Under the Knife (Part 1)

After having a scope to fix a labral tear in 2014, I did PT and felt that I was cured. A few months to a year later, I began having the same aches and sharp pains as I had before. I thought it was all in my head, and that the problem had been fixed. Wrong. I decided to go back and see if something had torn again, and the MRI showed no signs of tears or detachments. I was sent to an orthopedic surgeon by the name of Patrick Bosch at the Children’s Hospital of UPMC. He concurred with my research that, yes, I needed a periacetabular osteotomy, and yes, the original labral tear was a symptom of a much larger problem. I did have dysplasia on both hips, but more severely on the left side. My left hip is moderate, while the right is more mild.

I was asked when I was willing to have surgery; I said “ASAP! I can’t wait to have a cool scar!” I really was excited for surgery, not only just to rid myself of the agony, but because I had really enjoyed undergoing medical procedures. He scheduled my surgery for 2 weeks from that very date; May 29th, 2015 is the day I would go under the knife again.

Prior to May 29th, I had to ingest two whole bottles of Miralax and take some pill laxatives, too. I lost ten pounds of poop! When I got weighed the morning of the surgery, I was 90 lbs. I got in my gown and blue socks that I’d come to have many pairs of, and took my urine pregnancy test. While we waited in the surgery waiting area, my mom cried and my dad left for the bathroom a lot. They were both so nervous; I was reassuring them that it was okay, no big deal! I was still very excited. Dr. Bosch came in to sign my hip “PB” in dark blue sharpie. He sat down and told me about the possible complications for the millionth time: infection, blood loss, etc. He then said, “I haven’t had to do any blood transfusions in my last fifteen patients for this surgery, knock on wood!” Lastly, he said that this surgery is the most brutal orthopedic procedure performed in the hospital. I still wasn’t worried.

After this, I was put on my gurney and wheeled down a hallway which had walls painted with penguins all over. A wall I would come to see many, many more times. I was taken into a very small room where I was given a nitrous mask to calm me down while IVs and an epidural were placed. The nitrous was awful! I remember laughing so hard that the doctors had to restrain me, then I was being told knock knock jokes. One of the doctors asked me the “Euro-peein'” joke and was surprised when I was cognizant enough to reply with the right punchline. Then, they asked me how I was feeling, and I told them “it feels like I smoked laced weed!” They laughed and said “we’re gonna ignore that.” As soon as they finished placing the epidural and removed the mask, I was immediately sobered. It was an awkward transition.

After hallucinating, I was finally sent to the surgery waiting area where I was given some drugs to help make me calm and sleepy– although they never work. “Are you feeling sleepy?” they always ask. Nope. When they took me into the OR, I quickly looked around at my surroundings, trying to drink everything in before I woke up elsewhere. I always do this in surgery; it is interesting to see what’s going on, what’s the setup. After what felt like three seconds, I was flopped onto the surgery table, which was soft and skinny like some kind of leathery lawn chair. I always expected it to be a surgical steel flat tabletop. I was quickly half-stripped of my gown, and heart monitors were placed on my chest, arms, and forehead. After that, a nurse blurs my vision by placing a plastic mask over my face; “it’s just oxygen.” Rule number 1 in the OR: it’s never just oxygen. I fell asleep immediately.

What felt like a second later, I woke up, but not how I’d imagined I would. I was not in a comfy bed in my hospital room. Instead, I was in the ICU, and the first thing I noticed was an oxygen tube down my throat. It was blowing air very aggressively and I felt like I was suffocating. I tried to pull my hand up to remove it, but it was taped onto my face and my hands were restrained  to the bed, or at least it felt that way. A nurse hurried over and put my hand back down, and said not to touch the tube. I can’t breathe! I tried to say. But I couldn’t talk or even open my eyes. I heard my parents nearby; my mom saw me and started crying, she said she would not see me like that. I heard my dad say “she can hear you!” He knew this because he too has been through a lot of surgeries. He came over and asked me if I could hear him, I was able to nod a little.

The next thing I remember is my surgeon coming in and asking me if I remembered anything. I took this as a sign that I woke up during surgery and was given more sedative, hence why I couldn’t move. I don’t remember waking up though, if I did. He said that, during surgery, when he first started the initial cut into my pelvic bone, I started to bleed out immediately. Like, within ten minutes, I lost half of my blood volume. He said that he had went to the waiting room after surgery and told my parents that it was an “interesting ten minutes” trying to control the bleeding. I can’t remember my blood pressure, but I know that the systolic number was in the 30s (it is supposed to be around 120). I had received not one, but two transfusions, destroying Dr. Bosch’s track record.

I don’t remember when I woke up from surgery, or anything after the initial few hours. The next thing I remembered was waking up the next morning, almost 24 hours after surgery. My surgeon came in to show me my x-rays and explain what happened during surgery. I was brought chicken nuggets with ranch and fries for breakfast. Finally, sometime during that second day, I was taken to a suite on the orthopedic floor where I would come to know the nurses and their rotations very well.

The nurses and doctors were surprised at how little I had used my morphine pump; I’m not one for pain medicine, and I have a pretty high pain tolerance. In the evening, my epidural started to wear off, and I could suddenly feel the discomfort of my bladder catheter, as well as the overwhelming pain of my pelvis being broken in three places. This is one of three times I cried during the entire recovery– day 2. I laid on my side with a pillow between my legs for what felt like days and days. Getting up to pee was strange; I was so aware of my pelvis and how important it was for standing and moving. I could feel the screws on the surface of my skin and they felt so strange.

After a week here (it was prolonged because of the blood loss), I was sent home. I left the hospital in a wheelchair and had to sit in the car padded with pillows around me. It was a very painful ride home, and when I got there I had to go up a flight up unstable wooden stairs on crutches–with a broken pelvis! I then slipped and fell when I got into the house, and cried partly because I had just fallen on my broken pelvis, and partly because my mom told me to stop crying and being dramatic. This is most of what I remember from the week I was in the hospital for my PAO. My scar faded within a few weeks.

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