Monday, August 28, 2006

Random Observations....

With visual aides. :)

If you are hauling this down the road, you will cause traffic jams due not only to the
size of the object but also due to the dorks that will take a picture of it with their phones. Yup, I'm a dork. :P


My gorgeous nephew, JC, knows how to kick back and relax. Live & learn people.


Sometimes a girl's best friend is her teddy. Say hi to mine, Puddin'.


Howard Cosell and Marv Alpert had
a love child.


Sometimes we all need a nap.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mixed Reviews...


As I sit here in my empty and very quiet apartment, I can't help feeling a bit sad. My stepmom & dad left before noon today after being here since the evening of June 7th. I have lived alone for nearly 3 years now, but it didn't take me long to get use to "roomies". Granted I've spent most of that time in one form of pain or another trying to recover from what turned into major surgery. I needed the company far more than I wanted it at first. That's not to say that I didn't want them here. I've just felt quite guilty this whole time to have taken them away from their own lives.

I also have a hard time asking for help even when I need it. I'm usually the caretaker in most of my relationships. I'm just not use to being dependent on someone else. Especially for things that I've been doing for myself since I was a kid. When you call people to tell them that you actually took a shower alone without any help, you know it's been a long recovery. Just so you know, I've been showering alone now for about two weeks. I also cooked myself dinner tonight and was so excited that I nearly called my stepmom to brag. I resisted the urge. :P

So I'm sitting here at my usual spot in front of my computer. The TV is off because it's not as much fun to watch when my parents aren't here to laugh at my running commentary. BTW, Daddy, today's kitchen colour was red and she put red wrapping paper on her table. She was scarier without you here. :P

I stayed busy this afternoon. After Liz (my nurse) left, I went to the library to pick up a couple of books to read and spent some time talking to a librarian that had missed me coming in. I stopped at Whataburger on the way home. (Sorry, Mom!) Once home I made a few phone calls and watched some TV. Before I knew it evening was here and it was time to cook dinner and talk to Cleggy.

Now it's time for bed and I'm feeling a bit lonely. I haven't cleaned the kitchen and don't think I'm going to tonight. (Sorry again, Mom!) I miss my parents (BOTH sets). And I miss Cleggy, a lot. I miss my brothers, my sister, my niece, my nephew, and I even miss my mom & stepdad's dog, Zander. How lame is that?!

Hello, Pitiful? Party of one.

Yeah, that's me. Ugh.

And to make matters worse, I've just admitted to all the people on the internet (okay just to the six people that read this lame blog) that I miss a stupid dog. (Sorry, Zan. You know I don't mean that.) :P

So what to do, what to do? Tomorrow I'm hoping to get a check in so I'll actually have more than 51 cents in my checking account. That's key when you want to pay your rent. Saturday is my 20th year high school reunion (yup, 20 years. someone hand me my cane please). And I have to be back here in time to meet the nurse on Sunday. No partying for me. Not that it was in the plans due to this bum liver. Then again, I'm crazy enough sober so who needs alcohol?!

Okay, pity party is over. Move it along now. Nothing to see here.

On an up note, for the first time in nearly three months I get to sleep without trying to ignore my dad's snoring. On a down note, for the first time in nearly three months I have to go to bed without my stepmom begging me to stop making her laugh before she pees on herself.

As usual, my life is getting mixed reviews. :P

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Eegads! Tagged Again...

This time by a woman. Now that's just kinky. And all of those I am about to tag can thank Anne B. :P

"10 years ago..."
I met Cleggy online and because of the wonderful friendship we formed I finally began to mourn my Grammy and move on with my life. Until I met him, I never knew how quickly or deeply I could care about someone. My life has never been the same and I thank God every day for that. Also, my two favorite monkeys were born. One in March (my neice) & one on my birthday in June (Cleggy's nephew). I had one of a series of dead end jobs and had finally decided to stop dating since I sucked at it so badly.

"5 years ago..."
I was recovering from an unexplained nine & half week period and avoided a hospital stay by sheer stubborness. I was living with my sister and my neice in Louisiana. I was going on a year of being unemployed and was seeing that begin to eat away at what little self-esteem I had. It was also the beginning of the writing drought that I am still in and commonly refer to as hell.

"one year ago..."
I was reeling from an attempted carjacking/kidnapping in January and spending a horrific night in jail over a hot check that I had already paid for. While still dealing with the health issues resulting from my night in jail without insulin, I had to deal with major car trouble. The repair cost would force me to have my car refinanced. That would eventually lead to it being repossed the following January.

"5 songs I know all the words to..."
If I Had A Million Dollars by the Barenaked Ladies
Sister Don't Cry by Collective Soul
Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera
Symphony by Kathleen Wilhoite
Angels by Robbie Williams

"5 snacks I love and wish I could eat"
Sugar-free chocolate covered almonds or peanuts
Golden Delicious apples
Rice cakes with peanut butter & banana

"5 places I'd run away to..."

"5 things I'd never wear..."
A tube top
A mini skirt
Stiletto heels (I'm clumsy in flats)
Spandex clothes of any sort other than a bathing suit
A thong

"5 favorite tv shows..."
Any CSI type show (CSI, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Numbers, Cold Case, Without A Trace, etc.)
Road Tasted
Good Eats

"5 greatest joys..."
My friends & family
Writing & Reading
Making something with my hands (Crochet, cross stitch, cooking, general crafting, etc.)

"5 favorite toys...."
My computer
My car
My Palm Pilot (thanks again, Cleggy!)
My TV & DVD Player (thanks again, Mom & John)
Almost any book

"Tag Five People..."
Well, I'm going to tag more than five in the hopes that someone responds. :P
The White Horse
Margo's Musings
Mistress Violet's Life Observations
Laslo's Semi-boring Adventures
WendyDarling's Musings To Peter
Queen B Experiences Life
Sweetest T's Blog
what if this is as good as it gets?
BigRedOne's Random Thoughts
smash the machine

Monday, August 21, 2006

Thank you, thank you, thank you...

I want to say thank you to the wonderful artist that has made me a perfect, one-of-a-kind, adorable Princess LadyBug portrait.

Her name is Marta and she's the mother of one of my best friends, Margo. Marta & Margo are proof that artistics tendencies are hereditary. They are both very accomplished artists in their own way.

You can see some of their breath-taking work here...
Margo and Marta

So again, Marta, thank you so much from the bottom of my very grateful heart. As always I am in awe of your talent.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

And the Saga Continues...

So where was I? Oh yeah...

I came home from the hospital on June 14th wearing a more comfortable binder/girdle, but would eventually convince my stepmom that I needed a break from it. I also came home with three small incisions ranging from two to four centimeters from the attempted laproscopic surgery, a three-centimeter hole from the wound drain, and a twenty-four centimeter incision from the actual surgery. Along with various staples, drains that looked like rubber bands, and even safety pins. I looked like a victim in a slasher movie.

As I said my first week home was a bit of a shock to me. Not only could I not do things for myself, but the dressing on my wound needed changing every day. For the first two days home, a home health nurse came out to show my stepmom how to do it. Since my stepmom has worked as a nurse's aide for years, she was a very quick study. She has a very gentle touch and a great bedside manner. She was a very skilled nurse's aide, but she would suck as an actress.

Each day she changed the dressing it became increasingly apparent that something wasn't quite right with part of the incision. We began a game of pretend. She pretended it was fine and I pretend to believe her. Of course this game only lasted until my doctor's appointment the following week.

My doc took one look at it and announced it was necrotic and would have to be re-opened. I knew it was necrotic but had no clue that re-opening it was the usual procedure. Imagine my surprise and horror at the idea. On second thought, don't. Just don't go there at all. Let's just say that I now looked like a bad slasher movie.

So with the incision re-opened, I went back to daily nurse visits. The now open wound would need to be cleaned and packed every day until the supplies for our new treatment came in. My doc decided to put on something called a wound-v.a.c.. The description of it and what it would do certainly didn't excite me, but I was willing to try anything to heal. Not to mention that the packing was pretty painful.

On June 28th, the nurse came to install the wound-v.a.c. This involves cutting black foam, inserting it into the wound, and covering it with a clear plastic drape. Once this is done a tube is attached and hooked up to a vacuum machine. It is a truly amazing machine and absolutely the most painful procedure I have ever endured. The next two days were almost as painful from the constant suction on the wound. Unfortunately, it was going to get worse.

Two days later the nurse returned to redress the wound. After removing the drape, we discovered that the foam had adhered to my wound. No matter how much saline she poured onto it, the foam just wouldn't budge. The thought occurred to me to just yank it off like a band-aid, but the slightest pull hurt so badly that I came close to passing out.

We convinced the nurse to go and assured her we would call the doctor first thing Monday morning since it was now after five on a Friday. After she left, I continued to work on the foam using sterile q-tips, tweezers, & scissors. I would work small pieces loose and then cut them off. When that stopped working, we tried covering it with a hot washrag to try and loosen it. After midnight, my stepmom finally convinced me to let her bandage the wound up and get some rest.

The weekend was filled with me trying to work the foam loose and praying. My stepmom & dad prayed. Their church prayed. My siblings prayed. My mom & stepdad prayed. My close friends prayed. And most of all, I prayed. My usual ability to find humor in everything seemed to be failing me, but I could still pray.

Monday morning I called the doctor's office and got his answering service. They were closed since Tuesday was July 4th. I left a message and he called me back within minutes. He told us to keep soaking the foam and surrounding area in SilvaSorb to slow down any infection and to be at his office first thing Wednesday morning. He was in surgery and didn't usually see patients on Wednesdays, but he would rush to his office once I got there.

Knowing we had more waiting ahead of us, I wasn't in any hurry to have the dressing changed. The wound had other ideas. A leak in the dressing caused my stepmom to have to change it before the nurse arrived. This didn't excite me because it had been especially painful since Sunday night.

My stepmom pulled the tape and top dressing off then turned to throw it away. As she turned away from me, I shifted in my chair for some reason and the foam just sort of popped up. I was so shocked that all I could do was yell, "Momma!" She quickly turned around in alarm. Later she would tell me that my tone of voice had frightened her and she thought that an organ or something had fallen out. Nope. Just that pesky foam.

When the nurse arrived I informed her that in no way, shape, or form was that blasted foam being put into me again. The horrible machine that I suspected was a torture device from the Spanish Inquisition was in a box and would remain there until hell froze over as far as I was concerned. Since she was traumatized by the level of pain that I endured the last two times she visited, she readily agreed.

Wednesday I called the doctor's office and told them that the foam had miraculously just popped out and that none would be reinserted. Not willing to torture me, the doctor agreed. So I returned to daily nurse visits and the painful packing of the wound. By comparison the pain seem minimal to me and I tried not to complain.

A few days later the return of my sense of humor would be heralded by my announcement that I had been wounded in a sword fight. That quirky explanation of the wound continues to amuse my family, my friends, my nurses, my doctor, and especially myself. Like I said, if I don't laugh about it then I'll cry about it.

Coming up: How the lack of healing can cause hell to freeze over. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 18, 2006

We Interrupt the Regularly Scheduled Blog for a Message from our Sponsor...

I've started a new blog. I know what you are thinking. "OMG! She doesn't even update this one very often." Well this blog has a different purpose. The new blog is for my niece. In fact it's called Danye's Moon. I've only got one post up so far, but more are coming soon. So check it out if you get a chance

BTW, I mention in the other blog that I am the oldest of four siblings. If you're interested in knowing two of my three siblings, you can check out their blogs. My brother - BigRedOne's Random Thoughts and my sister - Sweetest T's Blog. And try not to hold it against them that they are related to me. It's really not their fault. I was already here when they got here (and screwed up a great only child gig). :P

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Joy is in the details...

It's been over two months since my surgery and while there haven't been many blog updates there has been no lack of things happening. Well actually, at first there was a distinct lack of healing.

When I left the hospital all those weeks ago, I assumed the worst was over and I think everyone, including my doctor, did too. Driving (okay, I was really riding) away from the hospital, I was leaving behind so many things. An IV, a catheter, a feeding tube, sometimes excruciating physical therapy, a bipap machine, a nasal oxygen tube, daily blood tests, a blood transfusion, a tight and painful binder/girdle (although it was replaced by a more comfortable one), constantly interrupted sleep, drug-induced hallucinations, and a complete lack of privacy. The next few weeks would show me that sometimes the simplest things can be the hardest. My usual happy nature would be sorely tested and my sense of humor would be worked until it nearly wore out. From the moment I woke up and knew where I was, I decided that if I didn't find something to laugh at in everything then it would all drive me to tears. Looking back, I know I didn't have a clue what I was about to go through.

My first week home from the hospital was a bit of a shock for me. I am a very independent person and I've lived alone for nearly three years. I'm use to doing things for myself and by myself. I had trouble doing things for myself in the hospital, but I guess I thought it would be different once I got home. It wasn't. I still couldn't walk very far, cook for myself, or even go to the bathroom without help. If that wasn't enough to deal with, I quickly discovered that sleeping would be far more difficult than any of us had imagined it could be.

I could only lie on my left side or my back and I couldn't do that for more than a couple of hours at a time. In addition to the surgery incision on my right upper abdomen, I have severe tailbone pain from four previous injuries to it. So that limited how and where I could sit. This was an issue in the hospital, but with an adjustable bed it was mostly manageable. At home my choices of seats were my desk chair, a love seat, or my bed. Add to that the fact that my 497 sq. ft. apartment now housed 3 people and you have what I have come to call Cushion Roulette. My very patient parents played a game whose only rule is that every few hours I had to change locations. And that includes sleeping locations.

It would be weeks before I could spend most of the night in the bed. Every few hours, despite the pain medicine, severe pain in either my left hip or my tailbone would drive me out of bed. I would sit for at least a half hour in my desk chair and then lie down again hoping for a few more hours of sleep. I augmented this with an involuntary nap every afternoon on the love seat. I say involuntary because I haven't taken naps since kindergarten. I just don't do naps. Until now. I wonder if I can convince my boss to add that to my work day when I get back to work. :P

Thankfully the frequency of Cushion Roulette has reduced. I can spend much longer in one spot. And thanks to a bit more mobility in bed, I can now sleep through most of the night without getting up. If I had a larger bladder I might make through the entire night. :P

Well I think I've bored you all enough for now. There's more to tell and I'll get to work on another entry soon. Thank you all again for your thoughts, comments, prayers, and love.

Keep smiling! :)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sometimes the Trip is the Scariest Part of the Journey...

Before I begin I just want to say that I have several friends that take Ambien and are helped by it. Having said that I would also like to say that Ambien is NOT my friend.

The allure of a good night's sleep far outweighed any fear of taking something I've never taken before. And I don't just mean Ambien. I have never taken a sleeping pill in my life. I've taken pain medication, sedatives, and any number of pills for diabetes, but not sleeping pills. I had heard of Ambien because of friends and I knew that few people suffered from side effects. So I decided to just go for it. Not only did I have side effects from it, I had one of the rarest side effects.

About 30 minutes after taking the Ambien, I could feel my body begin to relax. I also realized that my stepmom was already sound asleep. That in itself is a miracle since the poor, sweet woman was sleeping in a recliner. And I'm not talking about a big, comfortable one either. This was your standard hospital issue, lumpy, vinyl covered recliner.

I felt like I might finally be able to relax and possibly sleep through the night. Before I could drift off, my mind suddenly started moving quite quickly and wouldn't calm down. As silly and funny as it sounds, my mind was convinced that it was faxing people. Go ahead, laugh. Trust me, I know how crazy it sounds. How do I know? Because there was a small voice in my head the entire night that kept reminding me that only crazy people have these thoughts. So while part of me was madly trying to fax everyone I've ever known, another part of me was scared that I'd finally lost my mind.

I was so concerned that I opened my eyes and was about to call out to my stepmom. Before her name could leave my lips, my eye was caught by a flash of colour on the ceiling. When I looked up there were literally hundreds of coloured squids writhing around on the ceiling. Needless to say I was frightened. Part of me believed they were real and that they were there to harm me. And that little voice kept up its drone of insanity and being committed.

I spent the rest of the night trying to be as still as I could. I became convinced that if I made no noise and didn't move then they wouldn't know I was there. Only then would I be safe. The nurses came and went but I never responded to them. They knew that I wasn't asleep but kept saying I would fall asleep soon and that I shouldn't worry. I couldn't call out to my stepmom because I just knew that if they knew she was there they would hurt her too.

The story is funny now. In fact, I've amused everyone from my family to my surgeon and his staff with the story. But at the time it was terrifying. I didn't mention it to anyone at the hospital and I didn't tell my stepmom until we had been home a few days. I was still convinced that I was crazy and would be committed.

After weeks of recovery and more of the anesthesia working its way out of my body, my mind has finally been able to associate the hallucinations to the Ambien and stop attributing it to my own lack of sanity. Due to the aches and pains, I'm still having a bit of trouble sleeping. Because I know that I can't heal without good sleep, I finally gave in and picked up some Tylenol PM. I'm very happy to report that the squids and faxing have not returned. Now we can all rest easy.

Sweet dreams! :)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Moral of the Story...

If you are going to be in the hospital and incapacitated in any way make sure you have someone with you that knows you well enough to speak for you. My stepmom not only answered calls and questions from anyone and everyone who had my cell phone number, but she also fielded questions from the hospital staff. Here is a list of some of the questions she was repeatedly asked.

"Does she normally use a walker or walking aide?"
"Is she on oxygen at home?"
"Does she use a c-pap at night?"

My stepmom's response to each person's amazement...

"She lives alone, drives her own car, walks without help, and holds down a full time job."

I was in such bad shape that they were shocked I had entered the hospital a healthy, independent person. I do have insulin-dependent diabetes and I'm quite overweight. I have hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, and acid reflux disease. But I really am relatively healthy. Well I was and I will be again. Soon.

IV's and catheters are pretty standard post-surgery equipment. The extremely large amount of anesthesia used dictated the insertion of a feeding tube and the initial use of oxygen. But some things they use to make you better can make you worse. Visual aide: post-surgery binder or girdle (quite similar to the ones I wore).

While still on the operating table, I was (VERY) tightly wrapped into this girdle. It went from just under my arms to well below my waist. It actually covered most of my butt too. I mention it because this fact will cause problems later when I am able to walk to the bathroom on my own. We'll also discover after I've come home that it's given me several sores and caused an area on my left backside to lose all sensation. That area is still mostly numb.

I was visited daily by doctors & respiratory therapists that lamented my shallow breathing. At first they chalked it up to the pain caused by abdominal surgery but then I began to complain that the girdle was too tight to breathe. It's a shame more doctors don't trust their patients to know their own bodies.

After several days of my stepmom and I talking to the nurses about the girdle someone finally realized we were right. Once we got someone on our side my stepmom helped me undo the girdle. I could immediately breathe better. A little while later the nurse we convinced came in and helped her to close the girdle back up, but not as tight. After discovering that the girdle was actually two different layers going around me and overlapping in the middle, they shifted those layers to make it easier for me to move.

Suddenly I could straighten up while standing. I could reach more than a few inches away from my body. And best of all I could breathe. The next evening (Monday) I stopped using the oxygen. The respiratory therapists were upset at first but gave in when my oxygen levels remained above 95. However not before they insisted I be put on a bi-pap machine. This is a breathing machine you wear while sleeping that is much larger than the c-pap most people use at home.

The problem with this plan is that I am a very light sleeper and this machine is incredibly loud. The oxygen came out so hard that if the facemask wasn't sitting just right it would blow my hair back. And that is no exaggeration. I laid there without sleeping for over two hours being as still as I possibly could to keep from setting off the alarm on the machine because I'd moved the mask in the slightest way. I finally gave up and asked my stepmom to call the nurse to turn it off. The new plan was to give me a sleeping pill the next night before starting the machine.

I thought about it all the next day and decided not to let them put me on the machine again. I'm claustrophobic and the facemask is so huge that I couldn't relax the night before and I didn't think a sleeping pill was going to change that. After explaining this to the respiratory therapist, he relented and left me machine free for the night. The nurse suggested I take the sleeping pill anyway and enjoy a nice restful night. I hadn't been sleeping too well so I agreed.

I'll amuse you in my next entry with what a mistake that decision turned out to be.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Best Laid Plans...

I'm finally giving in to the many requests for more details. Just remember when I've bored you silly that ya'll asked for it. :P

On Wednesday, June 7th my dad & stepmom came to Houston from Louisiana. The plan was I would go in the next day for gall bladder surgery, stay overnight, and they would help me for the next few days until I could take care of myself. So before daylight the next morning they drove me to the hospital and I was prepped and wheeled into surgery. This is where the plans went out the window.

I would end up being in the hospital for six days and I wouldn't be conscious enough to know what was going on around me until sometime Friday afternoon. And then it would be several more days before I could stay awake for more than a couple of hours at a time. It would also be several weeks before I could talk without pausing every few sentences because I couldn't think of the word I needed. A frightening, but harmless side effect of the large amount of anesthesia used.

Things began to go wrong during the surgery. Within moments of attempting to do the surgery laproscopically, the doc knew my recovery was suddenly going to be much harder and longer. He set aside the tiny cameras and picked up a scalpel. Through a 24cm incision he removed my gall bladder that was so full of stones that it had dropped down behind my liver. While removing it, he noticed that I also had liver damage. Even though I've never been much of a drinker (except for about four months while at college) and tested negative to all types of hepatitis, I had cirrhosis. I'll have to see a specialist before we'll know the severity or the extent of it. Best case scenario is I will just have to "baby" it for the rest of my life. Worst case scenario is I will eventually need a transplant. Only time and a specialist will tell.

My surgeon is a pro so although he was worried about me he did an excellent job. Despite me making it harder on him. More than once during the surgery I began to wake up. He told me that he had never had a patient need as much anesthesia as me. His assistant said she lost count of how many times I tried to wake up but she figures it was about 6 or 7 times.

Although I know that I was awake several times on Thursday, I have no memories other than a vague moment in my hospital room with my stepmom holding my hand and seeing my dad at the end of my bed. I have another blurry memory of early Friday morning. My surgeon was standing just inside the door almost as if he was afraid to come in. I'm told I pouted at him and told him I didn't like him because he gave me a big owie. I don't doubt that I did because big owie doesn't even begin to cover it.

My first clearer memory was Friday afternoon. At which time I became aware of several things. I acquired a few attachments. An IV (expected), a catheter (expected), a nasal oxygen tube (sort of expected), a feeding tube (completely not expected), and a medieval torture device cleverly disguised as a very large and VERY tight binder or girdle (not only not expected but freaking painful).

The IV was in until the day I was released. The catheter was in until Monday. I stopped using the oxygen on Monday because it bothered me. The feeding tube came out Saturday afternoon, but it would be Sunday morning before my stepmom could convince me to eat anything. And then it was only a bite. It would be a day or two before I could manage more than that and it would be a couple of weeks before the smell of food cooking would stop making me nauseous every time. Sometimes the smell of something will still creep up on me and make my stomach roll.

As bad as it was for me, my stepmom had a rougher time. She got almost no sleep and had to answer questions and phone calls from my friends, family, and work. My cell phone rang nearly non-stop during that first weekend and didn't slow down much after that. But she did it all with a smile and only one night off when I was stronger. She's an amazing woman. In fact I've got four pretty great parents. My stepmom & dad haven't left my side since the surgery despite having a fairly busy life of their own. My dad is on disability due to a bad 18-wheeler accident, but my stepmom is not working while they are here. Thankfully her wonderful employers have someone filling in so her job will be there when she gets back.

Well I think that's enough for now. I'll fill in a few more details at a later date, I promise. Trust me, I've just skimmed the surface with this entry.

Thanks to everyone again for all the thoughts, prayers, and love. Some days the only thing that made the pain bearable was knowing that you all were out there sending me so much love that I could feel it like a warm, safe hug. Just know I'm sending you much love in return.