Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Thankful Semicolon Update

My 1st attempt at adult coloring
to help me focus and distract from
the pain
This will probably go down in my 65-year history as my most gratitude-filled Thanksgivings ever.  I'm just happy to be here! One month ago today I underwent emergency surgery for a twisted/blocked bowel.  (See the October 31 Not All Adventures are Fun post for details). Following eight days in the hospital, nine at home, a second trip to the ER, four more nights in the hospital, and a trip to the ER two nights ago, I can say I have turned the corner!

My energy, appetite, and mental cognition are finally back, but my normal weight and body fat need to go up, way up. The incision site looks good.  I still have constant abdominal pain and the swelling, but they are a fraction of what they were a month ago, and less than one week ago.  It is so good to be off the two different antibiotics, each with their food restrictions and different schedules all of hours of the day and night.  And the post-opiod  mental fog and withdrawal symptoms are finally gone.
Quite a difference from a month ago!

My midnight visit to the ER two nights ago was for left arm tingling and numbness, a suspected serious side effect from one of the antibiotics.  Fortunately that wasn't the case and my EKG was just fine. (Turned out to be a pinched nerve).

I'm back at work part-time, and the surgeon gave me the green light to drive, ride a stationary bike easy and swim gentle laps in the pool. She thinks I can resume my normal workouts in about a month.  She also showed me the CT scan from just before the surgery.  We caught it just an hour or two before my lower bowel burst and really bad things could have happened. Apparently I have had symptoms of this in the past few months, but I just passed them off as gas pains and they went away.
Our upcoming Thanksgiving feast

Needless to say, I have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving:  our abundance, family, friends, freedom, and above all,  health.  I'm even more grateful for every single day, my blessings, and the people in my life.  I know it’s a cliché, but it only takes something like this to drive the point home.  Finally, even though it seems like the world is falling apart, it’s great to be alive in the 21st Century with its modern medicine.  My stocking cap goes off to the caring medical team at Salem Hospital.

Thanks to all of you for your well wishes and inquiries, and an extra special thanks  go to my wife, Kathy, and to my amazing coworkers at The H Group, Inc.  

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!  Kathy and I are celebrating with friends Bob and Lisa Martinsson, fellow adult Thanksgiving orphans in Lake Oswego.  They're experimenting with a mail order dinner that arrived yesterday.

; Ron

Sunday, November 13, 2016

On the Road---to Recovery at Home!

I'm finally home again, hopefully for good!  The doctors released me based on a high side of a normal white cell count, two CAT scans that showed no leakage outside of the bowels, no abscess, and discontinued use of high-powered IV pain killers.  The two different kinds of IV antibiotics over four days seemed to have worked their magic.  Apparently I had some internal infection and highly irritated tissues at the surgery site.

So after picking up oral antibiotics, I luxuriated this afternoon in a deep sleep nap snuggled among smooth fitted sheets and uninterrupted silence.  I awakened without a tangled up mess of course hospital blankets, an awkward hospital gown and IV tubes.  Ah... the simple things in life!

My bloating and all of it's relative pain from the October 25 surgery is pretty much gone, as is the soreness from the incision site.  The pain is now internal where things were sewn or stapled together, and it comes and goes in big waves, but is generally much better and tolerable than what admitted me to the ER Tuesday and the hospital for a second time on Wednesday.    Other than the differences between the pain from my first discharge on October 31 and today is that this time I have basically no energy.

Kathy had to create a spreadsheet
just to keep track of everything.
It goes without saying that it is so good to be home.  Beyond sleeping and bathing comforts, our own TV, broadband internet, our view, our own cooking, the quite, the lack of constant interruptions day and night.  All of these bring a sense of place and calm to what is home.

Once again, big thanks go to the wonderful  nursing staff at Salem Hospital (many of whom I was privileged to see again), Kathy for her advocacy, visits, and nursing care at home, all of you who have wished me well, the doctors, and modern medicine that are making this second chance at life possible.

This has been quite an adventure, but one that makes me cherish all of the others I've written about so much more.

I'm learning of other friends and relatives who have had this same type of thing.  They have given me a lot of reassurance, education, and hope, especially since one of them is a doctor.  We call ourselves semi-colons.

My prime directive!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Good News, but Still Much Uncertainty

Wednesday I went to a scheduled meeting with one of my surgeons, but I arrived with severe localized cramps and the chills.  Gratefully, she admitted me to Salem Hospital, and I was so cramped up that I had to be wheeled into my room.
After the good news

Her concerns were that I might have C-diff, a nasty and highly contagious infection.  After a night of IV antibiotics, pain meds, and fluids (plus a lot of frequent interruptions), I felt better on Thursday .  Then I got the good news this afternoon that I do NOT have C-diff! Even when even when I am unlucky, I am lucky.
Before as a precaution 

No more hazmat suits which made everyone look 10 pounds heavier.
A very attractive model

So, what’s up?  Friday we’ll get new blood results, and hopefully the white cell count will have lowered.  I go in for two CAT scans—one with IV iodine, and another oral dye.  They will be looking for a leak where the small and large intestines were sewn together, an abscess, or both.  Or maybe they won’t find anything but highly traumatized  and inflamed tissue.  Hopefully it's an abscess.

The abscess can likely be drained with invasive radiology inserting a drain tube.  The leak be fixed by either a few days of no foods or liquids orally (so that it heals without food passing through) or worst case by surgery again.  The docs seem to think at this point that it is probably an abscess.  With luck I might be out of here by Sunday or Monday.  Until then, my goal is to try to strike up a conversation with everyone I encounter and try to make them laugh or smile.  They have tough thankless jobs.

My trusted steed for walk
At least this time, my stay is easier because I can get out of bed without assistance, wander around, and take a shower.  The oxycodone seems to hype me up.  Yesterday, I participated in two one-hour webinars on Thursday, responded to a lot of emails, spent way too much on social media, and wrote this.  But concentration and reading are hard.  My chief complaint now is the clear diet and boredom.  Time to start mindlessly binge watching on Netflix and Amazon Prime with some good pain meds.

Thanks for all your well wishes and concerns! They said it's okay to have visitors, but call or email first, in case I'm having tests or am under the influence.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Step Backward into the ER

Here we go again
Progress is not always a straight line. Monday was another in a series of good days since I returned home a week ago.    I didn't take Tylenol with breakfast, I walked to work, climbed three flights of stars, and worked for a couple of hours, then walked home.  However I woke up late in the night with major and frightening abdominal pains.  This morning, the surgeon told me to check into the ER.

After five hours of IV pain medications and fluids, a normal CAT scan and chest X-ray, and blood and urine tests, nobody knows why this happened.  My white cell and platelet counts are way up, and the doctors are just as baffled by them as we are.

It seems like I'm right back to where I was a week ago, but with much better bowel functions, less bloating,  and a growing appetite.
Tuna Noodle Casserole Tonight

The ER doc suggested I spend the night for observation and pain control.  As I was about to agree, some loud voices in the hallway and an automatic door slamming for the 15th time made the decision for me.  I'm much more comfortable and I can get more rest at home.  I had a luxurious uninterrupted nap this afternoon snuggled in smooth sheets,without an awkward and stupid hospital gown, and  hourly interruptions for vitals.  And I like my own and Kathy's cooking much better.
No more staples!

The good news is that I got my staples removed and the incision and its drains show no signs of infection.
Sunday's big breakfast before a drive
through the countryside

And the other good news is that as I'm about to publish this, I am feeling slightly better.

Thanks to all of you for you concerns and well wishes.  Trust me, it means a lot.  Some have wondered how I can write a blog under these kinds of circumstances.  For me, writing this is a brief distraction from the pain.

One final thought:  This is one helluva way to lose 10 pounds and 2.5% body fat!