Tuesday, January 20, 2009

[So... How am I?]

I know, I know... it sure took me long enough.  Why wait so long to update, especially after such a crazy surgery?  Well, a lot happened, and there were a good number of unanswered questions.  

Disclaimer: some details about my recovery and current state of health may contain TMI (too much information) for some readers.  If you are a reader who is opposed to knowing about a patient's digestive troubles, proceed with discretion.  I will be quite blunt.

First off, as I mentioned in my previous blog, the surgery went perfectly.  No breathing tube issues (a definite first for me!), no excessive blood loss, and no complications.  Celebrate! 

The recovery, on the other hand, has been significantly less... smooth. 

One issue that came up is that, inevitably, some nerves had to be cut.  The surgery involved tying off, draining, and removing a large sac of excess spinal fluid, and while thankfully this took place at the very base of my spine, some areas of my body were affected.  Namely, my bladder and colon (particular the sphincter). 

The first problem arose with my bladder.  I mentioned in my previous post that I would soon be going home--I did go home. The day after Christmas.  It was great.  But I was still on a catheter, and unbeknownst to us, I had contracted a UTI (urinary tract infection).  The next day, I woke with a vicious headache and severe vomiting--10 hours of vomiting, to be exact.  By evening, my parents had realized what I knew the moment I'd woken up--it was time to go back to the hospital.  Never had I been so glad to be back in a hospital room.  No, wait, that would be a lie--I've had two other surgeries where I had to go back and was glad to receive expert care again.  Still, it's a top three experience.  Hello anti-nausea and painkillers!

I had a rough few days as we realized that my bladder wasn't going to work on its own.  I did finally manage to empty my bladder by straining very hard--something that has been the case ever since--so I got the catheter out.  But that wasn't the end of my troubles. In addition to my colon being in shock from not having this big mass pressing on it, my sphincter no longer works (we're still hoping time will heal this).  As a result, I'm now on a steady diet of Metamucil, stool softener, and laxatives to try to keep things moving as they should.  While the main part of my colon is now doing the job, the last leg of the journey often needs... help.  For awhile after getting home again (on New Year's Eve--the last day on my parents' insurance!), I had to rely on Mom (who's experienced caring for another individual with nerve damage) to, well, pull crap out of me--literally. 

The problems persist.  The good news now is that I don't have to call my mom for help with the, shall we say, crappy problems.  I've learned how to handle it myself.  But I still have no feeling in my bladder, it's still a strain to pee, and I have to keep a constant supply of latex gloves and vaseline on hand to make sure I don't get backed up and sick again. 

It's official--the last shred of my dignity have gone.  Ha.

I'm trying to watch my diet now, trying to pick foods that are high in fiber.  While this does further complicate life (have you seen fresh food prices lately?), it's been good.  I'm down from 143 pounds to 126.  Another ten pounds, and I'll be where I should be for my body type.  My energy, in spite of the aches and the whole energy-rebuilding thing, is better.  My migraines are much fewer--though I've had a few heachaches due to the surgery and caffeine withdrawal.  I'm on a few new medications (to encourage my bladder to regain normal usage) that do cause some drowsiness, so I'm working on scheduling them so that I'm not affected by them during the day.  My emotions are less spastic, my face is clearer, and I'm not dealing with the constant lightheadedness I had been for a year or two.

Now that I'm past the worst of the recovery, I can say that the good outweighs the bad.  I'm hoping, hoping, hoping to regain normalcy soon with the issues, but even if I don't, these are things that I can learn to live with.  All in all (and all downsides considered), the surgery has been a success.

It would just be nice if I could live without some of the loss of dignity. :)

I hope this answers all the "How are you feeling?" questions.  Sorry it's taken me awhile--I just didn't want to repeat myself too much. 

My next goal: graduate in May!  Trust me--it's gonna be a challenge.

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