Mrsa, Mothers, Math, and Morphine

     There was a time back in ’01 and ’02 that hospital acquired MRSA was a struggle for my life.  I was recovering from a colostomy reversal and  for a while at least it seemed my post-op was fairly typical.  About 3 to 4 weeks into my recovery  I started getting cellulitis.  As long as I was in the hospital on IV antibiotics it seemed to hold the infection at bay.  Whenever I went home and was off the IV antibiotics, the infection would come back with a vengance.  Consequently, that year I was in and out of the hospital, there must have been at least 2 dozen admissions.

     That particular hospital was right across the street from my daughter’s school and I think she was in 4th or 5th grade at the time.  The hospital would be sure to put me in a 2 person room that was empty and if I was in the hospital, that’s where Sarah would go after school.  She would hang with me,  they would send up a meal tray for her and let her spend the night with me.  It was a great thing the hospital did for me and my daughter.  I remember one time she heard another elderly patient crying and my daughter asked my nurse about him.  The nurse told her that he was here from the nursing home and he was scared about being in an unfamilier environment.  Sarah picked up her paper and pencils and went across the hall to go visit with him.  She drew pictures for him while telling him that the people there were going to help him and that everything was going to be all right.  She said she was right across the hall if he needed anything, and you could hear him calm down.

     She came back across the hall and asked me if I could help her with her math homework.  I said I’d be more than happy to.  I remember going over each math question so carefully and taking so much time with each one to make sure she was on the right track.  I also remember the next day she came over and told me she got an “F.”  Well, damn.  To this day I believe a few things:  My daughter really touches my heart with her compassion and kindness, my math skills are far behind what is required these days, I can add, subtract, multiply and do long division, but in the end I blame it on the morphine.


A Colostomy War Story

Line drawing showing a permanent colostomy for...

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     Today we’ll go all the way back to 2001, the year I got my colostomy.  Nothing I ever thought I would go through, it changed the way I viewed my body and how I felt about myself.  I dealt with mine by reading message boards and talking to other people who had one.  Most of those were permanent and I knew mine was only temporary.  Still, it’s hard to feel sexy or even clean with a baggie of poop at your waist.

     It took a minute, but I did get to where I was able to deal with it.  Of course, as in most things I had to learn a lot the hard way.  You still get gas with a colostomy, you just don’t expel it the usual way.  Your  bag would fill with gas and you would have to “burp” it.  Once I started recovering from the surgery I would burp my bag in the garage.  Because of where it is in your digestive track, the smell was something you thought you would have to file an EPA report on.  The timing of any colostomy related events was never in my control, and in my oh so intelligent manner of being, I never learned to do anything the easy way.  I always chose the hard way.  Rudy told me not to do it, he told me that nothing good would come of it.  I did it anyway.  I had such a craving for sauerkraut and I figured since I was alone it certainly wouldn’t hurt to indulge my craving.  I’ll just say this, when I watched my bag fill with a category 5 tornado of gas, that when it flew off of me landing on the wall on the other side of the living room I was not surprised.  Mortified?  In a word yes.  I was so so happy to be home alone.


     I know I really missed my mom when all of this was going on.  There’s just something about being sick that makes a girl want her mom.  As good as my husband is now taking care of me, believe me he didn’t come out of the box that way.  He fixes things and gets frustrated when he encounters a problem he can’t fix…aka me.  I think we’ve been together long enough now that we’ve already fought over and negotiated the perils of marriage when one partner is not well.

     I had one sister in Rehab, another sister who is so judgemental of everyone, myself included that I think she’s a narcissist.  She came to see me one time.  It can be very scary being in the hospital.  The pancreatitis attacks seemed to be coming more frequent and more painful.  As long as I was in my small town hospital I do believe my pain was frequently  under treated.  That situation always improved when I was transferred to another hospital.  I’m not sure why that was, but it did seem like there was a whole other culture in the other hospitals when it comes to pain management.

     The medical blogs I’m reading now mostly feel that anyone coming into the ER with pain are drug seeking addicts.  I can’t deny that I was drug seeking…of course i was.  I was in unbelieveable pain.  It wasn’t chronic at that time, just several acute things going on.  I will say that I rarely went to the emergency room that didn’t require admission.  A huge part of that is that I hate going to the ER or just being in the hospital in general so I would have a tendency to wait and try to treat myself at home, so that by the time I did get there I was really sick.

     I remember one time on the med/surg floor seeing other patients walkin in the hallway with their IV poles and they would have one or 2 med bags hanging off their poles, then when I looked up at my own I saw 8 bags of meds.  I had a panic attack, it was like “OMG, I’m really sick here.”  Fatigue was just kicking my ass and even now I don’t have the energy I used to.  I hate the fact that when my youngest daughter looks back on her life, what she’s going to remember about growing up is that her mom was sick all the time.

     While I’m on that subject I can’t fail to mention what a wonderful daughter she has been to me.  She helped me with the colostomy when I had it and now she pretty much helps me with anything I need her to.  My mom had chronic pain and I don’t remember being as patient with her as my daughter is with me.  My mom would work all day, put her eight hours in and for the most part when she came home she was in her jammies and was just spent.  She always said she had given as much as she could for the day.  I would like to tell her that although I didn’t get it then, I surely do now.

     When my husband started his own company with his dad, we went without insurance for a period of time, which is why I currently owe my small town hospital somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000.  There were a few trips to the ICU, a couple surgeries, countless antibiotics and it all added up pretty quickly.  We see no way to ever be able to pay those bills and the only answer we see right now is bankruptcy.  Do I think we need health care reform?  Absolutly, I just don’t know what it looks like from here.

     We didn’t set out to go without insurance.  My husbands job disappeared when the owner went into retirement, and I got laid off right before I would have been covered, not that I would have been able to work for much longer with as sick as I was getting.  We got some quotes for insurance but between DH’s bad knees and what I’d been going through, there was just no way we could have afforded it.

     The colostomy was very hard on me, not just physically, but mentally as well.  I don’t care how long you stand under the shower, it’s just hard to feel clean when you’re wearing a bag of poop at your waist.  It’s also hard to feel pretty or sexy in any way.  Thank God for my husband, who turned the lights on, took my robe off and kissed me from head to toe telling me what a beautiful woman I was.  I also got on the internet and found message boards just for people with ostomy’s and that also got me through it.  To actually be able to talk to people who were living with a colostomy and were probably going to be for the rest of their lives.  It made it very hard for me to feel sorry for myself knowing that mine was only temporary.  Continue reading

In the Beginning

     There are a lot of medical blogs out there.  I’m reading quite a few of them and one thing that strikes me is that most of them are written from the medical personnel perspective and not enough from the patient’s point of view.  What expertise do I have in this area you ask?  Well, I’ll tell ya, and I’m going to try to make a long story short.

     It started in 2001 after my mom passed away.  I was having a summer with one kidney infection after another that were so bad they were putting me in the hospital.  This led to a cystoscopy to see what was going on.  This led to the discovery that a suture had perfed my bladder during a long time ago bladder sling.  This led to a gyne referral who suggested going in laproscopicly to remove any further material that might have been left behind.  This sounded reasonable enough to me so I started making what arrangements I needed to.  My g/f came out to take me back and forth to the hospital and I even told my husband to go to work and that I would probably be home before he was.  It was a good plan.  I had the surgery scheduled for a Friday, I would spend the weekend popping percocet and watching movies and back to my usual self on Mon.  Well ya know what they say about making plans?  Don’t.

     My colon got perfed during surgery and I woke up being wheeled into recovery with a colostomy instead and pain the likes of which I was in no way prepared for.  I saying  “it hurts,” when a nurse leaned over me and told me they had just given me a big shot of fentanyl and I had stopped breathing, and all I could think was….WTF happenned to me?

     I started hearing the word colostomy and complications and not completely understanding what was going on.  I do know that every doctor or nurse that came in my room heard the same thing.  “This is not the surgery I signed up for!”  I also remember waking up to my husband at my side holding my hand.  You’ll find that’s a theme throughout certain watershed moments in my life.  My husband at my side.   Just so ya know, while I’m aware that a lot of this is going to come off as complaining, I’m also completely aware that the previous fact makes me one of the luckiest people I know.  I hope this blog will encourage debate and dialogue on  both sides of the nurse’s station.