September 02, 2011

One time I was paralyzed. (That sucked.)*

Did I ever tell you about the time I was paralyzed?  

It was a dark and stormy night...

Not really.  And because I'm not certain I haven't blogged about this before, I can't embellish the story to get extra sympathy, dangit.

I know I've mentioned before that I have Crohn's disease with all the (literal and figurative) crap that goes along with it.  Before I found the right treatment, I had a series of intestinal blockages that landed me in the hospital.  You'd think the worst part of having a bowel obstruction would be the blockage itself.  But you'd be wrong.  The absolute worst part is the torturous naso-gastric tube!  An "NG tube" goes down your nose, down your throat, and into your stomach.  Its purpose (besides being a torture device) is to keep the stomach empty, thereby lessening the pressure when the ol' intestines aren't working right.  No one was brave enough to take a picture of me with an NG tube in, but here's a photo of the process.  (It really does take at least 3 people to insert the tube.  One to hold the water, one to push the tube, and one to keep the patient from jumping up and running bare-assed from the room.)

I can't believe they insert these things when patients are awake!  (I cried!)  I complained so much about the blasted NG tube that my surgeon took pity on me, and for my second bowel resection surgery, he gave me a gastrostomy tube (G tube) instead.  The benefit of this type of tube is that it's placed while you are under anesthesia!  And unlike an NG tube, a G tube doesn't rub your throat raw.  Here's what a G tube looks like.

(Oops, I got off on a tube tangent!  Back to the paralyzation thing.) 

After one of my surgeries, I woke up completely paralyzed and on a ventilator.  (Another tube!)  I could feel sensations, hear things, smell things--all of it.  But I couldn't move.  At all.  Not a finger or a toe or an eyelash.  Stop and think about that for a second.  I was awake on the inside, but my body seemed asleep.  It's the only time I've felt a separation between the "outside me" and the "inside me".  I was only my brain at that moment.  I wish I could explain it better.

I freaked out, of course.  I had an 8-inch zipper incision in my stomach, and it hurt!  I remember wondering why I could feel pain but not move.  You'd think the two would be related!  Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long to get an explanation.  My freak out-induced jump in vital signs set off the machine alarms, and the ICU nurse realized I was awake.  He told me that there had been a problem with the anesthesia, and that my lungs weren't working when they took me off of the ventilator after surgery.  They'd had to re-anesthetize me and put me back on the vent.  That bought them some time to figure out what had happened.  I stayed in the ICU all night, going in and out of consciousness, trying to move the tiniest bit each time I awoke.

After about 8 hours, I was able to open one eye.  I looked at the clock.  My nurse wasn't in the room, so all I could do was keep trying to move parts of my body.  I was able to move a foot next.  When the nurse came in, I frantically moved my foot around to let her know I was awake.  The ventilator tube was driving me nuts.  It was in a position that made me feel like I needed to gag, but I couldn't gag, of course.  My right hand started to move next.  I made a writing motion with it, and the nurse figured out what I wanted and brought me a dry erase board.  I'm left handed, and I didn't have control over all of my fingers yet, but I was able to scrawl, "Gag me".  She understood, bless her, and she shifted the tube so it was more comfortable.

Over the next several hours, I regained the ability to move completely.  The anesthesiologist came by to tell me that my body couldn't process the anesthesia he used, and that I'd need to avoid that drug for the rest of my life.  I wear a medical alert bracelet now.

P.S.  I'm not the only one who hates NG tubes.

*The idea for the title of this post was shamelessly stolen from a totally cool brain-tumorless blogger over at Ancora Imparo Girl


    And strangely, another friend had the exact same thing happen several years ago.
    I was scared to death of having general anesthetic after her story (even though I had it before, they were using the same thing, etc).

  2. I HATE NG tubes!!!!!!!! Sore throat is not the worst; it's the swallowing rubbing it RAW each time.