After spending many months on this site and absorbing so much wonderful information and helpful advice, I’m hoping to turn the tides (a little) and give back by posting about my surgical journey to Dr. Samji for help. I’m flying to San Jose today and will be in pre-op Friday morning; surgery planned for the 13th. Thank you so much to all of you who have helped me make it this far!! You all have been wonderful!!
Also, anyone with questions about this journey, please don’t hesitate to fire away!
More to follow in the coming days…
Made it to California!! Boy the weather is really nice here. So far here is the additional information I’ve gathered that may be helpful to others that choose to travel to Dr. Samji for help.
First, I connected to San Jose through LAX. Boy that was nuts from the standpoint of crowding in people at the gate. There were multiple flights leaving one right after another from my gate, as people were loading on busses. There was no way to social distance at 2 meters. People were mostly wearing their masks appropriately but it didn’t feel that safe. I’ve got 4 covid tests to pass to get into US from Canada, get surgery and get home again in time for Christmas. Plus one of the post-op meds is prednisone for swelling, but it also is immuno-compromising. Fortunately, I had a tight fitting N95 mask, which I dared not remove the entire 3 hour crowded wait (my flight was significantly delayed). So if you must go through LAX, be prepared and be safe!!
Next, I found the San Jose airport to be very user friendly. Not too large and easy to manage. You will need to take a bus to the rental car centre (if renting a car), which is easy enough. People are friendly here!
San Jose is a big city! Be prepared for some traffic. Getting out on the road was a little intimidating, as I’m not used to the huge highways and speed of the cars. I brought a Garmon to help navigate the city and this turned out to be a key positive choice in my successful negotiation of the trip so far. Not only did it help me get to my air bnb, but it also bailed me out when the code they provided to the air-bnb house alarm didn’t work!! The owner being apparently in Hong Kong was not responsive to the text and phone message I managed to fire off as the alarm rang. Then my cell phone quit working!! Yikes! It turns out my US/Canadian carrier Telus is not the best around here. My phone was offline for about 3 hours! What did I do in this ‘perfect storm’? Well, the Garmon was working, so I programmed it to Dr. Samji’s office thinking maybe I could find a hotel nearby my pre-op appointment scheduled for the morning. The traffic at night was fast moving but not backed up. I drove straight to his office with no problem.
I can’t really describe the feeling when I first laid my eyes on the Camino Ear Nose and Throat building. It was akin to being lost in a desert with no water for weeks, now dragging myself along the sand, parched lips, trying to overcome all obstacles but ready to faint, ready for it all to end, and then what!?! Seeing WATER?!! I am saved! I will NOT die!! It is not a mirage of a useless surgical waiting list! It is REAL! REAL HELP!!! It really exists people!!! Do give up!!! Keep dragging yourself through life towards help - you will reach this oasis in the desert. …OK that was corny, but really that is what I felt when I laid my eyes on the building for the first time and it did seem much larger than in the online pictures.
Garmon navigation to the rescue again. It showed a Wyndham and a Holiday Inn very close by. With no way to call them, I drove first to the Wyndham (399 Silcon Valley Blvd, phone 408 972-7800). And they had plenty of rooms!! The price was reasonable at $89 USD (after taxes and fees it was $102.74). The room had a very comfortable king bed and was spacious with a microwave and mini-refrigerator. There was a safe in the room too. They had a pool there, but by this time it was so late it was closed. The lobby was cheery and decorated for Christmas. I made it! The next morning It was easy to drive to Dr. Samji’s. I knew where it was and it was a quick drive with no traffic to speak of. Whew!
Dr. Samji was wonderful and very honest about the surgical risks and expectations. I found it interesting that because nerve monitoring is needed during the surgery so he can be sure to protect the nerves, means that muscle paralytic medications normally used in surgery to make it more comfortable are not able to be used. This results in a full body soreness that lasts for a day or day and a half. I also learned that the jaw must be dislocated and the neck will be in a hyper-extended position (tilted backward) to allow exposure to the neck and styloid area fully. I have some degenerative disc disease in my neck, so this was of particular interest to me, as this is not the best position for that problem. The Anasthsiologist called later that day and said he’d be very careful with his positioning of me. He also sounded very nice.
I then dropped off my prescriptions at Walgreens. This actually took longer than my appointment with Dr. Samji. They are having a shortage of pharmacist staff and signed for hiring with signing bonuses are hanging everywhere. The line was long just to drop of the prescriptions. I hope that they will be able to be filled and picked up in time before my surgery… Thanks everyone for following me and for your positive vibes!
2nd update - Operation Day today went very smoothly. Beforehand, never having had surgery before, I can only say I felt as nervous as a skydiver getting ready to jump! But finding surgery centre was no problem as there was no traffic to speak of at 5 am. Everyone was very helpful and efficient. The nurses were very caring. My IV was started with no significant pain at all. Both Dr. Samji and Dr. Fung (from anesthesia) came by for a short visit. Dr. Fung gave me a run down on the plan, which included taking pain medicine and anti-nausea medicine pills, having compression stockings on my legs to prevent clots, heart monitoring, followed by going into OR and receiving oxygen via mask. Everything went according to plan and right on time as well! Right after the oxygen mask I fell asleep quickly and had some of the best sleep I’ve had in years! Then, just as quickly, I woke up about 2 hours later. I guess I’d been in recovery for 20 minutes already. I felt very aware and could even remember the nurses names, so felt quite normal from a mental standpoint. They immediately asked about the pain which was only about a 7 and gave more medications which brought it down to a 3-4. Not bad at all, very similar to the pain I’d been having pre-op. All of the nerves seemed to be functioning well and my speech was pretty normal, at least intelligible. Dr. Samji told me the bone was removed in two portions and there is only about 1cm left. Woo hoo! I am happy with that. Nothing unusual was found and everything went very smoothly from his standpoint. I thanked him from the bottom of my heart and will follow-up on Friday for the post-op appointment.
I needed to move slowly due to some lightheadedness, but that is normal after the medicines. My throat, where the intubation tube was, was barely noticeable with regards to soreness (and my neck along the spine where I have degenerative disc disease was not sore in this area at all). I felt very sleepy on the drive ‘home’ so pretty much fell asleep with my ice pack right away. I’ve been icing most of the day and relaxing on the wedge pillow. I’m able to walk slowly and carefully around to get things etc. I have not noted any full body soreness yet. The diet for the first day is recommended to be crackers and clear fluids, so I’ve been sticking with that. The juice-based popsicles are nice - like icing from the inside. The pain medicine is to be taken with food every 4 hours as needed, so lots of cracker eating today I’ve set my alarm for tonight every four hours to stay on top of the pain, which so far is mild and tolerable. The nausea is probably more bothersome, but also mostly mild - the pill for this might also be helping.
If I can upload a picture of the bandaged area I’ll do that - it shows only mild to moderate swelling so far so good! I’m really feeling like I made the right choice – thank you to everyone for listening and thanks to Dr. Samji, Dr. Fung and all of the wonderful nurses too!! More to follow…
I’ve attempted a few pic uploads below… FYI
As for the medication cost info:
Prednisone 10mg taper $13.19
Ondansetron ODT 4mg $212.99
It was the anti-nausea pill that was so pricey. I still feel nauseated too, so it is not working perfectly but could be helping since I’ve had no vomiting. I’m cutting down on the Oxycodone/Acetaminophen due to a mild itchy rash that popped up last night. Now I am going 4 hours two extra strength tylenols then 4 hours Oxy/ace alternating. So far no pain with this program - just a swollen goose-egg type sensation in surgery area. This is now post op day 3.