If some of this is icky or seems to be TMI, my apologies, but it's all relevant. The first song is my happy place song for the week. It's what I forced into my head whenever I was feeling particularly awful. It isn't that I like the song that much. It's just that it was pleasant and slow tempo and a point of focus.
1/17 RETURN HOME
I barely remember this day, I was so out of it. And I was more alert than I'd been in the hospital! My parents arrived maybe an hour after we got me home from the hospital, and the Jespah rules were posted: #1. No making me laugh. #2. No touching or sitting on the bed. #3. There is no #3. :)
For my father, who is the Consummate Jokester, Rule #1 must've been torture.
1/18 QUIET TIMES
I mainly sat around, worked on a jigsaw puzzle and slept. My parents were excellent; they cooked, they entertained and they also kept Mr. Jespah company. I ate whatever I could handle, which wasn't much.
1/19 THE ATTACK OF THE KILLER POOP
When I left the hospital, I was told that, if I didn't move my bowels by the end of the day on Tuesday (the 19th), that I'd have to return to the hospital.
Well, nature did call that morning. And called. And called. But it was tough to answer, seeing as I still had very little use of my abs for the purposes of, well, not to get too graphic, but for pushing.
It hurt. I strained. It hurt even more. Add to this the fact that I was not drinking enough water, and that the drugs I was taking could (and did) cause constipation, and it was a recipe for disaster.
Here's where it was truly vital that my parents were there. My father and my husband drove to CVS to get me some help. My mother stayed and talked to me, just to keep me calm and focused. And, frankly, I needed to not be alone. I was scared of passing out from the pain. My mother talked to me about the family, about this one and that one. It doesn't matter what she said -- she just kept me cool and I was able to keep my head together.
My father and my husband returned. Not only did they have an item manufactured by Fleet Labs (see: www.fleetlabs.com
), but they had saved big bucks with a coupon I had given them earlier. The whole shebang had cost them a big sixty cents.
By this time I was not truly able to appreciate the major league bargain. I just needed relief.
Now, if there was ever even the slightest thought that my husband did not mean the old "in sickness and in health" vow, that doubt, that thought, was immediately dispelled as he helped me. I will not go into details, of course, but I do want to thank him, and my parents, for their roles in it all, for helping me. It was extremely distressing. I cannot imagine what would have happened if I had been living alone. 'Nough said.
1/20 TOO MUCH TOO SOON
The previous day's activities completely wore me out. I had been getting better, but I was wiped. It was a quiet day, and I desperately needed that.
1/21 THE FIRST DOCTOR VISIT AND FOOD SHOPPING
It was time to get the stitches taken out and the drains removed.
Gawd. Thank God my mother was with me.
The removal of surgical drains is its own exquisite pain (with maybe a quarter of a minute of after-effect burning as well). It should be used at Gitmo. It is simply awful. And, I had had no idea where the drains were attached, because they were pinned to the front of my binder and up by my chest so that I wouldn't accidentally sit or lay on them. I had not followed them to their origination points. There are just some things you don't want to know.
They were actually attached to the front of the bikini area. I know you're all cringing, and I'm sorry. Fortunately it was very fast. But, my God. I never want to have THAT happen again.
Stitching was removed from around my breasts and then I was patched up there again with tiny bandages. The tape at my hips was left on for the moment.
And so I was done for the day. The doctor said it would be fine to go to Target and get me some clothes. And, in particular, I could get something like Spanx to use as a replacement for the binder, so that it could be washed.
Afterwards, we went food shopping. I had my own cart so that I could lean on it. We bought a bunch of produce and then I went to the fish counter while my folks bought some deli stuff. I saw my friend, for the first time in months. He's known me at 346 pounds, of course, but I don't think he's seen me look quite so hellish. I held onto his arm to hold myself up. It was good to see a friendly face.
Target was not crowded and my parents left me to my own devices. I kept looking for front-hook soft-cup bras. They apparently did not exist at that particular Target. And soft-cup back-hook bras only existed if you got nursing bras. Weird. I bought two nursing bras anyway, along with a stretchy camisole to hold me in and a harder stretch long-line panty thing to hold the bottom. Plus a size Large shirt so I'd have another thing to wear over the binder. And then I went to the swimsuit area and picked up something in the Juniors department (I haven't shopped in that department since I was maybe 19 or so) to remind me of why I'm doing this in the first place. We were there for maybe an hour but I was worn out.
My plans for the next day were a shower and then we'd have brunch out and see off my parents. Everyone agreed I'd come a long way. I went up and down the stairs seven times, three of them in the evening, in order to get all prepared for the following morning. Mr. Jespah and I stayed up late (well, late for me) and watched the entire Haiti special. Oh, and TOM arrived (this is important).
The above song is what ran through my head for much of the 23rd.
1/23 THE PERFECT STORM
I got up at maybe 5 AM and could not sleep any more, so I turned on the iPod and listened to music for a while, for the first time since the day before the surgery. I whispered to sing along to the songs. TOM was heavier than it had been the prior day. 6 AM came and it was time for Oxycontin. Keep in mind that this is a narcotic. I took it and the other early morning medications I'd been taking, and then sat down to do the crossword puzzles. By seven or so, everyone was out of the upstairs bathroom. I walked up the stairs and thought, hmm, it feels like the stitches are pulling over my right breast. I commented on that to Mr. Jespah. He asked if we needed to call Dr. Silverman. I said, well, I don't know. Let me shower first.
I stripped down and noticed that my right breast was significantly larger than my left. It had a crease in it from where it had pushed up against a soft-cup bra I had worn to sleep. It hurt a little to the touch. But I was hellbent on having a shower. I knew we'd have to call the doctor, but I figured it could wait. I told Mr. Jespah to stay nearby.
I took about 2/3 of the shower when I began to feel lightheaded. The shower was not that hot, but it wasn't a cold one, either. I had conditioner in my hair but had otherwise rinsed everything. But I could not hold myself up. I grasped the grab bar (so glad we had it installed when we had the tub interior redone a few years ago). I called for Mr. Jespah or perhaps he heard me -- that part is foggy. Call the doctor! Well, it's a Saturday. He came in and turned off the water and called the answering service. I was nauseous and dizzy, and sat on the side of the tub with a towel over me. I then felt slightly better and rinsed the conditioner out of my hair. That may seem vain or silly but I realized I'd be going to a doctor or a hospital soon; might as well prevent yet one more problem for myself. I finished and sat back down. I was a mess. At eight, he gave me an Oxycodone, which is for breakthrough pain and not taken on a regular basis. It's another narcotic.
I was nauseous, dizzy and cold, then hot, particularly over my right breast. I told Mr. Jespah to call an ambulance or perhaps he suggested it. Again, foggy. We got me dressed as quickly as possibly (it was in the 30s). The EMTs arrived, Arthur and Mark. They had a portable stretcher with them but we didn't use it. I held Arthur's hand as we walked down the steps. Mr. Jespah and I sat in the back of the ambulance with Arthur. Sitting was easier than lying down. Mark drove.
St. Elizabeth's is very close so it did not take long. I was brought into the Emergency Room via wheelchair and Dr. O'Neill, the doctor on call, took a look at me. He thought I had had a vasovagal episode (see: en.wikipedia.org/
Then we went over the reasons I might've been feeling faint:
* no water except minimal amount to swallow pills
* narcotics without food
* recent surgery
* the breast thing (I'll get to that in a moment)
* warm shower raising my body's temperature
* heavy TOM meant that I was even more dehydrated and had lost more sugar
Yep. It all made perfect sense. The perfect storm of conditions to cause fainting. I had not felt faint any other day because on those other days:
* I'd had my Oxycontin and then eaten not too long afterwards
* I wasn't climbing the stairs in the morning
* I was drinking tea or cocoa in the morning
* no shower until that day
* no heavy TOM until that day
Now, as for the breast thing. Dr. O'Neill felt it was possibly a hematoma. See: en.wikipedia.org/
. He said this is not uncommon. It was possibly a blood clot in the breast as a result from the surgery. We asked, and he confirmed: THIS CANNOT LEAD TO A STROKE.
Allow me to repeat myself.
THIS CANNOT LEAD TO A STROKE.
But it's uncomfortable, and lopsided. The swelling was slated to go down, in days or weeks. In the meantime he said I could pad the other side to even things out.
Dr. Silverman's associate, Dr. Lee, came in for a look, and brought along an intern, Jake. They took a look and agreed that it was either a hematoma or a seroma. See: en.wikipedia.org/
. They confirmed that it could go away in a few days or weeks, but an interview would be fine. In the meantime, I already had a followup scheduled with Dr. Silverman for Thursday, and was told to keep that appointment.
The Nurse Kathy came in and drew blood, just to make sure that I didn't have a seriously elevated white cell count, which would be a sign of infection. My vitals had already been taken. My pressure was good, and my temperature was normal. The signs did not point toward an infection but of course this was due diligence. I also found myself with a little acid reflux, most likely due to how I was sitting/laying.
The bloodwork came back and I was cleared to go at about eleven or so. Since everything is on hospital time, this meant I didn't actually leave St. E's until around noon or so. Dr. Lee and Jake did return, and we pointed out to them that it looked like the swelling was going down a bit. That is apparently possible.
I got home (I walked out of the hospital, no wheelchair!) and had some very plain food. My parents left and Mr. Jespah and I got upstairs, where I was napped and read with an ice pack on my right breast. Someone should invent an ice pack insert for a bra. That would come in handy.
1/24 REFLUX AND WALKING
I don't normally get acid reflux, but my body decided, hey, this is something that's gonna happen. Again. Ai yi yi.
Maalox is an extraordinary invention.
Mr. Jespah and I also decided it was about time I started doing a little cardio again. We decided to start up as if I were again 346 pounds and starting from nothing. We walked around the block, a trip of no more than a quarter of a mile and probably a lot less. This normally takes me about five minutes. It took fifteen, and that was all I could possibly do. But it was a start, and it felt good to do it.
1/25 DOCTOR VISIT
Mr. Jespah left for work and I spent some time online. I have to show job search activities but they can be done online. I had finished, was actually, finally, recording my food on Spark, and otherwise winding down. The phone rang, and it was Dr. Silverman. Come on in.
I took a cab. It was a good thing I went to see the doctor, as he grabbed a needle and aspirated out about 15 cc of, er, stuff. It's still unclear whether it's actually a hematoma or a seroma, but that kind of doesn't matter. This did help some of the swelling go down but he told me that it might swell up a little bit more before it goes down in earnest. In the meantime, ice became a constant companion.
The doctor also told me that the reflux is partly due to body positioning and partly due to the narcotics. Another delightful side effect.
1/26 THE END OF THE CELEBREX
I finished up the first of the drugs and was glad to see them go, as the reflux was even worse. But I was able to be awake and alert even more. I got some rest in the afternoon and we walked again. Instead of one block taking fifteen minutes, it took twelve. Progress!
1/27 THE END OF THE OXYCONTIN
With no more Oxycontin, Extra Strength Tylenol became more important to me. I still had Oxycodone left but decided I only wanted it for nights.
1/28 INTERVIEW AND DOCTOR VISIT
In a sure mark of insanity, I agreed to a job interview at 10 AM, and a doctor visit at 4 PM. But both, surprisingly enough, turned out to be good ideas.
The interview went well, not only for the two-hour conversation I had with the three principals but also because I was wearing something a lot nicer than sweats and sneakers, and did not lose stamina. It felt good and vital to do something so normal. I crossed my legs and thought, that's normal, that's good. I do not know yet how I did. Details to follow if the results are positive.
When I got home, my intention was to change, eat and rest. But there was a phone message: could I come in earlier? Sure. So the plans were altered to change clothes and eat but don't rest.
The doctor took out more fluid. This time, 50 cc! 50 cc = 0.05 Liters, AKA about 2/10 of an ounce. That may not seem like a lot, but the projection was maybe an inch. Yep. Ow. It was a huge relief to get that out of there. There was still a possibility of more fluid, or of fluid in the other breast. But for the time, things felt infinitely better.
He also told me that my navel, which is still kind of, er, damp, will be so for another 2 weeks or so. Just keep cleaning and changing band aids. He removed one last stitch that must have been missed the last time, and took off all of the tape. I was left with the band aid over my navel and two surgical pads on the underside of each breast (those are just a little sore and red but otherwise okay). Once all of that heals, I'm done with all of that, and all I'll have to do is wear the binder or its equivalent (the stretchy camisole and stretchy shorts I was wearing proved to be decent substitutes).
I will be wearing the surgical binder or an equivalent until mid-March, but can (and will!) walk before then. Strength training will wait until late February or so. I had originally planned on returning to my gym on Monday, February 1st, but that will end up happening later as I'd like to have my navel completely healed before then, and probably will wait to have my next doctor visit (February 18th) accomplished by then. We'll see (the doctor had said that I'd probably only be able to tolerate about 10 or 15 minutes at the gym to start, anyway).
I'd like to blog about other things but at some point I will be blogging about what I've learned from this experience. That will be Part 3 and may or may not be next week's topic. Plus I'd like to cover my return to fitness, which will take considerably longer. Those things are for another day. Thank you all for your kind attention and good wishes. It means a great deal to me.