When 13 Hours Feels Like 90 Seconds

March 30th couldn’t get here fast enough; I just wanted to get my cystectomy done. Eight years of losing battles were over, and I was hopefully about to win the war. The stress I felt was hard to handle at times, but it was harder on my wife, Melanie. By the time the procedure was set to take place, she had been diagnosed with PTSD. She kept everything inside and tried to be strong for me, and bless her heart, she paid the price.

Everything was going as planned

Because it was only a two-week delay, there was no need to go through the pre-op examinations again. We showed up early that morning, changed into the hospital gown, got shaved and waited. It looked like everything was going to happen as planned this time. Melanie sat with me, and when we had a few minutes alone, I said what I had to say.

“Listen, I know Dr. Zlotta says everything will be okay and that I’ll come through this just fine, but in case I don’t, I want you to know how much I love you and have cherished the time we’ve had together.” I had tears in my eyes. Mel didn’t say anything, just gave me a smile and a hug and squeezed my hand.

Ready to go

At 7:45, the nurse came out and said we were ready to go. I got off the gurney and started to walk to the O.R. “What are you doing?” she asked. “You said it’s a go; I was walking into the room.” She laughed, “Lie down, I’ll wheel you in.”

The room was large, bright and cool with plenty of activity going on. Nurses were organizing surgical equipment, the anesthetist was checking his equipment; it was a lot to absorb, a little overwhelming. The nurse then told me to climb onto the operating table, lift my gown and put my legs in the stirrups. The anesthetist greeted me and said he’d insert the intravenous tube into the back of my right hand. I had so many of them over the years that I didn’t think twice about it. Once the tube was in place and connected, he put a mask over my mouth.

Waking up thirteen hours later

“I want you to start counting backward from 100.” “OK, 99, 98...” and I was out. The next thing I remember was waking up in my room with the intensive care nurse hovering over me. “How are you feeling?” My answer was four words, “I have no idea.” “You were in recovery for four hours, and we’ve just moved you to your room. The surgery took a little longer than expected; you were under for nine and a half hours.” Thirteen hours felt like 90 seconds. I was in a fog, nothing seemed real. No pain, I wasn’t uncomfortable, just there. Melanie leaned over me stroking my forehead. “Hi babe, welcome back.” I don’t remember saying anything. My brother Rob was there, Mel’s sister and brother-in-law Allison and Jack, and Mel’s best friend Janet. I wasn’t good company; I was blasted on morphine, and I loved every second of it.

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