Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Screeching Halt

This spring/summer has been the age of fast. I broke my half marathon PR twice. I shattered by 5k PR. I rocked out my first triathlon. Everything was going according to plan until it wasn't, and my world came to a screeching halt.

I've talked a lot about my struggles with Crohn's, and my life philosophy is that Crohn's can suck it. Hard. I haven't had a serious Crohn's setback in more than a dozen years. Let's be honest - I was due. But as these things happen it sneaks up on you in a way that there's no preparing. I was just blindsided one lovely July afternoon.

I had a scheduled surgery to remove a (what turned out to be) benign abdominal mass. I had the exact same surgery back in 2011, and the masses then (and now) were scar tissue from previous abdominal surgeries and endometriosis. The masses were quite large and painful, so it was necessary to extract them. In 2011 I had the surgery on a Thursday and was back to work the following Monday. I did have to take a month off running, but otherwise it barely slowed me down. I expected the same type of thing this time. I had presentations scheduled early the week after surgery, and I fully expected to be giving them. It honestly never crossed my mind that I wouldn't.

The day after surgery (a Thursday) I felt good. Well as good as one does after just being cut open the day before. I ate okay, got some sleep, and overall felt like I was recovering normally. On Friday things started to change. I felt very nauseous and started throwing up around mid-day. I couldn't keep anything down. When my husband got home from work we decided with the amount of pain and nausea I should go to the ER. After some anti-nausea and pain medicine, I started to feel better. A CT scan revealed a bowel obstruction, and I was admitted in the middle of the night.

The next day the on-call surgeon (NOT my surgeon) decided all I had was "swelling" and that I should stop all pain and nausea meds and "walk it off". (I'm not making this up). I'm a tough guy, so I did. I managed to keep down some clear liquids, and I was discharged that evening. On Sunday I was feeling rough in the morning, and I was throwing up again by afternoon. I threw up overnight and on Monday morning, so I just called my surgeon to get in with him in his office. 

When I got there he didn't know anything about what had happened over the weekend, and he decided on the spot to directly admit me to the hospital. At this point I hadn't kept down food in nearly a week and was extremely dehydrated. I was in the hospital Monday afternoon and spent a few days just taking pain and nausea meds and getting nutrients through an IV.

On Wednesday my surgeon decided he wanted to do a small bowel x-ray to see what was happening with the obstruction. For those of you who have never been lucky enough to have a small bowel x-ray, you drink a ton of this super gross, thick, chalky contrast, and then there is a series of x-rays as it moves through your small intestine. Here's the thing about this particular x-ray on this particular day: the contrast didn't move. It was stuck, and it was miserable. Later that afternoon I thankfully threw a lot of it up.

Thursday morning my nurse walked in and said, "They're coming to get you right now. You're having surgery." They quickly took me to the OR (thankfully my husband got here before they took me back), and I was out for abdominal surgery number two in a week. I woke up in severe pain, a haze of drugs, and the dreaded nasogastric (or NG) tube in my nose. I quickly realized this wasn't going to be fun.

When I had my colon removed and bowel reconstructed back in 2000 and 2001, they used an NG tube. It's an instrument of torture that doctors like to use on patients. Essentially the tube goes through your nose, down your throat and into your stomach to suck out the stomach contents. Sound disgusting? It's vile. And it hurts. 

An NG tube selfie. I'm this brave to post this.
I barely remember the few days following surgery. I had visitors who are blurry in my memory. The tube was hurting my throat and nose, and I was just miserable. On Monday my surgeon removed my tube, and I started to feel slightly more human. But Monday brought a new surprise - a sudden pain in my arm where my PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) was. The PICC line was necessary for IV nutrition, and it has an unlikely side effect of causing a blood clot. Guess who got that unlikely side effect? That's right - this girl. They stopped fluids into my PICC line and did an ultrasound on my arm that revealed a blood clot. I immediately went on a blood thinner IV drip, and blood clot was added to the list of things we were dealing with.

Showing off my defunct PICC line/blood clot.
My first time in the sunshine after ten days in the hospital.
Having the PICC line removed forced the food question because I was no longer able to receive nutrients through the IV. I started eating clear liquids and slowly progressed to more food, and luckily it became quickly apparent that the surgery had worked to remove the obstruction.  Then it became dealing with levels of blood thinners and making sure my level was "therapeutic". I was finally released from the hospital on Friday evening with a promise to give myself shots of a blood thinning medicine over the weekend in order to get my levels to therapeutic. What a great addition to the weekend.

I honestly thought I'd be better quickly and back to work this week. I was sorely mistaken. I am still very sore, very tired, and just slow. My days consist of waking up, eating breakfast, showering, taking a nap, eating lunch, taking a nap, watching some TV, taking another nap and being in bed by 8 pm. I don't recall my body ever needing so much sleep. I'm not sure when I'll be back to running, but at this point I'm still hoping to be back at it by mid- to late-August to start training for the New York City Marathon. I still want to run New York even if it's not the race I'd originally hoped for. I've also lost nearly 20 pounds, so I'm much weaker than I was a few weeks ago. Eating again and gaining back strength is a priority.

My body has certainly thrown me for a loop the last few weeks, and it's been crazy trying to go from 150 miles per hour to completely stopped. Everyone keeps asking me if I'm bored or going crazy. To be honest I feel kind of content and still. It's a weird feeling for me, and it's not one I expect to get used to.

It's been a challenging month. Who knew that taking that first walk around the halls of the hospital would be one of the hardest things I've done this summer? The walking is getting easier. Now hopefully just a few more weeks of walking before I can run.

No comments:

Post a Comment