chronic illness

The Last 4 Days

When Monday rolled around, it was a better day. My doctor was back on duty and thankfully Dr. Ego was now out of the building.

The morning started off with blood work and I think God intervened and sent a nurse that was able to get blood on the first try. My only complaint was why on earth they decided 5:45am was the perfect time for labs.

I was able to take a brief nap before they showed up at 7am to take me to radiology. This came to be a morning tradition to monitor the status of my obstruction. The transport staff came to know me very well as the took me to and from radiology. Actually I think a lot of hospital staff came to know me in the almost two weeks I was there.

The best thing about Monday was that John made it back from camp and spent the day with me at the hospital. It was primarily an uneventful day. The xray results showed an improvement but not enough to change my status from NPO. I would have given a kidney for something to drink! Once evening rolled around I joked with my husband that the reason he was glad I was readmitted was because he would be able to watch the NBA playoffs (we recently cut cable).

Tuesday started off the same as Monday and my x-ray showed even more improvement so I was able to coax Dr. Y into allowing me to have “sips” of clear liquids. I don’t think a coke has ever tasted so good!

By this time, my neck IV was starting to become a major annoyance. I kept snagging my tube on everything when I tried to walk the halls. Getting in and out of bed in the middle of the night on my own was annoying. And holy cow did it burn when I was given my meds! I wasn’t going to complain too much however because I hated the thought of getting a new IV more than I did this one.

On Wednesday I was given the all clear for a full liquid diet and enjoyed a breakfast of jello and orange juice. Not really the best combination but I was thankful. The other liquid options for breakfast were grits and cream of wheat so since I find them both revolting, I was happy with my jello. When Dr. Y came to check on me, he brought the good news that he hoped to have me discharged the next day as the morning’s xray was clear! No more blockage! Woo-hoo! I would have done a happy dance if I wasn’t worried about snagging my tube! Wednesday turned out to be a great day not only because of this news but also because there was a NCIS marathon on! I was going through Gibbs withdrawal 🙂

Thursday morning the nurse came with my discharge papers just as Dr. Y expected! This time, however, the nurses made me promise that the next time I saw any of them would be at Wal-Mart and not getting admitted back into the hospital! That is a promise that I would definitely like to keep!

By 9am I was on the road back home! I definitely felt better coming home this time around. I still had pain but it was a little more manageable and I did not have nearly the nausea. When I was discharged the first time, I was dependent on nausea meds to help me get through the day but this time around I hadn’t taken them for a few days and felt totally different.

The second half of my hospital stay was definitely more uneventful but sometimes in life the uneventful is nice! One thing I can say about my two weeks in the hospital is that I had the most amazing nursing staff. They were so personable and really genuine in their care for me as a patient. The hospital goal is to provide excellent care and I definitely feel like they achieved that during my stay (with the exception of Dr Ego). If I ever have to have surgery again, I know which floor I’m requesting!


chronic illness

Fighting the Tube



Recovering From Bowel Obstruction Surgery Recovery

When I woke up Sunday morning, I knew something was terribly wrong. My bowel obstruction surgery recovery was taking a wrong turn. I could hardly stand up the nausea was so bad. I tried my best to manage. John was out of town but my mom was corralling our wild 3 year old.

By dinner time, I was vomiting profusely and it was the same as it was before surgery. We made a call to the surgeon’s office who wanted me to come straight in for the minimum of fluids but it would be likely that I would be readmitted. The quicker we tried to get everything packed and ready to go to the hospital, the wilder Abby seemed to get. It was if she was a ping pong ball bouncing through the house.

Thankfully a dear friend was able to come pick her up so mom and I could head to the hospital. I was to completely by-pass ER and head to 5 East to get admitted. It was nice to see the nursing staff again but as one of the nurses put it, it would have been better if we were seeing each other in Wal-mart versus the hospital again.

The first order of business was an xray to check for an obstruction before getting settled into my room which happened to be just across the hall from the room I left just 24 hours before. The lab tech had no success getting a vein for blood work so he had to get a sample from my finger (which is totally not fun). From my previous stay, I was pretty famous for having the crappiest veins possible so none of the nurses on the floor wanted to give it a shot so they called ICU to do the IV which landed in my neck. So not a great experience but it did its job to keep me hydrated and medicated.

The xray came back showing an obstruction. The site where my bowels were reconnected was not working properly causing a blockage. They were hoping to avoid surgery so we started out watching and waiting.

The first step they wanted to make was inserting an NG tube to remove any liquid from my stomach as well as preventing anything from making the obstruction worse.  My nurse warned me that the procedure was far from comfortable but it would be quick and would be really beneficial in helping clear the blockage. It didn’t go quite as planned.

She tried four times with no success as the tube kept getting knotted up (which isnot a nice feeling). It felt as if I was choking and could not get any air. So glad my mom was there to hold my hand. When she couldn’t get the tube placed, she called ICU. He tried an additional three or four tries with the same result. By this time, my nose and throat were extremely irritated and started to bleed. Each time they tried to insert the tube it felt like I was drowning in my own blood and saliva. It was honestly one of the scariest things I had ever, ever experience. My nurse and ICU gave up. There was something anatomically that was preventing the tube from being inserted properly.

By this time I was completely worn out physically and emotionally. I couldn’t stop crying and my nose and throat felt like they were on fire. My mom was also overwhelmed from everything that had taken place in the past two hours. My nurse gave me some more pain medicine to help me wind down and be able to rest. It was close to midnight when we turned off the lights.

It was as if the doctor on call knew that we were finally calmed down when he barged into the room determined that he would be able to insert the NG tube within moments. The torture resumed. He tried an additional four times. The bleeding had become pretty heavy which added to the feeling of drowning. I could not control the tears or the shaking. My mom was kneeling at the foot of my bed crying. Even the nurse had tears in her eyes. After the fourth try, he agreed with the previous nurses who had attempted the placement in that something was wrong anatomically preventing the tube to be placed.

He left the room to continue his rounds while I was left shaking and crying. Over the last eight years, I have had a gazillion different tests and procedures and while there were definitely some painful ones, this takes the cake. It was painful not only physically but mentally and emotionally. The thought of ever needing one in the future makes me sick to my stomach and causes me to replay those scary moments in my mind.

Around 1am, we were able to get settled down…again. As we turned off the light, I was thankful knowing that when I woke up my doctor would be handling my care and knew that I would be in better (and more compassionate) hands and hopefully my bowel obstruction surgery recovery would be back on track.


chronic illness

The first 7 days after bowel obstruction surgery

Bowel Obstruction Surgery Recovery
Friday June 1st started out like any other work day and little did I know that within 72 hours I would be recovering from major bowel obstruction surgery. I woke up at 6:45 and got myself ready for work. I was having some pretty sharp pains but shook them off as I got Abby ready for daycare. For once I was actually on time dropping her off and getting to my office on time.

Through the morning, the pain started getting worse. There were moments where I could not sit up straight. It was a pain like I had never felt. At 10am, I finally had to throw in the towel and went home to try to take pain medicine and try to sleep off the pain.

By noon, I knew something major was wrong. The pain was increasing despite medication and I had begun vomiting and it was really dark. It was time to get to the hospital.

John was out of town officiating a wedding so I had a friend drive me to the ER. They took me straight back and put me in a room. The first order of business was lab work. Two young women came in the room wielding needles and I knew by the “trainee” that was listed on their badges that it was not going to be pretty. Four people and six sticks later we finally had success with drawing blood and starting an IV.

I don’t remember much of what took place between the time I arrived at the ER (which was around 12:30) and the time I was admitted (around 8pm). I had three wonderful friends at church rotate shifts so that I wouldn’t have to be there alone. Words cannot describe how grateful I was to have someone there to hold my hand and support me through a pretty scary ordeal.

Shortly before I was admitted, I was taken down to radiology for a CT scan. Within the hour I was told I had a bowel obstruction, I was going to be admitted to the hospital, and would likely end up in surgery.

It was all such a blur. I’m not sure if it was the hustle of all the staff in and out of the room, the intensity of the pain, or the side effects of the pain medicine they had given me. It was likely a mixture of all three.

Thankfully I had support to get through it especially since John was out of town. I am honestly not sure what I would have done without my wonderful friend and spoonie sister Mamie. She stepped in to be my advocate without blinking an eye. She asked the questions that needed answers that I was unable to ask myself. When we found out I was going to be admitted, she drove to my house and packed up things that I would need the next couple days. She made calls to my primary doctor’s office to let her know what was happening. She was totally a lifesaver.

Around 8pm, I was moved upstairs and to the room I would spend the next seven days. Bright and early on Saturday morning, we began the upper GI to try to locate and assess the severity of the obstruction. If you’ve ever had one of these, you know that it is not a pleasant experience. The barium is hard enough to drink on a normal basis but when you’ve been nauseated and throwing up the previous 24 hours it is more than a challenge.

I got most of it down. The next several hours included going back and forth to radiology for x-rays. By the afternoon, my parents had arrived from VA. Dad went to the house to take care of the dogs who had been alone the night before while Mom kept me company. By that night, I was once again very sick. All of the barium I had drank decided it needed to come back up. It doesn’t taste any better the second time around.

The next morning was my final x-ray. When my doctor came to deliver the news that surgery was imminent, I was alone. My husband had made it back to town but he was at church. My mom went home to shower and pack me some things for the next several days. I remember him telling me that I had a total bowel obstruction and he would be taking me to surgery within the hour. I remember texting John and my parents to come to the hospital ASAP.

I have no recollection of the next two days. I do not remember being taken down to surgery. I do not remember recovery or being returned to my room. I vaguely remember my mom telling me that the surgery was over and that he had to remove ten inches of my small bowel because it had gotten wrapped around scar tissue (likely from my surgery in August) and had died. Gangrene had started to set in and had I not went to the ER on Friday it would have been so much worse. I just knew that I had a huge bandage covering most of my torso.

My memory began to come back around Wednesday. My mom would sit with me during the day so John could work and then John would take the night shifts. Pain was pretty manageable with the pain pump but I was still fighting a lot of nausea. I blew two more IV lines after surgery so I ended up with a PICC line. It was Wednesday that they removed the bandage for the first time. I cried. A lot. I was not prepared for what I saw. I had roughly a 12 inch incision with roughly 35 staples. When I asked the doctor why the incision was so big, he replied that he couldn’t fix anything he couldn’t see. Good point.

By Thursday I was able to move up from clear liquids to full liquids and then moved to full diet on Friday. You would think the hospital would have more gluten-free options but my meals consisted of baked chicken and jello. It was better than chicken broth!

Saturday morning, I got my walking papers and was discharged. I felt pretty good when I left. Pain was still pretty high but knowing the expected recovery time was eight weeks and the massive incision left behind, it didn’t seem too early or didn’t raise any flags.

John took me home and had our room set up to make me as comfortable as possible before heading off to the diabetic camp he works at every summer. We planned on a quiet, low-key weekend while I rested and my mom chased Abby.

We were wrong.