[Click for Part One.]
Well, the surgery ended up being more serious than anticipated. I think it took around eight hours? They had to remove *eight inches* of my small intestine. That first stay in the hospital ended up being seven days. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything, and I had a catheter along with an NG tube for quite a few days. Truthfully, that week was kind of a blur of morphine, ice chips, and HGTV. That said, my clearest memory is of Ryan being absolutely extraordinary. It is humbling needing help with *everything*, but he was right there with me every step. It was his encouragement that got me out of bed and moving around a bit, even though I was so uncomfortable. And I was able to receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
I received *so* many calls, texts, emails, flowers, and cards from friends and family. Even though this was one of the roughest weeks of my life, I do not know if I’ve ever felt more loved. More on that later.
gratuitous picture of Nurse Philomena #2
My birthday was Day Six in the hospital, and it was particularly tough. I was finally allowed to drink liquids, but with the return of bowel function came a whole host of other absolutely awful issues I will not detail here [you’re welcome]. It was also the day Ryan had to return to Wichita, so I was left alone. Not to be dramatic, but I do not think I have ever seen the cross more clearly than in that afternoon.
Anyway, so I ended up being released to my aunt’s house, where I was able to stay for a couple days. Another aunt from Denver came to help out, which was another blessing. I thought I was starting to recover, albeit slowly. However, a routine blood test the day before my second surgery revealed an elevated white blood cell count. As soon as I returned to my aunt’s from the blood draw, the doctors called me and told me to return to the hospital where I was to be re-admitted.
Ryan had already planned on returning to Omaha later that night, but when he got word of the issues, he left work right away to drive the five hours to be with me.
After more blood draws, an X-ray, and an IV-contrast CT scan, it was discovered that I had a very large abscess in my abdomen. Basically, it was a significant collection of infected fluid from a bacteria that somehow found its way into the abdominal cavity [is that the right word? I know I’m hacking all of this medical-speak.] The next day the “short” surgery ended up being a few hours, in which they drained the abscess as much as possible and tried to fix some of the extensive damage it caused. They put a drain in my abdomen, so I was able to see all the lovely secretions myself for days to come [yay!], and I was put on serious IV antibiotics. Once again I was in the hospital for an undetermined amount of time. Ryan had to return home that Monday, but as I will talk about later, my mom and Philomena came up twice a day for many hours.
A week later they removed the drain and were talking about releasing me. However, Dr. Hilgers decided as a precaution to order one more IV-contrast CT scan to make sure everything was alright. Sadly, the scan revealed that the abdominal abscess had returned, and two more abscesses on my liver had formed. The next day I had a “procedure” in which interventional radiologists used the CT scan images to place another drain in my abdomen and a second on my liver.
Yet again, I had drains coming from me, ridiculous amounts of antibiotics (now given to me in my new-and-improved picc line), and an undetermined amount of days in the hospital.
After five days, I had another CT scan, and it was determined they could take out my liver drain. [Sidenote: can we talk about how ironic it is that the woman who doesn’t allow a microwave in her kitchen for fear of residual radiation had five CT scans in the course of three weeks? Yeah. The doctors jokingly called me a “glow-worm.”] However, because I was on medication to prevent blood clotting, when they pulled out the drain, I bled and bled and bled. In hindsight, this probably wasn’t the most serious of issues, but just seeing all that blood soaking gown after gown of mine was unbelievably frightening. Finally, they were able to get the bleeding under control, and I had to receive some platelets.
Nurse Philomena taking a break from her duties to color.
A couple days later (at the end of week three in the hospital), they were ready to release me to my aunt’s house, but I wasn’t allowed to return to Wichita until my abdominal drain could be removed. I had a home health nurse come every day to take care of the drain. And (you’re not going to believe this) a doctor who is doing her fellowship with Dr. Hilgers came to my aunt’s house *every day* to check on me. Talk about compassionate care.
Anyway, I ended up staying at my aunt’s for another 10 (long!!!) days. Other than a possible blood clot in my lung that landed me in the ER one afternoon [it ended up being nothing, thank God!], these days were fairly uneventful. I was on two types of oral antibiotics that left me incredibly nauseous and listless. I really tried playing and interacting with Philomena as much as possible, but that proved to be difficult at times.
Finally, my drain was pulled last Monday (October 13), and we were able to come home on Tuesday. I was definitely crying tears of joy [and pain! Five hours on the road post-surgery is no joke] as I walked into our house, where Mena and I were greeted by signs, streamers, balloons, and presents. Oh, and Ryan was there too. ;)
Part Three will be much happier, I promise!