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My experience so far...now, with details!



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Many of you know that I had my surgery earlier today--sometime around noon--at Mi Doctor with Dr. Elias Ortiz. My coordinators are Ronda and Janese with A Lighter Me (ALM). Before I tell more about how surgery went, I'd like to back up a little to give a more complete picture of the experience. Sorry to keep you all waiting, but between feeling tired after surgery and also dealing with spotty Wi-Fi for a while here at Mi Doctor (not sure if that is normal or if there was just a random problem earlier), it has taken me a while to be able to have the time to do this.

First of all, my experience with ALM has been great--Ronda and Janese were both very responsive and helpful every step of the way leading up to my trip here. Abraham, the driver, called me the day before I was flying into San Diego to confirm my flight and tell me where he would pick me up (it was a general location, so I wound up calling him after I arrived to tell him where I was specifically and he was there within a matter of minutes). Abraham is really nice and polite--I was his only pickup yesterday (and the only surgery with Dr. Ortiz today!). On the way to the border (and ultimately the hotel), he asked me some questions about myself, but there were also times of silence--basically, it seems that he is willing to follow your lead of whether you'd like to chat or ride in peace--I like that, especially because I tend to be somewhere in between. He also won me over when he asked me seriously if I'm 22 (I'll be 38 next month) :-) and he seemed willing to answer any questions I had. He took me to the Marriott and handled check-in for me--they did ask to see my ID and they asked for a credit card, just in case I incurred any room charges, like ordering a movie, but I didn't do or use anything I needed to pay for, as there is so much included with the room, at least through ALM.

The Marriott does not automatically provide free Wi-Fi, but they do for ALM patients (I don't know if this is also the case with r4ac or any other services that use the Marriott--I am only speaking from my experience and knowledge). As far as food, the Marriott provides ALM patients with 3 bowls of broth, 2 popsicles, and 2 bottles of Water each day for free. They also give a 15% discount on any additional food you buy from room service (good to know if you're traveling with someone--I came alone). By the time I got to the hotel, I was pretty hungry, so I ordered 2 bowls of broth, 1 popsicle, and 1 bottle of Water. The broth was decent, but not spectacular--Abraham had already told me in the van that after surgery at some point he will be taking me out to a restaurant for broth that is delicious and he said, "better than the broth at the Marriott", so I didn't have high expectations, but it was good enough, especially since I was hungry. The popsicle appeared to be homemade and it was lime-flavored. I expected it to be sugar-free, but it turns out that it was free of any sweeteners AT ALL. It was pretty tart and I really was really looking forward to a sweeter flavor, so I came up with a solution from things I'd packed for the trip. Since so many people mention that they aren't able to tolerate regular water post-op, I brought an assortment of half a dozen packets of Crystal Light with me. They came out with a line of flavors that mimic alcoholic drinks and I figured that mojito would taste really good with this tart lime. I grabbed a coffee cup off the table (the room had a coffee maker with complimentary coffee in it), put the popsicle in it, then poured some water over it to get the popsicle to melt. Once the popsicle melted, I poured the tart liquid back into the water bottle (because I needed more water than fits in a coffee cup to make the Crystal Light) and added the Crystal Light. It was delicious! In addition to the coffee maker and coffee, I also realized later that the room came stocked with a bottle of water, next to the bathroom sink (presumably for swishing, but it could be used for drinking). There was also a mini-fridge, which was useless to me (I never use the mini-fridge in a hotel--way too expensive). I should also mention that when I first got into the room, I tried to turn on every single light and none of them worked, so I called the front desk. It turns out that there is a device mounted on the wall by the door that you put your card key in and that makes the lights in the room work--some sort of energy-saving device. If it weren't so dark, I might have actually been able to read the directions on it without calling the front desk, lol. There is also a thermostat in the room and I was a little chilly, so I turned it on and turned it up. After I drank my dinner and did Facetime (basically Apple's version of Skype, in case you don't know) with my bf, I decided to watch some TV. There are quite a few options in English, but you will find some American programs dubbed into Spanish and some in English with Spanish subtitles--sometimes the language of the programming changes from show to show on the same channel. There is a San Diego station that is all English, no subtitles. There are also 5 different HBO stations and some are in English (and, again, it can vary from show to show, or movie to movie). I got tired around 11, so I started winding down for bed--there is an alarm clock in the room that I was able to set to be sure to be ready for my pickup time in the morning.

***FAIR WARNING: I may have to cut this post short and continue in the morning because the nurse just came in and gave me something for sleep and I don't know how soon it will kick in.

I wound up waking up in the middle of the night for about an hour last night, so when the alarm went off at 6am, I wound up snoozing a few times. Pickup time was 7:45--I always set alarms extra early so I have time to snooze. I got up in plenty of time to shower, do makeup, watch the morning news (thank you, San Diego channel) and make sure that I didn't leave anything behind in the room. I checked out around 7:35 (it was quick, basically just returned the card keys) and Eduardo (the patient coordinator here in TJ) and Abraham showed up right on time, maybe even a couple of minutes early; Eduardo actually drove.

When we got to Mi Doctor, I was a little shocked by how small it is. Everyone says it is small, but I guess I was thinking small for a hospital (and most American hospitals I've seen are pretty huge). I think there are only 4 floors here and it's not very wide. We came inside and I was given paperwork to fill out. Most of the forms are bilingual, but there were a couple that were Spanish only--you can ask Abraham to translate. While I was filling out paperwork, Abraham told me that there is a safe in the room with instructions on how to program it (just like the safe in the hotel room, which I forgot to mention) and that I could leave anything that didn't fit in the safe with the front desk if I wanted--I know I've read other threads where people said there are no safes, so I'm not sure why--I've been in 2 different rooms today and they definitely both have safes. After I filled out the paperwork, they brought me up to my pre-op room (I don't think that you usually get a different room for pre-op and post-op, but when I got here, all of the rooms on the floor where they normally keep us were full, waiting for some people to be discharged). A note about the room safes: you will probably need to get someone to open it for you when you first get into the room because it has to be open in order to program it with your own passcode. Because of my weird pre-op/post-op room situation, I opted not to use the safe in the first room and instead to just lock everything inside my carry-on bag because they told me that they were just going to have Abraham bring my stuff to my new room after I got out of surgery, which is what happened--everything was safe and sound. Almost forgot--before they took me up to the pre-op room, they weighed me and took my height. Then they took me up to the room. When we first got there, a nurse brought me a hospital gown and a pair of compression stockings to put on. For some reason, there is a hole (on purpose) in the bottom of each stocking, so I asked if I could put my slippers on over them while I was waiting. The room was freeing when I first got there, but Abraham turned up the heat for me. He left when it was time for me to change and told me that he would see me after surgery. After I changed, a nurse came to take my temp (they do it in your armpit) and my blood pressure. Next, a technician came to take my blood. My veins are notoriously hard to find and he was still at it when more nurses came to insert the IV and do the EKG, so they wound up helping him. Actually, one of the nurses had to resort to getting this special light that is designed to illuminate your veins under the skin's surface to find it and that worked. I want to take a moment out to say something about the nurses: I have seen a couple of threads where people say that the nurses here do not wash their hands and you have to ask them to do so, but 1) I have seen a nurse voluntarily wash her hands since I've been here and there is a giant bottle of hand sanitizer at the nurses' station (which is close to empty, so it's being used), 2) they do use latex gloves when drawing blood, and 3) it occurred to me that I never really *see* American nurses wash their hands either (I trust they do, but in my memory, it's doctors who visibly wash their hands in front of the patients). After my blood was drawn, IV started, and EKG done, I was left to wait while the labs were done and I believe it was Eduardo who came in and told me that a variety of doctors, including the anesthesiologist and Dr. Ortiz, would be coming to visit me and to be ready with any questions I had for them. The order of those visits is a little hazy because I started feeling sleepy again (naturally--they didn't put anything but saline in my IV at that time, although I am told that they would give you something to calm you down if needed) and I did doze off a bit. All of them asked me about any previous surgeries and other relevant questions like whether I have any drug allergies and told me what to expect. I didn't really have any questions for the anesthesiologist, but he was very informative and reassuring. Dr. Ortiz is awesome! Seriously, I know a lot of people prefer to choose Dr. Lopez instead of Ortiz because Lopez has more experience, but Ortiz has quite a lot of experience himself and Lopez taught him. If you're still deciding on a doctor and especially if you're using ALM, I highly recommend Elias Ortiz (not to be confused with Alejandro). If your surgery is during a time that Dr. Lopez is in TJ, he will assist Dr. Ortiz so you would have both of them anyway and even if Dr. Lopez isn't in town, Dr. Ortiz is very competent and capable. Plus, you save $200 ($250?) by going with Ortiz--that was not my reason for choosing Ortiz, but it is a nice bonus. When Dr. Ortiz came to talk to me, he gave me a lot of information, so I didn't have many questions for him either. He did mention that I would be allowed to have all the ice chips I wanted today, which surprised me because I thought that absolutely no liquids were allowed and that I would be dying from dry mouth. I did ask him whether it would be possible to know how much the removed part of my stomach weighed and he said that he would actually show it to me after surgery, which he did (but I was still groggy from the anesthesia, so it was a little blurry, but that's probably better, lol). I was also visited by another doctor before the anesthesiologist and Ortiz, but I don't remember who he was or what he had to say that was different from the other 2. When Ortiz came to see me, he told me that they were preparing the OR and I would be taken to surgery soon. I don't know what time it was when he said that and I dozed off again after he left so I don't know how long the wait was, but it didn't seem long before they came to wheel me away.

In the OR, a nurse helped the anesthesiologist get me ready for the anesthesia. I have to say, even after they got my hospital gown ready to be removed for surgery (had to get the gown over the IV bags to be able to be completely removed), they left me covered up since I didn't have to be naked for their purposes. It was nice to be completely covered when I went to sleep and when I woke up--nice to keep some dignity. When I woke up, it didn't seem like any time had passed, so I was surprised when they told me the surgery was over. I was also surprised because I wasn't in a lot of pain. As I became more awake and alert, I did feel some pain--nothing terrible, but enough to ask for something--so a nurse came and gave me something in the IV. Somewhere around there is when Dr. Ortiz showed me my stomach. It didn't seem like it took me very long to feel awake and alert, but they kept me in the recovery room for about 2 hours. I had already been advised by another sleever to get up and start walking as soon as possible after surgery because, in addition to all of the other reasons you probably already know (get the surgery gas out, prevent blood clots), it helps the anesthesia to wear off and you want to do that as soon as possible because the anesthesia can make you nauseous and/or vomit if it's in your system too long. I think they might have kept me in recovery a little too long because even though I got up and started walking as soon as they brought me to my [post-op] room, I did start to get nauseous after walking back and forth in the hallway about 15 times. I went to the bathroom to vomit, but every time I bent over, the nausea went away. Since I only felt it when I stood up, I decided to lay down then and I've felt much better since then. I can't remember if they gave me an IV injection for nausea right then (because I did tell the nurses how I felt), but they definitely did few hours later, according to schedule. They also gave me another injection for pain at that time, but I didn't necessarily need it--I passed on the following doses of pain medication and nausea medication because I really do feel much better. I've gone through lots of ice chips and done quite a bit of walking since then.

At some point, Eduardo came to visit and told me that Dr. Ortiz would be coming to check on me in a few hours. When he arrived, Dr. Ortiz reiterated what he had told me earlier about the order of things tomorrow--swallow test with blue liquid, x-ray with white liquid, waiting on lab results, then released to have fluids--then he told me about how the surgery went. He said the surgery itself was about 1 hour and 20 minutes, but it was about 2 hours total in the OR including being put to sleep and waking up. He asked me if I remembered seeing my stomach and commented that I was awake and alert faster than most patients. He said that I am doing really well overall and based on my vitals and the appearance of my drain and all of my behaviors since surgery, including being vigilant about walking, he does not anticipate any problems or complications. He told me what will happen over the next few days, including when he will come to my hotel room to remove the drain, and asked if I had questions. I asked if I could take his picture and he let me. He told me that the nurses would come in at 11 to give me something to help me sleep, which did happen, but it's after 12:30 now and I'm still not sleepy. I'm sure it's not that they didn't give me something that usually works, I'm just a really bad insomniac and sleeping pills often don't work on me (Ambien usually only keeps me asleep for 1-2 hours). I am going to go to the nurses' station now to see if there's anything else we can do now. Even though I feel pretty great, my body did just have a major trauma and I need rest. With that, I bid you good night. I tried to be thorough in my description, but I'm totally willing to answer questions. Also, I will post more tomorrow so you can know the details of how the post-op tests go and so on.

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Aww thanks for taking the time to update us! I loved reading your story. Now get some rest lol!! I'm so glad everything is going great!

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Thank you for posting in such great detail! All those experiences really help put my mind at ease. Can't wait for the next update. Sending good thoughts your way, rest, recover and enjoy the whole new you :)

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Thanks so much for posting this. I have been looking for something detailed especially now I am going into surgery in 2 days!!

Good luck with recovery and thanks again

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Glad you are doing well. I always enjoy your posts.

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Relax and rest up. Congrats on a successful surgery. I pray your recovery continues to go smoothly.

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Keep the updates coming.... So helpful!! So glad you are post op and doing well!!

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Hooray for you! I'm so glad to hear that your surgery went well. Also, I hope you had good rest.

Amanda Rae

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Way to win, glad all is well....

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Glad you're doing good!!! Woohooo Congrats :))))

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Wonderful update! Glad you are doing well!

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Im happy u are feeling better and hope everything goes well!!!

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Icon! You are awesome!! Thanks for the great update and keep on recoverin'.

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Congratulations on your surgery!! I hope you are able to get lots of rest. Keep us posted.

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