Friday, July 22, 2016

Celebrating One Year of Life

Today marks one year of David being released from the hospital after his appendicitis ordeal.

When I think back to July of last year, I think about the desperation of wanting David to feel better. To see a loved one in pain and not be able to help is terrible. To see David continue to get sicker and sicker when he should have been improving felt like being stuck in a dark hole that continued to get deeper and deeper. We tried to remain optimistic that soon enough this would all be a distant memory. Each night David I would listen to the doctor and make big decisions that could have big effects.  Each day we would wait patiently to see if we would get more answers. While our world was at a standstill everything else was moving on. Such is life.

It’s easy to forget the obstacles we faced and return to normal life. But I am trying to remember how difficult of a time it was so that I can appreciate the happy times. We left the hospital with a new zest for life wanting to cherish all of the little things. But as we had hoped, the hospital stay eventually did become a distant memory. It’s easy to get consumed by life and forget to be grateful. I write this as a little reminder to myself to take the time everyday to be grateful. Grateful for my life, grateful for my husband’s life and grateful for my family. I like to believe that this was the lesson I needed to be taught.

Celebrating life with an adventure in Harper's Ferry which included
a stop for ice cream which David wasn't able to eat for four weeks
last year. An ice cream this time last year could have killed him. 

David also didn't want to forget, so he documented his experience. Here's the Handyman Hubby making his guest debut on my blog to detail his diagnosis.

Written on July 5, 2016.

At this time exactly one year ago I was slipping into unconsciousness in an operating room at GBMC. I was a nervous as they rolled me in to the OR. I tried to steel my nerves. I had been through this before. I remember some of the rooms and the faded curtains in the maze that is the operating room at this hospital. I had been there for minor knee surgery 4 years before and I thought that just like then, this would be quick and I would be done with it and back to normal life. The previous time I ate a big burrito just a few hours after surgery. Why would I think this surgery would be any different? Yes, it was an emergency procedure but I had seen other people leave the hospital the next day after surgery and at that point, the drugs had me feeling fine. I was worried about missing a soccer game on TV that evening. I was mentally over this process before it even began.

My surgery was as routine as it gets for surgeons and their staff. A technician called it a “lap appy” when I was first diagnosed. It’s laparoscopic surgery to remove the appendix, the unnecessary part of your digestive system that hangs right by the small and large intestines that sometimes gets infected, mostly in your late twenties, especially if you are male. I happen to be a male in my late twenties. Typically, surgery lasts less than an hour and you are home the next evening and so I was bummed to miss the woman’s final but I figure I would just watch it in my hospital bed with my family. I did not foresee for a second the jolt of prolonged reality of pain and suffering I would face when I woke up. I never thought about how uncomfortable hospital beds could be or that a human could go so long without any food or the prospect of losing your freedom.

Why try to remember the pain? I have thought about this a lot. Why should I write about such a terrible time in my life? I have been trying to teach myself to forget the bad things in life for such a long time! Just a few days ago I saw a documentary about centenarians. The common theme to a question on how to live a fulfilling life was to be an amnesiac when it comes to the bad. But – when I do let my my mind wander to the almost three weeks I spent on the fourth floor of the recovery wing of the hospital I can’t help but feel the real love and compassion that I was shown by my friends, family and especially my wife. With a lump in my throat I ask myself “how can I ever repay them for what they did for me?” Maybe reflecting on my time there can help remind me to be a better husband, brother, son, friend, in-law and owner to my pup.

It all started with stomach pain, above the belly button on the morning of July 3rd. I hobbled over to the pharmacy to get stomach medicine. That didn’t help.  I decided that maybe doing house work would help. That week, I had ripped out our old fence and laid the foundation for a brick pillar for a new fence. I needed to get the new fence up as soon as possible so that the neighborhood kids would stop stealing our flowers! Working got my mind off of the pain a bit but after a little while, it came back. We went to a friend’s pool and I remember thinking to myself that I really did not feel like myself. I couldn’t think straight and my usual hilarious jokes were not rolling in. We stopped by my in-laws to talk to my mother in law Ms. Sharon about my symptoms. She is a nurse with many years of experience who had just retired a few weeks before. Who knew I would be bringing her out of retirement so soon! We could not figure out what was wrong with me.


The next day, Independence Day, I went to the doctor who dismissed it as acid reflux and sent me away with more medicine but no real tests. That should have been a red flag! The doctor’s medicine was not helping either.

That night, I went to see fireworks in College Park with my family but the entire time I was in serious discomfort. At one point, my sister in law wanted to get closer to the fireworks but I let her know that I could not physically walk more than 10 feet. This was more than acid reflux. That day, I had not been able to eat anything, which was a shame because my sister had made a feast to celebrate the 4th of July and to watch a Copa America game. Everything had been set for a fantastic weekend but at that point I could not enjoy two of my most favorite things; food and soccer!

That weekend was supposed to be the kick-start to a slightly dull summer for my wife Erin and I. I had told her earlier that week that we needed to get out in the sun more because the summer would be over before we knew it. On the 5th we were scheduled to have friends over to watch the women’s world cup final! A great end to an extended Independence day weekend! On that day, summer was already over for me.

Diagnosis

Back in Baltimore that night, Erin and I decided that the pain had gone on for too long and we made our way down through the city to the clinic. “Why are there so many people out?” I asked. “Oh it is a Saturday night.” My insurance recommended I go to their clinic before going to the hospital. Why? Profit margins. At the clinic I was immediately put through the wringer. Test after test after test. The IV went into my arm… and stayed in. I learned what Contrast liquid is, hopefully you never have to. I went in for perhaps 5 x-rays and a CAT scan. We would have to spend the night and there was no where for Erin to sleep, not that we would sleep much anyways. She crept in to my tiny bed for a little bit and maybe drifted into a twilight when the doctor finally walked in to give me my diagnosis: acute appendicitis.

When I was diagnosed with appendicitis I was shocked but I was familiar with the disease. The appendix gets infected, swells and you have to have it removed as soon as possible or it could burst which can lead to other organs going into septic shock, which can kill you. I know that because my mother’s appendix burst when I was a child. She survived but she has the scar to remind her of the hazard of an infected appendix. Most people are out the very next day and some go to work the day after. I thought to myself “hey I will get a day off for this and I will be back to work on Tuesday, just in time to turn in that project that is due on Wednesday.” Looking back, I would only work 6 days in July. In my next post I will talk about my surgery, and then my hospital stay.