A little more than 11 months ago I became very ill.
And honestly, it was my own stupid fault.
Remember I had that ankle reconstruction surgery last March? Well, about six weeks after that surgery – when I was given the go ahead – I began using ibuprofen for pain control. Lots of ibuprofen. Way too much ibuprofen. And long horrible story short – I burned holes in my stomach.
I was in the hospital in May, July, August, September, and then over the New Year’s holiday weekend (yes, even spending my 46th birthday in the hospital – ugh!). I underwent so many procedures I’ve actually lost count. I had a pretty significant upper left quadrant abscess and kept me at a low level sepsis for months on end. I had home IV therapy – antibiotics for more than 4 months, and IV nutrition several times – 9 weeks the first time NPO (nothing by mouth) and 5 weeks the second time.
You may recall that John and I travelled to New York City at the end of January. It was a very quick trip – just about 24 hours – for an interview that I was asked to do. (More on this later – it will air in April some time.) It was during that trip that my health took a bit of a nosedive, and on my return I placed a call to my surgeon, the fabulous Dr. Zelko.
(Jake on the prowl – loving the sunshine!)
As it turned out, Dr. Zelko was literally stepping out the door to head to the airport to catch a plane out of town – he wouldn’t be back for 10 days!! EGAD! He immediately turned my care over to a surgeon who had been following along for several months – and was prepared to step up to bat if anything should become emergent.
Well – things did become emergent, and on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 right around noon I headed into what would be an 8 hour surgery. A surgery that would require the removal of my stomach, my spleen, part of my pancreas, a portion of my diaphragm, a large area of nearly petrified-wood-type consistency abscess, the removal of many, many, many fibrous adhesions so that my intestines could be configured in such a way to help prevent malnutrition in my future life without a stomach.
I don’t have a lot of memories of that first night after surgery… There were brief hazy impressions of nurses telling me to remember to breathe deeply, being checked frequently – my vital signs were not good – I’d lost a lot of blood during surgery, requiring two units of blood to be transfused, and administration of pain medication – there was a lot of pain.
I normally bounce back after surgery pretty well – I’ve had a lot of surgery in my lifetime – unfortunately! I know the tricks of the trade – you gotta get up and walk – the more you move, the less you’ll hurt! You gotta get lots of deep breathing in – nobody wants pneumonia after major abdominal surgery!
But this time I didn’t bounce back so great… I was running a fever, my blood sugars were really high (not normal for me!), my pulse was in the 130 to 140 range, my labs were horrible, and I required three more units of blood to be transfused.
By Friday morning, the 5th of February it was decided that I needed to be taken back into surgery and opened up again to make sure that I didn’t have a bleed or hematoma that needed attention. So back I went.
(The pear trees are in bloom!)
I remember distinctly coming out of surgery and overhearing that they hadn’t found anything during the 2nd surgery. They did take a chest x-ray shortly before I left recovery – just in case.
I pushed myself to get out of bed and walk once an hour that night. My temperature kept going up – and I felt HORRIBLE – not just post-surgical horrible – but truly wickedly not okay.
The nurses and I realized some time around the wee hours of the morning during one of my hourly walks that the problem was my lungs! So – when the surgeon did her rounds early the next morning, with chest x-ray results to confirm – there was agreement all around that I had a very substantial pleural effusion. This would require the placement of a chest tube – to drain the fluid that had built up in my chest cavity. I could go into the gory details – but I’ll spare you – let me just say – don’t ever get a chest tube unless you absolutely positively gotta get one – and then – only if they’re willing to take you to interventional radiology so that you’re not scarred for life by the pain you have to go through if they place it in your bed – in your room – like they did for me.
Suffice it to say that over the course of the next couple of days they pulled 700 cc’s of goo out of my chest cavity – and lo and behold – I started to improve.
(We started planting the garden today! My green onions are planted – woo hoo!)
Unfortunately, just 24 hours after the chest tube was removed, it was discovered that my surgical incision was infected – and when Dr. Zelko was at my bedside early the morning of his return – he was not pleased to find it so. After 24 hours of careful monitoring, it was determined that my incision would have to be opened up, cultured, cleaned out, packed, and allowed to heal the slow fairly horrible way.
The good news was that I got to go home on Friday, the 12th of February – the hospital is no place for someone with an open incision to be! – and so I was discharged to the care of home health wound care nurses and my amazing, fabulous, brave, wonderful, fabulous, marvelous, wonderful husband – as my wound had to be packed and bandaged twice daily. (The nurses can only come out to your house once a day – so you gotta find someone brave enough to deal with your big huge ugly open wound for weeks on end!)
Something that I’d figured out fairly early on after the incision was opened up was that sitting up was pretty much a no-go. It was incredibly painful – so it was either standing (which was hard because I was so incredibly weak), reclining, or laying down.
Essentially, I was a bump on a log!
(There’s spinach in the ground, too! Hooray! My feet look huge in this picture!)
My ability to do much of anything was pretty much nonexistent. Couldn’t prepare my own meals. Couldn’t bathe by myself. Couldn’t carry much more than about a pound’s worth of weight. Couldn’t even prepare my tube feeding formula – John had to do that, too. (I was on 24/7 tube feedings for the first 4 weeks home.) I was pretty pitiful.
Then, about two weeks ago something fairly remarkable started to happen.
I started to feel better.
Like a LOT better.
Like – I can do laundry and dishes better.
Like – I can walk the length of the driveway enough to chalk up 3/4ths of a mile a day better.
Like – I can sit up without wanting to cry better.
Over the course of that next week great things began to happen!
And I stepped down nearly all of the way off of the pain medication.
And the doctor discontinued my tube feedings because my nutritional status was SO MUCH better.
And my feeding tube got pulled – hooray!
And I got dressed for the first time.
And I went to the grocery store for the first time.
And I helped make dinner.
And I sat at the dinner table with the family for the first time in ages and ages.
(Broccoli starts in the ground! Woo Hoo!)
I like better.
Today was a pretty cool day.
I wore jeans for the first time since 2/2/2010. The bottom part of my incision is healed up enough that I can wear something other than pajamas or sweats with the waistband rolled down.
I went to Coastal with John – and I admit it – I bought 10 more chicks (White Leghorns).
(Peas are planted!)
When we got home I helped to set up the broody mama portion of the coop and get it ready for the new chicks to move in.
And I planted my green onion seeds.
And I helped replant some of the lovely plants I was given while I was in the hospital.
(Aren’t my hospital plants lovely in that planter by the front door?)
And I helped make dinner.
And I got out in the yard and enjoyed the sunshine.
And I watched the chickens and laughed.
(Do you see that? That’s a rosebud!)
Tonight, after I did the dinner dishes John came and said, “Quick – you have to see Jezebel and the chicks!” (She’s been a little out of sorts all day long – she has kind of wanted to mother the new chicks. I actually let her in with them for a little supervised interaction. She was hilarious – she showed them where the food was – clucking her motherly clucks all the way – and then herded them over to the water and showed them how to drink – and then she heard her babies cheeping and took off!)
And this is what we found…
That’s Jezebel – with one baby under one wing, and one baby on her back – on one of the roosting ladders! LOL! Tonight is her first night without access to the broody mama portion of the coop – since that’s where the new chicks are – sound asleep, I might add…
By the time everyone was settled down for the night – the feeling all around was that all was well – and things are going to be just fine.
God is so good to me!
“My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises!” Psalm 57:7