It’s been such a long time since I wrote anything of significance. My novel is on the back burner. And my blog? I guess you can say it has been on hiatus. It’s not that I am without words to share. In fact, I have so many words that it poses a problem. Every time I turn on the computer and stare at the blank white screen, I freeze. I am on total overload, lacking a starting point. I guess the only way to begin is to just start typing. Here goes…
On September 8th, I stood in my kitchen preparing lunch and washing something in the sink. It was a typical lazy Sunday in the Bubble. There was a Harry Potter marathon on the television. I was taking advantage of a commercial break to make some food, when suddenly I felt like I couldn’t take a deep breath in. I stood for a moment and tried to take some deep, cleansing breaths. Something still felt wrong. I didn’t have sharp pains, or any pain at all for that matter, only discomfort. I went and got a stethoscope and listened to both sides of my chest. I had my husband take a listen, too. He agreed, that my right side sounded different than my left. I have a history of problems with my lower right lobe. So, we chalked it up to that. We assumed my discomfort was due to back or muscle pain; perhaps I’d slept in a bad position. I spent the remainder of the day on the couch with a heating pad, watching Harry and the Hogwarts gang manage their mischief.
That night when I got into bed, I could not find a comfortable position to sleep in. Every time I laid down, it felt like my organs were moving out of place. That’s when I knew something was wrong. First thing on the morning of September 9, I emailed my CF doctor and his nurse. They emailed me back, suggesting that an xray would be wise, and they attached an order for me to take to a local radiology department. I had the xray done around lunch time. Within minutes of leaving radiology, they called to inform me that my right lung had collapsed, a 40% pneumothorax and that I needed to be admitted immediately. I hate our local hospital and most doctors here can’t even pronounce half of the medications that I am currently taking. So, I went home, called my CF doctor, packed a bag, made arrangements for our daughter and three dogs, and my husband drove me nearly 4hrs to Charleston.
I was admitted through the emergency room at MUSC. They told me that I needed an immediate chest tube. They were going to do this surgical procedure on site, right there in my curtained area. I suddenly felt like I was in an episode of Gray’s Anatomy, only the doctors were no where near dreamy or steamy. I was informed that it was similar to having a PICC line placed, wherein they will numb the area with a needle and then insert the tube. I’ve had many PICC lines before. It’s a piece of cake to have that tiny tube inserted into a vein for a central line. The chest tube, however…not so much. I have a low tolerance for pain meds and though the doctor kept recommending it, I was afraid that if they gave it to me I would either throw up or sleep for 12 hours. And so, I refused the meds. They rolled me to my left side and gave me a bed rail to hold on to. They placed a full face oxygen mask on me. My husband stood nearly out of my line of sight, holding my feet to keep me from kicking or squirming with pain. The doctor numbed the area with that tiny painful needle. And then….then I left my body and ventured to another plane of existence. It was worse than anything I have ever felt. I would rather go through natural childbirth again than to endure a chest tube with no medication. What the holy hell was I thinking? They count the pleural spaces between your ribs, 1…2…3…4…5, and then cut a hole and jab in some stiff aquarium tubing. Seriously. They blindly stab a hole into your pleural space, forcing your ribs to push apart to accommodate the tubing. This sucked worse than anything, ever, ever. I screamed out once, then in a lower tone repeated the words “Ow” and “I can’t” until no more sound came from my mouth. My husband said after a few minutes, my eyes glazed over like I wasn’t there anymore and my mouth kept moving over and over but no sounds were heard. We think I went into shock. They just forgot to put a stick between my teeth. After the procedure was nearly complete, the doctor yelled, “I’m not asking anymore! Give her the meds! Now!” and a nurse came running to inject my IV with something to ease my suffering. When it was all over, I sent my husband home to be with our daughter. After all, the doctors assured me that patients with chest tubes are healed up and on their way home in just 72 hours.
It took until dinner time the next night for them to move me from the ER to an actual room in the main hospital. Normally, my sick sense of humor always finds ways to make hospital stays there amusing. Friends and family eagerly await my blog posts, a daily diary of Kerri’s wacky hospital adventures. Not this time. This trip traumatized me.
Long story short…
The chest tube didn’t work. Every time they took me off of suction, the lung would collapse again. So that Friday, I was taken for more surgery. This time it was CT scan assisted to add a second chest tube. They said that the CT would allow them to place the new tube in exactly the right spot to help repair the lung. Sure. By that Sunday night, I was taken by ambulance to a nearby cardio-thoracic building. On Monday evening, I was taken to surgery again. This time, they removed the two existing chest tubes, inserted a camera into my pleural cavity to search for ‘blebs’ and leaks. Then they performed pleurodesis; a scraping of the exterior of the lung with the equivalent of sandpaper. The idea being to cause scar tissue that would grab hold of the chest wall once the lung was inflated and adhere itself to the wall during healing. This would prevent any further collapse. They put 2 new chest tubes in and closed me up. The surgeons swore it all went well and that I’d be home by that Friday. Okay. Right.
Every time that I tried to eat or drink anything for days, I would throw up. I demanded that they remove the morphine PCA pump after the pleurodesis. (There I go…trying to beat the pain mentally again). Every time they took me off of suction, the lung would collapse. The doctors remained positive because on each xray, it showed that my lung collapsed a little less each time. This was an indication that the pleurodesis was doing it’s job. In the end, after many suction and clamp trials, and removing one tube, my lung just couldn’t take it. The top most portion of the lung is still collapsed (they don’t do the pleurodesis scraping at the top because of the proximity to the nerve that controls your vocal chords). They said that a person could live without that little space being inflated, especially given that my pulse-O2 reading on room air was between 94-97 all the time. Obviously, my lungs and blood are pumping O2 properly. Problem is, there is still a “tiny” air leak. If they remove the tube before the leak is healed, it risks another collapse.
I was released to go home on September 25th, with a chest tube. I went back on October 1st for a followup visit in the hopes that the tube was being removed. Alas, the leak is still present. The good news (?) is that my xray had remained unchanged and stable. And so, I have to return to the hospital on October 15th to check again. If the leak is still present, they will more than likely admit me until they can figure out how the heck to fix the situation.
In the meantime, I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in a month. Showering has only returned to my life in the last 8 days. I am tired. I am cranky. I am sore. My feet are swollen like Fred Flinstone’s. I am not allowed to drive. I am not allowed to lift anything. I do not have full use of my right arm for extension due to the chest tube and stitches on my right side. Emotionally, I am fragile (ZOMG I cry at commercials now…really? Is this who I am now?). Psychologically, I am a train wreck. My doctor has expressed concerns about depression, but I refuse to deal with that. I’ve been down the medication-for-depression path and it’s not for me. I choose ‘life changes’ instead. It has always seemed to work. It’s part of my philosophy about how if I keep busy, if I keep moving, the bad stuff can’t catch me. Unfortunately, now I am being forced to keep still, so my head is a mess.
The best therapy came from being at home. Just seeing the faces of my family in the Bubble. Hearing the laughter and craziness. Experiencing human touch (it’s amazing what just that small gesture can do). Hugging the dogs. Chatting with friends via text and Twitter. Being able to eat real food and keep it down. Having someone assist you with personal hygiene. Getting to go out and see the smiling faces of my friends for a couple of hours. I know, it sounds insane, but I can’t explain how good it was for me to be able to go back to karaoke the other night. I only sang once and it was kind of pitiful (and I was terrified), but just being there and hearing everyone…I can’t explain it. Music is magic.
I wish that I had amusing tales to tell about my hospital stay…The time I threw a peanut butter sandwich against the wall; the time 2 doctors walked away and wouldn’t help me when I began to throw up during their rounds; the fact that every time they did ‘bedside report’ for every shift, I would have to correct their errors (never having the right names for what meds I’m allergic to, saying I have MRSA when I don’t, etc.); there was the time that I got one of the resident doctors in trouble for being an uncaring douchebag with no bedside manner; or the time when I may or may not have gotten a nurse fired (that was fun); then there was poopmageddon; having a respiratory therapist walk in while I was trying to shave my own legs/armpits in the bed; having Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse take-out in the room; the direct messages of well wishes that I received from Robert Patrick and Sean Patrick Flanery; the list goes on and on. Surely, there’s something funny in there to share with you all. But I just can’t bring myself to do it.
This past month has taken it’s toll on me both physically and psychologically. I have had to remove Walker Bait Productions from it’s participation with the upcoming Old Town Zombie Crawl. I haven’t been to work in a month. I feel like I’m drowning in all that has not been done and all that needs to be done. And so, if I am ever to get back into writing, it is important for me to skip over all of this drama and continue to move forward. Occasionally, I may revisit the great health scare of 2013–especially since I’m not out of the woods just yet. It will be therapeutic. But, it can be equally therapeutic to start a new. Season 4 of The Walking Dead (that’s me!) is about to start. Charlotte Comicon’s Winter Show is in December and there’s work to do there. I am going to try going back to work tomorrow night. Baby steps, but in the best direction possible.
Thanks again to all of you who texted, emailed, Facebooked, Tweeted messages of love and support. Thank you to those who accommodated my family and pets. Thank you to those who fed my family. Thank you to those who sent me cards, wrote letters, and sent gifts to cheer me. Thank you to those who made the ridiculous drive to come visit me. Thank you to those who have mailed generous gifts to assist with paying for prescriptions, medical bills, gas, and groceries during this difficult time. Thank you to those who have taken me under wing and made me feel special with fun distractions. Just…thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the hero support 😉
Here’s to lessons learned and new beginnings.