I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to explain exactly what it was that made this past Friday night in the hospital so magical, but somehow I found myself having the absolute, ultimate, best time of my life – in a hospital bed, in the recovery room of Greenwich Hospital, immediately following an 8+ hour surgery. Were there drugs involved? Ok yes, of course there were. On my part, lots. I was loaded up with all kinds of anesthesia and pain meds coming off this lengthy procedure. However, this is most certainly not my first rodeo – I’ve had these drugs before, many times actually. There was more to it than that, but what was it?
I think it’s fair to say I’ve had a veritable s&*^storm of a year from a medical/physical perspective – with the loss of part of my colon coming at a super inconvenient time given that I was right smack in the middle of recovering from a double mastectomy and heading into 6 months of aggressive treatment for cancer. I’ve also had implants put in and taken out as well as ovaries, tubes and an ostomy bag put in and taken out, and additional hospitalizations for infections and GI blockages. In total, this was my 9th hospital stay in 14 months not including 2 ER visits, 4 months of chemo, 25 radiation rounds, and 10 days of daily IV antibiotics. I’ve lost many days and nights away from my kids and family while I’ve endured some pretty horrendous pain and anatomical changes over the past 14 months, but my main focus has always just been to put my head down, grit my teeth, get through it and get home to them as soon as possible. In doing so I don’t think I’ve ever really let myself process the toll this has all taken on me, how completely and utterly traumatic it has all been. However, there I was in the recovery room finding myself potentially at the end of this complete s&^$storm with this hopefully being my last major surgery and hospitalization, and the elation I felt was indescribable, palpable, and apparently contagious.
I became overwhelmed, giddy, and just out my mind joyful as I felt that moment was marking the end of this particular 14 month horror show. As this realization kept washing over me – pure, unbridled elation ensued, and if you were within 20 yards of my bed – as were the awesome nurses of the PACU- along with my unsuspecting parents, husband and surgeon -then you were treated to the full on Happy Reb show. LOOK OUT. This included, at a minimum, hilarious and extremely raunchy jokes about literally anything anyone said, and then each person got a complete, unrequested, personalized rap song with their name and some kind of degrading lyrics. Hmm….as I’m telling it now it seems like there should be more to it because we were all laughing so hard we were almost peeing ourselves (except I came to the party equipped with a catheter so I was just fine), but seriously, we were laughing so hard we were convulsing – for like 3 hours – and I don’t really think there was much more to it. I was just out of my mind happy, grateful, and giddy, and the nurses at Greenwich Hospital have to just be the best in the world. They are not only amazing at their jobs, but they all have great personalities, wonderful bedside manner, and are as smart and funny as they come. For these amazing nurses, Yvonne, Pricilla, Vikki, and then Sarah – to not only put up with my drug induced cray cray – but to enjoy it and get in on the party was what really made it magical. Well, I say “magical,” – my parents would probably go with “horrifying,” as my dad is still trying to unsee and unhear some of what went on up in there, and my husband would likely go with the word “mortifying” – so there may be a few different versions of this “rap recovery” party being told.
To give you some highlights of the festivities, Pricilla’s unsolicited personalized rap song went something like this: “Pricilla, Pricilla, she likes to drink Tequilla, and if you don’t give her some, she just might straight up kill ya.” Vikki’s went like this: “Her name is Vikki, she comes to work with a hickey, and if I don’t stop rapping – she’s gonna come and kick me.” You get the idea…
Over and over again I went on and on with different permutations of these raps for anyone that came near enough my bed for me to catch a glimpse of their name off their tag. These horrible, generally insulting raps hit our funny bones and we were dying laughing thinking nothing could get any more hysterical when… the phone rang. Now mind you, these nurses are totally just doing their jobs, I was the one being silly, but I was also the only patient left in recovery at this point so we could let loose a little without disturbing others. Well, when the phone rang and Pricilla – who was standing nearest to it – asked one of the other nurses to answer it, we started teasing her and asking why her lazy arse couldn’t answer the damn phone her damn self? This is when we really lost it. OMG. It turns out Pricilla has a Philipino accent that causes her to pronounce her “Ps” like “Fs.” So when she answers the phone and says “PACU” it comes out like “F&*^ YOU.” For some reason she had never told her colleagues this until that night and they had just always wondered why she was shirking this particular responsibility. Oh my god I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard. Once the cat was out of the bag – she kept repeating it and was cracking up saying PACU (“FACU”) over and over with her accent. Tom, my parents and I, and the other nurses were dying laughing. It was hysterical. Oh but it didn’t end there. The jokes kept flying all night with my awesome night nurse Sarah …who I think was responsible for writing “Rockstar Reb Keep Rapping” on my room board …
and the laughter went straight on into the next day when I was lucky enough to have not one, but two amazing nurses to myself Cat and Kathleen. I then had sweet Sara (without an h), super Sylvia, and the amazing Antoinette! Each one is as nice, smart and caring as the next and they honestly feel like family to me now. I can not say enough about what these special people mean to me and the impact they have had on my healing. People may think I’m crazy for saying this, but I have worked in hospitals my entire career and I know enough to know that the nurses are the ones who make the biggest impact on your hospital stay in every way. I specifically choose my hospital based on the nursing staff and choose the doctors or surgeons second. Greenwich Hospital should be so proud of the nursing staff they have cultivated and retained. The experience exceeds any expectations you could possibly have and I am forever grateful for this. Needless to say I’m doing well and had an incredible stay at Greenwich Hospital.
In addition to the awesome nurses, my surgeon Dr. Greenspun happens to be the absolute best as well. He is brilliant and a true artist, not to mention he is kind and has a lovely personality. I’m telling you I could not have had a better experience anywhere. If it weren’t for the pesky heparin shots I got every 8 hours, and feeling as though I’d just been shanked in a prison riot every 6 hours as my meds wore off, I would have thought I was at a spa. Oh yes and the oxygen tubes in my nose, IV in my arm, catheter and drains coming out all over my body, and pressure stockings on my legs were a subtle reminder as well. Not so spa-like but close…as you can see I am a pro at this by now and brought my own pillow and blankets so I was as cozy as a gal who just got sliced up in 3 places could be! Thank you Greenwich Hospital for putting Humpty Dumpty back together again in the best way possible, and thank you to everyone who offered support and love in getting through this. I plan to rest, recover, and move forward restored and with renewed strength and energy to continue The Cancer Couch mission in 2017.