The last installment of my series. My friend Heidi imparts her nurse-ly wisdom!
TO THE FLOOR: After 1-2 days you'll go "to the floor". That means out of the ICU to the regular hospital floor. The difference will be that you will not be connected to monitors, your nurse will have more patients, and you will be more heavily focused on physical therapy, occupational therapy, mobility, and independence. This is quite difficult but you CAN do it. Try to keep in mind that what you will be going through is TEMPORARY. Remind yourself that it will be better someday and that "this, too, shall pass". Remember the people who are rooting for you and let that strength help you.
A couple other items that don't fit into one location:
TO BRING: Less is more. Seriously. Try not to bring anything valuable to the hospital. Things DO indeed get lost (soemhow. I really can't figure out how, but I blame the drunken grandpa). so, seriously consider what you could possibly leave at home and still be okay. Have your favorite items be things to look forward to coming home to. I'd suggest chapstick, a picture of the pups, maybe an iPod. Jeff can hang onto these things for you. Magazines are good to have. You will NOT feel like reading a book. No way, no how. The less stuff, the better. Not only will you have NO desire to use it, you have to cart it around from room to room and that sucks. If you take any meds at home, leave them at the hotel. You won't need to bring them to the hospital unless they're REALLY, and I'm talking REALLY, obscure or illegal.
DOCTORS: these are strange creatures. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. They can be ellusive. You may or may not see your MD prior to surgery. He/She will come around 1-2 times a day, briefly, to check in. Have questions ready for the visit (if you have any). The doctors don't spend much time with you. There may be a resident who takes care of you for the majority of the time, instead of the main MD. The resident will do stuff like help with pain meds, changes in symptoms, etc. This is okay and the resident will be in contact with the rest of the medical team.
NURSES: These are also strange creatures. ICU nurses are sarcastic, have a dark sense of humor, and are very kind people despite what it may seem sometimes. Some of us are quite Intense...cuz of the "I"CU, but it's not out of dislike for you. It's simply a phenotype. I am absolutely certain that your nurses are going to ADORE you and wish that you could be their patient every day. Trust me, I know this for certain. If I had a patient like you, I'd lick the floor if it made you feel better. (and then I'd drink bleach, but you get the idea). They will be able to tell you almost anything you need to know about how you're doing. They will likely nOT be able to answer a lot of questions about yoru surgery...like what happened intraop, how long exactly it took, what exactly the doctor's said about the case. We don't tend to get a bunch of details about that kind of thing. This is something to ask the doctors. Speaking of...
QUESTIONS TO ASK:
For the doctors: What are you plannign to give me for pain/nausea medication? (Sometimes the neurosurgeons are a bit skimpy with meds because the meds can interfere with a good neuro exam. So know what you're likely to experience beforehand.) when can I expect to see you? (so you can plan for questions later). How did my surgery go? Did anything unusual happen? What do you expect for my recovery?
For the nurses: Anything you want. What to expect for the day (if it's something you're concerned about). You should ask what they're doing if you want to know. What meds you're getting. How they think your vitals are. Your nurses will generally be very open with you and you will probably not even need to ask, but you have the right to know.
Thank you to Heidi for your humor and information - it has really helped, and made me laugh!