A few days ago, there was a major ice storm in the upper midwest. I had a counseling appointment and my medical ride through the cab company, thank you insurance, was waiting at the back of my building. Hate that. It means I have to take my life into my hands and go down TWO sets of stairs. I made it down one set just fine; it was inside. The second? Not so well.
ALL ICE – stairs, handrail, and the ground TO THE CAR. No traction at all. I had snow boots on with special traction guards; the works. I couldn’t grip the hand rails. All I COULD do? Slide – down – each – step – to – where – the – driver – was. Then? HE slips in trying to get me to the van. Now, I’m terrified to do anything, go anywhere see anyone. And this was “for therapy related to my PTSD.” I think I just re-triggered it going down those goddamned stairs!
Yup, that was me. In my not -so fine moment of humiliation. Hey! At least SHE HAD SNOW!
Four days later? I get the worst pain…ok, not THE worst pain, but the SECOND worst pain outside of childbirth. This was over the weekend. I manage to live through it but…it only got WORSE. By Monday, the pain was so bad, I was up at 2 am, walking around, praying I wasn’t dying of a heart attack, using the bathroom frequently. The pain was now everywhere; upper back, lower back, toss on chills for good measure, I could not lay FLAT in my bed so I propped myself UP. Not good. I moved to the sofa. Better. Then comes the genius in me that says, “AHA! Heating pad!” Up I go, cursing all the way back to the bedroom to find the Mecca of relief – the heating pad. I did grab a few Ibuprophen with me and oh, did I pay for THAT! Not good at all. So on goes the heating pad and Ahhh! Relief! I’m on the sofa but the Ibuprofen kicks in and I’m feeling what it’s doing to my body and thinking, “This is NOT good at all.” But eventually, I doze off….until I wake up shivering. Shivering? It’s a 70 degree F warm house! BACK into bed I crawl in and I pass out exhausted. But I do get up, shower but now the aching is EVERYWHERE. I swear even MY TEETH ache. By the late afternoon, my home health worker is watching me move around and says, “It’s time for you to get to Urgent Care – NOW!”
Within the hour, I’m waiting for a doctor to see me and he comes in pokes and prods and one scream of pain on my upper, NOT LOWER so no appendicitis, right side, and he says, “Bad news, it’s your gall bladder. You’ve got stones and more than likely, it’s coming out. We just need to run some tests to verify this and to see if anything is blocking the numerous ducts in the area and to see if anything else is hidling.” All I was thinking? “Pain? Get rid of it..please?” Then here comes a large, pretty cool, water bottle filled with the most disgusting liquid short of Tang – that phony powdered orange juice the Apollo astronauts had way back when – I’d ever consumed. And I had to have TWO rounds of this, for lack of a better word, shit. Then once I’m done, for the FIRST TIME that day, I’m all primed to head to the ladies room but am stopped.
“Oh no! You MUST have a full bladder!” said the nurse.
“Please, I’m already in pain from my gall bladder. You mean I must endure MORE pain for you to LOOK at it?”
“I’m so sorry, M’am, it’s the way it goes…”
Oh how I had a load of expletives I wanted to fire off at that nurse at that moment! But, humbly, I sit back down, PRAYING that my contents of my bladder do not explode upon the entire population of the waiting area of Urgent Care. But then I’m told to go to the CT area. Probably for that reason alone.
As I’m in the CT area, I’m called back then I’m thrown back in time. I see the CT machine and I think of my mother and I chuckle. She had several of these when she’s in the height of her late stage alzheimer’s. She always laid down as if she were lying in a casket, arms crossed her chest. Only thing missing? A lily. At the time, my brother and I would roll our eyes. Now, I laugh. Then I’m told to lay down and I’m strapped to another machine to check my liver, spleen and other organs this thing MISSES. And off we go….and in about 15 minutes, we’re done. Then, I RUN for the restroom and I am overjoyed; upon coming out, I return to the doctor who tells me…”Oh by the way, did you know you had a hernia?”
Forget the gallstones….I’m now MORE upset about the hernia NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT!
I find out that other physicians I had seen in the same hospital system for other things, such as mammograms, blood works, that sort of thing, knew about it more than three years PRIOR. Oh I’m REALLY angry! Not even my primary doctor told me this! I was reassured it was large enough the surgeons wouldn’t do anything for it as it wasn’t causing any problems. Right. Easy for YOU to say – and this doctor is male and so overweight he’s probably having twins.
And NO pain medications but I do get an appointment with the radiologist to come RIGHT AFTER my psychiatry appointment in a day or so.
Oh was it a long day…
The WORST attack to come hits the NEXT NIGHT and I am wishing for ANY relief at all. I’m shivering because of cold. The pain scale can’t rate this pain – never mind I’m ready to vomit – I can’t sleep, walk, EAT; though I tried, sit, I did anything I could to deal with the pain. I kept telling myself: “You’re going to make it to the appointment tomorrow! You’re going to make it to the appointment tomorrow!” What a LONG night…but then, after a shower which helped a bit, I’m in the cab and in the psychiatrist’s office and what do we talk about?
Gallstones, NOT MENTAL HEALTH. He’s got a background in Internal Medicine PLUS Psychiatry.
He’s telling me what to do here, what to eat, what NOT to eat. I tell him about the hernia. THAT SET THAT MAN OFF LIKE A FIRECRACKER! When I told him it came from childbirth he said, “That should NEVER have been neglected! Never! I cannot believe no one followed up on that after your first! The reason your vaginal after C-section FAILED was because you had NO STOMACH MUSCLES TO PUSH! THEY SPLIT!” That was my second child – first son’s birth, by the way.
Oh am I even LESS happy now…
Now I make it to the surgeon. I get even WORSE news. He shows me the CT scan and says, “Normally a gall bladder surgery is a day surgery but I cannot guarantee that for yours. The reason is the hernia.” Then he’s flipping through the CT scan which shows the body in layers and what comes up is horrifying. I CAN SEE what it is – MY INTESTINES. “It’s not a large hernia. It’s a smaller one and you’re lucky the intestines are NOT BLOCKED. I may have to perform a temporary fix JUST TO GET TO THE gall bladder to remove it, which will require a hospital stay. I’m going to do my best to not have to do that. But I will tell you this – that hernia must be fixed ASAP! I will not perform this surgery until you lose weight; a SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT of weight. There are people here who can help you with that part if you need it.” I said, “I don’t care. At this point and after the pain I’ve been through, I’m finished. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make things right again so I don’t have to go through this again. ” The surgeon then looked at the hernia itself with an examination and said, “The muscles split more than likely with the first pregnancy – a C-section?” I nodded. “the sutures were probably horizontal but the split was vertical negating the effect. Pregnancy #2 only ADDED to it. Then you had a third? You were finished. The hernia was there to stay and it needed to be dealt with immediately. I’m surprised no one caught it with that pregnancy or dealt with it as part of the birth of that third child. They could have.”
I was now BEYOND LIVID…
Now, I’m scheduled for surgery, have antibiotics and the phone number for the hospital’s weight management programs. I call the number and get a link for the information session. Ohhh I was not prepared for THIS:
–Weight management drugs
–Stomach alteration surgery
–Frequent Support/Check in
Uhhhh…I can handle TWO. But MORE SURGERY?!? Then I read it’s tailored to my needs. But then I qualify for the two big options.
Wonderful. THIS I need.
I saw a posting on Facebook from George Takei about what you can accomplish in 100 days; this bright amazing woman lost weight in 100 days by setting her mind to it. I thought about what I was going to do in 100 days – I though it was going to be heading back to work through Vocational Rehab – and that process HAS STARTED. Now, it’s my body saying, “Ehhh, not so fast. Got a few things to handle here first.”
There went my “What can I do for the next 100 days.” A friend of mine called me and said, “Look at it this way, consider the suture markings as a “dot to dot” puzzle and when you get thinner, you can draw out the entire pattern!”
Hmmmm….I thought about it. Then, we both burst out laughing. But it does deserve some merit. What color? Blue? Green? DEFINITELY not permanent marker!
But all I’m thinking about? No more chocolate. No more greasy burgers. Fries? Out. Cake with frosting? Forbidden. Watch the dairy. LOTS of water, fruits, veggies, fiber and an entirely new way of looking at food. No weight watchers here, sorry Oprah. No PBJ sandwiches – can’t have the peanut butter; no creamy fats. Wow, what a lot to think about here. But one thing is for sure: it’s going to be tough but I’m hoping it will be oh so worth it in the end.