful route to the hospital. Normally, I am nervous so I try to busy myself with mylding as we are pulling into the garage, and there’s one thought that I have every time I stare up at the giant towering over me. I try to push it to the back of my mind but it keeps scratching the inside of my head. The thought, will this be the last place I see?

As I walk (or roll because I’m in a wheelchair) into the reception area, my heart is beating fast and my mind is on high alert. The great unknown question is how long will I be here this time?

We check in go to Surgery Check In. The smell of food from the cafeteria makes my rumbling stomach scream at me. But I ignore it.

The rest of my family arrives and soon someone calls my name. My heart instantly drops. We walk through a pair of white doors that lead into a sterile hallway. Although the hallway is short, to me it feels like a scene from a horror movie, where the character is awaiting his fate.

Then we turn left and go through another pair of white automatic doors. Only to find a row of small rooms with blue curtains hanging in place of the doorways.

The nurse pulls back one of the curtains and leads us into a small room with a couple of chairs and machines in it. I sit down in the rocking chair and my family fills up the rest of the seats.

The nurse gives me a folded blue gown, with a pair of blue socks, and a warm blanket. I change into the gown, putting my regular clothes into a bag where I know I won’t see them for a long time.

Soon, another nurse comes in to take my vitals. And assures me that the surgical team will be in soon. I’ve learned that there are two time zones. There’s the regular time zone which is the time we’re all used to. Then, there’s the hospital time zone which means when someone says that the surgical team will be there “soon”. It actually means that they’re going to have you wait for an hour and THEN your surgical team will come in.

The waiting is the worst part. Sitting in a room with no telling what’s going to come next, your brain tends to take over and start thinking of the worst.

FINALLY when your surgical team comes in it’s a little bit overwhelming. When the team comes in (such as your anesthesia team) then the rest start flooding in. When it’s time to say goodbye to your family, that’s the most heartbreaking part. Saying goodbye and not knowing if that’s the last thing you’ll say to them. Most of the time it brings tears to my eyes when I am saying “See ya later”. But I’ve learned to fight these tears. And before you know it you’re heading off to the Operating Room.

Remember how earlier I said the walk to the waiting room is dreadful? Yeah, well this walk is even more dreadful. But it’s kind of cool at the same time, you’re walking down a long hallway and your surgical team is behind you. Sometimes I imagine it in slow motion. You know, like one of those action movies where there’s a big fight and then the good guys end up walking away with an explosion happening behind them? Yeah, it’s kind of like that. Except everyone’s wearing surgical masks and blue scrubs.

When you enter the OR, it’s almost blinding because it’s so sterile. When I walk in, on my right is a big screen with pictures of my most recent X-Ray. In front of me is a big table with a warm blanket, and a neck pillow. And to my left, well, I’ve never actually paid attention to what is on the left side of the room. But I’m assuming it is a bunch of machines and stuff.

There are at least 20 blue-clothed people and their faces are covered with masks. So I wouldn’t be able to recognize them without the masks. When I walk in they all are smiling. I can see it in their eyes. They are very comforting and they try to make you feel comfortable. But my brain is not fooled. I am aware that I’m about to undergo another operation. I’m aware of what may happen. I am also aware that I do not have any control over what does happen.

They help boost me on the table. They let me paint my anesthesia mask rootbeer flavored. They tell me to lay down on my back on the table that I am now sitting on. I reluctantly lay down. They stick the heart monitors on me. Then they wrap the blood pressure cuff around my arm. My Mom then whips out her phone and plays the song that we had arranged in the car ride earlier. Music is the only thing that calms me down, and I need that right about now. I take deep breaths and close my eyes. I try to become unaware of my surroundings and relax. But my muscles feel like they are permanently tense.

I hear someone’s voice and open my eyes. One of my anesthesia team members is telling me that he’s going to put the mask on. I take a deep breath and then I feel the mask go over my nose and mouth.

Here is where a million thoughts start running through my head. I try to focus on my breaths. But that’s hard because I’m trying to take everything in. I abandon that idea and focus on each and every one of the faces that are above me.

Then my brain starts to get fuzzy. I can feel the gas kicking in. It makes me feel like every part of my body is vibrating. It makes all of the voices speaking to me echo.

I continue to scan every single face that surrounds me until I find my Mom’s. I focus on her stroking the side of my face. I hear the words “I love you” a thousand times. Each time echoing inside my head.

My eyes start tearing up and I have no control. Tears start flooding down my cheeks. I can barely see through my tear filled vision. I start to lose feeling in my feet. The nurses are asking me questions. Trying to calm me down. But, I’m already calm. Well, at least part of me. I feel like every person surrounding me can see right into my thoughts. I lose all feeling in my legs.

I try to think of something else. But I can’t think of anything. There are too many things to think about in such a short period of time. I know I only have a couple of seconds left. I lose feeling in my torso. Then in my arms, my hands, my fingers, then I lose feeling in my neck.

I continue to focus on my Mom’s face. Then I have no control. All of my memories, my life, flashes before my eyes. And then everything goes black.

My eyes are closed now. But I can feel myself moving and I can feel myself breathing. But I do not yet have feeling in my limbs.

I have water on my face. Why is there water on my face? And then I realize, it’s tears. I’ve been crying. Why? I can’t remember and it’s too exhausting to try.

Then I try to open my eyes. But my eyelids are too heavy for me to do anything with. I don’t care. I keep trying. Each time getting them open a little bit farther. When I do finally get them open they stay open.

I look around. I am in a hospital bed. There is a computer to my right and a nurse typing away. There are a bunch of cords attached to me and in my right hand there is a tube taped down with a bunch of other tubes and wires. I can’t make sense of it because the gas hasn’t fully worn off yet.

The nurse smiles warmly and says “Your Mom will be here in just a minute honey.”

I stare at her blankly. I touch my hand to my face. The tears are dry now. But I can’t help myself from asking the question. “Why was I crying?” I asked.

“It wasn’t very clear. But I think you just wanted your Mom,” she says.

I continue to stare at her with a blank expression. I turn my gaze away from the nurse and look at the room itself. It’s not really a room. It is small and on either side there are curtains acting as walls. There’s a curtain in front of me that is acting as a door.

“Can you guys not afford walls and doors or something?” I ask.

The nurse laughs. “I guess not,” she replies.

Just then the curtain swings open and in walks my Mother. She wears a smile and asks how I am. I just stare at her with a dazed look in my eyes. She starts chatting with the nurse about something and I drift off back to sleep.

When I awake, my Mom is sitting on a stool beside my bed.

“Do you have my phone?” I ask her.

“No,” she replies.

I stare.

“You’ll get it later,” she says with a smile.

I say nothing. I take a deep breath.

“Do y’all got any food around here?” I ask the nurse.

She laughs again. “We’ll get you some when you get situated in your room.”

The curtain swings open again. But this time it’s a woman who I don’t recognize. She started to talk with the nurse.

“Alright Cass, we are going to take you to your room,” the woman says with a smile.

“And you are. . .?” I ask.

She laughs. “Well missy, I like your attitude,” she introduced herself (I can’t remember her name though.)

“I’ll see you in a little bit,” Mom says as she starts toward the curtain door.

We gather up all of my cords and machines and the two women start pushing the bed that I’m in. I’m rather talkative on the way there and ask questions about everything. But the women are very polite and chat with me.

We enter a big room. With a TV, a couple cabinets, a window, some chairs, a bathroom, and a pullout couch (where my Mom sleeps).

We plug in all of my machines. The women bid their farewells to me and introduced me to the new nurse. They gave me the TV remote and got me some ice chips (which I was ecstatic about).

Then my family comes in, we hang out, I am off and on sleeping for the next couple hours.

And then, a couple of days later, I get to go home!!!

Surgery has mentally (and physically) scarred me. I know someone who has had twice as many surgeries as I’ve had. I’ve known her since we were two. She calls her scars her angel wings. She says they tell a story that words cannot describe.

So yes, you can say that my surgeries are a burden for me. But you can also say that my surgeries are a blessing. You can say that my scars are ugly. Or you can say that they are like a diary. They tell the story that there are no words for

Thank you so much for reading my blog today! I’m sorry it was a very long read. But I hope you enjoyed it! Make sure you press that Contact Us button so that you can tell me any suggestions you have or what you want me to write about next!!

Thanks so much!

Over and out!!!

– Cass

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10 Responses to “CASSIDY’S COLUMN: My Surgery Day Walk-through”
  1. Kellie B says:

    Love this! Great column.

  2. Angela Bowman says:

    Your sharing is powerful!

  3. Mark says:

    Cass, you rock!
    We hope to read more of your thoughts and stories in the near future.

  4. AD says:

    Scars are the sign of a survivor. You see them, and you know that person has come through something and is strong.

  5. Connie says:

    You have a talent for writing. You always put on a smile and positive outlook. Thanks for sharing what it’s like. It helps me to understand what some of my family members have endured.You are a brave young woman. Keep up the good work!

  6. shari says:

    I appreciate your honesty and enjoyed reading your blog. I have had several surgeries and could relate to what you have said. I hope your feeling better and you don’t have to have anymore surgeries.

  7. Sandy S says:

    Brava Cass! On your bravery and your writing! They are both growing stronger and stronger!! Tell us more about the things you like and the people and places that you would like to see. Have some favorite books?… or movies?.. characters?

  8. Dena says:

    I have never had surgery so this was very informative and interesting to me. Bless you for all you have gone through and thanks for sharing.,

  9. Burien Human says:

    I hope the hospital staff reads this. It is crazy. Don’t they know how they are making their patients feel?
    Why do you make us wait so long? Why can’t you do something about the fearful walks down the corridors? Etc. etc. etc.
    We are human beings.

  10. wondering says:

    Must reading for all healthcare workers! Thank you Cassidy.

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