Where to begin? The past two weeks have been insane. Chalk full of unexpected blessings, changes, and trauma.
I flew to Gig Harbor, WA almost 2 weeks ago to have surgery by Dr. Mosbrucker, an endometriosis specialist, and Dr. Pai, a general surgeon she works with. My Mom accompanied me for the entire trip while my hubby took time off of work to be with the kids.
The surgery was expected to be 3 hours long. I was in pre-op, getting my IV placed by one of the nurses, when the anesthesiologist came in and introduced herself. She began to tell me, in her kind, nonchalant way, that I would be having the largest endotracheal tube placed down my throat, and it would be placed very deep into my left bronchial, in order to keep mainly just my left lung inflated while they operated on my diaphragm on the right side. She continued on to say, that, oh by the way, I would also need an arterial lined placed for the surgery (this was to be placed after I was asleep, but before the surgery started), and also a second IV. I didn’t have a huge amount of time to process this info, thankfully. I texted my hubby that I loved him, I gave my Mom a hug, and to the OR I went.
Ironically, in the weeks leading up to my surgery, I had told a handful of people that if I made it out of surgery without a chest tube, I’d be happy. After all, chest tubes are super painful. And not only that, but it would mean that the surgeon didn’t have to perform a full resection on my diaphragm, leaving my thoracic cavity untouched. Ultimately, it would mean that the endometriosis hadn’t grown all the way through my diaphragm, and that the surgeon had been able to essentially “scrape” it off instead of cutting it out.
I had also hoped that I was completely wrong about all the symptoms I had been having up to that point. I had hoped that perhaps my endo wasn’t all that bad, and that maybe my surgeon could save my ovaries and uterus. I made a point to let her know that I was just fine with not having a hysterectomy, if she thought things were good enough to save it all. She said she would use her best judgement, and I was fine with leaving the decision with her.
Let’s just have a good laugh right now about how delusional I was about the status of my endometriosis. Let’s just get the details out there: My surgery was seven hours long, not 3. I had FULL thickness endo growing through my diaphragm. I did indeed wake up with a chest tube and resection of my diaphragm. My surgeon said I had more endo on my diaphragm THAN SHE HAD EVER SEEN (the good news is that it wasn’t in my thoracic cavity!). I had full thickness endo growing through my small intestine, close to the illeocecal valve, and so therefore had a small bowel resection. I also had endo on my colon, which was removed. I apparently had endo all over the place, so my surgeon made the decision to do the hysterectomy. There is one bright spot – the better looking ovary, my left ovary, was covered with a lot of endo, so she literally cut about half of my ovary out and sutured it back together. Apparently ovaries regenerate like livers, so it’s supposed to grow back. Therefore, I get to keep an ovary and do not need hormone replacement therapy.
Instead of staying in the hospital overnight, I wound up in the critical care unit for two nights and then was transferred to the med surg unit for two more nights. My surgeon wouldn’t let me leave Gig Harbor for four more additional nights, so my Mom and I had to book another Airbnb, switch to a later flight, and rent the car for four more days. It was not cheap to do this!
I don’t have a lot to say about the hospital stay except that I flooded my room while taking a shower. Major OOPS! I had put a towel on the floor and didn’t notice that it was covering the drain. All of the sudden I heard my Mom shout from the other side of the door “Emily! There’s water out here!” Enter the nurse, the charge nurse, the nursing aide, and environmental services to clean up all the water outside the bathroom (it was more than an inch deep). I was so mortified that I cried, but the nurse thanked me for giving them some excitement that afternoon.
When I finally got out of the hospital, the Airbnb we stayed at was really close to the water and they had a beautiful yard that we got to look at through a sliding glass door. My Mom was a wonderful companion and excellent nurse. She was working on knitting a sweater for my sister, and it was the most complicated pattern ever. But it kept my Mom occupied while I slept, or rested, or sat and watched HGTV with her. I was extremely boring to be around! She kept me fed, helped me get out of bed, talked with me, ran to the store for me, and was just generally great to be around. I can’t thank her enough.
I called my kids and hubby twice a day and we video chatted each time, which was a huge blessing. I was gone from them 10 days, which is just about forever when your kids are little. I missed them so much. (I cried about that too.) My hubby always seemed to be in good spirits and things seemed to be going well with the kids. His Mom came over a few times to help out, and my sisters came as well. One of my sisters brought a meal, which was helpful.
I did end up at the ER a day after I got out of the hospital. I had a sudden migraine occur, and I’ve never had a migraine. After medicating, resting and icing, and with no success– I went to urgent care. After they learned of my major surgery they wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot pole. So we went to the ER where the ER doc insisted on a head CT. I knew they were going to force me into one and I was very prepared to refuse it until I remembered that I had gotten 4 Lovenox injections while in the hospital. And suddenly, a very slow leak or bleed in my brain sounded a tiny bit more plausible. The ER doc told me that if I did have a brain bleed and I refuse the CT scan, I would simply go home and die (I didn’t care for her much). She was pretty pushy, and I felt miserable. So I got the head CT, which ended up looking “perfect.” The nurse taking care of me pushed a med for my migraine way too fast and it gave me a horrible panic attack – my skin suddenly felt hot and I just wanted to jump out of my skin. It was a ROTTEN experience and by far the worst part of the trip. The nurse then gave me some IV Benadryl which helped negate some of the yucky side effects, but not all. I was very, very discouraged when my Mom drove me home from the ER late that night. After everything I had already been through, the whole experience felt traumatic. My ability to handle stressful things was pretty poor.
We did do something fun while in Gig Harbor – we rode on the ferry the afternoon prior to flying home. After going up two flights of stairs I was in pretty major pain, but it was a new experience with beautiful scenery. (I should add that my Mom discovered an elevator on the ferry after that!).
We finally made it home close to 11 pm Friday night. The next day I realized that I had a UTI – thank you hospital foley catheter! I mean, I understand why I had to have it (no one gets up and goes to the bathroom with a chest tube in place), but still, it was frustrating all the same to be back at urgent care, only this time in a different city. And I’m grateful for antibiotics, but I don’t tolerate them very well.
All in all, I had NINE incision sites (my Mom said it looked like I was in a knife fight) – and I have very little pain today. Things seem to be healing up quickly! My abdomen/pelvis feel GREAT. I have had food intolerance only one time so far, and even that it questionable. So – I feel very hopeful for the future!