While I Was Away: The Good, the Bad, the Awful

Quilt Made of the Conference Logo by My Friend Phyllis

I haven’t posted here in quite a while – deliberately, for the most part.   It was actually very relaxing to not have to worry about coming up with words when I didn’t feel them.  But that doesn’t mean that things stopped.   Here are the highlights.

The Good
I spent the last 18 months working as chair of my national association’s annual meeting & conference.  It was lots of fun but at the same time, an enormous amount of work at a time when I was moving into and learning my new position at my paying job.  Everything came to fruition at the annual conference in Philadelphia in July.

It was wonderful!  Simply wonderful.  Everything I had worked and hoped for came together in what I’ve heard some people call the best educational programming in years.   Our meeting had no theme, just the best programs we could put together, and I think that not having a theme actually worked in our favor.   Poster sessions were a part of the meeting for the first time, a suggestion made by one of my committee.

And our keynote speaker, Dahlia Lithwick, was a breath of fresh air.  Instead of starting in by telling us how much she likes libraries and librarians, she launched into an animated, insightful, and humorous address about the Supreme Court and freedom of speech, both within the Court itself, between the Court and the press, and on recent decisions.  We’re law librarians – talk to us about the law!  She did and it was great.

The Bad
A month ago, after three months of mild to growing concern and discussions with the plastic surgeon’s office, I finally learned that those funny lumpy hard places on my left incision line were actually abscesses from popped stitches.

How did I learn this, you ask?  By ignoring the “you’re still getting used to your ‘new normal’ post-op body” messages from the plastics’ office and going to the university’s Acute Care center when I noticed blisters were forming.  I left with strong antibiotics, instructions to apply warm moist compresses, and to return in 2 days.  By then the abscesses had started draining.  They actually still are, a little bit.

I did go back to see the surgeon’s office with a sort of “screw you” message:  I told people for months something was wrong, and no one listened to me – and look, there was a problem.

The Awful
Not only did I have abscesses, it seems I also had been harboring an infection in my lapband port area for almost three months.  I’d reported a swollen belly several times to the plastics people but heard back that “it’s your new normal” thing that I was starting to hate.

When I lay down in bed and ran a hand over my tummy, there was a visible and tangible lump where the lapband port was.  But stupid me assumed that post-op my port was just closer to the surface and therefore more noticeable.  However, when I got to Philly and saw myself in passing in one of those hotel mirrors, it looked as though I had a second belly button:  the area around the port had swollen up around it.

Something was clearly wrong, and at the urging of a friend, I called the lapband doctor from Philly.  They wanted me to come in the next day which was impossible since, uh, I was in Philly.  But I was in the office the following Monday morning.  The surgeon took one look at it, and at me, and said, you are having surgery tomorrow.

However we sliced it, the lapband port had to be removed.  The entire band & tubes might have needed removal as well, if an endoscopy showed them to be eroded.  I was lucky and it was just the area around the port that was infected – and it was badly infected.  The doctor told me they removed about 1/2 cup of drainage along with the port.

I now have an open wound in my belly about 1.5 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep.  It has to heal from the inside out so I have home nursing care to do wound care & change the dressing every day until the wound doesn’t need to be packed anymore.   It’s sore and tender and I was out of work for another week post-op.  Not in the plans  but necessary, I know.

Lesson Learned: 
I am responsible for the whole me, who knows when something is or feels off.   Just talking to a doctor or doctor’s staff doesn’t mean they are looking at orfor the same things that concern me.  If I feel ignored or simply want another opinion, find another doctor and ask – even if it’s back to the primary care doctor who sent me to these people in the first place.

6 thoughts on “While I Was Away: The Good, the Bad, the Awful

  1. It makes me angry that they ignored your problems when you repeatedly asked for help. I’m glad you are getting proper care now. Welcome back!

  2. Thanks for the rest of the story. It was such a surprise to see you tweet that you were heading home from Philly then having surgery a couple days later (I think that’s what you said. I have CRS Syndrome.)

    Anyway … I know two other women who are going through the healing of an open abdominal wound, and my dad spent way too much time at wound clinics. Makes me think some docs need to go back to school. Or some schools need to do some better teaching. I hope yours heals quickly and with minimal discomfort. Wound care can be tricky.

    Take care and, as Jen said, welcome back!

  3. I am new to your blog. I am very interested in how you recover from your surgery and how everything goes for you for a selfish reason: I am 49 going on 50, I have been maintaining over 200 pounds of weight loss for several years and I need so much plastic surgery I think they can make another me with my extra skin. I doubt my insurance will cover any of it: My rashes went away when I lost the weight.
    But I have had experience with non closing wounds. I had one when I had a hysterectomy at 300 pounds. It was my own fault. I did not listen to my doctor and started long walks around the theme parks only 2 weeks out from surgery. the wound opened and had to heal from the inside out. It took 6 weeks w/ the nurse coming to the house each day. You were smart to keep pushing. You know your body more than the Doctors answering service!


  4. denise

    So glad to hear your conference went well. There’s nothing like a seeing a lot of hard work pay off like that.

    Sorry to hear about the problems you’re having post-surgery, but really glad you caught it and got someone to listen before it got any worse. Hope your recovery from this point on is rapid and without further incident!


  5. you poor thing. I cringed all the way through and it hurt me to even think of it. I hope you are not in too much pain. (And I suppose this means you are back to no showers.)

    I think it is very hard to ‘see’ these kinds of things on one’s own body. It took a lot of convincing for my husband to realize something was wrong with his belly (umbilical hernia) several years ago. I think we just get used to how ever things are. And all of this was new to you, so of course you did not understand immediately. I think it is wonderful you realized as quickly as you did and got right in for help.

  6. Lori Sinden

    Anne, what a bunch of ups and downs.

    I”m sorry the plastic (how appropriate in a way) let you down but I’m glad you got help and doing better. You were seeing the right things but you couldn’t get him to take you seriously which makes me so mad. I hope that things improve and you don’t have any more serious problems.

    Conferences are so full of surprise glitches but I’m not surprised at all that yours went so well. You worked hard on this under trying circumstances (including surgery earlier too!). I had no doubt that it would be a success. My hometown girl, Dahlia, is a great speaker and I’m glad she did such a good job. (And Anne, I’m telling you — the person handling this year has a hard act to follow. Majorly!)

    *hugs* and get better.

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