Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Thyroidectomy Experience


**This is a very long and very detailed post, but I want others who may stop by my blog in preparation for their surgery, to hopefully better understand the process. Feel free to just scroll down and look at the pictures. :]

As many of you know, I had surgery last week on Wednesday the 21st to remove my thyroid after a diagnosis of Graves' Disease. I had known that I was probably going to have the surgery for a month and half prior to the surgery, so I had some time to prepare myself. But is everyone ever really prepared for a major surgery like this? I had googled thyroidectomy stories, pictures of what the neck looks like after surgery, what the scar would end up being, every possible thing that could go wrong, etc. Seriously for a month or two I researched EVERYTHING. And I still wasn't prepared. In fact, I felt like all the researching I had done was just freaking me out more than actually preparing me. Seriously guys, I was so convinced that I was going to wake up during surgery, or not wake up at all. I was convinced my body was going to go into thyroid storm afterwards (where your organs just shut down after surgery). I was afraid that I would look like someone had tried to slit my throat. And it really didn't help that I had been away from H the entire month leading up to the surgery. He couldn't miss any classes, and we couldn't really afford to have him fly down anyway. [His sweet Grandma called me up the week of my surgery and adamantly told me that she was paying for a plane ticket to fly him down that weekend. I about bawled my eyes out. It was hard being away from him, especially at such a scary time for me.]

The night before my surgery, I was given a priesthood blessing by my dad and some close friends, and they blessed me especially that I would be calmed. It was honestly such an incredible experience for me, because after the blessing, it felt like a switch had been flipped inside of me. I was so calm and my mind was able to relax.

My surgery was scheduled for 7 am the next morning, and I was told to arrive at 5 am for all of the preparation. When I got there I had to wipe my entire body with special sterilized wipes, put a gown on, and then they put an IV in my hand. [Which by the way, I HATE needles.] The surgeon and anesthesiologist came in and spoke to me about exactly what was going to happen, which also helped calm my pre-surgery jitters. They then wheeled me into the operating room, where I had to slide over onto another table. Okay, I kid you not, it was like you see in the movies. The bright lights, all the tools everywhere... I wished that they had put me out before I had to see that, haha! 

I don't remember much after that. They put me under, but I don't even remember seeing the anesthesiologist in the room or them putting anything in my IV. I'm told that the surgery took just over 3 hours, and that it took a while for them to wake me up. I was then in the recovery room for about an hour after that, but have no recollection of that whatsoever. When I finally did wake up, my mom and dad said that I had been in and out of it since getting out of surgery. They then took me back to my room and still, the next few hours were hazy. I would wake up and talk to my parents or the nurses, and then I would fall asleep mid sentence. Haha I was so drugged! When I finally woke up for long enough to remember, I took a picture of my neck, and when I looked at it, I just started crying. It was not a happy experience seeing a huge cut on my previously perfect neck, and a drainage tube pushed up under my skin. Oh, and did I mention that it hurt? My throat was so sore from being intubated during the surgery, and my neck hurt, well, because it had just been cut open. The surgeon said that the incision would be about 6 centimeters, but since he knew I was worried about the scar, he took his time and made it only 5 centimeters instead! It doesn't seem like a big difference, but it is. I loved my surgeon! He also used the dissolvable stitches on the inside and then used superglue for the outside. I'm glad that I didn't have to have stitches, because that would have been a nightmare for me to get those removed, and I didn't want to deal with any more scars.

[The picture on the left  is the first picture I saw after waking up. The two on the right are what I looked like for the first day and a half! Haha I know that I look dead in these pictures! They are so unflattering, but I was so drugged that I don't even know when these were taken.]

Later that first day, I was craving Sonic tater tots SO BADLY. It was weird how much I needed them, so I begged my parents for them. H's parents were on their way, so they brought me some, but I could only eat 1 or 2. They had cleared me for a regular diet, but it hurt to swallow, so I ended up only eating applesauce and jello. It also hurt to talk, cough, yawn, breathe, etc. I was able to throw my hair up [and wipe off all of the smeared makeup] and talk to H's parents for a bit, but then I fell asleep so they left. :]

When I woke up the next morning, I was still craving tater tots, so my sister brought me some, and I was able to eat them! My throat was still a little sore, and it hurt to swallow, but it wasn't as bad as the first day. Plus, to me, it was worth it. ;] I was able to talk pretty normally at this point. I had a slight rasp, but so much better than the first day. I was also able to put on a bit of makeup and fix my hair again. The nurses came in periodically to test my vitals, give me pills, reset my IV, etc. I had to take 7 pills every morning and night, plus Vicodin whenever I was in pain, and the only way I could get them down was by dumping them in my applesauce so they were coated as they went down my throat. The difference in how the cut looked from the first day to the second day was exponential. I was shocked to see how quickly it had already started healing. I was also able to walk around pretty normally, but still needed someone with me for balance just in case. My sister and mom took that responsibility.

That night, H's flight arrived, and he came to stay with me at the hospital. I can't even explain how much better I felt. My heart was whole again. It had been too many days of only texts and video chats, and too many nights of sleeping alone. I'm glad my sister captured this moment, because it was definitely a special one.

When I was out of surgery, they did some blood work to test all of my levels to see where they were at, and they said I needed magnesium through my IV. When it started going into my veins, it felt like my vein was going to explode. It was SO painful. I'm not sure why, but I started to cry and made them stop the magnesium. They tried a few times, but eventually had to dilute it with saline before it felt okay to run it again. Did I already mention that I hate things poking into my skin? Oh, and every night, people came around to take my blood, and I wanted to kill every one of them. They all did TERRIBLE jobs. None of them could find my veins, so they just stuck the needle in and dug around until they found it. 3 times that happened. No joke. I. Hate. Needles.

Anyway, on the third day, the surgeon came in to take out the drainage tube. That was probably the worst part. He cut the stitch and took off the tape that was holding it in place, but then he had to slowly wriggle the tube back and forth until it came out. It only took about a minute, but it was the weirdest sensation. He said that it wouldn't be as bad as a needle poke, but to me it was worse. It didn't really hurt, but it was definitely very uncomfortable, feeling a tube pulled out of your skin. I was able to come home that afternoon, and it felt good to get out of the hospital. I spent the rest of the day relaxing in bed, and had to take my pain pills for about 4 more days, but I am now off of them! On Saturday, I braved my niece's birthday party, and I felt okay, but I got tired easily, and had to sit down and relax my neck. Things are getting better a lot quicker than I imagined or expected. I feel almost completely back to normal now, in just one week. My neck is still a little sore sometimes, but barely. I had to sleep on my back, elevated with pillows, with an ice pack on the back of my neck [sometimes the front of it] when I was in the hospital and the first few days at home, but now I am able to sleep on my side, or on my stomach, and it doesn't bother my neck. Oh, and I finally put on a full face of makeup and curled my hair for the first time yesterday! Yay! Plus, the incision is looking so much better! :] The doctor told me it would take about 6 months for it to completely go away, but at the rate I'm healing, hopefully it's a little sooner. [Fingers crossed.]

All in all, I really had a great experience, and I owe that mostly to my surgeon. If anyone out there is nervous about getting this surgery done, here is my advice-- Meet with an ENT [the surgeon] and see how you feel about him/her, before you decide you want them to perform the surgery. This may seem like a no brainer, but it is honestly the most important thing. Make sure that you get a good feeling from him/her, that they have done a lot of surgeries, etc. I even asked mine how many people had died during his surgeries [which he said none, thankfully! ha] and how many people had developed certain problems [like low calcium for the rest of their lives, thyroid storm, ruining vocal chords, etc.] He wasn't annoyed at all that I asked him a lot of questions, and that also made me feel good about choosing him. I needed to feel comfortable and happy with choosing him before I let him cut my neck open! Haha

Anyway, that was the longest blog post of life, and if any of you are still reading this, than you either are about to get your thyroid removed, or you really love me. ;] Thanks so much for all of your thoughts and prayers through this time! They meant so much! H went back on Sunday, and sadly, I will be away from him for a little while longer for some post-op appointments. But it will all be okay in the end!

Thanks again for stopping by!
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  1. Glad you made it through and thanks for the detailed description......not a big hospital or needle fan either! Wish they would train the techs better in drawing the blood. Great to hear prayer helped and you were more peaceful before the surgery.

  2. Girl, you are so brave! Reading things on the internet is so scary before you go through a huge surgery. You were very lucky to have an amazing surgeon and many caring people around you. I totally think its ridiculous when they make you move from the bed to the table. I had minor surgery last year and they made me do the same thing and I felt the same way you did. There was also no need to see all the tools and the lights! It was just like I have seen on Grey's Anatomy sans the hot doctors. Where was McDreamy when you need him?!?! I hope you continue to recover well and I know this post is going to help so many people. You are amazing! xo


  3. Wow, Victoria, you brave brave girl!
    You sharing your experience in detail will be immensely helpful to those in similar situations.
    I'm glad to hear that everything went well & that you are on the mend. That photo of you and H is absolutely beautiful!
    All the best as you continue on this journey,

  4. I am so happy you are having a good recovery!! :)

  5. Aw I am glad everything went well! That had to have been the worst feeling not having your husband there leading up too/and for the surgery :/ So great that he got there a little after!

    Wishing you a speedy recovery! :)



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