Sunday, October 2, 2011

~Post Surgery~

They say it takes a horrific happening to open our eyes to the beauty of life. Many horrific things have happened to people in my life, and I have learned many lessons along the way. I learned as a teen not to drink and drive when Kat died in a car accident after her driving date had been drinking. I learned again as a teen to just say no when I came home from work to hear my father say, “He didn’t make it,” and my uncle say to me, “Ain’t that some shit, Ricky’s dead.” Evidently the powers that be thought maybe I hadn’t learned everything I needed to learn, so Kris was taken from me in a sleeping at the wheel while intoxicated car accident and then Brian was taken from me in his car as well. So now, I hardly drink at all. Sure, I joke about margaritas and beer and we are building a bar large enough for the whole county to belly up each Saturday night, but I really rarely drink. There are other lessons in life though. When I met my husband I was in my mid-twenties and living on caffeine and chocolate; weighing ninety-nine pounds wet as our co-workers used to say. A few years after we met, we got married and had our first baby; he lost his father to ‘complications from diabetes.’ I could go far into those complications, but it would be too depressing and really, the lesson I learned is that I could care better for myself and my new family. Diabetes wasn’t something that ran in my family, so I was na├»ve to all the things it can do to one’s body and how preventable it is. I hope I’ve learned this lesson soon enough to teach my children since it now runs in their family. But speaking of depressing, another lesson I learned recently is to never take a moment for granted. Life is short. But it is what you make it. Chris chose not to make it anymore, leaving behind many people that loved him questioning why he didn’t love us enough to hold on tight and not let go.

A week ago, I was preparing myself for three busy and possibly at times, difficult weeks ahead. Jeff was getting on a plane headed to Chicago, the girls were gearing up for another week at school and we were about to adjust to ‘back to life’ as we call it here, when Jeff is on the road all week. Sunday night I put the kids to bed and started to feel this horrible pain in my upper abdomen. I took a bath, took some melatonin and tried to sleep. A little after 11pm, it woke me; this horrific pain. I tried several things thinking it was heart burn or just tummy issues, but nothing worked. At 2:30am, I called my mother who came to my house and said I needed to go to the ER. Of course my three sleeping children couldn’t go to the ER with me, but I knew I had already woken someone up at 2:30am, I didn’t need to wake more people, did I? My mom got my cell phone and started calling friends. By the time Laura got to my house I couldn’t stand the pain anymore and was almost in hysterics. My girls woke worried about the noises Mommy was making in agony. It took us almost thirty minutes to get to the ER.

When I got there, the ER doctor told me all the tests they were going to run and if they didn’t find anything they would run more until they found it. I’m a healthy 38 year old woman; it can’t be all that serious, right? The EKG was fine; the blood work was fine except my white count was high showing my body was fighting something. The urine test came back fine with no problems. The ultrasounds finally showed some gallstones, but they were way inside my gall bladder where they should be and maybe one day I might have to consider having it removed, but no big deal. So what now? The pain meds started wearing off and I was in pain again. More pain meds, more anti-nausea meds, and more tests. The radiologist comes on shift and sees a large, 2cm, gall stone stuck in the neck on my gall bladder on my ultrasound. The on call radiologist missed it. My ER doc comes in again and says, change of plans, he’s waiting for the surgeon to call back and we need to head to surgery. He did tell me I could probably wait a day or two if I needed my husband, who was in Chicago, to get home, but the pain won’t be going away and it needed to come out. By 1pm, I am headed to surgery. Around noon a narcotics induced migraine hit and the ride in the wheel chair around corners and up elevators was worse that a carnival ride after a twelve pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Finally, I started throwing up bile. Sweet, I know. The shot of Imitrex hadn’t worked after 12 minutes, so they gave me something else and off I went. I don’t know where I was or how long I was there, but I don’t remember leaving the room where I had been throwing up to go to the OR, I don’t really remember much about recovery except hearing nurses say things like, ‘she’s having a hard time waking up.’ The only thing I remember about getting to my room was when the gurney was at the doorway and they asked me to get up and walk. I almost fell down. They helped me into bed, made me suck air from a tube and put an icepack on my stomach. I remember vaguely my mother coming in and telling me she was going to feed her dogs and my dog; none had eaten since dinner the previous day and it was now almost 5pm on Monday evening. I slept. At one point I woke and my husband was standing at my bedside. He’s supposed to be in Chicago and yet he’s here at my bedside. He told me something about the kids and my mom and then I slept. The night is a blur. I remember a nurse coming in around midnight telling me she had been on duty and checking on me for hours but I had been sleeping. I slept. And then I slept more and again and even more. The Tuesday morning nurse brought me coffee because she had heard about my migraine. Maybe she talked to the nurse I was rude to when I commanded she removed the junk I had thrown up from my nose. I don’t know, but bless her, she brought me coffee. I ordered breakfast, my husband and son came into the room and took me home soon after.

Just like that, I lost an organ, not vital, I suppose, but still mine for the past 38 years and then I was home on drugs with my family. By Thursday I had another narcotics induced migraine and quit the narcotics cold turkey and met up with my old friend, Tylenol PM. That got me through the next two days, and here I sit Sunday morning, almost a week later feeling alive again. I am terrified that I won’t be able to care for my children while Jeff is in Chicago this week; I won’t be able to kneel down to give them baths or lift my son to rock him and sing The Zoo Song each night before bed. I’m afraid I’ll lose my patience with them because I still feel weak and tired. But in the end, I feel so incredibly lucky to be here and to have the people I have in my life.

I have lost so many people in my life and I have so much grief I keep inside. I harbor sadness for those things I cannot control. It really takes something like this to show me yet again how incredible life is. I never once wondered if my children were cared for while my mom and I were at the hospital for more than twelve hours and my husband was a thousand miles away. I just knew they were in good hands, with people that care for them. Friends of mine that dropped everything they had going on to care for my family. There are about twelve hours I can’t account for while I was at the hospital. But I was in good hands. People were caring for me; making sure my blood pressure didn’t drop too low, making sure my lungs were filling with air and ensuring infection didn’t get into my body and spread. Sure it cost me an organ, but I put myself in the care of others and they took good care of me. That’s a tough thing to surrender for someone with control anxieties!

Today I write this, on the second day of October, when thousands of people are walking in Denver to fight for a cure for cancer. And I am humbled again. I lost a small organ that will only make me think twice about what I am eating. I didn’t lose my hair, my dignity, my breasts or my life. My own father is fighting cancer and I can say with all certainty, as hard as this last week has been on me, the ER, the surgery, the emotions, the questions, the pain, the recovery, the migraines, the uncertainty, and the loss of control of my own life for those few hours, it is nothing compared to those fighting the fight my dad is fighting.

So today, I ask you to do two things. One, please say thank you to a nurse, EMT, a doctor, or other health care provider. I am amazed at the gifts they have that I do not. And second, please say a prayer for someone you do not know along with those you do know for peace and well being. It is our well being that we tend to take for granted each day.

I can only hope my friends and family know how much I love them and how grateful I am that they were chosen to be in my life. I hope you are surrounded by such wonderfulness in your own life.