So, I landed on the mainland not expecting to actually need surgery, but shortly after the tests I was told I was having surgery ASAP. Just like that. There was no other option, and I didn’t find out I was having surgery until after they already started setting things up.
Maybe it was for the best. Having time to think is never a good thing.
What we had discovered was that I had some solid masses surrounding my right ovary and Fallopian tube. These were abscesses which had then become infected. The surgery that they scheduled was to remove my right Fallopian tube as it was already far too infected to think about saving.
Of course, when the doctor told me this, all I could think of was my ovums from my right ovary bouncing around aimlessly in my body.
When I asked the doctor about this (yes, I actually said this all out loud.), he explained that my body would recognize what had happened and send the ovums from my right side all the way over to my left Fallopian tube.
At this point, I wondered why the heck I even had stupid Fallopian tubes if my body was capable of launching well-aimed eggs across my body like guided missiles.
I didn’t get to dwell on it a whole lot before the doctor also added that there was a slight chance they would need to remove my right ovary as well. Which, by the way, if removed, the body will once again recognize what has happened and the remaining ovary will start working double time to shoot those eggs out every month.
Seriously, how crazy are our bodies?
After a short talk about side effects, I was told that the abscesses were too large for laparoscopic surgery, and therefore they would need to actually open my lower abdomen.
I was then wheeled into a curtained room to wait for surgery, which I was told repeatedly would happen soon. I honestly thought it would be a couple hours at least like it is back home, but I think it was a bit closer to ten minutes. I passed the time by cracking off jokes to Aaron and my translator buddies (I figured Aaron was pretty worried. After all, he’s the one who had to sit and wait. All I had to do was pass out. Easy peasy). I remember me being downright hilarious but I honestly don’t remember if anyone was laughing.
Once I was in the operation room (I don’t remember the getting there part), I remember being told that I had to take off all of my clothes. In a white room full of doctors with face masks and scrubs. I’m pretty sure I stared down a doctor I suspected was male as I was helped to strip down underneath a white sheet, which I suspect was removed right after I passed out.
I don’t remember anything after that.
Waking up was a nightmare.
Mostly I remember intense amounts of pain, disembodied voices, and silhouettes.
Either I wasn’t given pain medicine or it simply didn’t have much effect on me (some meds and anesthetics in America simply don’t work on me, -which is how I had a fully awake operation after my appendix burst- and Japanese medicine is known to be considerably weaker), and so poor Aaron was left to try and comfort an incredibly disoriented, pained Rachael. He repeatedly told me that the pain would get better in ten minutes.
I knew he was lying.
On top of the shock of waking up after surgery, I apparently had an allergic reaction to the anesthetic and was blotchy red and itchy. This was also on top of my usual reaction to anesthetics which is to have my stomach and lungs convulse over and over again as my body is completely taken over by what my American doctor decided to call “Machine-gun Hiccups”. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Hiccups so fast that I can’t breathe. Hic-hic-hic-hic-hic-hic-partial whoosh out- hic-hic-hic-hic-hic-hic- scream that it hurts- hic-hic… You get the picture.
I should also mention that this all happened in front of Aaron, my boss (who had come to the mainland to check on me), Josh, and his colleague. I think. I remember seeing at least Aaron’s, Josh’s, and my boss’s silhouettes when going through one of these attacks. But they were then told to leave until I calmed down.
Once I was fully awake and aware- no clue which day it was- I learned that the infection was worse than they had thought and so I had a full Salpingo-Oophorectomy. Meaning they took both the tube and my ovary. Both were very enlarged, and my ovary itself was about the size of a golf ball. They actually brought both out on a medical tray to show Aaron while I was in surgery. They were covered in my blood.
I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear me admit that I was a little jealous. They were my tube and ovary after all. I kinda wanted to see.
I also learned that I did actually end up in a giant diaper despite my struggle with the nurse back on Oki. Although this time it was due to the fact that I wasn’t allowed to walk anywhere, and I had a catheter, and also a surprisingly thick tube through my left side.
Any movement at all felt like cold metal cutting me open once again. I dreaded every time the nurses came to check my incision. The poor ladies tried their best not to wake me, but even the slightest touch of my sheet on my stomach would cause me to clench up and send me into another fit.
At that time, sneezing was actually the most terrifying thing on the planet.
I passed my time by reading a 1000 page book, playing Pokemon Heart Gold, and eating the occasional doughnut that Aaron would surprise me with (I had lost ten pounds in about five days, by the way).
After three-ish days, I had both my catheter and my tube removed from my side. I was so bored that I ended up watching as the nurse removed the tube. Just a little black hole about the size of my pinky that simply… opened up into my body. They covered it up with a kind of stitch band-aid, and it leaked for a couple days.
After those were out, my IV was removed. I was only given pain killers when the pain was too much to handle, and I was expected to start walking around as much as possible (of course, I didn’t know this at the time).
Honestly, the biggest problem after the surgery was the fact that my intestines had basically stopped moving and the gas that they used in the surgery had settled into my chest, shoulders, and neck. Every time I complained of shoulder pain, they would simply tell me I needed to walk more and the gas would dissolve. I spent almost every night around 3 am walking circles around the nurse desk, half awake, trying to get the pain to go away.
On the day I was to be released, I finally had the bandage from my stomach removed and I was able to see my incision. Rather than being a big, ugly, red scar, it was as if someone had pinched my skin, and then sewed it together underneath where they had pinched, so that it stuck up like a weird roll.
I immediately started poking at it until the doctor yelled at me. No touching the scar, and no getting water or soap on it.
And then I was released into downtown Matsue, which is the capital of our prefecture. As if life wanted to give me one more slap in the face, Aaron and I realized that we hadn’t brought my shoes to the mainland. All I had was my slip on, pink striped slippers with a little white bunny face on the tip. I shuffled after Aaron with my head down, looking a bit like a homeless person, holding my gut for 45 minutes trying to make it across the city to where we would be staying that night. Aaron thought I was going to die.
Once we were back in Oki, I was tasked with doing absolutely nothing for a month until I recovered. I spent a lot of that time dealing with about three migraines a week. They eventually became less and less frequent but I still get them occasionally. I’ve gone home from school vomiting twice now.
Migraines aside, my body is pretty awesome at healing itself when it’s not trying to kill me, and I was able to go back to work ten days early.
I was also able to finally explore the island with Aaron and friends. I spent my month of pent up energy climbing up anything I could find.
I also want to mention that Japan’s healthcare system is amazing. Everything I went through would have cost around $30,000-40,000 in America, but for simply being in Japan it dropped to about $4000. And then my insurance paid about $3000. Thank God I was in Japan when this happened.
A huge thank you to everyone who helped translate, comfort me and visited along the way, it meant more that I can say. I know it all sounds very rough, but it really could have been much worse.