Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Recovery

I always find it interesting how when patterns and routines are established, I tend to expect things to continue on the same course. It doesn't matter whether it's in my classroom or at home, I always have "expectations". With my recovery it's been no different. I expect that after feeling just a bit better each day, that things will continue in that same pattern. Why is it that I always "set myself up"? I should have known better. I'll never learn.

Friday was a great day. Still swelled up like a balloon in my legs, I was feeling just a bit better than Thursday and my longtime buddy Lippy (whom I have literally known since we were babies on Torthay Place in Richland, Washington) and Alex (one of the guys I went to junior high and high school with) stopped by for a visit. Now, Lippy isn't his real name. It's John, but I am confident that there isn't anyone out there who actually calls him John, with the exception of telemarketers and people checking his ID, well and maybe his mom. To me, he's always been "Lippy" and Lippy he'll be forever. It was pretty fun to have visitors other than my family and tell them all about the surgery and my experience in the hospital. I even showed them my incision...heck, they're guys, I figured they could handle it. Lippy was totally surprised that I wasn't still in the hospital and they were impressed that an incision that large could be secured with the hospital's version of super glue.

After my visit, I was feeling pretty good or so I thought , for about 5 minutes, and then I realized I was incredibly tired. I think I zonked out the minute my head hit the pillow. Now you have to understand that it's currently very difficult for me to position myself so I can sleep comfortably for any length of time. I think my longest stretch of sleep at any one given time has been 3 hours. Usually, I fall within the 1 1/2 to 2 hour range before I wake up desperate for a new position. It's not easy sleeping with a piece of surgical tubing sticking out of your right hip, nor is it all that comfortable lying flat on my back with my insides pressing against my incision. I have about 7 different pillows and a couch cushion, not to mention a few blankets and a quilt to shove in the different places around my body for support. Most often when I wake up, my insides are screaming out in burning pain, and now that some of the feeling is coming back on the top of my skin, my incision is burning and has been starting to itch like crazy. Thank God for pain medicine, BUT it's usually about 30 minutes before my next dose when all heck starts to break loose and it's another 20-30 minutes after actually taking it before some relief sets in. Yesterday, I made the mistake of thinking I could get away with just 1 pill during a 4 hour period. Holy cow, it was all I could do to make it until 10 p.m. for the next dose. Not cool.

Cayden's definitely had his ups and downs, too. He's still in the hospital. For the most part his pain is under control and he is eating normal meals. He has a few times during the day where his pain becomes unbearable, so they've resorted to the IV pain medication, which further delays his discharge. Unfortunately, when he comes out, dealing with pain with be inevitable, but the docs want to make sure that for the most part he is able to get comfortable when he needs to.

Last night also started my downward spiral as far as I was concerned. As the day wore on, I started getting a really bad headache. About midnight, under my right collar bone, radiating down my arm into my back and down to my incision was the sharpest pain I've experienced since being home. I couldn't seem to get deep enough breaths. Not only that, my ankles and calves seemed to keep growing in size and getting tighter. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. Dan was spending the night at the hospital with Cayden, so my brother-in-law, Paul, encouraged me to have the surgical resident on call paged. After assessing the situation and describing my pain as "referring" pain, she suggested I go ahead and take my pain medication early. That seemed to work...until about 3 a.m. when there I sat, wide awake, again. Did you know there is very little on TV at 3 in the morning? I settled for On Demand and watched one of my missed episodes of NCIS and also watched the movie It's Complicated. Now that was a funny movie.

Finally ready to sleep at 6:30 or so, I managed to sleep until 9:30, when it was time to get up and get prepared for my first trek outside the house (besides the hospital). We were headed to Mother's Day brunch at a local restaurant. I equate my getting ready for brunch this morning as being done in 3 stages: take a shower - rest, put on some make up for the first time in 2 weeks - rest, dry my hair - rest again. You so take for granted having energy when you're healthy!

Brunch was wonderful, but I felt a little sad, because Cayden was still in the hospital and wasn't with us. Because I am still having a hard time eating much and have been pretty much been "forced" by the docs to eat more, I paced myself at the buffet. Fortunately, they had all of my favorite "proteins" - shrimp, crab, cheese, chicken picatta, so I could load up and try and help move this 8 pounds of fluid out of my body! While at the restaurant Dan gave me a Mother's Day card from Cayden that I quickly opened. Inside it said "I love you very much. Thank you for my second life. - Cayden". This was the best Mother's Day...ever.

I really wanted to go over to the hospital to visit Cayden this afternoon, but once I arrived home from brunch, it was all over for me. My feet, ankles and calves were so tight I was beginning to really worry. Not only that, my headache was back and I was having the pain in my neck, chest and arm, and it was getting hard to breathe again. Dan's sister, Kristi, pulled out the heating pads to help alleviate the soreness in my neck. I looked at the clock...darn it...30 minutes until the next dose of pain medication. It figured.

A little later, Kristi had Dan try an alternating hot and cold foot and ankle bath to try and help bring down the swelling and tightness from the edema I was experiencing. Man that water was hot. It was all I could do to keep it in for the first 5 minutes before I got to plunge my sausage feet into the cold water. I didn't feel any different right away, but several hours later, I've noticed that at least one of my feet isn't quite so gigantic anymore. You can bet I'll be on the phone with the liver clinic people tomorrow morning. I'm getting tired of looking and feeling like a balooga whale right now. I keep joking that this must be what it's like to be pregnant...only I gave birth to a liver not a baby!

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