My Thyroid Surgery Experience – Part 1

Okay, I’m a week past this whole ordeal and I’m able to sit at a computer for a while and actually type something so here is my story:

We woke up around 7:00 the morning of my surgery. I actually slept pretty well, which kind of suprised me. I wasn’t expecting that. I threw some clothes on and gave Beerd (aka: Sassy) her insulin shot and her antibiotic. She doesn’t mind the shots anymore, but the antibiotic…well, that’s a whole different story! We battled. I won. Eventually.

Of course I’ve been NPO since midnight – nothing to eat or drink. At all. Period. And I can’t have anything until after surgery, so I resisted the urge to sip just a teeny bit of water and went upstairs to clean up and get ready for what was ahead. I brushed my teeth while the water was warming up and then crawled in for a nice, long, hot shower. I shaved, I shampooed, I soaped. I stood there for a good long time…taking it all in, the warmth of the water, the fragrance of the shampoo (kind of grape-ish, I guess) and the time alone to pray and ask God for a good outcome.

Knowing that I had to check in at 10:00 AM at the hospital surgical registration desk, we left at 9:00. The hospital isn’t terribly far, and when you’re not dealing with rush hour traffic it doesn’t take that long to drive there. But alas, it’s still kind of rush-y and busy so we left early. And we arrived early, but only about 15 minutes. Better safe than sorry, right!

We drove around the crammed parking lot twice before deciding that we would utilize the “free” valet services offered at the front of the building. I wasn’t sure why we didn’t just take the car straight to the valet, I mean it is free! Well, except for the tip, of course. Once we parked at the valet station we got my overnight bag and my hubby’s computer case (along with SIM games and magazines) and headed inside.

The volunteers at the front desk were very helpful and assured us that the registration people would be right with us. We hadn’t even sat down yet when Don came to get us. He was wonderful! He talked to us about how he moved out here to be closer to his kids when he retired from his dental practice and explained how he had to have a major surgery and that he’d been given excellent care in this hospital. So, when he got out and was feeling better he realized he was bored and decided to apply for a job there. He missed talking to patients and that makes this a good 2nd career for him.

Once Don finished up all my paperwork he sent us back out to sit and wait for a volunteer to take us up to the surgical floor. We had hardly sat down again when an older man, with his arm in a sling wearing a blue volunteer shirt, came up asking us to follow him. We did.

On the surgical floor we went to one of the waiting rooms (there were two, both packed with people) and sat down again. A nurse came to get me, but told hubby that he’d have to stay there for a little while, she’d come get him when it was okay for him to come sit with me.

I was taken into a large room, with many beds and curtains for walls between the beds. I had bed three. The nurse got a package from a large box and handed it to me. I was to get undressed and to put this “gown” on. This thing was AMAZING! I put it on and tied it up. It was pretty modest. And there were even a pair of tube socks with the non slip soles to keep my tootsies warm! No, that’s not the amazing part! The amazing part of this gown is that you can hook it up to its own little blow dryer thingy and it inflates in the front with warm, comforting air that makes you feel all cozy, even though you know you’re on your way to getting your throat slit!  If you want to see them…click here: Bair Paws Gowns

Then a nurse with red hair like mine came over to start my IV. She showed me her cool thyroid surgery scar and informed me that Dr. VLR did her surgery, too. It had only been a year and her scar was barely visible! HOORAY!! She attempted to put the IV in my forearm but my veins didn’t cooperate. So she went into my left hand and that worked. I’m not terribly squeamish about needles or blood.

Once I was hooked up with the IV they let my hubby come in and sit with me. He got to watch them hook up my warmer onto my gown and I think he was a tad jealous! It was pretty cold in that pre-op room…brrrrr. My sister-in-law came up to sit with my hubby during my surgery and to keep him laughing. They always have a great time cracking each other up, and I’m so grateful she was there for him during that 5+ hours! She got to come in and sit with us in the pre-op before they took me away.

The anesthesiologist, Dr. P,  was the first of the operating room team to come see me. She explained some things to me, asked if I had questions (I did) and then I told her that I’m a tad bit claustrophobic and that I HATE those oxygen masks they have on you when you wake up in recovery. She told me that the masks work better than the cannula, that just fit into your nose, for delivering oxygen to a patient who is coming out of anesthesia and that they would leave that on as long as they can but would try to replace the mask with the cannula before I woke up.  She hung out with us until the OR nurse came in.

My OR nurse was a young Asian man with a thick accent and a heart for nursing. I had to explain to him that I had my first real “visit from Aunt Flo” in SIX FREAKING MONTHS and that it started yesterday and that I was really worried about how heavily I was flowing and that I was freaking out about being in surgery for 4+ hours because of that.  He patted my hand and said, “Don’t worry, I will take care of everything. You will not wake up a mess. I promise.” I relaxed a bit and smiled and thanked that nice young man. He kept his promise, too.

I remember Dr. P giving me something in my IV, but I had no idea what. I remember my surgeon, Dr. VLR, popping in very briefly, I know I saw him. And then I was out. I don’t remember my hubby or his sister leaving. I don’t remember the ride into the operating room. I don’t remember anything until I sort of woke up in the recovery room with that damned mask over my nose and mouth. I reached up to pull it down over my chin and then recalled Dr. P saying that it delivered more oxygen so it was better for me in that way, so I left it and drifted off into oblivion again. I remember someone asking three different times while in recovery if I needed pain meds…HELLO!?! I just had my throat cut open and body parts removed! YES! YES, I do need pain meds. NOW! Three times they delivered morphine into my IV. Ahhhh…sweet relief.

I don’t remember the ride up to the 5th floor where my room was. But once I got there I vaguely recall nurses scurrying around to hook up bags of antibiotics, calcium, saline, and one other thing that I can’t remember, to my IV. Then my hubby showed up!! And his sister was right behind him! I was hurting bad, but I was happy to see them. The aide, Robin, asked me if I was in pain. The fact that I wanted to rip her thyroid out testified to how much pain I was in when she asked me that ridiculous question. “Yes”, I said, more meekly than I felt. She asked me when the last time I had pain medication was…”I don’t KNOW!”, I cried. My shoulders and the back of my neck burned like I’d been pressing 500 lbs over my head for four hours. My throat hurt worse than I’d ever felt in my life. I wanted relief. I didn’t want dumb questions to which I had no answers.

My husband didn’t take too kindly to her asking me when I last had pain meds. I was still waking up from anesthesia. He asked her, “Don’t you have a chart that TELLS YOU when she last received pain meds?” “Um, yeah, but that would mean I’d have to walk down to the other end of the hallway”, she sarcastically replied. “YEAH?”, he spat back. I got my morphine pretty quickly after that.

He thinks she was trying to be funny, to lighten the mood. He wasn’t the least little bit amused. He was scared. He told me that in the 8 years we’ve been married he’s never seen a look like that on my face. He knew I was really in agony. He wanted it fixed. Now.

They offered me ice. I accepted, gratefully. It had been 18 hours since I’d had anything to eat or drink. When the aide brought it, in my sister-in-law started spoon feeding me ice from a styrofoam cup with a black plastic spoon. My hubby quickly took over. He was worried about me and he was determined to do whatever it took to make me feel better. If he had to stand there shoveling ice into my mouth all night he was going to do it!

I was in surgery about 4 hours and in recovery about an hour. I felt like it had been days, really. I was sacked from the pain and the remaining anesthesia drugs. I drifted in and out. My sister-in-law went home and my hubby hung by the bed, spooning ice into my mouth whenever I opened my eyes.



13 thoughts on “My Thyroid Surgery Experience – Part 1

  1. OMG, I was cringing almost the whole time I was reading this. What a crazy experience, I am so glad that it’s over and went well. I am especially sorry that you were in pain… THAT IS HORRIBLE. Good for your husband for not putting up with inappropriate behavior from that nurse and making sure you got what you needed.

  2. I found your blog while searching for answers to my up coming thyroid surgery. I only got to read part one of your posts but I will be back to read the rest.

    I meet my surgeon for the first time Aug 13, and a little anxious.

  3. I just had thyroid surgery on Tuesday and it’s now Thursday. I was in surgery for 2 hours and in recovery for about an hour. I know exactly what you mean about the shoulder and neck pain, and to swallow, OUCH!!! I hope it gets better soon.

  4. Hello! I just had my second of two separate thyroid surgeries. My experience was pretty much like yours, but I didn’t seem to experience nearly as much pain as you did. Hope everything else goes well for you.

  5. I am having surgery to remove my thyroid on Monday, I am nervous about it also. Mine has to come out because I have Graves Disease – I am hoping that my eyes will go back to normal after it comes out. Not looking forward to the pain !! Thanks for your story.

  6. Hi there, I am sorry for your experience, I just had a total with neck disection on Friday, today is Tuesday, I had no pain, even while vommitting from the minute I came out of surgery which was 10:30am right up until 11:30 pm, from the anesthetic and still no pain. It may depend on the persons threshold. I hope everyone does not get scared off by that poor persons story. My voice is a bit messed up and I am quite weak, but I was out driving tonight and I was outside enjoying a family barbeque, the day after I came home from hospital, which was two days after surgery. I do have some tenderness and it is a bit difficult to swallow, but small bites and soft food help with that. The only meds i am taking are my thyroid replacement, calcium and a high dose of Vit D (my calcium level was low). I hope that this helps to reassure others that everyones experiences will be somewhat different.

  7. Moyra,

    I’m very happy that you had no pain. That is wonderful! Mine was pretty bad, and I have a very high pain tolerance. I had two babies with no epidural, no pain meds, nothing!!

    This was different, though. The pain was not in the area of my incision at all, really. it was an extremely sore throat and the pain in my neck and shoulders (I assume from the way they had me positioned during surgery).

    Anyway, I know everyone’s stories are different, and I’m really glad that your’s was a lot less painful. I wish everyone that has to undergo this surgery could have that kind of experience!

    I’ve talked to a lot of people who have had this surgery and their stories are all over the board. Some seemed to have suffered much worse than I did and for a lot longer. Others, such as your self, didn’t seem to have much pain at all. Looking back on it, I guess I’d put myself somewhere in the middle. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever gone through, but it wasn’t the greatest either! At least when I gave birth I had something other than a scar to show for it!!

    Thanks for your comment. I hope it helps others who are looking for reassurance and information.

  8. I had thyroid surgery several years ago. The greatest pain was the sore throat (from the tube they put down your throat). Perhaps the best part was one “get well” card. Most of the cards I received made me feel worse – I thought I must be near death. Then I received a card from a friend that had a note: “There is life after thyroid surgery and a string of pearls will cover the scar.” I was able to laugh in spite of the sore throat.

  9. Thanks for sharing your thyroid surgery expierence. I am having thyroid surgery in two days and it was nice to read about how it went for you and somethings to expect. I really liked the tip on enjoying a long hot shower,to relax and pray. Your story

  10. thanx for the info im facing this surgery in the coming months as was told yesterday that meds aint goin to work anymore, im really nervous, but thats life i suppose x

  11. The best thing I believe anyone can do in a situation like this is to find a doctor that they can really talk to and trust to listen to them.

    The pain subsides in a few days. I had a massage for the pain in my back, neck and shoulders about 5 days post surgery. That really helped me! Some therapists are very hesitant to work on someone that soon after surgery, so be sure to get your doctor’s approval before scheduling. My doctor said that if I could lay facedown without bothering my incision or being in pain from it that it was fine.

    The other thing that helped me a LOT was getting myself up and out of bed as soon as possible to go to the bathroom and to walk around a bit. It really kept me from getting sore from just lying around. I moved around a lot once I got home, too. I did some gentle neck stretches to keep from getting stiff.

    I hope this helps!

  12. I am so grateful for you posting this blog. I am having my thyroid with goiter (Hashimoto’s Disease) on January 30. Next Friday.

    I really appreciate how you laid out your blog. It gives me a more realistic approach as to what I am going to face. I too will be screaming for pain meds. I don’t like pain whatsoever.

    Thank you so much for posting your experience. I too, will look for Part Deux.

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