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Three long days ago I had a total hysterectomy and oophorectomy. I have no ovaries or womb left. I have many friends and parishioners who have been through these procedures and they have given me wonderful advice. Combined with the advice from the surgeon there is one thing in common – breath.

I remember sitting in the post-operative area. I’d walked there from the surgical screening area (Day Care) and was visited by the Anaesthesiologist who was wearing a Nascar cap. Also, my surgeon came to visit me, wearing a plain blue cap. Finally the surgical nurse came to see me, wearing a floral surgical cap. All three of them talked about what they were going to do, and at some point I’d have an oxygen mask on my face and I’d need to take deep breaths. Okay, I thought. I can do that. I breathe every day!

I walked into the operating room and it was chilly. I sat down on the table, then lay down and there was a lot of activity as IV’s were inserted, surgical stockings were installed, instructions were given, checklists were shared. One of my favourite moments was when the surgeon asked what was happening to me and I replied “hysterctomy and oophorectomy” and the Anaesthesiologist said “oophorectomy or Oopsorectomy”. I laughed. Nobody else did.

Tough crowd.

I remember a mask placed over my mouth and nose and being told to take deep breaths. Then a medicine was added to my IV which I was told would take me to the Land of Nod. Took one more deep breath…

and then…

I was aware of an alarm sounding and a nurse telling me “Andrea, take deep breaths”. The alarm was an apnea alarm. I wasn’t drawing enough air into my lungs and I would stop breathing. I wear a device at night so this doesn’t happen at home. As I said I’ve been breathing my entire life, yet for some reason I had difficulty drawing a lung full of air.

I’d doze off for what felt like half an hour and the alarm would sound again “Andrea, deep breaths” I’d hear and respond and then look at the clock…usually only 2 or 3 minutes had gone by. That was worrying and frustrating. Had I forgotten how to breathe?

Eventually I made it to a room for the night. Surgical day care was deserted of all other patients when I was ready to go upstairs, and I didn’t mind staying where I was. It was quiet. The nurses were lovely and I was quite prepared to spend the night there. But no.

Up to the second floor I went to spend the night in a ward with three other women. I’ll share more of those stories later on.

The night nurse found and filled my CPAP machine so I could breathe while sleeping and I slept on and off all night. Waking about every two hours for pain medication or water.

At 4:00 pm I was finally discharged by my surgeon who gave me a list of things to do, milestones to watch for, and a reminder to take deep breaths.

It’s funny, our life begins with a deep breath and then often a cry. I’ve found lately I’ve found myself crying and then searching for deep breaths. One of the promises I made myself, is that as I move through six long weeks of recovery, I will take things slowly (I’m down to measuring one day at a time), I will be aware of my body and my surroundings. I will listen to my body and it’s needs. And I will breathe.

I will take deep breaths when I’m uncertain.

I will take deep breaths when I’m afraid.

I will take deep breaths when I’m not doing anything in particular.

I will take deep breaths before I attempt to exert myself.

All in all, I’m extremely grateful to the surgeons, nurses, doctors and staff who cared for me so beautifully. I was treated as a person, as a member of the family. My night nurse spent time talking to me as I shared my fears with her at my first overnight stay in hospital. She listened carefully. She responded thoughtfully and she reminded me “Andrea, you’re not bothering me when you ask for something, you are allowing me to care for you and help you get strong enough to go home. When you tell me what you need, I can help you get well. It’s not a bother, it’s my job.” This coming from a nurse who graduated in April. She’s a Rockstar!

So as I move through the next days I will remind myself to take deep breaths. As I snuggle in for the night, pulling on my CPAP mask. Deep breaths, clear your mind.

Deep breaths, clear your mind.

Deep breaths.

Thank you God for breath.

Thank you Ruah, breath of God.

Deep breaths.

Ruah…

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