Well I didn’t expect that!

What started out as a normal Monday afternoon and evening ended up being a horrible night of pain and suffering. The day was fairly normal, at least normal for me anyway. Thanks to pancreatitis my normal is some abdominal pain and GI issues. I had eaten that day and even had a bowel movement. I don’t remember what I ate but I had been snacking some and didn’t really eat supper. I was having some increase in abdominal pain but didn’t think much about it. Again, that was pretty normal for me. About 6pm it started getting worse. I just figured it was one of my flares and it would go away sooner or later. The pain kept increasing and my mind began to wonder if this was a stronger flare or something else. By 9 pm it was causing me serious discomfort and I was considering going to the hospital emergency room. Going to the ER is the last thing I want to do. The stress of going to the ER of the past 10 years has taken its toll on me. By 10 pm I told myself if it wasn’t better or decreasing by midnight I would go in. By now I was bent over in pain and pacing the floor. By the time midnight came I was curled up in a ball on the floor as I weighed my options on how to get to the hospital. Maybe not the best decision but I figured traffic would be very light so I drove myself. I arrived at the ER and was triaged and taken to a room. A CT scan showed a bowel twisted and blockage. An IV was started and I was given pain meds. When they walked in with a glass of water and a long tube I knew I was in trouble. This meant I was getting a NG, nasal gastric tube that would suck out the contents of my stomach. The hope was that It would also undo the blockage. They put an EG tube in through your nose as you drink water through as straw. As you drink and swallow the tube follows the esophagus to the stomach. They push the tube in to the coaching of swallow, swallow, swallow. It is not a fun experience.

I was admitted and taken to my room. I was NPO, nothing by mouth, IV fluids and my pain was mildly controlled. Nothing really improved over the next 24 hours. Late Wednesday night my pain started to increase again. Pain medications were no longer controlling my intense agony. I was again curled up in a ball in my bed crying. 10 out of 10 on the pain scale, I honestly wanted to die if they couldn’t do something. The doctor thankfully increased my pain medication which took the edge off. I was sent down for another CT scan. Soon after returning to my room, I was informed that I was going to need emergency surgery for a perforated bowl. It was about 2am on Thursday morning and a call had gone out for the on-call surgery team. By about 4am I was being taken to preop and soon after into the surgical suite. I moved over onto the surgical table and that was all I remember. Next thing I knew and remember I was back in my room. I was hooked up to several tubes and wires. NG tube, IV line, O2 nasal cannula, wound vac, catheter, heart monitor, O2 saturation and compression sleeves on my legs meant I wasn’t going anyplace soon. My pain was different now but no less intense. They had cut me open on the same incision as my pancreas surgery. About 10 inches of my small bowel was removed. The surgeon had to cut through the mesh that had been put in to repair the hernia I had in 2017. This created a bit of a challenge for the surgeon and to quote him, “I sewed it back together the best I could.” The surgeon said I had several adhesions which likely caused the problem. I would have to be watched carefully when healing for any complications. It took 25 staples to close my wound this time. A few less than the 43 for my pancreas surgery. I wasn’t going to be allowed to eat or drink anything for a couple of days. The IV was dripping and I was getting 2 different antibiotics. My pain was controlled as long as I get the medication on time. I was very sore and as with any abdominal surgery moving hurt. They wanted me up walking so I would get up a couple of times a day with help and do one lap on the floor. It hurt and I didn’t have much energy but doing it was very necessary. Each day I managed to get rid of a tube or wires. Getting the NG tube out was very welcomed. Finally, I had just my IV and heart monitor left. I was able to get up on my own and walk. I started out on ice chips and moved up to clear liquids the next day. After not eating for a week, jello and broth were a treat. A couple days later I started soft foods like mash potatoes and cream of wheat.

After 9 days in the hospital I was able to head home. Recovery at home by myself was difficult but I managed. I moved extremely slow and very carefully. I struggled with my energy and tired extremely quick. Sleeping at home was a challenge and I had to sit up to sleep as I couldn’t lie flat. Sitting in the recliner was the best place but keeping the cat off my lap was a challenge. I used a pillow to hold on my abdomen and protect my belly. I had a 10 lb. lifting restriction for the next 2 months and was told not to life anything to heavy all summer. I couldn’t drive and had friends take me to my next 2 doctor appointments. As the days went by I slowly improved, was able eat a little better and start gaining some weight back. I had lost 25 lbs. down to 183, lower than what I weight graduating from high school. As of today I have gained back a few pounds and continue to feel better. I’m walking a mile 5-6 times a week. I still do not lift anything heavy but have increased my activity around the house. I figure it will take me most of the summer to recover. I’m thankful for my family and friends who have helped me during this difficult time. From getting groceries, to Dr. appointments, bringing supper, mowing the lawn or just checking in on me, I’m grateful for the people who helped. I’m also grateful for the staff at Marion General for the care I received during my 9 days.

I told someone that this illness and surgery really kicked my ass pretty bad. It certainly changed my plans for the spring and summer. But for almost 10 years now my health has caused many things to change. The struggle physically and mentally has been difficult. The fight continues and even though this knocked me down in whatever round it was, I have got back on my feet and will keep fighting.  

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