Thursday, December 29, 2011


So I had my tonsils out yesterday.  I’ve been on the fence about having the surgery for the last three months.  Just having surgery is a risk.  I’m not sure if this will ultimately help my sleep apnea.  I hope it will help with just generally not getting sick as often during the year.
This sleep apnea journey has been a long, painful and expensive one.  That last part is why I had the surgery now.  I had met my deductible for 2011, so I needed to get the surgery in before 2012.  Terrible timing for work with our audit still going, but thankfully my company lives out the saying that our health comes first.

I had prepped the house as best I could.  I had made two batches of jello and poured them into individual Styrofoam cups to set.  The house was clean and as uncluttered as I could get it.  My friend Josh was going to come spend the night in my spare room to make sure I didn’t die post-op.

I was scheduled as of Friday to show up at the surgery center at 11:30 for a 12:45 surgery time on Wednesday.  On Wednesday morning around 9:15, they called to move up my check-in time to 10:30.  So I called my friend Amy, who’d be giving me a ride to and from the surgery.  To accommodate the time move-up, I went and picked up her sister Andrea, who’d be her kids’ baby-sitter for the day, dropped Andrea off and picked up Amy.

I had to stop eating and drinking as of midnight on Tuesday night, so I was pretty glad to move up the time because I was starving.  What I was worried about was that I was starting to feel a little sick on Tuesday night, and it was a little more enhanced Wednesday morning.  A light cough and a mucus-y feeling in my throat Tuesday had advanced to include a mild headache and some congestion tightness in my chest.  And I couldn’t take any drugs for it.  I was a little worried they’d cancel the surgery, but I called and they said it most likely wouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but the anesthesiologist would make the call.

We arrived and one of my Fresno church pastors met us there to pray with me before going in.  We read over a few verses in Isaiah that discussed God’s authority over everything.  I was finding I wasn’t so anxious over the surgery itself, but over all the to-do list items surrounding the surgery.  e.g., I hadn’t gotten a call from the doctor’s office the day prior to arrange getting all my medications in advance.

I checked in, and got changed and on the gurney.  The first nurse couldn’t understand that I wanted something for lumbar support on my lower back.  She first tried bringing me two huge pillows to put under each of my arms.  I finally asked for a rolled towel or something, and that helped her understand that.  I was a little difficult with her, not snapping and being rude, and I felt bad about that.  The hunger and nerves over the surgery were getting to me and I knew I’d need to tried to keep it in check.  I was also pretty tired for some reason.

Then another nurse Kelly came in to start my IV, and she was awesome.  She just had a very calming voice tone and presence.  That helped my reset my attitude.  After my IV was in, Amy was able to come back and help keep me entertained while I waited.  We tried to get before pictures of my tonsils with limited success.  The anesthesiologist Dr. C. and then the surgeon Dr. T. each came in separately to go over the plan for the morning.  Dr. C. was a young Asian woman of whom Amy wanted to ask her age to make sure she could even drive.  Dr. C. was great, talking me through her game plan for pain management and some of the what-if’s that are natural variables depending on how I react to the pain meds and the type of surgery.

Dr. T. came in and was a little foreboding.  He had wanted to take my tonsils as well as cut into my uvula and upper palate to widen the space for the airway.  He was also coming in to check on the details because I was only scheduled to have tonsils out.  He had forgotten our phone call and couldn’t locate his notes in my file outlining my request for the change.  Based on what I had read online (I didn’t tell him this bc I know that’d be a trigger point of the unreliability of online info), when doing this surgery for sleep apnea, the doctor’s version of a “successful” surgery is different from the patient’s.  There are usually side effects of liquid by mouth coming out the nose more often, and some other stuff more related to the sleep issue that I don’t recall now.  I just wasn’t feeling at peace about him cutting into the upper palate even before my online research, so I told him he could only take my tonsils.  He hit it over and over again that just a tonsillectomy is not a recognized surgical treatment plan for adults (it is for kids, but bc the palate descends as our mouth forms into adulthood, some of that often needs to go too).  He didn’t want me coming back and complaining later that I didn’t work.  I thanked him and reassured him that I again (2nd time for this speech bc of our phone call) understood the risks.  I was hopeful this would help (but maybe not cure) the sleep apnea as well as also just help with generally getting sick this year.

I was glad Amy was there because I was a little on edge after his visit.  Amy is a nurse, and she reminded me that surgeons stereotypically have that “I know what’s best, do it my way” demeanor.  She also helped me understand that surgeons have a monitored success rate for their surgeries, and so he’s motivated to do a surgery that has the greatest chance of curing my problem.  He also may get paid more if he takes the upper palate too.  I hope that isn’t part of his motivation, and am deciding not to presume that motive upon him.

They finally wheeled me into surgery and helped me get situated.  These nurses understood me needing lumbar support.  Then Dr. C. knocked me out.

When I woke up, I was in recovery.  I was told everything went fine.  I think I regained cognitive abilities pretty fast, but I was still pretty sleepy.  They set me up in a recliner, and I asked for ice chips because my mouth was dry and my stomach was empty.  I heard Amy outside my room talking with the nurses.  Apparently getting my pain meds had been quite a journey and she still had to try and get two of the four prescriptions because of complications with the pharmacy being out at one location and them not communicating with releasing the orders at one to be filled by another.  She was trying to decide whether to go now, or wait and get them on the way home with me.  I said to go now, and they were all surprised that I was awake and comprehended that.

Kelly and Mary Lou were my recovery nurses, and they kept me loaded up with popsicles and IV meds.  I was antsy to get out of there, so I asked for writing materials and wrote up and accounting memo I knew I would need for work, and once I got my phone back I was typing out messages for them to read.  When I was finally released to go and Mary Lou was helping me into the wheelchair, I typed out, “So I get to drive home, right?”  That really got her and Amy laughing, and me as well.  They said if I’m laughing leaving the surgery center, it’s a good sign.  I even tried redirecting her to the driver’s side of my car when we got to the curb.  :-)  There were a few other things about being an oldest child and needing to be in control that we laughed over.

As Amy drove me home, I started to get a little woozy just from being on an empty stomach, so we stopped for Jamba Juice on the way.  Amy helped get me situated and wrote out a pain med chart for me to keep track of them all for me, which I would later be very grateful for.  I was still starving though, so hungry that I couldn’t fall asleep, but couldn’t figure out what I could eat that would fill me up.  So Amy went to pick me up some ensure/slim fast-type drinks since those would be loaded up like a meal.

While she was out, I started watching a movie but only made it through 20 min of it before deciding to just lay down.  My auditors sent me a really nice floral arrangement that was left on my doorstep.  So I was lying on the couch and all the lights were off, and it had just done dark outside when Amy returned.  I heard the garage door so I texted her to say I was awake and that she could turn on lights and not worry about being quiet.  She didn’t see them before coming in.  I was cold and pretty tired, so I didn’t feel like getting up at that point.  She finally started rummaging around in my cupboards, and so I texted her to ask what she was looking for.  She heard that notification and laughed over me texting her about all that.

Once I finally was able to fill up my stomach, I was doing much better, but I was wide awake.  My pain level on a 10-scale was about a 5 when I swallowed and a 1 the rest of the time.

I brought out paper or would type on my phone so we could converse some.  We listened to a few CD’s of a purity weekend she’s going to be taking her oldest son Jaden (11) on next week, and I’m going to show up for some of the guys-only sessions to help her out.  Then we played Scrabble.  Our friend Stephanie showed up around 7 to check in on me, not knowing Amy would be around.  She helped Amy out.  As I wowed them with a couple words, I even got a chance to mouth, “I was homeschooled” once.  That brought laughter.  On Vicoden (which I really don’t feel any buzz from, so I’m really baffled now as to how people get hooked on this), I won by 80 points, and she even got the X and Z.  We just hung out for the evening and talked.  I brought out my laptop and sat between them on the couch typing out my parts of the conversation.  I kept meaning to and hope to still borrow a projector that I can plug into my laptop so I can just project what I type onto a wall to converse more easily with company since I’m not supposed to be talking for awhile.

Josh showed up around 10 after his swing dance class to spend the night.  Andrea drove over with the kids to pick up Amy and Stephanie left soon after.  Josh and I hung out and talked (me typing) for awhile.  I was glad I was as self-sufficient as I was post-op.  I really didn’t want to be in a position of Josh needing to take care of me.  I was wide awake, so we popped in Firefly to watch a few episodes.  Josh is a teacher and a night-owl, so he’s been staying up until all hours anyway while on Christmas break.  I tried a couple of times to go to sleep, and it took on the second attempt.

Waking up to my alarm in the middle of the night was no problem to take my meds, and I fell right back asleep.  I only ended up sleeping for about five hours, and then just wasn’t tired anymore.  Hopefully I’ll get tired later and can sleep more then.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011

I've been in quite the funk this December, dreading Christmas and just wanting to sleep through it.  Work isn't going well, and I'm having my tonsils out on Wednesday to treat my sleep apnea.  I've been trying everything to seek out joy: lots of Christmas activities, spending as much time as possible with friends, trying to give more, spending time in the Word.  But none of it was "sticking."

I didn't even decorate my house or put up a tree this year.  I'm normally a tree-goes-up-day-after-Thanksgiving kind of guy, and keeping it up until middle of January.

I was reminded of John Grisham's book Skipping Christmas. I definitely sought out Christmas outside my home, engaging as much Christmas as time allowed. But I've realized I wanted a year off here at home. My Christmas decorations are nice, but fairly simple, most of them inherited from my grandmother.
When I step back and count my blessings, I have a lot of them.  Especially when I look at how I no longer travel for work and have more time at home and for ministry and hobbies.  But I wasn't feeling grateful for those blessings.

I couldn't decide how to spend this Christmas.  Mostly, I just wanted to sleep through it and pretend it wasn't happening.  But part of me wanted to be in Orange County to see friends and family since I had been sick the week prior when I had really wanted to make it down for the Christmas service at VBC.  I was half packed for a couple days leading up to Christmas, and there just kept being one more thing to stick around for here in Fresno: work, running, dr appt, giving Amy's kids their Christmas presents, living nativity, karaoke with the guys...the list kept growing.  Christmas Eve dinner at Mom and Dad's was at 6p, but Mom said they'd hold it a little if needed.  So at noon on Christmas Eve, I called it.  I wasn't going down, even though I was salivating over the thought of Mom's ham.

I went to visit my neighbors Haig and Valerie on Friday night.  I lived with them the summer before I graduated, when I had an accounting internship here in town.  Then I ended up buying a house five doors down from them three years later.  I went over to catch up and helped wash some dishes as Valerie baked.  Haig told me how they were spending Christmas Day, by taking Christmas dinner to Children's Hospital where Valerie works, to the rehab dept.  The kids there can't leave, and so it's a chance for them to have Christmas dinner with their families, as well as for the doctors and nurses working to have a Christmas dinner as well.  They invited me to come along.

Once I decided to stay in Fresno, I knew that's what I needed to do.  A lot of the reading I've been doing this year is around how God has a specific call for singles in the church to use their extra time to serve.  I could tell when I woke up this morning that I had a purpose in doing this today.  I would have otherwise flitted away the day watching Christmas movies.  It was a wonderful day!  Haig, Valerie, her sister Robin and I showed up at 8:30 to start prepping everything, and then put the food out around noon.  People then just cycled through informally.  I got to meet a few patients, a few nurses, but mostly doctors.  I got to hear some of their stories and share mine.  Everyone was so grateful to us for coming.

That finally got me joyful about Christmas.  God always comes through.

Mom seemed okay about me missing Christmas, but was a little sad when we talked afterward saying, "You're probably going to want to start doing this every year, huh?"  I'm not sure yet, but probably.

Another highlight was our Christmas Eve service at CBC.  Jim gave a wonderful message about the history and significance of giving gifts, turning GIFTS into an acronym of gifts we can give each other: Grace, Improvement, Forgiveness, Time and Salvation.  Got to see several families, but seeing Steve and Kathi was the highlight.  Former missionaries to Japan, they now train future missionaries while living in Fullerton, but were visiting Fresno to seeing their kids whom I went to FPU with.  Megan came with her fiance Yenisaw from Ethiopia.  Megan is like a little sister to me, and it was nice to finally meet Yenisaw and feel reassured that she picked a good guy.

All (that I currently recall of) the wonderful Christmas stuff I did this year with friends:
-Messiah Sing-along with Hanna and her parents Harold & Linda
-Tuba Christmas at Manchester Mall with CBC families
-visiting model train aficionados open houses with CBC families
-walking Christmas Tree Lane with Amy and her kids, with a fire, hot chocolate & cider at my house afterward
-baking for 10-year-old Rebecca's Compassion International bake sale with Katie M.
-Christmas caroling in the church neighborhood with CBC families
-Awana's "Trim Your Leader" Night
-Second Harvest and Project Touch with VBC, getting to spend the morning with Nicholas, a kid I had in my 4-year-olds' Sunday School class 10 years ago
-visiting with as many VBC families as possible on my one weekend down there when I really thought I'd have three weekends down there
-making 150 lbs of Almond Roca
-Karate class Christmas Party & White Elephant gift exchange
-Spades night & $5 gift card exchange
-adult Christmas Choir concert at CBC
-walking Candy Cane Lane with my Sunday School class, borrowing three of friends' kids whose parents were up to going, and spending the evening with the SS class for cookies at Garry & Jenny's open house
-Christmas cookie exchange with coworkers (and being declared better than Quinn because of my almond roca and forgotten cookies)
-visiting the living nativity in Riverdale with Haig, Valerie and Drew
-singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" (first verse in Latin, which drew much applause) at karaoke with the guys
-Christmas Eve Service at CBC
-serving Christmas dinner with Haig, Valerie & Robin at Children's Hospital
-eating Christmas dinner with Haig, Valerie & family at their house afterward
-watching lots of Christmas movies throughout the month