Friday, July 1, 2011

A Long Update That Will Be Continued...

I'm posting this blog now because I've had so many people asking where I've been lately. The truth is, I haven't been feeling well at all this week, and as many times as I've tried to write my blog, I just couldn't do it. Here is the first part of the long and winding road I've been on this week. I'll continue to write as soon as I can...

I thought I wouldn't have much to write about this week until Friday.

Silly me!

I woke up on Tuesday with an aching pain in the left side of my lower back. I shifted around and tried to find a comfortable position, but nothing helped to ease the discomfort I was feeling. Jimmi wasn't home, so I tried to rub the area myself and see if it made any difference. Strangely, it did, but only if I kept my hand on the questionable spot. Weird. It didn't feel like a muscle pain; it was definitely something inside. As the minutes passed, the throbbing got worse until it became unbearable. I knelt on the bed, bent over so my knees touched my chest, then I laid my head down and hugged my pillow for strength. 

"Oh, God, help me!! Why is this happening?" I cried out loud, though no one was there to hear me.

I didn't understand. Why do I keep having pain that seemingly has absolutely nothing to do with the surgery I had? My incisions weren't sore and I only had mild abdominal pain with a few shooters here and there. The worst part was the shoulder pain, and now this back pain has filled its place. I forced myself to breathe deeply and relax so I could fall back to sleep.

That didn't last long.

Maybe a shower will help? The warm water eased the agony for a little while. I got dressed in real clothes (instead of sweats and a t-shirt) for the first time since the surgery, and I even put on a little bit of makeup. After all, Jimmi and I were going to have a date night! But first, I suggested his and hers pedicures. I know, not a very manly activity for Jimmi, but since I still wasn't allowed to drive myself, he had to go with me anyway.

I needed to have my legs and feet rubbed so badly. It always relaxes me and makes me forget about everything else in my life. I sat in the oversized massage chair with the tub of warm water at my feet, leaned back and...

Oh, my God, I'm in so much pain.

My back started acting up again. I tried to aim the massagers in the chair to hit the area that was hurting, but it didn't help. I kept shifting around in my seat, trying to find any position I could stand, but it wasn't working. I guess one of the technicians noticed the uncomfortable look on my face, and the way I just couldn't sit still, so she offered me a pillow for my back.

It didn't help.

I texted Jimmi, who was two chairs away, and said, "I just want to go home." He looked at me with concern all over his face and said, "Let's go." But I thought I could make it through. That was before I realized that my nail tech was literally working on two speeds. Slow and stop. Normally, that wouldn't have bothered me, but today, it was like torture. With each rub of my foot, I'd cringe in pain. I was literally holding back tears and counting the minutes until I could go home and take a Vicodin. I actually wanted the medicine. I needed it.

When the torment was finally over, the technician walked me to the drying bay. "No," I said, "I just need to go home." Jimmi held the door as I walked out into the parking lot with my very wet, very pink toenails. "Oh my God, it hurts!" I screamed. "Ok, we'll get you some medicine," Jimmi reassured me. The ride home was agony. I felt like an addict who just needed a fix. We pulled into the driveway and I was out of the car before Jimmi even put it in park. I stumbled into the house, grabbed whatever bottle of liquid I could find in the fridge, popped open the Vicodin and swallowed it down. I walked, hunched over, to the couch and plopped myself down.

"Can you make the reservation later?" I called to Jimmi. For the second night in a row, we were supposed to have "date night". We had to cancel on Monday because I wasn't feeling well, but I was determined to get to The Melting Pot that night, even if I had to go there stoned. Yes, I knew that my eating habits had changed; I couldn't eat more than a few bites without feeling full and needing to stop. But I wanted to go out!

"Are you sure I shouldn't just cancel it?" Jimmi asked. "No! I want to go!" I insisted.

Ten minutes later, I was loopy and spacey, but the pain still hadn't subsided. "Ok, cancel it." I said sadly. It was almost 7:00 and I was starving, but it hurt too much to leave my couch. I picked up the phone and dialed the answering service at Sloan-Kettering. I listened to the pre-recorded voice giving me instructions over the phone. "This is an emergency, right?" I asked Jimmi. I hate bothering doctors after hours. I don't want to be one of those annoying patients who complains about everything. He nodded and I continued to hold for an operator.

"Hi, I'm one of Dr. Leitao's patients," I explained when she answered. "I'm having severe lower back pain and I'm not sure if it's from my surgery two weeks ago, or the urinary tract infection I have now." She took my name and phone number and assured me that the doctor would call me back in a few minutes. In the meantime, Jimmi heated up some leftover ziti my aunt had made for us and I forced myself to eat a few forkfuls, since it was the only thing I had been able to get down all day.

The phone rang. "Hi Suzanne, it's Dr. Long, one of Dr. Leitao's fellows. I was the one who woke you up every morning in the hospital." I remembered her. Young and pretty and sweet as could be. "I hear you're not doing too well. Tell me what's going on."

"Well, I have a UTI and the lower left side of my back is killing me. I took Vicodin a little while ago, and it took the edge off, but I can still feel it. I don't know if this is normal or not with a UTI."

"Are you having any leaking of fluid or discharge?"

I thought back to the start of the peeing in my pants episode the day before. I thought it had stopped that night, but I woke up Tuesday morning very unpleasantly. I'd been wearing a mini-pad all day to catch the leaks.

"Yes, I am."

"Is it clear fluid or blood?"

"Both. It's weird. It just started yesterday and the surgery was two weeks ago."

"How far do you live from the hospital again?" Then I got nervous.

"Any hospital or Sloan-Kettering in the city?" Of course she meant Sloan. "About an hour, depending on traffic."

"Ok, I think you should come in and get checked out by one of us. I'm on call tonight, so I'll be here when you get here."

"You need me to come now?" I looked at the clock on the oven and saw the bright, green numbers: 7:45 PM. I was so tired already. "Is it possible to wait until tomorrow or do you need me to come tonight?"

"Let me talk to Dr. Leitao and I'll call you back."

I called my mom while I was waiting for Dr. Long to get an answer. I hate worrying my mom. I know that every time I call her, no matter what the reason, her heart drops when she sees the caller ID. She immediately has to wonder if something's wrong, and this time, there was. I explained the situation and she was very calm. She told me to let her know what was happening and she and my dad would meet us in the city whenever we needed to go. "You don't have to come. Jimmi can handle it." I said because I didn't want to ruin her plans. She dismissed me quickly, "We'll be there."

Dr. Long called back soon after. "Hi Suzanne, Dr. Leitao would rather have you come sooner than later, if possible. He really wants you to have a CT Scan on your urinary tract. Lower back pain isn't really a common symptom of a UTI, and with the leaking and everything, and especially since it's only on one side, he really wants to make sure something didn't go wrong with the left ureter during the surgery." I didn't like how this was sounding.

"What does that mean?" I asked, terrified to even hear the answer.

"Well, we had to move the bladder around a lot during the surgery. The ureters are the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. It's possible that with all the movement, one of the tubes was damaged and is leaking urine. Because you said you've been having some leakage, we really need to check it out."

Seriously? I don't need this right now. I just want to have date night! "Ok, we'll be there as soon as we can."

I hung up the phone, called my mom back and let her know what was happening, then Jimmi and I got in the car and started our trip into the city. "I don't want to do this," I whined. "If there's something wrong with the tube, they're gonna have to open me back up to fix it! I don't want them to do it! I don't want another operation!" Jimmi looked at me then turned back to the road. I could see the worry in his eyes. "Is that what they'll have to do?" he asked carefully. "Well how else would they fix something that's inside of me?" I snapped.

We made it to New York in 38 minutes. Apparently no one was rushing to the city at 8:30 on a Tuesday night, which made it an easy ride. We arrived at Sloan-Kettering and found the door marked "Urgent Care". I hobbled over to the desk, "Hi, Dr. Long said I should come in for a CT scan." The receptionist took my name and asked me to take a seat. Barely five minutes later, a nurse named Dan called me in to take my vitals and ask for the story of how I was lucky enough to end up in the emergency room that night. I gave him the information he needed, then I was bounced back to the waiting area to wait for another nurse to take blood and start an IV.

"Susan?" UGH!!! "Suzanne!" I said with the strongest tone I could before actual nastiness. I followed the nurse into an exam room and she asked, "Which arm can I not use?" Weird question. "You can use either one, but I only have one vein right in the middle of my right arm." She looked me over and said, "Let me show you a trick." Then she had me twist my arm around so the palm of my hand was facing upward, and she started tapping on my inner forearm. "You look like you work out, so we should find some beautiful veins," she complimented. "And there's one now! Oh, why are you here tonight?" Strange time to ask me that, I thought. "I'm having lower back pain and..." "Ok," she cut me off, "then you'll probably need a CT scan so I'll give you a larger gage needle for the contrast dye, that way they won't have to stick you again." Wow. Smart lady. "Yes, they are doing a CT scan," I said. She smiled and nodded knowingly. "Ok, a little pinch..."

"OUCH!" Ok, note to self: No tattoos on the inner forearm. That HURT! But it was over quickly and the IV was in. She took a few vials of blood and left the catheter in my arm for later use in the scan, or worse, in case I needed to be admitted. Then she flushed the IV with saline to clean it out. All of a sudden I smelled and tasted something weird. "Whoa! I think I just tasted that." I said. "Yeah, you can taste the saline when it goes through. Some people even smell it," she confirmed.

I was sent back to the waiting room for the third time in 20 minutes, but not for long. A red-headed nurse called my name and off we went. She took us to our curtained-off cubicle and instructed me to just remove my shirt and put on the gown. A doctor I had never seen before entered the room. "Hi, I'm Dr. Johnson. What's going on tonight?" I should've written it all out on notecards so I didn't have to repeat myself 400 times. After explaining my symptoms, he examined my belly, pressed down on my abdomen and tapped on my back. "Anything hurt?" he asked. I shook my head. He listened to my chest and back, asked a few more questions, then told me what the problem might be. Again, I heard about ureters and damage and leakage. "If that's what it is, how will they fix it?" I held my breath waiting for his response. "Well, worst case scenario, if the tube is disconnected or really damaged, a urologist will go in through the urethra and reattach it." Sounded horrible. But, wait, "Is that another surgery?" I questioned. "It's a procedure," he explained. "You won't need to be opened up again."

I could breathe again.

Dr. Johnson left the room after the exam and as he pulled the curtain aside, I saw a woman, probably in her early 50s, being wheeled into the next cubicle. As soon as she got close enough, I could hear the complaints start to spew, "Where are we going? What room are we going to? Oh, number 13? Oh, that's just great. Number 13. You've gotta be kidding me! I want to watch channel 4 but it's not channel 4 here, it's different!" Her husband, who I had already sainted, apparently turned on the TV to channel 4. No sooner had he answered her wish when she started again, "No! It's not channel 4 here! You don't ever listen to me! This is the BET Awards! BET is cable, I don't want cable! I want channel 4!" Well, whatever he turned on was so loud, it could be heard through the entire wing. I looked at Jimmi, "Are you kidding me? I don't ever want to hear you complain about me being high maintenance again!" I joked.

And she didn't stop!

An unsuspecting nurse walked into the devil woman's room and was quickly attacked by her claws, "What number is channel 4? I need to watch channel 4!" He backed out slowly saying, "Ok, ma'am, ok. I'm gonna go get the guide. I'm getting the guide." He barely escaped with his life as he walked by my room shaking his head and letting out a "Whew!" But the drama next door continued. "Oh, great!" she yelled at her husband. "Now you spilled it all over the floor! I told you not to bring it in here! It's all over the floor and the table!" He finally fought back with one ounce of strength, "Screw the floor! It's all over my pants!" The TV blared and the complaining escalated. "Are they gonna bring us a menu or anything? I'm starving!" 

I swear this woman thought she was in a TV lounge/restaurant instead of a hospital! Dr. Long arrived shortly thereafter to save me from the horrors next door. She gave me a warm smile, "Hey. How are you holding up?" I really like her. "Eh. I'm ok, I guess. No offense, but I'd rather not be here." "I know," she comforted, "but because of all the stress your bladder and the ureters have to go through during the surgery, Dr. Leitao really wanted to make sure everything is ok. There's a chance the pain might be from the UTI, but there's also a chance it's much more serious than that and we can't let it go." I nodded. Dr. Long proceeded to repeat the exam Dr. Johnson had done, then she asked me about the discharge and leaking I was experiencing. "Is it a lot?" "It's enough to wear a panty liner," I explained. "Are you wearing one now?" Her eyes were wide. I nodded. "Can I see what it looks like?" Eeewwww! This is reason number 7,898,999 I never became a doctor. She wants to look at the stuff that's coming out of me onto the pad! "Sure." I pulled down my pants as Jimmi quickly averted his eyes. She glanced at the brown-tinted, clear nastiness I'd collected and said, "Ok." I pulled my pants back up, Jimmi turned back to look at us, and Dr. Long continued, "I've already ordered the CT scan. It's a special kind that focuses on the urinary tract. It will tell us exactly what's going on and then we can figure out how to fix it. If you want me to personally deliver the results, I'd be happy to do that. And if I've already left the hospital, I'll call you with them." She's awesome. "Yes, I'd appreciate that," I said with complete trust.

Dr. Long left the room and Alex, a nurse with a curly, black ponytail and a tattoo on his neck walked in. "Hello!" he said cheerily. Before he could continue, the maniac next door started yelling about something else. Alex smiled and shook his head. "I know that voice," he said with a chuckle. "She's a regular, huh?" Jimmi teased. We all tried hard to block out the queen of complaints as Alex asked me a bunch of questions. Then he gave me a sterile cup and a piece of gauze dampened with Betadine and instructed me to "wipe first, front to back, with this. The pee a little into the toilet and finish in the cup."

I got up and walked down the hall to the bathroom. Two Hasidic Jews in full garb strolled by me on my way, and I heard the family of a patient in another cubicle laugh and say, "Look, they're taking over! I think they're going to get a third!" I tried to hide the shock on my face as I entered the bathroom and followed Alex's instructions. 

When I came out, I looked up at the front desk and saw my mom and dad. I waved them over and we all met at my curtain. They both kissed me, then my dad immediately went into story time with his new best friend, Jimmi. My mom and I looked at each other and shook our heads. As happy as their new relationship makes me fell, I still can't get used to it.

There is plenty more to my story this week, but I need to stop now. Hopefully I'll feel well enough to finish later today.

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