I came home from the hospital with a catheter. The surgeon wanted to make sure that all his scar tissue removal and rerouting and whatever else remained undisturbed until yesterday, at which point I could have the catheter removed. At least, that's what I remember being told.
Having the catheter placed was terrifying. And painful. But I survived. Sort of.
Having a catheter means I am being touched 24/7 in a place that triggers all sorts of PTSD symptoms, none of which are pleasant. During the day, I can manage it. At night, management is impossible. Sleep was scarce, and when it happened, the nightmares were terrifying. But it was only until yesterday, and I could manage.
I wrote that last Tuesday. Then I got tired and stopped. I'm tired a lot.
When they removed the catheter on Monday I was informed that I needed to pee, then a straight catheter would be placed to measure what was left in my bladder. If it was determined that I was not voiding enough, another Foley catheter would be placed and I would be sent home to heal for another two weeks.
Then the nurse asked if I felt able to urinate. I said no. She told me to go home, drink lots of water, and come back when I was able.
So I walked to the car with my husband who had accompanied me because I'm not supposed to drive until I'm a week post-op. And then I had one of the biggest meltdowns of my life. It continued until I got home, then continued when I got inside the house and basically consisted of me crying hysterically and saying at different volume levels:
1. I would not have another catheter.
2. They can't make me have another catheter.
3. I'm not going back to the doctor's office.
4. I would rather die than be touched ever again in my entire life.
And then I vomited a few times just for good measure.
You see, I made it through having a catheter for five days and four nights. That's five days and four nights of constantly being triggered. Five days of constantly managing feelings that threatened to overwhelm me and make me die, and four nights of continuous nightmares, paranoia, and terror that I was being molested and raped over and over again. Reading those words, I can see how they don't really convey the depths of what was going on. After all, I'm only talking about feelings and nightmares. I suppose the depth lies in the fact that I've lived the reality.
Darrin let me rant and rave and vomit, then, after assuring me that the I didn't have to go back, he suggested maybe it would be a good idea to just go talk with the doctor so he'd know what was going on. I thought about it for an hour, then decided maybe I could do that. But I didn't want to. And I was scared out of my mind to go back.
We got to the office and were put in an exam room. The nurse came and told me that everything was set up in the bathroom for me to use. I said, okay, but maybe we should talk first. I meant to be lucid and calm and just explain everything. I started out that way. I told her I had PTSD and that drugs could not be prescribed for me so I ran and did physical exercise to manage the symptoms and that hadn't been available to me for the past five days during which I had been triggered constantly because the catheter was touching me constantly. Then it ramped up into another hysterical crying jag that ended with me saying that I didn't know why my bladder had to be checked to make sure I was emptying, but if it meant that something bad happened inside and the surgery was all messed up or I bled to death, that was okay with me because I wasn't having another catheter, and then repeating several times that I would rather die than be touched again.
She looked a little shell-shocked. Then she assured me that I didn't have to have a catheter, and told me the reason for the procedure was to make sure I was emptying completely because apparently, having a too-full bladder for too long can cause the stitching to become unstable. Then she assured me she would talk with the doctor, suggested I try peeing, and sort of ran out of the room.
So I did.
And the bathroom was right next to the exam room so when the doctor came to talk to Darrin, I heard everything. Darrin was asked if I was getting help for the PTSD. Darrin said yes. Then he was asked if I had seen a mental health professional. Darrin said yes. Had I been in contact with that person prior to surgery? Yes. Then Darrin said that, given the amount of emotional stress I had been suffering due to the length of time I'd been required to wear the catheter, he thought I was reacting very calmly, and suggested it might be a good idea for the doctor to ask a few questions of his PTSD patients and make sure they were okay before prescribing procedures that traumatize those patients. The doctor agreed that he ought to have gotten more information about me prior to surgery, then let Darrin know I needed to stay in contact with the therapist because otherwise, given the things I'd just said, they would need to report the incident and have me admitted to the hospital for further mental/emotional help.
I have no idea who they would report it to. That's just a weird thing to say.
Darrin said that was the plan. Then he said that while I was in the hospital they had checked my bladder capacity with an ultrasound machine. Surely that could be used again? The doctor said yes, so I decided it was safe to come out of the bathroom.
So the end of the story is that I had to go back one more time that day and pee again and be ultrasounded, and then I went home and tried to recover from all the crap that had been happening PTSD-wise. And I drove myself. Screw waiting until a week post-op. I'm finished feeling like I have to have people do things for me.
And yes, I talked with Therapist. And he actually was upset at my doctor. He says people go through lots of training, but they either get it or they don't. My doctor understands that I've been through something, but he should have asked me about things that cause me distress. And I should have asked more questions. And probably I wouldn't have made it through surgery without being triggered, but at least I would have had a physician who was checking on me and making sure I wasn't breaking down.
As a side-note, my anesthesiologist got it. He talked at great length with me about things that could be done to make sure I didn't lose it during recovery. He said he'd like to use a spinal as well as general anesthesia and told me why (something about it making 3.5 hours of surgery less traumatizing all around), and asked if I was okay with that. I was. He checked on me three times during recover and, weirdly, while I don't remember much, I do remember that. He always introduced himself and told me why he was there, then asked me how I was feeling, if I was afraid, and what he could do to make things less scary. And he introduced my nurses to me each time. They were always the same two, and he assured me they would be the only ones with me during recovery. But he understood that I wouldn't remember that in five minutes, and he wanted me to feel safe. He gets it.
And when I cried during recovery because I didn't know what was happening to me, the nurses explained. I think they did that repeatedly because I kept waking up in terror, but they didn't seem to mind. They held my hand and reminded me who I was, where I was, and why I was there. Over and over again. They get it.
And now it's Sunday, 11 days post-op. I'd like to say I'm fine, but the post-anesthesia depression set in today. I think I've been crying for six hours. I know why. I know I'm fine. I understand this happens every time I go under general anesthesia. But it sucks. A lot. I can't even describe the level of sad and lonely and worthless I feel.
Three weeks is the longest I've ever had post-anesthesia depression. I can make it three weeks.