Monday, January 18, 2010

Time and Tide

It has been over a year since I posted to this blog, but some recent activity, spam though it was, poked me to update the site. Basically, all is well with me. My weight is stable, although I struggle to keep my iron and vitamin D levels at a reasonable level. All of my other labs are good. I wear a size 14 with forays into 12 territory and I feel blessedly normal.

A bit over a year out from my last surgery, I have healed very well. After 6 mos. I went to a new PCP and he looked at my scars and asked "How many years ago was that surgery?". The scars are very light, the miraculous "belly button" still remains, and I am so glad not to have the blockages anymore - those attacks were very scary and painful. Having a very flat stomach has also been great for my self-esteem in an odd way. I never realized how much having a big belly - and, later, a lot of skin - reinforced my sense of being a fat person. Now I'm a normal-sized, middle-aged woman with my mother and grandfather's big thighs. If I had one more plastic surgery, it would be to remove the excess skin from my upper arms, but nothing is planned for the immediate future.

On a sad note, Tess, my beloved nurse cat, became very ill in December and had to be put to sleep in early January. It was a tremendously difficult decision and a huge loss for all of us. We miss her very much.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happiness = Valenki

OK, these things will never win any fashion contests. But when it's -17 outside, these are what you want on your feet: traditional Russian wool felt boots, called "valenki". Worn with a pair of thin socks, they keep your feet really warm, even in Siberian-like snows. After coveting other peoples valenki for years - the fact that wearing valenki was considered the best way, short of neon, to advertise your hickness when I was over there, notwithstanding - I found a pair on sale on ebay and they arrived on Friday. Do check out the seller valenki-rus if you have size 7 or 10 feet and you can snag a pair for under $10.

My feet are SO happy. And I was especially glad to get them just when my DH was coming down with a cold. Wearing valenki is an old folk cure for keeping flu and cold free - some kind of stimulation of the feet. Take it for what it's worth. In general, I'm feeling better week by week. Got the okey-dokey to go back to work after the 3rd of January.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Drains OUT, Appetite IN

Wow! Who would have guessed that this would be such a relief? I had my two large drains taken out this afternoon - much less painful than I thought it would be - and, within an hour, my appetite had returned and I was able to get in 12 g of protein with more to come. Having said that about my appetite, I am now, as of today, with 5 lbs off for winter clothing, official at the goal weight my DS set for me lo these two years ago. That is wild.

I still have the little seroma drain in, which had become clogged and needed some clearing from the fantabulous Ms. Crystal, my PS' superior nurse. She wrestled that puppy into position and out plopped a whole string of glop. The only icky thing about this drain is that since the entire space is less than an inch deep, I really feel it if I move a particular direction or it moves out. *Shudder*

So, all in all, I'm feeling better, still on the antibiotics for another week, have a smallish waist and no stomach. I realize that I've not said too much about the physical results, but they look VERY good, esp. compared with other pix I've seen at 3 weeks out. The scars have completely closed over and even the slight curve to the shape is very aesthetic.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Ad Astra per Asperation

Today I had my seroma drained, and it was pretty much an all-day affair. All in all it was much less painful than my previous experiences with aspiration, where I had to be held down, passed out, etc. The worst part of this procedure was the multiple bruises I now have all over my R hand and arm from them trying to do labs and IVs (semi successfully). At least I was able to convince them to do a ferritin test, which was overlooked on my last labs.

The plan changed a little and instead of going along with plan A which was to drain the seroma and see if it would fill up again (gee, yah THINK?), this doc put in a wire catheter and another jp drain. It looks different than the other TT drains and feels a little weird now after the fact. They gave me lidocaine putting it in and it didn't hurt a bit and I learned a new trick - if the doc pushes against the ribs at the same time s/he inserts the anesthetic needle, the push sensation overrides the needle pick and there is no pain. How cool is that?

Thanks for all of your help and support. I felt much better about the drain alternative than padding under the binder as a way to resolve the issue more permanently. They took about 280 ccs of fluid, which I am insisting on having cultured, as it wasn't clear at all, but the color of week-old tea and could harbor nasties. There was also some other crud that showed up on the ultrasound which is probably some old blood left over from round one, but which also bears checking out.

Speaking of checking out, that's what I'm about to do right now.

Thursday, December 04, 2008 Seroma

Bleah. Back from the PS - who I like more and more each time we meet. After a brief discussion of Haida folk art and good mechanics, she checked out the swelling on my abdomen, which is about the size of a grapefruit (sound familiar?). Both the good and bad news is that it is a seroma - it's not a new hernia although it is the same size and close to where the old hernia was. It also doesn't jump when I sneeze or laugh like the hernia did. She was pretty bummed - and the hospital had not bothered to call her and tell her that I reported this development to them over 9 days ago.
Really, really poor communication.

So, what's to be done? The sucker has to be drained. She'll do this with help of an ultra-sound to exactly pinpoint the bursa and then drain it with a needle. I am SO not excited about this. The last time I had anything aspirated it was my knee, there was nearly a liter of fluid involved and no anesthetic. This won't be as big a deal at all - apparently it's not painful to have it drained - but I'm still not looking forward to it. I asked if it would eventually reabsorb, but there are other issues at play when it is this large and the recommendation is to have the fluid removed and then use something to keep extra pressure on the area so it doesn't fill up again. Truly, nature abhors a vacuum.

On the very good side, the healing is coming along very nicely. I'm still to wear the binder for another 3 weeks at least, which is no chore as it feels good. One scar is slightly higher than the other, but it all looks really lovely and the left side incision doesn't even have any scabbing - just new skin. Next week I can start to use Vit E cream on that new skin. Drains stay in at least until next week - perhaps to come out when the ultrasound is done. Told to stay the course with the antibiotics and the pain killers. "You've had some very major surgeries here," I was reminded. Urk.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Further Thoughts

Having said all that I have above, and even throwing in a touch of the post-surgery blues and wishing someone had told me about the temporary loss of appetite, I would still vote for having the surgery again. Not having to worry about those horrible gastric attacks, complete with writhing pain and projectile vomiting, is huge, as is the smell reduction. Also, my PS's work is really, really good. When I had my first surgery, I really had a hard time looking at the incision areas without feeling sick to my stomach. Maybe I've just toughened up a bit, but these look so good, even at 2.5 weeks out, it's amazing, even though they are really extensive - from hip to hip and nearly up to my breastbone. The size loss is noticeable, nice, but a secondary consideration for me right now. I'll probably feel differently about that at some point.

Timing is everything. Job situation aside, I chose not to have my surgery in the summer, mostly as I didn't want to be sweaty and have even more skin issues if I had to wear a binder all the time. Actually, I run so cold now that this wouldn't really have been an issue. But I am an enthusiastic supporter of those cheap fruit of the loom men's XXL wife beater style singlets. You want them a lot longer than you'd think. I wear one all the time under the binder and haven't had any discomfort from the binder itself due to chafing, etc. Often, I'm quite sensitive to this, so it's a big plus! The binder itself, despite being large and requiring two people to get tight enough to do its job, is comfortable and comforting - except where it presses on the drain points.

Loose clothing, including a non-binding nightgown, long enough to keep my calves warm, and hospital or granny-type underwear have been great, if seriously unattractive except to the most fetischistic. I've had no restrictions from my surgeons on showers, which is apparently not the case for all docs, and that has been a major plus, in terms of keeping clean, sane and somewhat presentable. I have no problem wearing a bra, which I wasn't sure about when I had the surgery. I have heard that some women pin their drains to their bras under their arms when wearing more formal or tight-fitting clothing. Um, not so sure how that would work. My drains are the size of smallish goose-eggs - I'd look like I was going the springer spaniel look if I stuck them up near the bust. Most of the time I keep them pinned to the front of the binder - hence the need for loose shirts.
Still Here - Getting Better... Slowly

My friend Margie reminded me the other day that one of my bigger strengths is how patient I am with other people. What she neglected to say - or didn't remember - is how impatient I can be with myself. I want to be better. Now. I want to be able to be up for more than two hours without needing a nap and off of pain meds without feeling like someone kicked me in the kishkes.
It would also be great to have an appetite, but I'm willing to compromise on that point.

Tomorrow will be my first follow-up with the surgeon and I will hopefully know more about what's going on with my drains - which are disgusting, but in a normal sort of way. By the way, if you are ever looking for a good test of whether someone would be a reliable partner, consider their reaction to your request to help you strip your drains. The stuff in that tubing is not pretty, I'm telling you. I'm still on antibiotics, a smaller amount of pain medication (I keep trying to figure out the lowest amount I can use) and hoping that this big pocket on my stomach is not a seroma. I'm seriously wishing it was three weeks from now. Seriously.

But the work is beautiful and I haven't had a single stinky fart since surgery. That alone is (almost) worth the price of admission.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hernia-less and Panni-Free

Thanks to all of you who have been keeping up with me on the hernia repair/TT adventure. Well, it was a strange trip indeed. Once they got in to repair the hernia and sent a bit of the tissue to the lab it turned out that there was indeed necrosis there and the blockage was more significant than they had thought. This would explain why I was feeling so awful when I'd get temporary blockages. I wish the various docs would have taken it more seriously at the time - it's not a great idea wandering around with necrotic tissue in your bowels.

They removed over 7 lbs of skin and fat. Although I will endeavor not to do it again, I couldn't resist the urge to get on a scale I ran across on one of my 4 am rambles. Lo and behold, I was 11 lbs less than before I went into surgery. I was absolutely amazed and having considered this as a one-time gift from the scale fairy, I do not plan to get on a scale again until i start swimming again. The docs all commented how tight my abs were prior to the surgery and what good condition my skin was in. I really think that regular swimming helped me a great deal.

Now for the really good news - I'm home. A slight infection had them keep me in hospital for about a week. I've been feeling fine now that the meds are adjusted. By day 4 after the surgery I was walking up and down 4 flights of stairs and on day 6 I was able to walk 7 flights to the Xray lab in the basement. My stitches should be entered into the state fair - they are that small and neat. Docs were coming from all over the university to admire my PS's work. She went all the way up to near the sternum and then far back up on the hips, ending in a little "c". She also did some cosmetic work on the mons - and I don't think I've looked this good above or below the bikini line since I was 11!

I did lose my belly button, so I'll just have to explain that I'm not Eve or an angel. I think I can handle it. ;^)

I'm amazed at how tired I can get, how uninteresting food is and how little I remember of what I read - thanks, Mr. Morphine!. I sit in the recliner (outfitted with a twin-sized feather bed) during a lot of the day, but I have no problem sleeping in a normal bed. I'm usually a very dedicated side-sleeper, but I've been doing well on my back with my knees over a wedge pillow.

So, all in all, I'm doing very well and doing what I need to be doing which is focusing on getting better and doing very little. The pain isn't nearly as bad as I was worried that it would be. Thanks at least in part to the bromelaine I have had almost no bruising, aside from a patch the size of my palm on my right thigh. There is no pain from the bruise and it has faded quite quickly. Oddly enough, I actually struggle to get my binder as tight as I had it in the hospital. I'm not uncomfortable with it off or loose, I just am trying to keep it as tight as the PS showed me. They are a weird mixture between a blue and white 40's kitchen towel and a giant piece of velcro. I have no idea how one wears a bra with this thing and will hopefully be able to switch to a smaller model before I have to be seen in a public place where decorum trumps gravity.