Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


Leave a comment

2011: The Year in Review

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written here; interactive chat with friends has been more appealing than writing a blog post these days.  But I’m feeling delinquent and out of touch, especially with those of you I only see in blog-land.  Rather than try to catch up, here’s a sum up of 2011:

Year of Surgeries:

  • Surgery #1 on March 2:  elective plastic surgery to remove hanging belly skin and upper arm lifts.  I was out of work for 3 weeks and took another 4-5 before I was really feeling good.  The arms look amazing and I relished wearing sleeveless tops this summer.  However, I also had complications – abscesses along the lower suture line, and the discovery of a serious infection in my lapband port area.  The surgery wasn’t connected to the lapband at all, but the moved belly button was less than 2 inches from the port and, well, things happen.
  • Surgery # 2 on August 2:  removal of the infection, surrounding tissue, and the lapband port.  I had an open wound that is still not 100% healed up, tho it’s not a problem.  I ended up missing work time due to daily nurses for wound care.  Necessary but annoying.
  • Surgery #3 on Nov. 22:  Lapband port revision, aka putting in a new port to replace the one that was removed during the infection surgery.  Went extremely well and I’m now starting the process of getting fills to complete

Exercise:

This did not go well in 2011.  All the surgeries didn’t help, as my ability to exercise was limited for long chunks of time.  My personal trainer moved to a different gym 45 minutes away, which is just not convenient for me.  Rather than switch to a new trainer, I’ve decided to let it go for a year, save the money, and work on my own.  I know it’s not the best solution but for now, it’s my choice.  And $110/month adds up nicely.  I still have my gym membership, mind you – just gave up the training.

Weight:

I’ve been eating off-plan since the March surgery.  Major abdominal surgery will do that to you, especially with the fear of having to throw up under those conditions, but I continued to maintain the loss until my surgery in August, which removed all lapband restrictions.  They’re still not back and I can really see the difference.   I can and will improve my eating choices but this has really shown me how much it helps to have the band in place.  I have weight to lose again, and it WILL happen.

Family:

I visited my parents and brother and sister-in-law in October.  Everyone is doing well and staying busy.  My niece/goddaughter got engaged this year and is getting married next summer.  In Houston, in July.  Can we say hot?  Her brother, Football Nephew, is now a member of the Washington Redskins, and was promoted to the active 53-man roster from the practice squad two weeks ago.  We’re so very proud and happy for him.

Tessie and I celebrated our four-year anniversary last month, and I love her more every day.  She was a wonderful therapy cat when I was home recovering, and sticks close unless I’m vacuuming.

Home:

I’m moving!  Not far, just to a different building in my same complex.  I love where I am but will be happy to move to the 55+ building (most residents are retired so I will be the young one) where rent is almost $200 cheaper and I’ll have a walk-in shower, which my knee will love.  It’s the same layout as what I have now, but flipped and a tiny bit smaller – but still over 1100 square feet, so what’s not to like?  I’ll be on the second floor in the SW corner in an elevator building.  Yayyyy!

I move on Jan. 27th so am applying a Peter Walsh approach to looking at my stuff before packing.  Stuff is going to Goodwill or the trash so I can just pack up everything that’s left.

Work:

I’ve completed a full year in my current position, and love what I’m doing, aside from the concern of how to be sure there’s work for my staff on a consistent basis.  Preferably that doesn’t involve too much of my time to dream it up, document, train, produce “work from” lists, and then do clean up.

In July, I celebrated a wonderful annual meeting educational program for my national professional association, after months of work, worries, and details as chair of the program committee.  I also turned down the chance to run as vice-chair/chair-elect of one of our special interest sections.  I’m ready for the next generation to move up and am happy NOT to be in charge of anything.

Have a happy and healthy 2012.  Do the necessary things, but also do what brings you joy.

Advertisements


6 Comments

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.


2 Comments

Wrapped up Like a Mummy

*waves carefully from Connecticut*   I finally got home yesterday and I have to confess, as was true for Dorothy after her ruby slippers trip, “There’s no place like home.”

I am wrapped up with bandages, sutures, dressings, ace bandages on the arms and a compression binder around the middle.  Oh, and there are four drains for the tummy part.  Pain in the butt, and everywhere else in that general area.

Tomorrow is my first follow up appointment and I’m hoping I will come home with a bit less of everything currently bound around me and greater clarity about what they actually did.  The plan was to remove skin only but apparently they also did some muscle contouring which sounds good but is pretty hard to pin down.

Right now it hurts to get up from almost anything (chairs, couch,  and the bed).  Getting up into bed was pretty funny as well, especially with Tessie watching and wondering where her place went.

I definitely need this week off and look forward to enforced quiet.


3 Comments

Today’s the Day

Good morning from my corner of the world.  Today is Surgery Day and I’m as ready as I’m going to be.  My friends are picking me up at 7:15 to take me to the surgical center and my 5-hour surgery starts at 9:00. Post-op I’ll be moving from there over to the university health center’s inpatient facility for 3-4 days, and confess it’s a huge relief not to have to be coming right home until the pain is under better control and I know what the heck I’m supposed to be doing with dressings, drains, etc.  The kitty will be waiting for me when I get back.

So I’ll pop on and give you an update when I can.  Think good thoughts for me 🙂


16 Comments

I am Having Weight Loss Surgery Next Month

I’m doing it.  On October 29, I am having weight loss surgery using the lapband method.   It’s not an easy choice in many ways, but for me, it is the right choice.   Over the last 3 months, I’ve done all the official prep with referrals and evaluations from a psychologist and a clinical nutritionist.  I’ve had blood work done and filled out multiple long questionnaires with dozens of questions.  I’ve read Weight Loss Surgery for Dummies and read blogs and research sites both in favor and against the surgery.  I’ve thought and pondered and prayed.

Lapband in PlaceLast week I met with the surgeon and another 10 lapband patients for a bariatric education session.  First was the office itself.  I sat in a chair and felt my legs dangle as I realized that everything was big enough for me.  We all were looking around at the armless chairs right next to each other without spilling over and feeling too fat for the chairs.  We found out later that those were bariatric chairs and could hold 1000 pounds.  Getting weighed was simple and done in a way that didn’t make my tummy flip; we never saw or were told the weight.  The BP cuffs were all for large people.

The surgeon is Austrian and has been doing lapband surgery for over 10 years; it was legal in Europe and other parts of the world before it was approved here in the US.  He was relaxed and approachable, encouraging us to ask all the questions we could think of.   He explained the procedure, drew pictures, and passed around a lapband for us to examine.  He was frank about the possible complications while also talking about what this particular center had experienced since they started doing the procedure in 2006.  We know what to expect and all of us are excited but also nervous because now it’s real.  And it’s considered major surgery even though the lapband is much less of a big deal than the RNY bypass procedure.

Next week I go back for my individual appointment, including a physical and going over specifics for my case.  From there I go to the hospital to have my EKG and meet with the anesthesiologist.  Next month I will see my primary care doctor for a regular follow up and then a bunch of bloodwork.  After that, it’s prep time for weeding out the pantry and stocking up on the things I’ll be able to eat in those first few weeks after surgery.  And cleaning and getting fresh library books.

I will be out of work for two weeks and a few days.  I want to stay home through the first 2 weeks and my first visit to the doctor to have my stitches out and get a fill for my band.  As he explained to us, the stomach gets swollen as a result of the surgery and it takes about 2 weeks for the swelling to go down.  Those first 2 weeks we have nothing but liquid and a little Ensure for some protein – not as a punishment, but because the tummy is too swollen for anything solid to get through the pouch to the stomach.  We don’t want that.

Yes, I will eat differently for the rest of my life.  I can and will adjust to it. I’m fortunate in that I live alone with no other human family to feed, so meals will be easy – and they don’t have to be boring.  Just not huge.  The first six weeks will be a learning time and I’m glad I’m staying put for the next few months so I know I’ll have access to what I need while I’m still looking it up regularly to be sure I know what I’m doing.

Exercise starts the day of or the day after surgery and continues as a key component of post-op life.  This isn’t a plan for people who want to just sit around and watch TV.  Given that I have big knee problems, I will be adding different options.  I have some exercise DVD’s at home with a set of graduated weights and those therabands that I’ve used in PT, and I’m almost back into the bathing suit I last used for water aerobics at the gym.  As I get lighter and knee has less weight on it – and as I strengthen the muscles around it – I’ll be able to take on more cardio options.

I know this is not the choice that some or all of you would make, and that some readers think this is the cheating, fast, no-commitment method to avoid the long hard challenge of losing weight counting points, carbs, fats, proteins, salt, fiber, and anything else that we watch.  We, because I’ve been watching them in one way or another since I was 11 years old.

This is my choice and I’m taking on the risks and limitations that go with it, to get to a better place medically under the supervision of a nationally recognized bariatric surgical center and with the support of my primary physician, my family and my friends.

I’m ready.


2 Comments

Good News from the Hospital

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers and concerns. Knowing I have this web of community through the blogosphere is a great blessing and support.

My mom and dad holding handsMy mom is doing very well tonight. Last night at this time she was in the OR and tonight she’s resting comfortably in the ICU. The infection was not MRSA or the flesh-eating bacteria thing that sounds like it should be in a science fiction movie. Whatever kind it is, it’s controllable.

My brother and sister in law joined my dad at the hospital this morning and talked with the doctor, who answered their questions and really reassured them about Mom’s condition. But nothing reassured them as much as seeing her talking and being feisty and giving Dad a big long “to do” list. When they saw her tonight at 5pm she was looking even better than she did at the morning visiting time and there’s a chance she’ll be moved out of ICU tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes.

Mom had already prepared the Christmas sweet potato casserole (in the freezer) and baked a bunch of Christmas cookies for the grandchildren, and finished wrapping all the presents. My brother and sis in law are charged with taking the food and the presents for the Houston branch back with them tomorrow so they will be there for Christmas Day. They’re coming back the day after Christmas with a few grandchildren and hopefully will be able to see Mom back in the regular ward.

It’s hard to be 1400 miles away from everyone right now. I want to be sitting in waiting rooms or holding my mom’s hand, or giving my dad a hug, or doing SOMETHING. But here I sit in Connecticut while everyone else is in Texas, alone in my worry. Except I’m really not alone, I have this whole web of friends as family who have been there for support and distraction and reminding me that I’m part of more than just myself.

Although I haven’t been going to church much of late, I will find one for Christmas Eve to give thanks for all my family, that of blood and that of friendship, and to celebrate the birth of the Christ child with a full heart.


7 Comments

Worried in Connecticut

AngelMy dad called this morning at 7:30am with a report on my mom. The wonderful news is that she didn’t die. The rest of it is that she had a second abdominal surgery last night to find and remove the source of life-threatening infection. She now has an 11-inch incision and will be in ICU at least through Christmas.

Dad left the hospital about 9pm to go home, only to have a call from the surgeon about 9:30. He had been in surgery with another patient but while he was in the OR – and while Dad was still there – they took more blood for additional tests. No one told my parents why but this is a hospital and they take blood and do tests all the time so they didn’t question it.

The original low white blood count that the doctor had wanted to talk to them about apparently signaled the possible presence of some kind of infection that sometimes appears after surgery and the additional blood work was to try and pinpoint more precisely. The doctor told my dad last night that when the results are what they turned out to be, they have no choice but to operate within hours or risk the patient not making it until the next day; the infection is that fast-moving and deadly. I think maybe it’s MRSA but Dad didn’t remember the name, just that it was bad.

I don’t have a lot of details right now but know they did not find what they expected to find when they took her in the second time. The deadly infection wasn’t there but other pockets of problems were and they scraped and cleaned up what they found. Her appendix had been “falling apart” when they removed it and possibly something had leaked out even if it hadn’t burst. But what do we know, our medical degrees are from Wikipedia and WebMD.com.

Mom is in ICU now and can have visitors four times a day for 15 minutes at a time. My brother is driving up from Houston to see her at the 12:00 slot and the nurses told my dad they’d be flexible and let them stay for 30 min if Mom could tolerate it. He will bring Christmas presents up and back; they’re the least important thing right now but we know Mom was fretting about ruining Christmas and will not be in any shape to have the family come up to visit after the holiday, so this will ease her mind when she’s awake enough to know about it.

My dad broke down on the phone with me and my heart hurts for him as well as my mom. He’s so worried that he will lose her – and we still may. My brother just called and is on his way. He promised to call me as soon as he knows something, and to ask lots of questions that I’m not there to ask myself.

Please keep my mom in your prayers. She needs them.