The pre-op prescription was floating around the house for the past week, taunting me. Every day there was a new reason not to go for the tests, and a week passed before I finally accepted my fate. Yesterday was the day.
The prescription was written for 3 blood tests, a chest X-ray and an EKG. The meningitis shot was not on the prescription but I had a letter from the doctor’s office explaining why they recommended it for cochlear implant patients. Along with that letter I had an FDA notice that the doctor’s office gave me, as well as a vaccine reimbursement form from Advanced Bionics. Since it’s not covered by many insurance plans, AB offers a reimbursement program for the cost of the vaccine.
I figured I would show these papers to the hospital where I got my pre-op tests and get the vaccine at the same time. Originally I had planned to go to a local convenient care center for the pre-op tests, since I had been there in the past and knew they did that sort of thing. However, the hospital happened to call at a good time for once (on Monday morning) to finish the pre-registration, and they said it would be best to do my pre-op at a hospital in their system. The hospital that my doctor is affiliated with is 45 minutes from my house, but there’s a hospital just 5 minutes away (where Paige was born, in fact) that’s in the same “system”. They confirmed that I could go to the closer facility for my pre-op tests and everything would be present in their computer system. Very convenient! It’s a good thing I did end up waiting for a week because I would’ve gone to the wrong place for the pre-op tests. See? Everything happens for a reason!
We headed out at 10 am and I was actually not very nervous. I was, however, anticipating a really long day. We parked and walked in to the admitting area. We signed in and waited to be called to a desk to register. We didn’t wait long and before I knew it, Dave was patting my leg and motioning for me to follow him because we had been called. As we sat down, Dave explained that I was deaf but that I did read lips. The woman introduced herself and Dave gave her the prescription, explaining why we were there. She asked if I had ever been there before – if I was in the system – and I answered her, which surprised Dave. She was really easy to lip read, though! Although I had been there 14 years earlier to give birth to Paige, my last name was different so I explained that. It turned out that all that pre-registration back-and-forth with the other hospital really did pay off, and I was already in the system for my upcoming surgery. That helped speed things up.
Dave mentioned the meningitis shot and showed her the paperwork. She had to go ask someone, but it turned out that they didn’t give this vaccination at the hospital. She wrote down three things on a post-it note for us and said we could get the vaccine there. That was disappointing because I really wanted to just get everything overwith in one place.
After confirming a few more things and taking copies of my driver’s license and insurance card, she walked us upstairs to the lab waiting room. That was really nice – no getting directions and having to hope we heard them correctly!
Once in the lab, we waited just for a very short time and I was called back to the phlebotomy area. Dave had been joking that he hoped I’d get my blood drawn last, so he wouldn’t have to drag my unconscious body around the hospital. (I’ve passed out more than once in the past, so he knows that getting my blood drawn can be a major event!) He came back with me and again explained that I was deaf and lip reading. For some reason, there were two other people there just kind of hanging out in the doorway, watching me get my blood drawn. I still don’t really know why they were there – originally I was under the impression that they were waiting so they could take me to my next test. They disappeared before I was finished though, so maybe they were just bored and had nothing to do.
The phlebotomist put the tourniquet on, had me make a fist, and slapped the crook of my arm a few times. Turned it this way and that, made concerned faces, slap slap…whap. Off comes the tourniquet. Went through the same thing on the other arm with the same results. I saw her turn and take out the butterfly needle and tubing, and inwardly cringed. The last time I had blood drawn this way, they put the needle in a vein on the top of my hand. It hurt like hell and the blood stopped draining about halfway through, so the woman had to kind of wiggle the needle around and get it started again. (That, folks, is where I check out. Ugh.)
Well, this time the needle was placed more near my wrist. In fact, I just checked to see if I could find the mark and it’s totally gone – no bruising either. It stung a little bit and I was afraid to look to see if the blood was actually moving through the tubing into the vial…when I look at the blood, that’s another thing that makes me pass out. However, Dave was right there and he gave me a thumbs up, mouthing that it was fine – as soon as I read his lips, I was able to relax. It took longer than a typical blood draw but not as long as I feared, and before I knew it she had all 3 tubes finished. I got my band-aid and stood up to go for my chest X-ray, fully conscious and not at all lightheaded!
We went back to the waiting room and very quickly, another girl came to get me for my chest X-ray. Dave gave the now-routine explanation about me being deaf. I was pleased that this didn’t seem to freak people out, and they still spoke to me rather than directly to Dave. We went into the x-ray room and I was happy to see that Dave was allowed in as well so he could repeat what I wasn’t able to lip read. I explained to the technician why I was having the X-ray and that no, I wasn’t having any trouble breathing, etc. I was directed into the bathroom to change into a cloth gown, and was able to understand all of her instructions.
When I came back out, it got a little involved. I had to stand a certain way, with a very specific type of posture, facing the x-ray machine which was right by the wall. There was a chin rest on top of the machine, but I had to turn my head to read the girl’s lips as she told me what to do. Eventually she just maneuvered my body the way it needed to be, and then stood in front of me, mimicking the deep breathing I had to do before I was told to hold my breath. Then I held the position and stopped breathing until she came back. (Gasp!) We went through the whole maneuvering thing again for a side view. Then we waited while they checked the films to make sure they were okay. Once she came back and gave us the all-clear, I was able to change back into my clothes and go back to the same waiting room in the lab.
After we got home, Dave mentioned that the girl was still talking to me even when she was behind me. I had no idea, obviously! I suspect that was when she started taking matters into her own hands and just kind of placing me the way I needed to be. It got the job done! That was definitely the most ‘involved’ of all the procedures I had done.
We were given directions to the cardiology lab, which I was actually able to catch (two rights and then a left). Again, we had a very short wait before we were taken back to a small room for the EKG. Dave was with me, as well as the technician and someone he was training. This guy talked very fast and talked mostly to Dave, but that was fine with me. All I had to do was lie down on a table while he fastened some leads to my chest and legs…I think my arms too, I can’t remember. I didn’t even have to change into a gown. He did tell me that it would be a little cold (and it was!) and then just told me to relax. He was explaining things to his trainee and I just laid there, looking around the room. It took only one minute and he was taking the leads off – amazingly fast! Apparently everything was okay because Dave heard him telling the guy that everything was normal as they looked at the readout.
And that was it – we were done and out the door at 11:30. We went back to the house to call a few places about the vaccine. We started with my regular doctor, since it was recommended to see your primary care physician for the vaccine. Their office was closed for lunch. Then we tried the convenient care place where I originally planned to go – we know they give out flu shots during flu season so we figured they could do the meningitis shot. Nope – they don’t keep it in stock so they would have to order it and it would take 2 weeks. We tried the county health department – same answer. We called 2 or 3 other places and nobody had this vaccine. I was amazed because we took Eric for his college physical in June and had them give him the meningitis shot, and it was no big deal. (He sees a different group of doctors than I do, though, and apparently the type of vaccine he got was different from mine.)
Finally, I took a look at the post-it note that the girl had given us at the hospital. Originally I thought it was one long name but I realized it was 3 separate names of places to try. We had already tried 2 of those places and the last one came up with no hits in Google. I decided to try it as one word instead of two and ta-dah…there it was. Dave called them and YES, they could do it! By now it was 12:40 pm and they gave us a 1:30 appointment. We ate a quick lunch and headed out the door at 12:55.
I was following a map Dave had printed and told him it was just past a certain street. We passed the street and the only place it could possibly be was in a little strip mall, which did happen to have a medical place in it. As we drove by, we realized the numbers were totally wrong and the medical place looked more like it rented walkers, crutches, etc. than the type of place where you would get a vaccination. So we thought we’d turned off too quickly. However, the very next street we passed was obviously past the location on the map where this building was supposed to be located.
We turned around (it’s 1:25 at this point) and headed back in the other direction. Dave told me to get rid of the map because it was obviously wrong. Instead we were looking for building numbers. We decided it had to be in the big hospital we’d passed, so we turned in there.
Well, there were NO building numbers visible from the road. We drove through the maze of parking lots and buildings for 15 minutes, looking for any clue that we might be in the right place. There were no building numbers anywhere. Finally we parked and started walking. We went into the first building, which was 1585 and close to the number we were looking for, which was 1555. We walked into a dental office and asked if they knew where our building was. No idea, but maybe it was the next one over? By now I’m really late and we’re both feeling very frustrated, but we walked and walked and walked until we found another building to enter. This building had no number above the doors but we walked to the board listing all of the facilities and room numbers in the building and there it was, the place we’d been looking for. Finally!
We didn’t wait long before we were called back and explained to a very nice nurse why I was there. Dave told me later that they had told him on the phone that they don’t normally give this vaccination without a 2 week waiting period (I guess the amount of time it takes to order and receive the vaccine), but they made an exception for me because of my surgery. I guess they must keep a few around for desperate cases! Anyway, we showed her all the papers because there was a specific vaccine I needed, Pneumovax 23, to protect against the type of organism that causes bacterial meningitis in cochlear implant patients. They recommended different vaccines for different age groups. I guess this vaccine isn’t the same as a “meningitis vaccine” so she wasn’t sure which I should actually receive, or if I should get both of them. She ended up calling my ENT’s office just to clarify and make sure I received the correct vaccine.
After waiting for her to return from making the phone call, the vaccine was produced and the shot itself was no big deal. Today my arm is a little sore but it’s nothing like the pain and soreness I had from the Tetanus booster I received last year, so I’m pretty relieved.
We walked out of there at 2:30 and high-fived each other. Pre-op complete!
The vaccination had been the least of my worries and it ended up being the biggest ordeal of all, ironically. After that we went over to the Salvation Army store and I found a button-up shirt to wear on surgery day. I’m just not a shirt-with-buttons kind of person and can you believe I did not own ONE summer shirt that buttons up?! The only ones I have are flannel shirts. Since I work from home making candles, all of my clothes are very casual and of the jeans and t-shirt variety…all of my shirts pull over my head. It was recommended that I wear a shirt I can button up on surgery day, so I don’t have to pull anything over the bandages on my head. That makes total sense to me, but hey, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So I got me a $1.00 shirt that’s actually pretty cute. LOL! (Our Salvation Army has amazing deals on clothes and that’s where I usually get all of my jeans.)
When we got home, there was a letter from my doctor’s office confirming the surgery date and time of 8 am. I need to be there at 6:00 am, which means getting up around 4:30 am and leaving at about 5:15 to arrive on time. No food after midnight (which is fine, since I never have an appetite at 5 in the morning!) and just sips of clear water with any needed medications for the 4 hours before surgery. I have to stop taking any herbal supplements 2 weeks before surgery (I don’t take them anyway) and no pain reliever except Tylenol for the week before surgery.
They mentioned the pre-op tests too – they need the results the week before surgery, so I’m glad it’s all done in plenty of time. Then they also included the post-op instructions, so I have them filed away in my CI folder.
Oh, they also mentioned not to chew gum (this is in the paragraph that tells me not to eat after midnight and only sips of clear water for the 4 hours before surgery, so I guess they mean no gum chewing after midnight). They said it can delay surgery 4-6 hours or cause cancellation! I wonder why? I never chew gum so it’s not like I’m going to forget and pop a piece of gum in my mouth (in fact, I don’t think there’s even any gum in the house) but how weird!
That should be everything until I get the call from the surgery dept. 1 or 2 days before surgery, with any instructions on checking in, etc. It’s really happening!!