Monday, February 11, 2008

This is how to have a Monday

What better way to follow up an almost-perfect weekend than with a little surgery?

Oh yes, friends, the weekend rocked, and in a very good way. The dryer was fixed, a storm door was put on the back of the house (so now there can be breezes and light! hooray!); there was tennis, albeit of the WORST possible ilk (I suck!); there were banana-nut muffins and chicken and rice made, there was a pleasant lunch out with new friends; and there was just plain old quality time in abundance.

It's as though I was trying to fit in all the good stuff before Monday. Which I was, for Monday brought with it the promise of something I've been looking forward to for a very long time, but which also would possibly cause some discomfort and a change in how life is lived, at least for a short time.

For today, Monday, brought with it the surgery for my gawdawful varicose veins, and yes, I'm going to tell you allll about it.

First though, my varicose veins, let me show you them:

I'll let y'all finish a) gagging, b) retching, c) staring open-mouthed at the horror that is my very fat knee before I go on. I'm amazed myself, and it's MY KNEE! Damn!

Ready to move on? Good.

These things are the gift from my pregnancies that kept on giving. Through many years they are the thing that has kept me out of shorts, kept me in a pareo at the pool, demanded I wear long skirts or pants, ached and burned on an almost-monthly basis, caused hot pain from time to time, and generally were just a total PITA.

After a decade of struggling with them, I decided several months ago get rid of them. Today, at last, was the big day.

For my particularly impressive kind of varicosities, I had a combination of laser ablation and "ambulatory phlebectomy," which means the following:

First a series of lidocaine injections were made from the inside of my knee up to the hip. Then a puncture was made inside my knee into the vein. A catheter was threaded in, then a bunch of numbing stuff was shot all along the length of the vein up to my hip so I wouldn't feel what was about to come next. Into the catheter went the laser, from my knee up to hip, with Nurse Sue getting a good look on the ultrasound to make sure the doc had the thing positioned correctly. Before the laser was activated, I was told that I might feel some heat, and taste smoke. Nice. On went the laser, and at the rate of a millimeter a second it was drawn down the vein, zapping it with light energy that was enough to cause the daggone thing to collapse in on itself, sealing off one return route for the blood in my leg.

Easy peasy! Sailed through THAT like a total pro. I was feeling confident!

Misplaced confidence, as it turned out, because
I was nowhere near done. Oh no, for the good doctor had yet to get rid of those ugly bulgy things you see in the picture above, and that cannot be done with the laser of ease and pease.

For that, she'd need the scalpel, and a 10cc syringe full of lidocaine, and some betadine, and patience (both hers and mine). You know how they take out your ugly bulgy veins, people? They cut into your leg, get a grip on the vein, LIFT OUT A LOOP OF IT, tie the ends, and snip out the bit between the ligatures.

A dozen times or more.

Be aware that if you happen to have LARGE ugly bulgy veins like me, the "small punctures" that are mentioned in the advertising literature for this procedure actually turn out to be inch-long incisions. I know this because I looked. Those inch-long incisions might just be the ones that keep, uhhhh, "oozing" (to use their parlance), and on which they keep PRESSING to get rid of the ooze, which after about 30 minutes becomes rather painful indeed. Even after two repeat injections of anesthesiac, I still felt it.

No matter, there were all those OTHER ugly bulges to excise, and the doctor was not to be dissuaded, even after I asked if anyone ever told them to just stop....heheh and all. No, she said, they usually just put in more lidocaine and keep on working. Damn.

Being as how they'd spent so much time on the big ugly bulges around the knee area, by the time they got to the ones around calf and ankle level the anesthesia was starting to wear off, and so the tugging became rather more painful than is strictly desirable, and therefore more injections were warranted. By this time I was beginning to feel like I was putting them out for complaining that I could feel them cutting into me, but what the hell, I'd rather be semi-comfortable than to be able to feel every slice and dice, so I "notified" them on a regular basis.

Slice, yank, knot, snip. Lather, rinse, repeat. 90 minutes of this will make anyone's underarms perspire. I was certainly putting the Sure to the test. By the end, I was not raising my hands for anything, because I was no longer Sure of anything but that fact that I wanted off that table.

Apparently the doc wanted done too, because once the ankle-level veins were done she'd decided to ablate the last veins by using foam injections in the foot-level ugly bulgies. You guessed it - more needles. Needle sticks into the top of the foot, the ankle, and my personal favorite, the ARCH. That last one came as a surprise, and not the "happy birthday" kind of surprise either. Imagine bamboo slivers and fingernails...

I'm not usually a complainer, people, but by the time the betadine was broken out again, and that big ol fucking knee incision was pressed on for the last time (holy crap, that hurts!), I was glad to know the end was near. Just the steri-strips to apply, which for some reason felt like someone was looping hot metal into my skin, then a foot-to-knee wrap with gauze, then a foot-to-knee wrap with a couple of Ace bandages, and I was outta there.

Oh, except for the speech about what I was supposed to do for home care, and the admonition that "if I got out to my car and I was soaked with blood, come back in and we'll re-dress it for you." That bit gave me comfort and joy, I'll say. If at that point I was soaked in blood, I was going to drive around the the emergency room and have them take care of me there, to heck with THEM!

Despite all the minor discomforts and the stabbings and the injections and the oozings, here it is an hour later, and I'm not leaking anything, not blood, sweat, OR tears, and with my foot up on several pillows, the computer in my lap, and wifi internet, life is actually pretty good.

I go back in a week for a checkup, then a month after that. I can expect that by this time next week the pain will have peaked, I'll have hard knots in my leg where the remaining vein is being clot-busted to smithereens by my body's healing mechanisms, and I'll be well on the road to recovery.


If I ever have to have this done again, you can bet your BOOTS I'm going to fill that prescription for Valium. I guess I am kind of a wimp after all.

Also, I make the procedure sound awful ,but while it was no walk in the park it wasn't the worst pain I've ever been in, and the doctor and nurse took good care of me, tried to minimize the pain, communicated clearly, and worked (I'm sure) as fast as they could. It's simply not a pleasant thing to undergo, but in time I'm sure I'll be glad I had it done.

You can BET that there will be pictures of my progress. Oh yes, dear friends, there will be pictures.

And how was YOUR Monday??

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