Today was a good day.
Today I was particularly thankful I was able to get up early, make lunches, send the kids out the door, clean a few bathrooms, go to lunch with my husband, pick a sick daughter up early from school, get to soccer practice. . .
Thankful because a year ago today I was in the hospital having a surgery that I did not want to have.
This post is about my surgery and recovery.
As I have sat down many times this past year to write about my experience I realize that because my physical healing has been so hard I am still not ready to talk about my emotional road of how I got here. That will come later, but I have talked to so many people concerned about how I am doing and I realize that most of these people do not know that I developed a really bad infection during my recovery and that my healing time was completely altered by this infection, so here goes.
Wednesday August 26, 2015.
I woke up early. Who am I kidding. I don't think I slept. We arrived at the hospital 2 minutes after my check in time and they were already waiting for me.
I consider myself lucky because up until this day Hospitals were a place you went to have a baby. That's it. That was the extent of my hospital experiences.
Throughout the entire pre-op experience you see a lot of different people from nurses, to hospital staff to doctors... and every time someone came into my little curtain each one would look at my nurse and say "we don't have consent on her yet."
It was so funny because I remember thinking after about the 3rd or 4th time hearing it. . . "just give me the stupid piece of paper. I'm tired of everyone saying you don't have consent from me. I'm laying here with a needle in my arm. If you didn't have consent I wouldn't have gotten this far."
This was one of the many times that I know that my Father in Heaven knew exactly what I needed. You see that consent paper didn't make it into the room until RIGHT BEFORE the anesthesiologist was about to administer the medicine that would make me go to sleep.
And that is exactly how it needed to happen that day, because you see the consent form didn't just say
'I give you consent to perform surgery on me. . . like I expected'
it said. . . in completely BOLD LETTERS
(I don't remember the exact wording but to me it said)
I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS MEANS I WILL NEVER EVER HAVE ANY MORE BABIES GROW INSIDE OF ME EVER AGAIN
Had I seen those words on that piece of paper when I first checked in I would have been a complete mess for the 2 hours of pre-op.
I signed the paper through tears and only had about 30 seconds to dwell on it before I slipped into sleep and forgot about everything.
I don't even remember waking up in the recovery room. I'm told I would have had to wake up before they moved me but I don't remember it. I remember waking up in my room and looking around for Kyle and he wasn't there. I got sad. (which ironically makes me happy). . .
I called him from the hospital phone.
I just remember saying "where are you" and he said back to me "who is this?"
He finally made it to my room and at that point He was there. I was ok.
Throughout the rest of the day I mostly slept.
I was more uncomfortable than I expected to be, but I kept up on the pain meds and was doing ok.
Throughout the night I found it easy to sleep.
The next morning I was surprised at how early I was being told I could go home.
The doctor came in to talk to me.
He said the surgery took longer than he expected but that the surgery went well. No problems or concerns.
I told him that I had explained to the pre-op nurse that I had not had a bowel movement in a few days and I was worried about constipation. The doctor didn't seem worried and made a comment to the nurse to follow up and send me home with a stool softener. The nurse gave me milk of magnesia the stool softener prescription and sent us on our way.
This was Thursday morning at 9:30 am.
By Thursday evening at 6:00 pm I was back in the ER. The milk of magnesia had not worked and I was in pretty bad pain. I know I was constipated and the weight of it sitting on where I had just been cut into was really bad.
They took an ex ray - the ER OB doctor told me that my bowels were very swollen. She gave me heavier pain meds (which make me more constipated) and heavier stool softeners. We left the ER and Kyle stopped at the store and bought everything you can imagine (short of HARIBO gummy bears) - which I should have just started with. . .
All weekend I was taking stool softeners, drinking prune juice with miralax in it. Eating pear sauce, taking milk of magnesia, ex lax, aloe pills, and even rubbing DoTerra Digest Zen all over my stomach. Honestly nothing was working and the pain from it was getting really bad.
Saturday I found myself back in the ER and this time an enema was given.
I was tired, embarrassed and sad, but as I left the ER I remember thinking to myself,
"OK now I can start to heal."
"OK now I can start to heal."
And I did feel better.
I was realizing that I was greatly underestimating just how awful surgery pain can be but I was keeping up on my pain meds and I thought it was going to be all uphill from there.
I can't tell you the exact day that the pain started. It wasn't very many days since I had left the ER the second time. It wasn't like all of a sudden I was in excruciating pain. It started out almost as burning/itching feeling at the incision site in the vaginal area. In fact I thought maybe the stitches were beginning to heal because it almost felt like when I had had episiotomies and they began to heal, but the pain was much worse - I just figured the incision was much worse so the pain had to be much worse. After maybe a day of this pain I started to think that maybe something wasn't right. I was worried about infection. I didn't feel like I had a fever or anything. I remember being very worried. I asked Kyle if he would just look at it and make sure there were no red lines indication infection.
Awkward I know. And I wouldn't include this for everyone to read if it wasn't such a defining moment to me.
As he looked I will never forget the look on his face as his eyes filled with tears as he told me he didn't expect it to look so bad.
At first I got nervous, but he assured me it didn't look infected.
I know we called the nurse a couple of times over the next few days as the pain was getting worse and all I kept hearing was that "I had had an intense surgery and that there will be pain." I had always thought I had a pretty high pain tolerance level but this was making me feel like a whimp. At one point the nurse finally put a call into the doctor and he called me back. He also told me that there would be significant pain. What he did say to me that I remember is that he told me that "this was the last time he wanted to talk to me on the phone because if I really felt there was a problem he wanted me to feel comfortable to come in. He made a point to say however that it would be better to come in and see him because he performed the surgery, and not go into the ER". At this point we are almost 3 weeks post surgery. This is the point where I thought that I would be feeling better and be bothered by the fact that I still needed to take it easy.
I did not expect at three weeks post surgery to be feeling worse and worse each day.
I was so worried about constipation that I was trying so hard to not take the heavy pain medication and instead try to manage my pain with Ibuprofen. It wasn't working. It was a Thursday. I remember because my brother in law was getting married on Saturday and I was determined that I was going to be able to make it to the wedding ceremony at the temple.
The ibuprofen wasn't cutting it. I was miserable and so I could get some rest and relief from the pain I decided to take the heavier pain meds they gave me. So I took a NORCO. Big mistake. It made me so sick. So now along with the pain I was nauseous and throwing up. And every time I threw up there was this shooting pain that would go down my left side down my leg.
I was miserable. I obviously didn't take another Norco and went back to Ibuprofen, but Friday I was still feeling so sick.
Then comes another "defining moment" in my healing process as I look back on this whole situation.
My sweet sister in laws were both in town for the wedding and brought me dinner Friday night.
I was miserable and so not feeling good.
They served me dinner in bed. . . and it's hard for me to accept service and I felt horrible. I know there was a point where they were thinking it would be best to just leave me alone to try to sleep and I'm sure they just felt awkward because of the situation. . . I was just embarrassed. But somehow we got talking and talking and I started to feel better - it was so weird, and just what I needed. I'm so thankful for them for serving me that night and for me through my embarrassment letting them be there and getting over my insecurities.
It gave me the motivation and hope that maybe I would be able to attend the wedding the next day.
I did wake up Saturday morning. I didn't feel sick at all but the pain was really bad. Kyle tried to get me stay home but I was determined to go. I just couldn't imagine sending my entire family to the temple and not go with them.
Just standing to even try to wash my face was so painful.
Kyle gave me a blessing.
I made it. (I didn't look good, but I made it)
As soon as I got there I knew I had probably made a big mistake in thinking I could do this. I couldn't stand up for more than a minute or two, and sitting was so hard and I had to put all my weight on my right side so I just looked ridiculous.
But I will always remember as I made it into the sealing room and sat down in those beautiful, soft chairs in the temple I just felt comfortable. Not out of pain, but comfortable and I was able to make it through the entire sealing and enjoy it and I was so thankful.
After the sealing Kyle took me home and this is where the recovery process really took a turn for the worse.
That night was a horrible one. I don't think I slept at all.
Kyle took all the kids to church and I was miserable the entire time they were gone.
I had to go to the bathroom, but I couldn't go by myself so I was just waiting for them to get home.
As soon as they got home, I went in to go to the bathroom. I went to the bathroom and as I slowly tried to stand up there was a stab of pain on the left side of my leg that was so bad I screamed for Kyle. I couldn't do anything. I couldn't stand up. I couldn't sit back down. At this point I'm seriously screaming. The only thing I could think of is that I needed to get to the bathtub. I knew if I could float in the water it would take some of the pain away, but I couldn't get in my tub because it's too deep and I can't lift my leg high enough to get in so somehow I have to make it out of my bedroom through the kitchen and down the hall to the other bathroom.
I can't put any weight on my left side, but even just standing there was excruciatingly painful. Kyle is trying to help me but there is nothing he can do to alleviate any of the pain. With every step I'm letting out screams. At one point I remember thinking "I just want to take a deep breath, fall the ground and just die". It was that bad.
Somehow I made it to the bathtub. And I laid in the bathtub for hours. Kyle would have to come in and drain the water and then put warmer water in when the water would get cold but all I could do is lay there, knowing that eventually I would have to get out and thinking about the pain that would go along with that.
I look back and think on one hand I should never have tried to even go to the wedding because it made the pain so much worse, but on the other hand I'm so thankful I went because I think when the pain finally hit this point I realized that there is NO WAY THIS IS NORMAL SURGERY PAIN.
Kyle wanted to call an ambulance and get me to the ER, but the stubbornness in me remembered my doctor saying "don't go to the ER - come in and see me".
Somehow Kyle got me a prescription for PERCOCET and a doctor's appointment the next day.
It's a MONDAY and this is a day I will never forget.
I was in so much pain. Pain that even with PERCOCET was not even dulled.
Even getting into the car to go to the doctor was torture.
Driving was miserable.
When we got to the office, Kyle pulled the car up into the loading area and I got out and I'm literally gritting my teeth and screaming in my head as he helps me out of the car and into the hospital wheelchair. I finally get sat down - and I'm hunched completely over on my right side so I won't put any pressure on my left side and Kyle has to go park the car so there I sit. All by myself. I don't even want to know physically how I look but as I sat there in complete pain and totally helpless with tears streaming down my face because of the pain I have never felt so alone in my entire life.
Now I realize that there is absolutely nothing that anyone could have done at that moment to take away my physical pain but people walked right by me, patients. . . nurses. . . and not one person asked me if I was ok. Not one person. I vowed to myself at that moment that I would never be that person.
I'm finally in my doctors office. At this point I'm so tired and in pain that I can barely even lay on the table and he then tells me he's going to "take a look". I can't even move my leg and he wants me to spread my legs open. I think I tore a hole in the table I was laying on from gripping it so bad. I was trying so hard to not "overreact" but I'm literally laying on that bed tears just streaming down my face and gritting my teeth and moaning uncontrollably as he is checking to see what in the world could be causing all this pain, and he finds nothing.
He looks at me and says that the surgery healing looks perfect. He can't see anything wrong.
SOMETHING IS WRONG.
THIS PAIN IS NOT NORMAL.
I AM NOT CRAZY.
At this point I lost it. At this point it was probably the ugly cry.
This poor man did the only thing he could think of at this point and ordered the nurse to give me a shot of DEMORAL right there in my rear!
He sent me home with another prescription for PERCOCET with instructions to take them every 3 hours day and night and set me up with another appointment for Wednesday.
Wednesday when I went back in the pain was no better. I hated even anticipating having to get in and out of the car. But at least I had timed it so that the pain meds were in full effect as I was in the office.
Another exam and again he can see nothing out of the ordinary. I remember telling him I promise you I'm not crazy. I have had 2 babies naturally and this pain is beyond anything I ever felt with that.
I remember him looking at me and being completely honest with me when he told me he had called every doctor on my patient history to check to make sure I wasn't crazy.
I left that appointment and headed down the elevator to get an CT Scan.
That was a miserable experience, just getting on the table to have the scan does was so painful. But so worth it because at my next appointment on FRIDAY I was finally told the reason behind all the pain.
"a backup of fluid (infection) that is most likely pushing on a nerve" - a nerve in the worst possible place if you are a woman!
My only option. . .
Take heavy doses of antibiotics and wait for the ball of infection to get smaller.
I was happy to know finally what was wrong, but the doctor told me it could be weeks before the infection shrinks enough to give me any relief.
THREE weeks to be exact. THREE weeks of nothing but pain.THREE weeks of being able to do nothing but lay in bed. I would pee in the shower because it hurt to bad to sit down. . . When I did have to sit to use the bathroom I would have to be helped into the bathtub because it was the only way to clean myself off... THREE weeks of taking a PERCOCET every three hours. I had a schedule. The medicine would take about 43 minutes to kick in and I would literally melt into my pillow. If I was lucky I could sleep for a good hour and half... it was those last 45 minutes until I could take another pill that were torturous. I would just lay there in pain. And then I would do it all over again.
I remember my doctor saying the days would be hard, but that the at some point the pain would get less and I would start to have good days and as long as the pain starts to get better instead of worse than we would be on the right track.
Three weeks later it was a Wednesday. I woke up this day and my pain felt different. It was more like a dull pain instead of a sharp pain. It felt more like a giant bruise whenever I took a step instead of like a stab in my leg when I stepped. Though it was still painful I remember thinking this kind of pain is at least manageable. I got up out of bed for the first time to actually walk into the kitchen. It felt so good. I even went with Kyle in the car to go pick Karalyn up from school. The first time in over a month. . . To see her face as she walked toward the car and saw me was magic. Even Kris gave me a smile when he got home from school and saw me in the kitchen instead of in my room.
I thought OK this is good. I didn't need a pain pill all day. It's only going to get better from here.
I was wrong.
The next day I woke up with the same sharp stabbing pain that had been with me for the last 2 months. I was devastated. If you ask me I will tell you I had a small moment of a pity party for myself... If you ask Kyle he will tell you I had a full on break down.
I had to laugh because he handed me a pain pill and told me I needed a nap.
I woke up from my "nap" and had to go to the bathroom. As I went to stand up the pain just stabbed at my leg and burned - it was so sharp that I kinda jerked up fast to try to get the pain relieved a little and as fast as I stood up my pain was completely gone.
I honestly can't explain it.
It wasn't like the day before where the pain was less intense.
It was absolutely gone.
For two months I could not even touch my leg without burning pain, at this moment I could literally slap my leg and there was no pain.
I had not taken a step without a limp for two months. . . I walked out of the bathroom that day like nothing had happened.
I called for Kyle and told him my pain was gone.
He didn't believe me.
I didn't believe it.
But from that day on the pain was gone and never returned.
Nerve pain is no joke.
It was hard to comprehend how intense the pain could be one second and then the next second there was absolutely no sign that I was ever in pain.
Actually I remember actually feeling sore in my belly. I had felt none of the pain from my actual surgery recovery because the nerve pain had been so bad.
It's been a year. It took months and months to get my energy back. I was told that for every day I was down (8 weeks) it would take 3 days to recover (24 weeks) - 6 months. And it did. I was tired for months. I also was having to deal with the emotional pain of it all which had been completely overshadowed by the physical recovery. It got better little by little and I am finally able to say I think I feel normal again. And I'm thankful I feel normal.
Last year I lost these next two months. I have a feeling for the next few months I will be excited for every soccer drop off, every early morning scripture study session, every 'how in the world are we going to fit everything into this day' moment because I get to be a part of it.
This was my view for months. . . my kids standing by the side of my bed to tell me about their day. A few weeks ago I didn't feel good and stayed in bed longer than I normally do. Kody came into my room and saw me laying in bed in the same nightgown I wore for weeks. . . And he immediately asked me if I had surgery again.
So it's a start to a new school year! And I'm excited that I get to be a part of it this year! I'll be packing those lunches with a smile on my face!