Bob’s Surgery and Recovery

On Saturday, Liz and I met up with Julie and Bob at the University of Chicago, inside the Center for Care and Discovery building. Bob was scheduled to undergo a surgical procedure (something I really haven’t mentioned on here, before now). Without going into details, suffice it to say it was a serious procedure and we’ll leave it at that.

The day began quite early, as Julie and Bob arrived at 6AM (though Bob is used to being up much earlier, as he tends to arrive at construction sites by 5 or 6AM). Liz and I walked in around 6:30 AM, and were amazed at just how close the hospital is to our place in Hyde Park.

The main floor where we were at was divided into two larger sections. Above, is the larger lobby/waiting area. But for the first part of the morning, we hung out near the Information desk in a more secluded part of the floor.

By the time we arrived, Bob had already been whisked away and was being prepped. We met up with Julie and sat here while waiting for news. Each family got a small “buzzer” device, similar to the kinds of things you might get while waiting for a table at a chain restaurant. From time to time, the device would light up and buzz, announcing that some new bit of information was available.

When the device went off, you could go over to the Information area and the admins there would provide you a slight status update. Throughout the process, the device would go off – providing families the opportunity to find out more info. It was quite nice, actually – and I’m sure this structure was consciously done to reduce the amount of stress involved for those in wait.

An interesting note: there were several families already in wait, and I got the distinct impression that there were numerous procedures all scheduled to “happen” at the same time. There were some larger group announcements to everyone in the waiting area, and it seemed like things were timed to happen in waves or groups.

One of the first notifications we got let us know that we could visit Bob in the prep area. We went down in sets, and “prep” area was very interesting. It was a very large room, with individual bays alongside the edges – and workstations/desks in the middle. It almost looked like a dock, where ships were ready to either arrive or depart.

I was immensely awed by this area. The sheer size was overwhelming, and there was so much activity everywhere. Seeing physicians is one thing, but seeing so many in this particular environment – it felt to me like what I imagine people felt when first seeing pilots, at the early days of aviation. A lot of awe and wonderment.

I got to see Bob very briefly, right as he was talking with a young anesthesiologist (who was in the process of administering some drugs into his IV). As he was being wheeled away to surgery, Bob waved to me and Julie – and that was the last we saw of him, before the procedure. Interestingly enough, this was also the very last thing Bob remembers, before waking up post-surgery.

From the time the drugs were administered to the time he waved, it was maybe 45 seconds. After that, Bob has zero memory.

Back upstairs, Julie, Liz, and I were able to track Bob’s progress through some of the monitors that were posted up.

After arriving back on the 7th floor, the three of us got some coffee/breakfast, and proceeded to hang out in the larger, public area. Soon after, around 9AM, Katie joined us (having made the trek in from Indiana, on her day off).

A few hours later, we received another buzzer notification and got to meet with the surgeon. We were taken to a smaller, private “consulting” room – and this was explained to us ahead of time as something that was completely normal. Sometimes, people get worried when being whisked away to a small room and anticipate terrible news – but the rooms are needed for privacy (and there’s also some legal requirements as well, I think).

The surgeon told us that the procedure went fine. It took a little normal the usual, but nothing to worry about. The final assessment, he told us, would come in about a week’s time, when more tests are completed. But for now, he felt very good about the procedure – and was very reassuring.

Having this kind of conversation was very new to me. Katie, who is nurse, told us afterwards that this type of thing (speaking privately and without rush with the surgeon) is very a-typical.

After the surgeon left, we all hung out a while longer in the room. Partly to gather ourselves, and partly out of relief. The procedure itself was a big thing, and once it was completed – it felt like a very significant milestone was reached.

We were told we could see Bob, but that it would still be some time before visitors were allowed. So we went to get a bit of lunch, and waited a bit more.

When we got a notification that Bob was able to have visitors, we headed back down to the area where he originally was (prior to surgery). Katie and Julie went in first, but by the time Liz and I were ready to go in… he was already in the process of being moved to his room. So we opted to wait instead.

This is a rather dark-looking photo, but it was actually quite bright in the hallway leading to the recovery area/rooms.

Inside Bob’s room, looking South. It’s a bit hard to see, but there’s a helicopter in the center (we would watch it come and go several times, throughout the night).

Bob, sleeping and still recovering from the procedure.

From about 2PM onward, we all settled in the room. Bob slowly recovered and was more like himself with each passing hour – though it may come as no surprise that he was cracking jokes, even as he was half-asleep. When Julie was ordering soup for him, Bob’s soft and cracked voice made sure to let her know that he also wanted a Corona with his meal.

While he received a lot of stuff during the procedure, the doctors were not prescribing any kind of narcotics during the recovery. There was a lot of antibiotics, and things to help inflammation, but there were several moments where Bob was really struggling and in significant pain.

Here’s a story about Bob: one time on the job, he cut his finger pretty bad. I think it was down to the bone, bad. And you know what he did? He wrapped it up with a napkin and some duct tape, and just kept on working. Any regular person would have gone screaming to the hospital, but Bob just kept on working. And even after he got home, he never did get around to going to a hospital. No stitches, no thing. He just let it slowly heal on its own.

This is the kind of guy Bob is, and to see him wincing in pain was a very difficult sight. Even something simple like coughing caused him a lot of discomfort (but Katie was able to give him a lot of good advice, as in holding a pillow to his stomach to lessen the movement).

Bob did move around a bit, and even walked around the floor at one point in the evening. Surprisingly, the doctors want him walking with some frequency, as this is a fairly important part of the recovery process.

Funny story: at one point in the evening, Bob complained about a “sharp pain” in his side. After moving around a bit, he said it felt like someone was sticking a knife into him. As Julie and Katie helped him resituate, they discovered that a safety pin had come undone – and was literally sticking him in his side!

Though there were other pains related to the procedure, this was a funny moment that got brought up several times over the course of the night. A lot of “pins and needles” and “searing pain” jokes.

Here’s a group shot, as one of the nurses is checking Bob’s bracelets and the rest of us are settling down to dinner.

By the end of the evening, it was amazing to see Bob closer to himself again. It was a fairly dramatic change, seeing him sleeping and recovering from the procedure – to seeing him move around, and walking up and down the hallway.

It was really great to have Katie around, who many of us turned to for advice during moments when Bob was uncomfortable or had questions. We felt like we were being attended to and were well cared for at the hospital, but to have Katie’s presence was an extra assurance – as we had a medical professional with us the whole time. Her presence made us feel even safer.

Amazingly, Bob’s slated to be discharged tomorrow – and will be making the remainder of his recovery at home. All in all, the facilities at U of Chicago were phenomenal, and the hospital itself was one of the most impressive places I’ve seen. Not that I’ve been in a lot of hospitals myself, but it was just a really nice place – from the physical building down to the staff, I was quite taken by it all.

We are all relieved that Bob’s procedure is now a done thing. While we were reassured that it was routine, surgery is still surgery, with all the worries that accompany something like that. Now that the main, physical part is over… it’s now time for the recovery part.

Katie’s Pinning Ceremony, Ivy Tech School of Nursing

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