(I haven’t been too consistent with this project but I’m really enjoying it. Sorry this post is so long ….)
In the past 3 months I’ve experienced more medical procedures than a gal could ever be expected to go through. Especially a gal who was walking around as one of the healthiest people she knew, until, bam, there goes the appendix, and I’m practically out of commission for six weeks.
When I first went to my doctor complaining of a stomach ache, she ordered blood work and a CT scan. Ok, everyone’s had blood drawn, so that barely counts as a procedure – although even the most expert technicians concede that my veins are extremely tiny and difficult to find, and that they roll a lot. It’s not unusual for me to be poked three or four times before they find the vein.
Then there was the CT scan. Before they do the actual scan, you have to drink this thick chalky liquid. It’s bad enough when you’re feeling half way decent, but when you’re nauseated to begin with, it’s pretty horrid. And then the vein-poking begins. They tell you it’ll feel warm as the contrast liquid goes through you, and that you’ll feel as though you’ve peed in your pants. Trust me: they are not kidding. I’ve now had four CT scans in less than three months. Every time, I thought I’d peed in my pants, but I never did.
Next I had this lovely procedure to drain an abdominal abscess created when my appendix burst. Luckily I’m old enough to have had a colonoscopy, so I wasn’t too freaked out about how they planned to access the abscess. I’ll let you figure it out on your own. And of course that drain had to stay in for a while, so every last drop could come out. Not fun.
I didn’t mention the IV fluids – and, thankfully, pain meds – they started pumping into me pretty much the moment I got to the ER. Seemed like every day they added something new to the pump: antibiotics, potassium, magnesium, liquid nutrition. The IV eventually gave way to a pic line, which basically performs the same function but is placed higher up in your arm. You can leave it in for up to 6 weeks. In my case, a nurse came to my house every day for two weeks to give me IV antibiotics, which took about a half hour to administer. But no more poking.
And then, thanks to all the trauma my body was experiencing, my intestines decided to check out (the medical term is “illeus” although I’m sure my spelling is off), so all my normal bodily secretions were building up in my stomach and making me very bloated. Not to worry, though: there’s a procedure to alleviate that problem. It’s called a GI tube and I was going to say it’s the worst but since then it’s possible I’ve experienced a few things that are even worse. The tube goes up your nose and then down your throat and it pumps all the crap out of your stomach. Enough said.
Along the way I also had a number of fairly bread-and-butter procedures: x-rays, more CT scans, ultrasounds (to check for blood clots, which I was at risk of getting because I was basically bed-bound for 2 weeks).
And then the mother of all procedures: abdominal surgery. Twice. The first one was to correct a blockage in my intestines, and remove whatever was left of my appendix and the abscesses that formed when it burst. The doctors had indicated that they were trying to avoid surgery, and I was getting frustrated because I felt like, if I’m not getting better, why are you delaying surgery? Then I had the surgery. Now I know why they tried to avoid it. Wow. It was like being bowled over by a herd of hippos. I literally could not move for a couple of days, and I was hooked up to all these monitors on the surgical step-down unit. (That’s one step down from intensive care, in case you were wondering how sick I was.) And my intestines were so messed up that I had all these drains sticking out of me, including a colostomy bag, which fortunately was temporary. The temporary part was a double-edged sword: I don’t think I could survive with a permanent one, but removing/reversing it meant a second abdominal surgery.
Since the reversal surgery was, supposedly, somewhat routine, I thought it would be, relatively speaking, a piece of cake. (Which it was for the surgeon, but not for me.) But before the actual surgery I had to have – you guessed it – more procedures. Another CT scan, which I’ve become rather expert at, and another one on the list of procedures to avoid at all costs, a barium enema. I’d really rather not go into any detail about that. If you’ve ever had one you’ll know why.
Finally my last surgery, which was last week. The post-op pain was so much more intense than I expected. I was on double doses of pain killers. (Hospitals are pretty adamant about pain relief these days.) But even with the pain meds I couldn’t move, so they tried to make me pee in a bedpan. That just wasn’t working, so they did – yup, another procedure. Can you guess? It was a catheter, but only the temporary kind. It really wasn’t so bad, believe it or not.
Because of the nature of the surgery, they left me with an open wound, to reduce the risk of infection. They put the stitches in place but they didn’t actually close the wound, although they did cover it with dressing, which they then need to change after a day or so. (Can you say another procedure?) Then on my last day in the hospital (hopefully for a good long time) they closed the wound. That hurt quite a bit more than I’d expected, and it continues to hurt, although it’s getting better every day. In two days they remove the stitches and my medical saga will come to an end.