Thursday, February 27, 2014

My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 5

Sparrow in a snow covered tree in Novosibirsk, Russia
"I was really startled when they brought you in, you were so pale," Joey said.  He was half-sitting, half lying on the couch in the corner of the room.  It was around midnight, and I was just beginning to feel coherent after my surgery. 

"Is that why they kept looking at my hands and you kept massaging them?"

My hemoglobin was very low.  We found out the next day that it was 6.7 (67).  This didn't surprise me very much because I had been struggling with low iron since I started having the problems that led to this surgery, but apparently it was causing everyone else some consternation.

"Of course, when they pulled the covers off you to move you to the bed, I was even more startled." He wasn't prepared for the see-through hospital gown.  

"How did I get in the bed?  Did they lift me?" I asked.

"You rolled."

"Rolled?  Yeah, right."

"No, really, you rolled.  You did a 360.  They rolled you onto the bed.  I helped a little."

"I guess my insides couldn't fall out because of the stitches.  Well...did they bring me in on a gurney?  I don't remember seeing one."

"Yes, they brought you in on a gurney, covered with a comforter just like the one you're under now."

I patted the IKEA comforter.  "I can't believe you rolled me after surgery."  

"You mostly rolled yourself.  Igor Alexandrovich said, 'Now, we're going to roll, Michele, roll like a колобок (kolobok - bun).' So we pushed you a little to help and you rolled.  You stopped about halfway and he said, 'Roll, Michele, roll,' and you kept rolling until you were on your back in your bed."

A kolobok is a bun or dinner roll.  "Kolobok" is the Russian fairy tale equivalent to the English "The Gingerbread Man".  Instead of a gingerbread man, it stars kolobok, a bun or dinner roll, that rolls away from everyone.   

"All I remember is being aware that I was in the bed and had somehow just gotten there.  It seemed like there was a crowd of people around me."

"There weren't.  Just two besides me." He paused.  "You'll never believe what you said.  There were three things you said when they first brought you in, all in Russian.  First, you said you wanted us to wet your towel and put it on your head."

"My towel?  You mean my rag?"

"You wanted your rag, but you kept saying towel.  Igor Alexandrovich moistened the yellow towel and gave it to you, but you said, 'No, that's theirs, I want mine.' We couldn't figure out what you were pointing at.  I finally found it, ran it under water at your sink, and put in on your forehead."  

I kind of remembered that, a little.  I remember wanting and trying to ask for the blue rag I had brought from home.  I love having a wet rag on my forehead when I don't feel good, fever or no fever.  Makes me feel better.

"Next you asked 'What did they take?'  Olga Andreevna told you that everything had gone as planned."

"Oh. Maybe I kind of remember that, too."  I was rather proud of myself that I had had the presence of mind to ask that in spite of my fuzziness.  "What else did I say?"

"The third thing you said," Joey started to chuckle, "was 'надо похоронить матку здесь' (we need to bury the uterus here)."


"That's what I said, 'What?!' So you repeated it.  Twice.  The last time loud and clear."

It hurt to laugh, but I couldn't help it.

He continued, "I almost burst out when you said it."

"I can't believe I said that! I totally don't remember it!" I held my lower stomach to try to try to minimize the pain from laughing.  

"I'm sure it was because of our conversation the other day, but it had to be hilarious for them."

"They heard me?  Did they say anything about it?"

"Oh, they heard you all right.  Heaven knows what they thought.  But they were all professional about it, never even cracked a smile.  They probably hear people say a lot of strange things after surgery."

"Well," I said, "we're not going to bury it, but I have officially left it here."

Michele Womble in a clinic in Novosibirsk, Siberia
Me (Michele Womble) after my hysterectomy (and still in the blue hospital gown) in the clinic
Ваше Здоровье (Your Health) in Novosibirsk, Siberia

The nurse on duty, Yulia, came in and gave me another shot.

"You asked every person who came in here what their name was if you hadn't met them already."

I guess that's how I know her name.  "Yeah, I vaguely remember that.  Why wouldn't they let me keep the ice?  They kept taking it away from me.  It really helped with the pain."

"Not let you keep the ice?  They wanted you to have it for twenty minutes at a time, but you actually usually had it for an hour.  You didn't want to let go of it.  Yulia was teasing you about liking your ice."

I smiled.  "I don't remember that, I just remember that she kept taking it away. I do remember feeling nauseous.  The stomach  spasms really hurt my incision.  And I remember you left to tell them, and they came quickly and put something in my IV that helped almost immediately."  I thought a minute.  "How often did they give me pain medicine?"

"They were giving you shots about once every 4-5 hours.  Also, every hour Igor Alexandrovich came in and told you to take 5 deep breaths.  Later he told me to make you do it every hour."

"I think I might remember that.  I remember you telling me to breathe.  I thought I must have forgotten to breathe, but maybe I had quit in the middle of the 5 deep breaths.  I also remember someone telling me to open my eyes." 

"Once Igor Alexandrovich was trying to get you to open your eyes, and you wouldn't, so I told you in English and then you did." 

"I remember that.  I remember someone telling me to do something and I thought that I was doing what they said, but then when you said, "Michele, open your eyes,' I realized that I hadn't been. Then I opened them."

That reminded me of another question.  "So, did I communicate with them in Russian ok in spite of the fuzziness?"

He shifted on the couch.  "Actually, you only spoke Russian at first.  You understood everything and answered them in Russian fine.  But English, on the other hand... you understood when I spoke English to you,  but you would only answer me in Russian.  You wouldn't say anything in English."

"For how long?" I was surprised.

"Oh, I guess for about the first 20 minutes after they brought you in here."

"Wow.  I wonder why?  I wonder what was going on in my brain?  Like if it had something to do with coming out of the anesthesia while they were speaking Russian to me, or hearing Russian subconsciously during the operation?"

It was reasonable that I was answering the doctors and nurses in Russian, since they were speaking Russian.  But ordinarily I can go back and forth between the two.  And you'd think if I was going to get stuck in one language that it would be English.  Maybe, after answering them in Russian when coming out of anesthesia, it was just too much effort to switch to active English.  Weird, because English is my native language, not Russian.  

I don't really know and probably never will. 

One thing I do know.

One of my reasons for initially feeling like I should do the operation in America was language.  Feeling that it would be better for me to come out of anesthesia with people speaking English.

You know better than I.

I didn't need it.

I believe that You let it happen so that I would know...that You are God.  Wherever I am.  And that the things I think I need...are usually just so much dust.

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Related Posts
Read: My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 1
My Hysterectomy
in Siberia Part 1
Link to My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 2
My Hysterectomy
in Siberia Part 2
Link to My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 3
My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 3
Link to My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 4
My Hysterectomy in Siberia Part 4
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  1. MIchele,

    Thank you for being so open about such a personal experience. Your trust in God's provision is inspirational. May He continue to do a good work in you.

  2. Thanks for the walk-through, Michele. I know I probably wouldn't have been there if it had been in Ft. Walton, but being SO far away, it just helps to hear. I love you.

    1. I wanted to be able to share what the experience was like and how God was in it from start to finish...It's also been really good for me to walk through it again in my mind. It's helped me to process it all. I love you, too!

  3. Just read the whole thing. Tears welled up. I had a hernia surgery on March 25th. So many details you gave were recognizable. It was very visual for me. Yep, laughing after surgery almost makes you feel you will never do it again. I was also thinking, what a strange thing our mind is - so much of what we feel originates in what our mind is engaged in. But do you get it engaged in the right thing? I remember reading in St Patrick's Confession once that he felt "someone mind was striving with his mind" referring to a spiritual onslaught he experienced. Sometimes I wish I had a full control of my mind. I would be the happiest person on the face of the earth. But gaining the mind of Christ isn't that easy.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Zhenya. I guess the emotional experience of having surgery would be pretty similar in a lot of ways. It's been interesting for me to hear the experiences of others, and I'd like to hear more about your own experience and how you walked through it all.

      Yes! The mind is a very strange thing! They say we've only scratched the surface in beginning to understand - and I wonder if we ever really can. But somehow my mind even in surgery was processing Russian - and staying in it. It gives me hope that we CAN be "transformed by the renewing of your mind" - so that when catastrophes - or hard times - come, our mind will have a good "default setting" that it runs to (like my mind hearing (I guess) the Russian and defaulting to it, which it could because I had "trained" it in Russian for so many years. I know that defaulting to Russian or English is neutral, not right or wrong, but it makes an interesting example. I hadn't really thought of it in a spiritual light until now. Of course gaining the mind of Christ has so many other elements involved - but I hope I'm building up a "default" of the mind of Christ on some level, even if I will never fully have control of it in life. I hope I'm engaging it in the right things so that I default to them under pressure.

  4. Hi! I found your link on Velvet Ashes, and followed your story of your hysterectomy in Siberia. I was all ears about it, since I chose to have my hysterectomy in Warsaw, Poland. It was a big deal to me, because I was most scared about the language--and you are the first person I've met/read who admitted the same. I'm soooo grateful God gave me a wonderful hospital in Waraw, versus a local one that doesn't have a good reputation, AND my surgeon spoke English! It was an amazing experience of seeing how incredibly well God took care of me. Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Hi, Anita! I would love to hear more of your story about your hysterectomy in Warsaw - have you written about it on your blog or elsewhere? God dealt with both of our fears about it but in different ways - with different answers - which is so like Him. I felt like He took care of me incredibly well, too, and also having to face that fear of having a medical emergency out of my home country and walk through it, has had the unexpected (to me) result that I no longer fear that for myself or my family - any more than I would an emergency in my "home" country. Sort of like "instead of being afraid of it let's just walk through it and then you can put that fear to rest".
      Thank you so much for dropping by and for sharing...I'm so curious to hear more now!