Wednesday, June 12, 2024

If it ain't one thing, it's another!


Trying to smile through the pain

I've been AWOL for a while now, so this post will more than likely be longer than most. I don't even know where to begin so I guess I'll just start and possibly backtrack at some point. 

On May 6th, I was scheduled for a hiatal hernia repair surgery. I went in for surgery, stayed one night and thought all was well when they sent me home. I had 8 laparoscopic incisions and was definitely sore, but figured that was par for the course. 

I was sent home with detailed instructions on diet - 2 days of completely clear liquids, 2 weeks of soft liquids (think protein shakes, yogurt and non chunky soups) and then a full liquid diet for a month before progressing to normal food 2 months later. Long story short, that never happened. 

On Friday of the same week, something weird started happening. My belly swelled up like I was carrying triplets and it really hurt. I knew something was definitely wrong and told hubby I'd better go to the emergency room.
Quickly, he shuttled me there and I didn't have to wait long to get put into a room. After many tests, they determined I'd developed an Ileus, a complication from abdominal surgery. Without going into tons of detail, it basically means your belly is full of gas and your bowels aren't working. It's an emergency situation so I'm glad I went to the ER!

They immediately inserted a nasogastric tube, which is extremely painful! I've only had it done once before and that was way back in 1971 when I had emergency gall bladder surgery. I'd forgotten how painful the procedure was.  The nurses were kind and kept saying they were sorry as they shoved the hard tubing into my nose and down my esophagus into my stomach. I cried the entire time and that's saying a lot for me. I have a pretty high pain tolerance but this thing, I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. 

I stayed in the emergency room overnight as they tried to decide what to do with me. Finally it was determined I'd be transported to Piedmont Atlanta, the hospital my surgeon was based out of. They felt like he needed to follow up since he was the one who did the original procedure and to quote one of the nurses, when I asked why they weren't keeping me at Piedmont Newnan, "We don't like to clean up other folks messes." That didn't make me feel good...

About 7:30 AM I was put into a specialized ambulance with the capability for suctioning and draining the nasogastric tube. (I'd been told 3 times prior different times I'd be moved but those ambulances weren't equipped with the suctioning machinery, so I had to wait.)

When I arrived at Piedmont Atlanta, I was put on the cardio thoracic floor. Since I also have blood pressure issues, I guess they wanted to monitor everything all at once. The nurses were attentive and I was thankful Phil was about to stay with me. At that time, I had no idea I'd be kept there an entire week. 

When he found out I was being transferred from one hospital to another, I told him to go home and get some sleep. He'd been with me and hadn't gotten a wink of sleep in about 14 hours. I asked him to pack a bag for each of us with clothing and necessities and he assured me he would. Well, guys don't pack like we do. 

When he got back to the hospital the morning they were moving me, I asked if he'd packed several different things. He said he'd forgotten because he was so tired. I didn't know what we'd do, since the ambulance was arriving and we had to leave. 

He followed me to the hospital and when we were assigned a room, he brought our things in from the car. We had no idea what was going to happen until later that afternoon when one of my docs partners stopped by to explain things to us. 

They would keep me hooked up to a suctioning machine that would remove all of my stomach contents and help ease the swelling. I wouldn't be allowed to have anything to eat other than ice chips for 2 days then they'd reassess. In the meantime, they ran all sorts of bloodwork and monitored me every hour or two with blood pressure checks and recording vitals. 

Since I had the nasogastric tube in, I didn't get much sleep. I normally sleep on my side but had to sleep on my back. Also, I couldn't have my cpap on so they had to hook me up to oxygen at night. 

Every day, one or more of my IVs would blow and they'd have to find another place to insert one. With Lymphedema (a complication of breast cancer surgery) they could only use my left arm below the elbow. That meant every IV had to be done in the tiny veins of my hand or in one of the ones below my elbow joint. There weren't a lot of options! Most of the IV team had to use an infrared scanner to even find a vein. 

Every day I was also give Heparin shots to prevent blood clots. Those suckers hurt like a really bad bee sting! They gave them either in my stomach or in the back of my arm. (When I went home, I looked like I'd been in a bad fight with all the bruising!)

At the end of the week, after trying to give me TPN through an IV and having it infiltrate into my shoulder muscle, the doc said they'd remove the nasogastric tube and let me try liquids again. I was so happy! 

A team of 4 nurses came in to remove the tubing. At the time, I didn't realize there were so many of them because only one had ever seen one inserted or knew how to remove it and she wanted to teach the others. 

When they began to pull the tubing out of my nose, I said, "Once you start pulling, you'd better do it quick and not stop or I might scream!" So they did. 

That afternoon, they brought me a small container of apple juice, some crushed ice and some chicken broth. That stuff never tasted so good!

Fast forward 37 days. I'm still on soft liquids. When I tried to progress through original diet plan they gave me, I had trouble with food getting stuck in my esophagus. Immediately I contacted the doctor and she said I'd probably have to have my esophagus stretched again. (This will make the 3rd or 4th time now!) I can't get in to see her until June 21 so I imagine I'll have lost even more weight by then. I've already lost about 15 pounds since all this junk started. 

I'm so thankful Phil has been so encouraging and supportive throughout the entire process. Without him by my side, I don't think I would have made it. 

I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to my middle daughter, Laura, who went shopping for me. She picked up most of the items Phil forgot when he was packing. 

My youngest daughter, Jamie and her husband, Thomas, came to visit as well as my son, Dave, and my sister, Valerie. I really needed those visits more than they knew. I had become quite depressed at all that was happening to me medically. 

It's hard when you can't control anything about your body. I still don't know exactly why my insides decided to shut down other than things I heard medical staff say. They told me when you have abdominal surgery, docs fill your belly with CO2 to inflate you enough to clearly see and work on your organs. Most times, your body expels that gas but sometimes, when they're in there jiggling stuff around, it can cause your intestines to stop functioning and that leads to big problems. 

I guess, when I see the doc at my upcoming appointment, she's going to recommend I have my esophagus stretched again. That means being put to sleep and having an outpatient procedure. 

I was supposed to have a knee replacement earlier this year but have been trying my best to put it off as long as possible. I've already had 2 surgeries on that knee but the doc said at my last appointment it's now bone on bone and my last option is replacement. 

I told Phil I think my body is just falling apart. As we get older, things just start to wear out. It's so hard because there are so many things I still want to be able to do and I really need to be able to walk without pain. (I've been wearing a knee brace for the past 3 years - since my lateral meniscectomy and my chondroplasty.) I definitely don't want a knee replacement and don't look forward to rehab after but I guess I don't have much choice. 

First of all, I have to get this belly junk resolved and then we'll think about the knee. 

I have an upcoming vacation I want to enjoy and early next year, I have another cruise to go on. I'm praying, by then, I'll be healed up and feeling normal again (whatever that feels like! It's been a very long time since I've felt normal...)

Please keep me in your prayers and if you feel like it, leave a comment (please be nice!) Thanks for reading and hopefully, I won't be lax in posting again. Hopefully, you can understand why there's been such a gap after reading this post.

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