I keep putting off this letter. So much has happened in the last month or so that I guess I'm a little overwhelmed by it all. First of all, the hospital experience was something that I will never want to do again. Sixteen days in the hospital, from September 1 through the 17th. Even when I left, I was very weak, but I just had to get the hell out of there. As usual, little went right as my body rebelled against invasion as it did the last time. The surgery went fine, no problems there, but my colon that had been lying dormant in my belly for over a year just refused to go back to work. “Lazy colon” the doctor called it. This meant that I could only eat tiny amounts of food at a time or it would back up on me and cause pain and bloating.
The cure for this is to get the patient up and moving as soon as possible, which was fine with me, except that every time I took three steps I got lightheaded, nauseous and threw up. It was a week before I could walk from my bed to the door and it took about five minutes to make that fifteen foot trip. The nausea was almost a constant condition the whole time I was there and no one could figure out why. Drugs helped a little but not much.
The first week there was a lot of abdominal pain, both from the surgery and my bloated colon. They kept trying to get my off the epidural (spinal block), but it was the only thing that would control the pain. I can't take the usual painkillers. Dilaudid is really the only thing that I can take for pain, but I had to take so much to control the pain that it just slammed me. So we stuck with the epidural far longer than usual, about a week. At one point, I had such severe gas pains that I was on about nine out of the pain scale of ten, until they upped the epidural dose. But eventually the pain eased and the by the second week, I was off the epidural and had Dilaudid shots only occasionally.
The second week brought less pain but another unwelcome development in the shape of a wound along the suture line. I'm not quite sure how these things happen, since there was no infection, but for some reason, part of the incision just refused to heal and I had a small hole develop, about an inch across and three quarters of an inch deep, not really very large by usual wound standards. This had to be dressed twice a day for a couple days until the doctor decided I need a wound vac. This is supposed to heal the wound faster by putting it under negative pressure. It works by using a series of sponges and clear tape to attach a line to a vacuum pump. It removes any exudation from the wound and keeps it almost dry. The dressing is changed every other day. I had to use a portable pump version when I was released which was battery operated and fit in a bag that went over my shoulder. When sitting or lying still, I had to plug it in to recharge the battery. This went on for about another two weeks after I got home.
The staff at John Muir are wonderful. They did everything they could do to make me comfortable and get me well as soon as possible. I got to know the entire crew of doctors, nurses and CNAs; we were like old friends by the time I left. But I am sure glad to be out of there.
So, now I am on the mend. The wound is just a hole about the size of a Q tip and Susie cleans and dresses it once day. It should be completely healed in another two weeks or so. I am walking a couple laps around the property each day with Liz (the Lab) which is about a half a mile. And in the last couple of days, I have started doing a few light jobs. Almost feeling human again, except for the weakness from the lack of exercise. I will have this colostomy for life of course, which requires some mental attitude adjustments, and also opens the door to a whole new world of jokes. We are trying to look on the bright side, such as I will never have racing stripes in my jockey shorts again, never have to desperately search for a port-a-potty, can discreetly bring wind in public without fear of embarrassment. So, it's not all bad.
I'm kind of living the life of Riley (while it lasts) with Susie cooking, cleaning, packing the shipments, and everything else imaginable while I am regaining my strength. I even get breakfast in bed! We call it the breakfast club. Our bedroom faces east and the morning sun has been streaming in during this fine autumn weather we have been having. So, I'm in bed with my tray, Susie pulls in a chair and has her tea and toast, while Liz lounges on the bed with me waiting for her 'treats' in the way of scraps of toast. It won't last forever, but it sure is nice. With the thousands of things to do around here, I am starting to feel guilty and will have to get up to speed soon to keep my end of the nursery going. Susie is still officially unemployed with only three more months to go before benefits run out. There will soon be some serious job hunting.
The garden, which we have generously shared with the raccoons, crows, gophers, and other critters is still giving us some tomatoes, cucumbers, and a few squash since our usual late September frost didn't materialize this year, and the forecast is for another week of above normal warm weather. What a glorious fall!