Surgery without friends
November 4, 2010 12:38 PM   Subscribe

How can I have surgery without someone to accompany me?

I have an outpatient surgery scheduled but have been told that the hospital won't admit me unless there is someone accompanying me who can take me home, because the surgery will be performed under general anesthesia. I don't have anyone who can do that. Do I have any alternative or do I have to cancel?

I am in the US.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Other people will chime in, but you really do not want to do that. Previously.

I had two outpatient surgeries this year. After the first one, I don't recall going home at all. In fact, it was a good 12-16 hours before I had any decent short term memory. This lead to me annoying the hell out of my wife by asking questions she had answered 10-15 minutes before. We laugh now, but you can imagine the hilarity that not knowing you had taken your pain meds can lead to.

After the second, the amnesia wasn't so bad, but I had so much pain that even if I could call for a better painkiller there was no way at all to go get it. Without my wife to do that, it would have been a spectacularly miserable recovery.

In both cases, I would have survived doing it on my own (probably, maybe), the outcomes were substantially improved by having someone look after me.

Contact social services at the hospital, or offer a coworker or neighbor some cash to look after you. Trust me, it will make the whole affair go much more smoothly.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:51 PM on November 4, 2010

Perhaps you will not be... but many people, myself included, are VERY fucked-up and disoriented and nauseated for HOURS after coming out of general anesthesia (I've heard propofol is better than old-skool anesthetics, but it ain't like you can request your desired knockout medicine).

Perhaps place an ad on Craigslist? Perhaps contact a home nursing agency and see about retaining someone's services for a single day?
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:02 PM on November 4, 2010

Not having someone who will do it for free just means that you will have to pay someone to do it. A friend or neighbor is an option, but I'd consider calling the hospital and seeing if there are any agencies that provide this sort of service. Home nursing is a real thing.
posted by valkyryn at 1:08 PM on November 4, 2010

I'm pretty sure you can hire a nurse to do this. I've been fortunate enough to have a parent (or two) able to take care of me after all my surgeries, but as I recall from the pre-op forms I've been given by surgeons' offices, a privately hired nurse is not unusual. I have no idea how much it costs, though.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:10 PM on November 4, 2010

The hospital just wants to make sure you get home ok. I guess everyone's experience is different. I had oral surgery under IV sedation about a year ago, and was fine, very clear headed after. I felt bad for having a friend sit there waiting for several hours, and though we took a cab home, I felt like I could have even easily made it home on the subway. I definitely remember the cab ride home though - he was kind of being a jerk and taking a way longer route. However, having my friend there was helpful in giving the cab driver my address/directions since I couldn't really do that easily with my gauze-filled mouth.

Can you look into finding a cab or driver, that you can arrange ahead of time to make sure you get from point A to point B? On preview, a short term nurse also sounds like a great idea.
posted by raztaj at 1:14 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

The two issues you face are the ride home and the possibility of care needed after you get home. The ride home is fairly easy, in that you can probably arrange to hire anybody who is recommended by any friend to accompany you to the surgery, wait for you and take you home. This can be a neighbor, friend or a friend-of-a-friend.

The second problem is the after-care. You are best advised to have someone stay with you until you are lucid and are fully able to look after yourself. I just took my wife for cataract surgery which had her sedated for all of ten minutes. She was not lucid and able to care for herself for another eight hours. You need someone you can trust to stay with you, look in on you as you sleep, recognize if you are in distress, know what to do if you are, and not rummage through your desk drawers while you are coming back to reality.

If you cannot arrange these things, discuss alternative care such as staying at the surgical center until you are able to go home by cab ride. Driving the first day after surgery with any kind of anesthetic is not going to be an option.
posted by Old Geezer at 1:21 PM on November 4, 2010

Dear OP: if you were in my area, I'd do it. Or I'd find another friend to do it who lives closer to you. MeMail me if you'd like my help :)
posted by Madamina at 1:38 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you absolutely can't find anyone to accompany you, can you just be admitted to the hospital until you're safe to take yourself home?
posted by galadriel at 1:40 PM on November 4, 2010

I am in northern California - if you're within a 30 minute drive I'll be happy to do this for you if I don't have to take too much time off work.
posted by luriete at 1:51 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm in nursing school and we get e-mails about doing nursing home care of various levels (including things like this that don't need certification) all the time. If you have any local university contacts, see if they can get you in touch with that department.
posted by cobaltnine at 1:58 PM on November 4, 2010

I'm in the UK, but they do a similar thing here and it's always a problem for me as I live alone and have very few friends - and only one who lives anywhere near me. I have always managed to persuade the hospital to let me book a cab ahead of the procedure and simply go home that way. Not sure if that would fly in the US but it might be worth a shot.
posted by Decani at 1:59 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're in Houston Texas my husband or I will help you.
posted by dog food sugar at 3:20 PM on November 4, 2010

I'm in NYC and would totally be willing to help you. On the opposite coast, my best friend is in Portland, OR. Memail if you're in either city.
posted by Siena at 3:40 PM on November 4, 2010

Same goes for Boston. Got no car, but happy to accompany if needed via cab, T, or otherwise. Very nice idea, Madamina!
posted by raztaj at 3:47 PM on November 4, 2010

I'm near Philly and could borrow a car to help anywhere in the eastern part of the state or southern NJ.
posted by skyl1n3 at 3:55 PM on November 4, 2010

I'm in the SF Bay area and can add myself to the list of possible drivers if you are in the SF/Daily City/Oakland area.
posted by aspo at 4:08 PM on November 4, 2010

I'm near Philly, have a car, and - depending on the exact times - could definitely be cajoled into a transportation mitzvah.
posted by julthumbscrew at 4:51 PM on November 4, 2010

I'm in Los Angeles and have nothing but spare time. I'd be more than happy to help.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 5:03 PM on November 4, 2010

I'm in NYC -- name the day, no worries.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:29 PM on November 4, 2010

Ya, seconding the getting a room idea. Not all hospitals will accommodate you, and you would certainly have to pay out-of-pocket, but it may be your best bet.
posted by rosswald at 6:03 PM on November 4, 2010

Can't add much, but did want to address something that was mentioned above:

it ain't like you can request your desired knockout medicine

While this is technically true, you CAN and should talk to your anaesthesiologist about your situation. Assuming you (hopefully) get an understanding doctor, he/she can choose a drug that might best help you postoperatively. They have lots of drugs to choose from, and do choose different ones for different reasons.
posted by yawper at 6:49 PM on November 4, 2010

Find out what resources the hospital can offer to people who don't have someone to take them home. You're certainly not the first person in this situation.

Words to use to get to the right department (frequently nursing) to connect you with staff or volunteers: patient advocate, patient services, patient support.
posted by desuetude at 7:05 PM on November 4, 2010

I had two day surgeries while living alone in NYC, with similar requirements to what the hospital is telling you. even more silly, i lived literally across the street from the hospital and it was hand surgery. doesn't matter, still have to take a cab home. I didn't have any close friends nearby that I felt comfortable enough to have hold my hand and wait for me in the waiting room all day, but I did have some acquaintances who were only too happy to walk me in (to show the hospital they existed) and come abck after the surgery to pick me up (the hospital just called their cell) and grab my pain medicine at thepharmacy for me. If I had needed a further prescription, further assistance, whatever, I felt that my acquaintance would have been happy to do this for me. My point is, you don't need to someone to sit there all day; just for the beginning and end parts of the surgery, and to make sure you're ok after. even now, when my husband has taken me for a day surgery, he always wanders off to do errands and doesn't need to sit in the waiting room all day.

If you're at all nervous about the side effects of anesthesia, though, I would look into the nursing services others have suggested.

And one last thing about the general anesthesia, seconding yawper in that you should stress that you really don't want to be nauseous after -- my nurse in the last surgery told me that she's observed overtime that patients who are insistent on this point actually end up less likely to be nauseous. I did, and for the first time, woke up with a dramamine patch behind my ear. magic. instead of general anesthesia, i've also had nerve blocks and something to make me sleep/forget -- much less of a hangover after that. so yes, definitely talk to the anesthesiologist!!!
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:34 PM on November 4, 2010

if you are in Vancouver BC I could help you. Memail me with details and let's see if this can be worked out.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:48 PM on November 4, 2010

Portland OR here, and happy to help.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:59 PM on November 4, 2010

Seattle area here, memail for company.
posted by librarina at 10:17 PM on November 4, 2010

Ironic, in that I just today had out-patient surgery in San Francisco.

I was allowed to check-in by myself, but would they would not release me without a verified person to pick me up (I believe they would have admitted me for the night had my GF not shown up or turned out to be a figment of my imagination). They also didn't seem to care WHO it was that picked me up, so long as I wasn't driving myself.

That being said, on the drive home, I was zoning out multiple times per minute.. I shudder to think what it would have been if I were driving myself. It was probably worse than driving drunk.

I dont know if I would go for a cab, but a limo company might do. Even better - an independent limo owner. Oftentimes, they are idle during the day. He could drive you in, be there for check-in, and be available when the nurses call to say it is time to leave.

If this doesn't work, I would suggest finding another surgeon/hospital - one that lets you check-in alone, and simply have the nurses call a cabbie (pre-arrenged, you have his direct mobile line) and pose as your afternoon ride home and care-giver.

One more thing - If you do manage to pull this off without having someone to spend the afternoon & evening with you, then I highly suggest you take the pain killer pills (which you will be prescribed) and do nothing but SLEEP until morning. You don't want to pass out in the bathroom and whack your noggin on the bathtub or sink on the way down.

As I'm working from home for the next 2+ weeks, I am (obviously) in the SFBay area, down near San Jose. If you are local, drop my a PM. We might be able to work things out, if none if none of the other SF folks can make do.

Best of luck!
posted by aarin at 10:21 PM on November 4, 2010

Before he refused to operate he and the staff were conferring outside and I could overhear them wondering what was wrong with me that I was [age removed for anonymity] and didn't have any friends.

Just as a word of support, these doctors are jackasses and you don't need to feel bad that you don't have anyone to do this for you. I feel that it would be very difficult for any person who lives alone and not near family to have 48 hour around the clock support. I mean for me personally, my friends work long hours, don't have much vacation time, and don't generally have the ability to take it anyway. I was trying to think what I would do if I needed a similar surgery and I think I would have to beg one of my two retired, able bodied relatives to drive several hours to help me out and if I didn't live where I live, I couldn't even do that. I guess I'd have to beg my father to take vacation time and fly across the country. Which in reality means I would just look into hiring a home health aide rather than make him do that. I mean seriously even for married people, a lot of people can't get two days off or can't afford to take two days off. Really anyone other than people with a stay at home spouse would find this situation a logistical nightmare and I'm really surprised that your doctor's couldn't refer you to a home nursing service.

I want to say just get someone off craigslist, but I have huge reservations about hiring someone in that context who is going to be in your home when you are in a compromised state. I would start researching home health aide agencies in your area. If you live in a really small rural town that doesn't have one nearby, I would call up the nearest nursing home and ask them if they can recommend anyone. People constantly need to find home health aides for the aging relatives, no matter where they live, I guarantee that someone in your town is a nurse or home health aide that would be interested in making a little extra money to sit on your couch for 2 days, watch tv, and checking on you regularly to make sure you're doing ok.
posted by whoaali at 2:54 PM on November 17, 2010

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