HOME SWEET HOME
I am learning to take my body seriously.
Monday and Tuesday were both great days, but I can definitely tell when I’m overdoing it.
Sunday I had a bit of a scare; I will share it here, because I think that knowledge is a good thing and we all learned some interesting stuff that day about how the body works.
The day started off great. I went for a walk and Elsa, one of the Health Care Aides (HCA), agreed to help me wash my hair – carefully – so as to not get the bandages wet just yet.
Once my hair was clean, I started the process of a sponge bath, which I am grateful to be able to do myself.
A gob of blood gushed out from under my bandage down my leg.
“Fuck.” I said.
Sorry for the language, folks, but I’m telling it like it is here.
I was so frustrated.
I immediately, but calmly, pushed the nurses’ call button.
Elsa opened the door.
“I’m bleeding.” She gasped and ran for a nurse. Sandra showed up and began applying pressure. She paged my student nurse, Erin, and the two of them helped me back to bed.
Bed rest until the doctor showed up.
I was otherwise feeling fine, but frustrated.
Another setback? I was hoping to go home Tuesday. That was our target. I thought I was getting better.
Visitors came and went. They did their best to keep my mind active.
Dr. Mona Matzgani, an oncologist that Dr. Quinlan consulted about my case, showed up about 3 hours later. She took one look and laughed.
This is a good thing!”
She summoned my nurses and explained that the blood from my hematoma had been trapped between the muscle and skin tissues of my abdomen in a series of clots. Now, it was starting to escape through the staples, effectively draining (“evacuating”) the area. This is a tremendously good thing as it decreases the chance of infection and over time would reduce the swelling.
She ordered the nurses to stop applying pressure dressings and start using loose gauze to encourage the area to drain.
She also told them to carefully monitor the colour of the blood. Black-ish was good – old clotted blood was escaping. Red was bad – that meant there was an active bleed.
My haemoglobin had climbed to 109; she was incredibly pleased (120-160 is normal. I was at 137 the day before surgery).
Over the next couple of days, student nurses were brought in to see the “good” bleed. It was kinda fun to be a teaching exhibit.
It was one of the few things that I could do to give back to the amazing team that took such good care of me.
Student Nurse Erin even practised starting an IV on my giant blue athlete veins. Everyone has to learn.
I managed to capture a number of money shots that make me look like I’m in an episode of SAW. But out of respect for my doctors and the sensationalism the internet can create, I will not be posting them here. If you really want to see them, let me know – it’s quite entertaining to watch it change every day!
Monday was a great day; I was allowed to wear sweatpants and sit outside in the sunshine and read a book! Talk about being grateful for the small things.
Every day my vitals were getting better and my painkiller use was decreasing. I stretched out my time between Dilaudid doses from 4 hours to every 11 to 15.
Progress was happening.
The human body is an amazing thing.
The best estimate I have is that I lost approximately 1/3 of my blood or 1.5 L . Of course I will never know exactly for sure, but this helps me to appreciate both the magnitude of my journey and the reasons why my body has responded the way that it has. It also explained clearly why I fatigue so easily.
As a point of comparison – when you donate blood, you donate approximately 0.5 L.
My body will replenish my blood stores, but it will take months to get back to my pre-surgical normal.
My resting heart rate has been very high for since my surgery, starting around 90 BPM and dropping a few beats each day. It was under 70 when I left the hospital. This is my body’s way of working harder to get blood around while it makes more. My normal is around 50 BPM.
My blood pressure has also been high for me, around 125/72, again this is my body having to do more work to get the same job done. It too is dropping slowly.
None of these numbers are immediately alarming or dangerous; in fact they fall within clinically normal ranges.
When I was discharged on Tuesday, my blood oxygen had been consistently between 99%-100% on room air for 48 hours. The day of my surgery I was around 95% and on oxygen.
Seeing all of this change on its own over time has allowed me to truly appreciate the wondrous machines that our bodies are. Given the right conditions, many afflictions can cure themselves over time.
It’s quite remarkable.
Tuesday I got the best words from Dr. Quinlan.
“You can go home.”
I have to meet with wound care nurses every day to ensure that no infection develops.
8 more weeks off work and “nothing more strenuous than walking.” But I can go home.
Dr. Quinlan will take the staples out Thursday.
I can go home. I can snuggle my puppies and Jim and sleep in my own bed.
I spent a few of hours dealing with the logistics of discharge. From wound care to pharmacists and prescriptions, I definitely overdid it and ended up sleeping most of Monday afternoon.
After a week in the hospital, I had forgotten how far it was from the parking lot to the pharmacy at the back of the store!
But I slept, and I ate real food that Jim graciously cooked, and I created a nest where I will rest for the next eight weeks.
I’m realizing that I hate, hate, hate, asking for help.
It’s not easy to go from being completely independent to asking Jim to make lunch AND look after the dogs so that I can take a nap. In fact, it makes me feel awful and guilty and lazy and all these horrible things that I’m sure we all feel.
I’m a classic over-achiever and I feel best when I’m helping others. This “resting” shit is brutal.
But necessary. And every person I talk to who has had a similar surgery says the same thing.
Rest. Rest more than you think you need to.
Don’t do too much soon.
So I sit here, typing away, giving my body exactly what it needs and what I find the hardest to give it.
I have a pile of library books, and an incredible group of friends and co-workers who have offered their help. I have a partner who looks after me and even makes me lattes with hearts on them. My dogs guard me fiercely.
I am fortunate. And I am grateful.