The past two weeks I had the pleasure of taking care of a couple patients who exhibited a type of strength I wish we all could posses.
A 77 yr old patient (former nurse) was having knee arthroscopy. She had a history of extreme nausea and vomiting with previous surgeries when receiving general anesthesia, so she chose to have spinal anesthesia with the hopes of deterring her nausea.
I first of all found it unique to have a patient choose spinal anesthesia for such a moderate-minor procedure. Most patients I take care of who receive spinal anesthesia are getting major surgery (joint replacements, or intricate lower extremity osteotomy procedures)
Her recovery was progressing well, she was in great spirits and her anesthesia was wearing off in a quick manner. When all of a sudden she stopped speaking mid-sentence, gave me this pale-faced look of fear and calmly said, "I’m going to be sick".
When most patients tell you that, it’s usually too late. They uncontrollably vomit, or basically succumb to the body’s need for removal.
Not this patient.
She fought back her nausea like a champ. She grunted and groaned. She sat up in her cart, she leaned forward. She deep breathed. She did everything imaginable to prevent the event from happening.
In the mean time my co-worker and I were scurrying to get her some anti-emetics.
Unfortunately we didn’t deliver the med fast enough. By the time we began to push the IV med, she did have a very small emesis.
I told the patient, that is a level of courage and strength I have rarely seen. She was a trooper. She was bound and determined NOT to vomit. And just to see her tough it out was rather stoic.
I also had the pleasure of taking care of a 32 yr old patient who had a total knee arthroplasty. Yes, you read that right. 32 yr’s old having her knee replaced.
She unfortunately had advanced Rheumatoid Arthritis. And the disease basically gnawed her knee joints down to where she couldn’t walk properly, nor without extreme excruciating pain. So she was to have both knee’s replaced. One then the other.
You could see that the disease had beaten up most of her joints, Her hands had the typical swollen deformed look.
What impacted me was her demeanor and her attitude. After listening to her tell her story about her challenges and difficulties. How she was told she wouldn’t be able to do certain things and would be limited in most areas of life. How she was diagnosed with this disease as a teenager, and now in her early 30’s she’s battling her disease head on with these surgeries to enhance her quality of life.
I was in awe of her no-holds barred genuine personality. She was so appreciative of everything. She too had chosen the spinal anesthesia. And for the first time in her life, her legs didn’t hurt.
It was a very humbling experience. I didn’t want to discharge her out of the PACU. I wanted to keep talking with her. I wanted to give her as many pointers as possible to make sure she had the best recovery as possible.
I sometimes forget how lucky I am, how precious life really is, and how strong we all have to be to survive this rollercoaster we call life.