Initial Surgery


I had my surgery yesterday in which the surgeons at Kaiser removed some of my earlobe (in order to remove any additional melanoma) and 4 lymph nodes (in order to biopsy to understand if the melanoma spread). The surgery went well and I feel fine. I'm not going to post any photos for the time being, I'll wait on that until I look a bit more presentable.

Before Surgery

I went to Kaiser at 11am. There was a bit of a mixup, I was supposed to get nuclear medicine imaging done first before surgery so everything ended up being delayed by about an hour.

I went to nuclear medicine and they injected my earlobe with some radioactive liquid, a radiotracer. That tracer then percolated from my earlobe into my local lymph system. I then had nuclear medicine imaging where a machine scans you for the gamma radiation coming from those radiotracers. An interesting thing about this is that the process takes a long time. 15 minutes in my case, a giant device slowly moved around my head scanning/detecting.

I then went back to pre-op surgery, got rid of my clothes and got into a gown, got an IV line put in, some leg massage cuffs (prevent blood clots), blood pressure cuff, oxygen level finger light scanner, had a brief chat with the anesthesiologist, my surgeon, facial reconstruction surgeon and one of the operating room physicians (I think) and got wheeled into the operating room.


The operating room had a counter with computers, a big display, and the other stuff you'd expect (lights, operating table, etc) as well as Rock With You playing on the radio. The surgeon and his assistant were looking over the nuclear medicine imagery of me on their computers. I got moved onto the operating table. Everyone gathered around me for the "time out" where everyone goes around and says to each other what they're going to be doing. The anesthesiologist had me breathe in some big oxygen breaths in a mask (I imagine to bridge the time between when the general anesthesia hits via IV and when they intubate me).

I was pretty calm, elevated heart rate I imagine but generally fine, not much anxiety.

The whole thing from being wheeled into the operating room and the general anesthesia taking hold must have been a couple minutes, a short time.

I remember having a short dream about some medical procedure (not this surgery, something else) and feeling happy about how well it was going.


I woke up in surgery recovery a moment later. Hours had passed (The surgery was planned for 160 minutes) in surgery and I'd apparently been asleep in recovery for 40 minutes.

My memory of the subsequent 20ish minutes finishing up in recovery is pretty good but a bit hazy.

Likely due to a combination of the delay with the nuclear medicine mixup, me being asleep in recovery for 40 minutes and it being 5pm on a Friday, all the doctors had left. Thankfully my surgeon had earlier called Kris and shared some info with her on how everything went.

I got a little urine bottle to pee into (didn't feel up to stumbling to the bathroom). Nurse helped me get unplugged and undone from everything. I got my clothes on somehow, I think I put them on, just slowly. Got out of the bed and into a wheelchair and got rolled out to the curb to meet Kris.

In that I'd been getting IV fluid for hours, I got to the car and then told Kris she'd need to help me walk back in so I pee again. We went back in and I relieved myself. Went back to the car and drove home.

No nausea (sometimes a side effect of general anesthesia) minimal pain (maybe 2 out of 10).

So What Did They Do?

Here's what I've pieced together (because I wasn't conscious during surgery) from what my surgeon told Kris and from looking at myself in the mirror after.

For some reason my surgeon didn't end up taking as much of my ear as he'd planned. The plan was for 1cm around the site but he decided to take less. So all I'm missing at the moment is the lobe and a section distal from the lobe (seemingly all cartilage is still there and intact). The biopsy of what they took will show the margins of the melanoma and either confirm they got it all or that they didn't and will need to take more.

They took 4 lymph nodes out and my surgeon said they looked fine to the naked eye, but we'll only really know what's up after the study is done. Prior to surgery he said it typically takes 7-10 days to get results back.

It appears as if they made a single 4 inch wide horizontal incision in my lower neck to go for the lymph nodes (and a few small ones right up and around the ear). I'm guessing though since I don't know exactly what they did.

It looks like they'd prepped my right ear (the good one) to take a piece of cartilage in order to "bank" it near my left ear for the purpose of later reconstruction, but they didn't end up doing that. I don't know if this was driven by the fact that they ended up taking less of the left ear than planned or if it'll happen at another time.

Some nerves to the skin around my neck were affected as there are sections that are now numb. The same thing has happened to me in the past from motorcycle accidents. In those cases I got feeling back after a few years to the section of skin that I'd lost feeling for.

So I have stiches on and around my ear and along that neck incision.

Back At Home

I got back last evening after Velle was asleep (Kris's mom was kind enough to cover for us), had some food, hung out with Kris for a bit and then tried to go to sleep. Turns out sleeping under general anesthesia counts just like normal sleeping so it was as if I'd had a 4 hour nap during the day (I didn't get to sleep until midnight).

Pain has remained 1 or 2 out of 10. I don't get to shower until Sunday night/Monday morning but I'll live. Throat is almost entirely recovered from intubation yesterday (some roughness, coughing a bit, nothing big).

Got the adhesive off of one of my eyelids (they tape your eyes shut). Still have some of the gunk they put in your eyes to protect them left over in my left eye. I'll have to see if I can think of how to flush that without a shower.

So now I'll hang out and heal up and wait to hear back about results.

1 Comment

  • Morgan Griffin says:

    Sounds like the surgery went as well as possible. Tough to wait a week or more for the biopsy results, but stay positive!

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