On the 4th Floor

I was in the hospital for Monday and Tuesday nights, and just before noon on Wednesday morning, I went home.

That blew me away, and it still blows me away when I think back on it. I had what’s considered to be major abdominal surgery. They talk to you constantly about breathing exercises you need to do and coughing to help keep your lungs clear after being under for so long. They give you Heparin shots every day, and you have to wear support hose all the time because of the danger of blood clots. They monitor you constantly. Yet I was done surgery by 4 p.m. on Monday, and home by noon on Wednesday.

I’d like to tell you the hospital food was gourmet, or at least great, but you know it wasn’t. However, I was hungry, so it still tasted pretty good.

The ward I was in is amazing – a special ward for urology, plastic surgery and ear, nose and throat patients. The 18 rooms are all singles, and nine are earmarked for urology – mostly prostate patients.

The group of nine rooms I was in had two nurses and a floater working in them – I think. I heard them check into the computer system when they came on shift, and they said that certain rooms were primary, and others secondary. The nurses wore a device around their necks to let them speak directly into the system in hands-free mode. The technology in that ward is fascinating, and I’m itching to go back and see exactly how it works.

As one nurse goes off shift and a new one comes on for each patient, they get together in your room and the outgoing nurse briefs the incoming nurse on your progress. You’re right there and able to ask any questions you want. What a fantastic way for a patient to be actively involved in their own care. I loved that process.

The care I received in that ward was absolutely amazing. All the nurses were friendly, efficient and professional, and I always felt I was in very capable hands. My surgeon came to see me each day at 7 a.m. and the surgeon who assisted also saw me every morning. I always felt I was getting the best care I could have from everyone.

The days after surgery were spent getting to learn about my new plastic buddy attached to the side of the bed – a large catheter bag that looked to me like it would hold about a week’s worth of urine. It had a carrying handle so I was able to take it off the bed and carry it around with me whenever I went for a walk around the ward. You’re encouraged to walk as much as you can, so I took a lot of walks. It was fun to look around the ward and talk to the nurses as I walked around.

On Wednesday morning, a nurse came in to give me my lessons on how the travelling catheter bag and the large catheter bag worked. Once you’re out of the hospital, catheter care is on you, so you need to learn how to empty, change from bag to bag, and clean each bag. She also pulled the drain out.

I had five incisions: a large one under my belly button that the offending prostate was removed through, and three others across my lower abdomen for the various tools the surgeon used. One still had a drain in it, for fluids to leave my abdominal cavity after the surgery. It didn’t hurt at all and I slept quite comfortably with it in place.

I was lucky that the surgeon removed only my prostate gland and the nerves beside it. The lymph glands looked normal, so he didn’t take any of them out. Had they been removed, I would have had a second drain in my side. I needed the catheter for a week, but if they had removed any lymph glands, that would have been two weeks.

The only times I noticed the catheter was when something pulled on the tube; otherwise, I really didn’t know it as there. The tube is taped to your leg, for good reason – it’s no fun at all to that tube tugged on!

By Wednesday afternoon I was comfortably sitting in my favourite chair with three people eager to do things for me. I tried to milk that for all it was worth, but they soon figured me out, and things returned to what would now be the “new normal” we’d be living.

About Murray Hill

A retired tech and gadget writer with weekly columns appearing in some of Canada's largest newspapers and on canada.com for over twenty years. His love of gadgets and tech is only surpassed by his love of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Manchester United.

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