I got a wound vac yesterday on the worst of my two gaping postop boob holes. It's a medical device that maintains constant suction (negative pressure) via a 4' tube that connects on one end to a canister and on the other end to a specialized sponge inside the wound- it draws out bad juju, encourages blood flow and cellular healing. If you're home-bound, which most folks who warrant one of these bad boys are, it also comes with a home health nurse. For me. who's allegedly an independent, healthy, young-ish person, it means going into my surgeon's office a few times a week to get it changed out. I've helped plac these on patients many times before, back when I was a surgical physician assistant, and I've had a few friends in the field ask me what it's like on this side of the sponge.
I mean, all of this is shit-tastic. Let me start with that. At first, I was excited because when it was applied it didn't hurt or pinch or itch or anything, but then I realized that it's basically like having a very ornery baby attached to your boob 24/7, which I've done before. That sucks, too.
About seven seconds after I got it home, I stepped on the tubing and yanked it a little loose, so now I have to maintain an exact boob position so that it maintains suction without yelling at me. This must be what Playboy center folds feel like, posing awkwardly with their boobs just-so for hours. Just like that. Anyway, also there's this teeny tiny little high-pitched squeeeeeeeal coming constantly from somewhere in there, and no matter how I pad it or reinforce with drapes, it feels like I have boobular tinnitus. So I'm wearing headphones constantly. AND it ran out of batteries at 3am, so an alarm sounded from the other room where the briefcase that holds the purse that holds the device was sitting. So now, the baby and all its fixins live in our bedroom, just as it wanted.
The main thing I keep noticing is how poorly the doctor/nurse--> receptionist--> patient communication channel works. Like, I know stuff, and I can afford to buy stuff, and I have insurance that covers some stuff, and STILL I'm finding this frustrating, confusing, and slow as shit. I've been on the other side a lot; I know how stressful and busy and impossible it is for medical providers. They're certainly doing everything they can to get me quick and adequate care, BUT from this end, it feels like they never seem to get that I'm BARELY hanging on mentally and physically, so every delay feels like a death sentence and every thing they say to me (or don't say to me) pushes me off or back from the ledge.
Speaking of ledges.
Shortly after I first became a PA, I had this really dramatic, acute illness with 106F fevers and a total collapse of my bone marrow and all kinds of other terrible goodies, and through that experience, I learned a lot about being a provider- tape hurts on hairy arms, the tiny room with one hospital bed and one chair that's partitioned off by a lousy curtain from a naked stranger roommate, is your whole universe. It sucks not to have any privacy, it's scary and boring and painful and strange to be hospitalized, and the best thing is to feel heard and the worst is to feel ignored.
I was already a decent listener, a compassionate, empathetic sort- I had been a medical social worker prior to PA school, so I can crawl into people's fear and grief with them fairly easily, but that experience of lying in the bed for a week really helped me show up for my patients even more completely, patiently, and CLEARLY with my words, after that.
This will, too, if I go back to practice. In fact, while I laid topless on an exam table, with the surgeon's hand INSIDE my boob, she was asking me about potentially working for her in the future....so I might be able to practice what I learned in the very immediate and literal sense. If I don't go back to practicing medicine, at least this has been a lesson in quiet, stillness, meditation, and nutrition (and by nutrition I mean a stupid amount of protein powder AND chocolate chips and drinking all the wines. ALL of them).
Wine has protein, right?