Ralph’s Laparoscopic Surgery Experience

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Ralph was picked up by the hospital stretcher at around 6:00 A.M. The night before, he was inserted with an IV sugar solution or Dextrose. He was so nervous that he didn’t want anyone to mention the word surgery the entire night. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about the whole confinement experience was that I wasn’t allowed to sleep comfortably. There was a separate foam there that can be removed from the furniture. Rey was OK with sleeping with a foamless long chair anyway. But Ralph was acting like a baby and wanted me to sleep right next to him in his super small hospital bed where only one person would normally fit! And imagine how huge I am so you should at least figure it out.

When he was wheeled in on his way to the operating room, I can see how completely panicked he was. This is, by the way, his very first major surgery in the Philippines. The last surgery he had was when he was assaulted in New York in 2005 by two black guys that left him almost dead with broken jaw. The doctors had to piece his jaw back together by a titanium mesh. And now you know why he would rather stay here in the Philippines than go back to the US.

The operation

When the stretcher came to a halt, I realized that it was my stop. Ralph gave my hand a tight squeeze first before he was ushered past me and off to the surgery room. I was never really nervous right from the start when Dr. Comique, the doctor who read Ralph’s ultrasound, told him that he should have his gallstone removed. It was further explained by Dr. Jimenez, our physician, that Gallbladder removal isn’t really something to worry about. But I guess it’s different when you’re actually there right at the very moment that your other half is going to get operated on. I got the more anxious when Dr. Rafael Jocson, Ralph’s surgeon, came by to announce his presence. It was a confirmation that the operation was really happening and it was going to start very soon.

I had to pause from time to time to say my silent prayers. I was getting anxious minute by minute. I kept thinking What if something went wrong? What if there was a brownout in the middle of the operation? What if the anesthesia didn’t work on Ralph and he had to witness and feel the whole operation?

But the area where I was staying was soon flocked with nursing students of Collegio de San Agustin which I can see from their uniforms. I don’t know if they were there to witness the operation or they were there for something else. But seeing them around lowered my anxiety somehow. Minutes passed by, the area was becoming really full, and I didn’t think I should be there. Ralph will be unconscious after the operation anyway so there’s no way for him to see whether I’m there or not. And I know he will be sent to the recovery room also so I decided to leave and head straight to the Phil Health section of the hospital to clear something up just so everything is smooth at the time Ralph gets discharged.

After PhilHealth, I headed straight to our private room to rest. But the second I opened the door, the nurse in the station called me to inform that Dr. Jocson needed me back in the lobby of the operating room. I panicked right away. Why? Why does he need me there? Something must have gone wrong!!!

I found my hands trembling as I secured the lock on the door. I sent Rey off somewhere so no one was there to man our valuables. My mind was reeling with negative thoughts about the surgery. I quickened my steps but I know my whole body was so tensed that my vision was getting blurry.

The moment I reached the entrance to the operating room, I heard some of the uniformed nursing students called out “Doc, she’s here” which heightened my anxiety the more. I knew it! Something went terribly wrong! Are they going to make me sign a waiver now or something????

As soon as Dr. Jocson saw me, he ushered me in a small corner and showed me what looked like a frying pan where a sausage-like appearance was contained. I felt my stomach turned a bit. He said that the operation is finished and Ralph is still unconscious.  Those were the only lines I needed to hear to make my heart stop beating so fast. But why am I here?

As if he can hear my thoughts, he explained that the operation didn’t really happen smoothly. He did say a lot but I didn’t really get all of them to accurately quote him. Bottomline, what he was simply saying was he had quite a hard time with the operation but it’s all done. Then he showed me the bowl and I realized that I was looking at Ralph’s very own extracted gallbladder.

He told me that it was my husband’s extracted gallbladder with the stone still inside. Then he took a surgical scissor and cut the side of it revealing a green-colored liquid coming out of it followed by a stone-like substance. He asked me to prepare the camera before he opened it so I could capture everything.

 So there was the stone that is the root of all these! Hmmnn I was beginning to wonder how much this little slimy stone was going to cost us once we get discharged LOL.

As soon as he was done explaining, I went back to the room all relieved. So everything went fine, thank God! I really appreciated the fact that the surgeon had to make me witness all that. Was that part of their protocol though? To show the patient’s spouse their extracted gallbladder?  I guess just so we would have a better understanding as to how it all is.

However, I was, again, sent back to the operating room by the station nurse. I told her that I just got back and maybe they’re calling me for the same thing. She said that the nurse in the operating room needed me for something else. Geez, now what?  What process of Ralph’s operation did they need to show me this time?

When I saw the nurse in the operating room, she gave me the small container where they kept the gallstone. They wanted me to have it as a souvenir.

Say what?

Yes, a souvenir. A remembrance of this whole operation. I gladly took it. At least I have something to look at every time I binge on junk foods. She then asked me  if I wanted to have the gallstone analyzed. Analyze for what? If it’s cancerous? I spotted Dr. Jocson inside so I asked if the gallstone analysis was necessary. He said it wasn’t so I decided against it. When they said I can go, I had to ask if there was something else they need from me while I’m still there because it was the second time I got sent back to them. Good thing they assured me there was none anymore.

Normally, a Laparascopic surgery doesn’t confine the patient in the hospital for more than three days. The day of Ralph’s operation was just our full first day in the hospital and I didn’t really expect us to get discharged right away. We were informed though that we might get discharged the next day depending also on Ralph’s post operative status.

Post Operative Annoyances

When Ralph was in the recovery room, he looked so fragile. So lifeless actually. The only thing that assures me he was alive was that his eyes were open and they were looking at me as if saying “get me out of here already.”  Then the nurse in the recovery room informed me that I can’t stay there longer. I guess it’s her way of saying I should leave already. I told Ralph I couldn’t stay which made him frown a bit. I assured him I was just going to be up in the room watching TV and will be there to welcome him when they send him up.

Rey wasn’t around when I went up so I just laid on Ralph’s hospital bed and watched Footloose. It was a good movie! I kept glancing at the clock because I was told that Ralph was only gonna be in the recovery room for two to three hours. But I think it has gone past three hours and Ralph wasn’t back yet. I must have called the recovery room two or three times before Ralph was actually sent back up.

Came night time, I thought that because he just got operated, that he would like to be comfortable in his bed. Alone. But no, he still insisted that I sleep right beside him in that super small bed. Of course he can’t yet move around to the side all the time so that left me to do the turning from side to side just for a little bit of comfort. And I have to wake up each time a nurse has to come in to do something.

The next day, I started packing. Rey did the same too because we had so much stuff that we bought like junk foods and there were leftovers. Then the anesthesiologist, Dr. Guerrero, breezed in and checked on Ralph. He’s nice and friendly and somewhat a softie. He confirmed that we’re going to be discharged today. Then he dropped the bomb. He said that both Dr. Jocson’s and his fees would have to be handed over to them personally and not through billing. His fee was PHP25,000 while Dr. Jocson’s was PHP50,000 when I recalled correctly during the check-up that he was going to charge us only with PHP40,000. I had to ask him again to repeat it because I thought I heard him wrong. But he just said the same thing so yeah it was really what he said.

I was so dumbfounded not because of the money issue, but because the hand-me-over process was new to me. When my father was confined in Bacolod Sanitarium, we settled everything in the billing department and we put it all in credit card. This is the first time to be honest that I have to literally hand my payment to the doctor inside the hospital premises.

There was also the problem that I didn’t have the cash with me, of course, because I didn’t know of their hand-it-to-me process. And it was still so early I wasn’t even sure if BDO was open. But because Dr. Guerrero stayed, I guess that was my cue to go get the money and hand it over to him already. Both of their fees totaled to PHP75,000 and I know I can’t just withdraw that from the ATM machine. I would really have to go in and do the withdrawal from the teller.

I took Rey with me because I was a little apprehensive to carry that amount alone. BDO was still close when we got there. We still waited for fifteen minutes outside. Rey insisted that I texted Dr. Jocson to clarify why Dr. Guerrero said he was charging us PHP50,000 now when he informed us that it was just going to be PHP40,000. At first I was embarrass to do it but I did it anyway, I mean PHp10,000 is already big for me so if it was just a simple case of a mistake, then I will have saved PHp10,000 in our savings!

When the bank guards finally let us in and I gave the teller the withdrawal slip, she still made me wait because she said they still don’t have the money yet. Because of that, I told Rey to go back because I didn’t want Ralph to be alone in the room. He may need something and no one was there to assist him. When Rey was gone, I got the reply from Dr. Jocson who was explaining that the reason he increased his rate was because he had a hard time with the operation and wanted to explain it to me in person. I just texted him that it’s ok and that he didn’t have to see me just to explain it. I was simply clarifying so I didn’t have to withdraw the PHp10,000 when it was purely a misunderstanding.

When I got back to the hospital, Rey said that the anesthesiologist kept coming back for the payment because he had to go to a meeting. So I had Rey call him to inform that I’m back and that his money is waiting for him. When he was there, I handed both of his and Dr. Jocson’s professional fees and thanked him for saving my husband’s life. I was sincere in doing that. If there was a part of me that wasn’t happy then, it was the remaining balance left in our bank account LOL. I didn’t have any regrets because we had the best Laparoscopic surgeon to operate on my husband. It’s all worth it.

After giving away PHp75,000, I then headed straight to the billing department to settle the hospital bills. Thank God it wasn’t that big. Excluding my surgeon’s and anesthesiologist’s fees, I only had to pay PHP44,000 for Ralph’s hospital bills (PhilHealth deducted of course). So for those who are planning to have this kind of operation, the Laparoscopic surgery, you have to make sure that your PhilHealth will be able to cover your expenses because trust me, it really helps. If there was no Philhealth, I would have paid PHP74,000 just for the hospital bills. So imagine the huge difference there. Another most important thing to do is to clarify everything right from the check-up with your doctor. That was the part we missed. When he mentioned PHP40,000 for his rate, he forgot to include that if he encounters any difficulties, he would be increasing the rate. So make sure you ask that too so you won’t get blindsided like me.

We left the hospital around Eleven in the morning and got home by Twelve-thirty. I hired a cab to drive us from Bacolod to Hinigaran and make sure he drives particularly slow.

Ralph is OK now after that operation. He has a minor ear infection though which I’m sure had nothing to do with the surgery.

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