Archive for the 'Health' Category

Duh heel bone connecta to duh. . .

Knee bone.

It was indeed gout in my left heel, and it did subside after a few days. Less than two weeks later, the inner side of my right knee began to ache, and by the time I figured out that that was gout too, the pain was so intense that I could NOT bend my knee at all.

(Do please note that a bum knee leaves one much more ambulatory than a bum heel. With the former, although the knee absolutely will not bend a degree one can hobble around stiff-legged, and can even drive, albeit illegally. With the latter, crutches are required.)

Thankfully, my doctor is available by email, and he agreed that it sounded like gout. He called out a prescription for a three-pill med regimen of colchicine. The instructions say to “take two tablets by mouth at the first sign of a gout flare, followed by one tablet one hour later. Well, I got the med three days after it flared, but I took it as directed (and thankfully had only one of the NUMEROUS and challenging side effects listed on its paperwork). Colchicine, combined with insanely high doses of Aleve and ibuprofen, began to bring relief in 48 hours, and I am about 87% back to normal now. However, this all means that I must reduce my uric acid – by hook or by crook – so I am eating less meat, and endeavoring to drink even more water. I feel like a sponge!

Once the inflammation and pain in the knee is totally gone, I am to start on a different daily med to lower my blood uric acid level. For six months. Sigh. But rather than resenting the meds, I am choosing to be thankful that God gave somebody the insight to come up with them and that they are working well to regulate various things in my body properly.

 

Three more firsts. . . what a year so far!

In the spirit of 2016 being the year of doing new things for the first time, last week I added three of those to my list: walking on crutches, using an electric wheelchair, and going to Urgent Care (for me, not for a kid with a sliced open finger).

It happened this way: Thursday night I went to choir. I really enjoy our community choir rehearsals. They are two hours in the week when I don’t have to think about kid issues, church people issues, marital issues, shopping, cooking, cleaning, or laundry responsibilities, the pile on my desk, or anything on my to do list. From 7:00-9:00 p.m. on Thursday, I think ONLY about choir and music and singing, and it’s loads of fun.

But that night, about halfway through choir, the outside of my left heel began to ache. Now, at 55, I must confess that I have had several bodily parts occasionally express odd levels of discomfort for seemingly no good reason, and this ache certainly fell into that category. It got worse throughout our rehearsal, and I figured it was probably related to my only doing my calf stretches (to prevent plantar fasciitis) once a day for the past six weeks instead of the faithful three times a day I did them before my hysterectomy. I went to bed thinking that it was surely just some weird thing that would be gone in the morning.

It was not gone in the morning.

Early Friday morning I needed to pee, but I could not bear ANY weight on my left foot. It was horrific pain – enough to make me yelp and cry – and I half hopped, half crawled to the bathroom and then took two ibuprofen. The pain was intense, but after an hour it was a bit better and I managed to do my walk, albeit in slow motion. However, at four hours, the horrific, unbearable pain resumed and I took two more ibuprofen. Which didn’t seem to help much and wore off completely in three hours. At which point I took two more, and they helped not the least bit at all. I knew I couldn’t keep taking ibuprofen every two hours, and since it wasn’t doing anything anyway, I quit that, called my doctor’s office, and took the earliest available appointment on the following Tuesday afternoon. I then went to the pharmacy and bought a pair of crutches.  = {

Saturday morning, the foot was somewhat worse, and Scott thought that the level of pain I was experiencing might indicate a break. A break? Well, maybe, but exactly how would one break a bone in one’s foot while sitting in a pew and singing?!?!? He took me to Urgent Care where an amount of being wheel-chaired around and three X-rays later, it was determined that nothing was broken. The doc there said it was either my plantar fasciitis flaring up (in which case I should rest it completely for two days, take two Aleve twice a day, and then resume my stretches five times a day), or it was a torn ligament (in which case I should rest it completely for two days, take two Aleve twice a day, but not do any stretches because they would only make it worse).

I hobbled home and spent the rest of the day crutching all over town (O, my aching pits!) with Katie for a wide variety of items needed to stock our newly acquired vacation rental home. In both Target and Wal-Mart, I sucked up my pride and used one of those electric chairs; in so doing, I was repeatedly reminded that I am clearly not licensed to drive those kinds of vehicles, and that backing up is totally humiliating.

Having rested and Aleved the foot thoroughly, by Sunday morning I was able to bear weight on it with only a slight limp, so I went crutchless to church and to our THRIVE meeting that evening.

Monday was better, almost normal, but I kept my Tuesday afternoon appointment and I’m really glad I did. Dr. Salmon ruled out both plantar fasciitis and torn ligaments, saying that he strongly suspected acute gout, a condition about which I knew literally only one fact: my dad had had gout. Dr. Salmon, who is a wonderful medical detective and instructor, explained it to me thoroughly, and I will summarize for you: gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid which then crystallizes in a joint (or in my case, in the lining of a tendon), causing extreme pain. Uric acid is what the body metabolizes protein into. Because I take a diuretic twice a day and so lose fluid, my tissues are tend to be somewhat dehydrated (despite my guzzling great quantities of water), and the level of uric acid in my blood is even more highly concentrated than that of the average bear. Indeed, mine checked out at an impressive 10.7  mg/dL, when it should be below 6.0. Well.

Dr. Salmon thought that cutting my diuretic back to only once a day, which would keep me better hydrated and thereby dilute my uric acid concentration, would probably solve the problem without my having to take uric acid-lowering medication. I really DON’T want to have to take any more meds! So I skipped my second dose of the diuretic for one day and promptly gained three POUNDS of fluid in my ankles(!!!), so that didn’t work, and I’m back to two doses. Right now, I am advised to lower my intake of protein (very sad) and beer (no sorrow there), continue to drink plenty of water, and wait and see if I have any further attacks. I am believing that I won’t.

My crutches are in the cellar now, and it is my fond hope that they will stay there unused forever.

To answer the question, “Would you rather have judgment or mercy?” I say I’d rather have

. . . Cox.

For previous insurance reasons that required me to use a St. John’s primary care physician, for quite a few years, I had my mammograms done at St. John’s (now Mercy) in Springfield. Between the drive up there and back (90 minutes total), the registration time (5 minutes), the wait in the outer waiting room (30-45 minutes), the wait while scantily clad in the inner waiting room (10 minutes), and the time for the procedure itself (5 minutes), I generally allowed up to three hours for the whole shooting match.

But now that I am using a Cox primary care physician in Branson, my last two mammograms have been at the outpatient building at Cox Branson (formerly Skaggs), and I must say that in this regard, Cox can certainly teach their Mercy competition a few things.

Now, I will admit on the front end that parking was a challenge. In fact, it was the most time-consuming part of the whole adventure. For one thing, no one wants to park in the main hospital lot and then hike over to the outpatient building, so the natural tendency is to look for a space in the row of parking places in front of the outpatient building. Unfortunately, those spaces were obviously reserved for those who had camped out for them the night before.

The next place to look would be around the back of the outpatient building where a series of signs with big arrows (and we 50-somethings do so appreciate clear signage!) directs one to OUTPATIENT PARKING. Unfortunately, the few of those spaces that are vacant are “Reserved for Cancer Patients.” [Be it noted that I, not being a cancer patient, had no legal right to park there, and since I have great compassion for those who are, I would never park there anyway.]

So, having thus far located exactly zero available parking spaces, one finds oneself suddenly thrust, whether one likes it or not, into the depths of the new parking deck. I have always had issues with parking decks. These issues are probably about as rational as the deep-seated anxiety I face when popping open a tube of crescent rolls, but they are issues nonetheless. Actually, I suppose I just have a lot of questions about parking decks. For example. . .

1. Why must they have such massive, lumpy humps each time you turn to enter a new level? I could maybe understand this significant construction error occurring – and then being left uncorrected for all posterity – once, but on every turn into every level? Come on, guys! Are the parking deck builders not provided with levels? Even I, a somewhat normal (HA!) mom who lacks even an undergraduate degree in engineering can clearly see when concrete slabs have not been laid flat. With all the technology available today, can’t someone figure this out and fix it?

2. Why is it that the spaces in parking decks are situated such that if there really is an empty one, you cannot possibly tell it’s empty until you have driven past it? Really now, who wants to risk backing up in a such a structure? And then this corollary question, which I realize is probably just user error, but which happens so very consistently that one does begin to wonder: why are parked cars in parking decks always alternated big, little, big, little, big, little, so that if you do spot an empty space and begin to turn into it, you inevitably find that a tiny car only half the length of yours is already parked in it? Can people with micro cars not park so that the back of their car is flush with the backs of the two big cars on either side of it? This seems to be standard procedure for books on library shelves. Could we not sway the culture in this very logical direction for parking decks, too?

3. Why are there always workmen standing around in the depths of parking decks, and why are they so rarely working, and why do they give me the creeps as I walk past them and we exchange nods? Well, maybe the creeps part is my deal, but can’t the parking deck building and electrical and paving and striping folks just do all their construction work before the deck opens and then leave it alone?

4. And finally, why is it that if you drive on past the only three vacant spots in the deck because they are all three maximally distant from the stairs (and closest to the workmen standing around), the odds on your finding another empty space before you are see daylight ahead and are about to exit the parking deck are 79:1?

As I said, the parking deal was a bit challenging, but I did eventually squeeze my Durango into a space that was probably intended for a Honda Civic. At that point, I had the rather humorous challenge of trying to figure out how to exit my car without removing any door paint from the vehicle to my left, but I will leave that one to your imagination. Once extricated, I did also have a bit of a hike from my car – past the requisite workmen – to my destination, BUT from the time I walked into the Cox Health Women’s Center office until the time I walked out of said office with my mammogram completed was less than fifteen minutes! And on the shelf in the bathroom where I did my two quick changes, some sensitive female soul had placed a Dove milk chocolate!

This was my experience last year, as well (including the chocolate), but at the time I assumed it was all a fluke. Now, having invested a grand total of 48 minutes door-to-Walnut-Shade-door, I am convinced that this must be Cox’s S.O.P. for mammograms. I am duly impressed, and I am saving my Dove for a special occasion.

The most amazing surgery story ever – part 4 (conclusion)

(January 21, 2016 “Ready to start home”)

In an hour, we leave the hotel for a follow-up appt. with Dr. Shibley, and then on to the airport. Scott will be arranging wheelchairs and early boarding for us, so all should be fine. I will be lazy and continue to be treated like a queen.  = )

I feel good – no pain when sitting or lying down, but a little bit when getting into and out of those positions. Walking (I’ve been doing two laps of the hall each hour when I’m awake) is just a little bit uncomfortable, I think mainly because my clothes brushing against my steri-strips is slightly irritating. In the privacy of our room I can keep my incision site uncovered, but I’m pretty sure the hotel would frown upon a public display of my purple smiley face. My digestive system is once again happy.

I am quite tired, which is to be expected. I haven’t been sleeping very well at night, although a Percocet at bedtime did buy me four straight hours of sleep last night. But I can fall asleep sitting down at any time; like hopefully on a plane!

Please pray for all the usual things involved in flying, especially since we will once again be in violation of several of “Katie’s Rules of Air Travel.”

My guess is that when we arrive home, I will be ready for bed, so I may not deal with sending an email tonight to say we made it. Just assume all is well, and thanks SO much for taking time to pray so faithfully for us.

Blessings,

Patty, who is pretty sure it’s time for another nap  = )

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(January 21, 2106 “Home!”)

It’s 9:20 PM Thursday and we are home!

Due to our flight being delayed out of Minneapolis because our plane had to be de-iced, we ended up having a rather tight connection in Chicago. We made it – thanks to a nice young man who wheeled me from concourse K to concourse G – but my checked bag did not. It will be delivered Friday morning.

So God has answered ALL those very specific prayer requests, and we are both so, so, so very blessed.

I’m tired and a little sore, but ibuprofen and heating pads are my friends.  = )

The doc today said everything is wonderful, all my pathology (lots of fibroids) was negative, and I should continue to feel better each day. I can resume normal activity as tolerated, but am supposed to mainly rest, walk daily, and drink a lot (of water!) for two weeks.

Thank you all and good night.

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(January 26, 2016 “Update, 7 days post-surgery”)

Several of you have called, emailed, or texted to ask how I’m doing, and the short answer is GREAT!!!! I have been working on an editing project and year-end ministry donation receipts and various parenting matters, and I am sorry that I haven’t yet been able to reply to you individually. I very much appreciate your prayers and interest!

I’ve not taken anything for pain (not even ibuprofen) the past couple days, and I only have mild discomfort when bending and when getting in and out of certain positions. Hence I avoid bending and stay where I’m comfortable.  = )

Mostly, I tire easily and there are times when I just want to sit and do nothing, so I do. I am able to walk, climb stairs, and do most normal things. I’m not driving yet, but plan to drive just a bit on Thursday. I’m also not doing normal housework (laundry, washing dishes, cleaning), so either the guys or doing it or it just doesn’t get done. I am OK with that. Our church and other friends have been bringing us meals and that has been a HUGE blessing.

My main prayer request is to be able to sleep at night. The first night home, I slept 10:30 PM to 8:00 AM, but since then, it takes anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours to fall asleep (no exaggeration), and then I wake up about every two hours and can’t fall back asleep. Even an Rx sleeping med doesn’t seem to work, and I am getting pretty desperate to sleep four or five hours straight at night, and eight would be even better. I think when I can get back to my regular morning walks, that will help a lot, but I just don’t have the energy to walk for exercise yet.

Thank you for asking and for praying!

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(February 5, 2016 “Update, 17 days post-surgery”)

One of my friends asked how I’m doing, and that made me think it would be good to update all of you at once. In short, I’m doing great and thanks for praying!

I am basically back to full speed, with the exception of resting – and sometimes falling sound asleep – for about an hour each day in the early afternoon. I’ve resumed my morning walking, but not yet as far or as fast as formerly. I’m doing two of my usual four laps now and plan to be back up to four laps in a couple more weeks.

I’ve been having night sweats each night; please don’t bother to try this at home. Just take my word for it that they are decidedly not recreational. I had thought for sure that I was done with such stuff when our bed-wetting child finally outgrew the habit, but maybe the repeat physical situation of dealing effectively with wet sheets while semi-asleep at 55 is something akin to the repeat parental situation of dealing effectively with toddler-hood’s defiance in a teenager!

I have no pain at all; just some mild fatigue, and. . . rejoice with me. . . I have not bled at all in 14 days!!!!!  I’ll have a follow-up appt with my PCP next week (at 3 weeks post) at which I expect I’ll be released for full activity of all kinds, without restriction. [NOTE: I did have that appointment and that is exactly what happened. My PCP was AMAZED at my recovery!]

So far, our out-of-pocket expenses for the whole deal have totaled $400, and Medi-Share sent us a check for $500 ($100/day to cover our incidental expenses for food, car rental, etc. during our five-day foray into the Arctic), AND they told us we shouldn’t be receiving any medical bills [we haven’t] and who to call if we do, AND they have reduced our family’s monthly “share” (premium), which is normally $400, to something like $125 for March, April, and May. We are SO BLESSED!!!

I know that God has powerfully answered your prayers for me.  I am grateful to him and to you, and I am humbled.

The most amazing surgery story ever – part 3

(January 20, 2016 “The play-by-play”)

WARNING: This is slightly graphic, so if you aren’t comfortable reading medical details, please skip.

During the night, it occurred to me that I should go ahead and document what I remember (or was told) about the details of my hysterectomy yesterday while they are still fresh in my mind, so here goes.

Like much of medicine, it seems that hysterectomy has evolved a LOT in the past 30 or 40 years. Back in the day, it meant a major abdominal incision, all one’s parts lifted out and strewn across one’s abdomen for sorting and removal, the remaining items re-inserted into slot B, and all the layers of cut muscles and tissue (I was told it was six when I had my first C-section) meticulously sewn (in later years, the outer layer was stapled) back together. It also meant a several-day hospital stay and a six-week recovery.

Then somebody figured out how to do these surgeries vaginally, which meant somewhat less pain in a different place, and a somewhat shorter recovery.

I don’t know who came up with the idea of doing hysterectomies laparoscopically, but my understanding is that they make several very small incisions across the abdomen, and a camera goes into one and tools and such into the others, and the deed is done robotically.

Dr. Shibley used to do them that way, but in the past several years, he has come up with and refined what seems to be an even better technique that has a recovery time of only two weeks. In fact, he told us he did this procedure on one patient who is herself a surgeon, and FOUR DAYS LATER she was back doing surgery! I don’t know exactly how he does it—and I missed my big opportunity to observe it by being unconscious for ninety minutes yesterday—but he does it all (camera, instruments, etc.) through ONE one-inch incision in the navel. Here’s how he explained it to us the day before the surgery and again a few minutes before he operated.

Oh, but first, and not to insult anyone’s intelligence, I should explain a bit of female anatomy, as well as my particular situation. Center stage in the lower female abdominal cavity is the uterus with two Fallopian tubes attached to it on either side, and attached to the far end of each tube is an ovary. The bottom of the uterus is connected to the cervix, which is connected to the vagina. Think the “Dry Bones” spiritual. = )

I have no cancer or pre-cancer concerns. My problem was my eternally bleeding uterus, which needed to be removed. Current protocol is to remove the Fallopian tubes along with the uterus, because (A) if you’re not going to have a uterus, you have no need of any Fallopian tubes, and (B) cancer could potentially develop in them in the future. We wanted the uterus and Fallopian tubes OUT. However, my ovaries (which are still wheezing along after 44 years and producing some amount of estrogen—a very good hormone to have floating around in a woman’s body) and cervix are all in good shape, and we wanted to keep them.

So, for my “hysterectomy and bilateral salpingectomy” (removal of my uterus and both Fallopian tubes), the procedure was as follows:

~ Arrive at the surgery center, don fashionable surgical attire in my little out-patient surgical “room” (like a curtained E.R. cubicle), fill out forms, take vitals, start IV, ask and answer questions with nurse

~ Wait a while

~ Play gin rummy on tray table with husband

~ Learn that things are running about 30 minutes late, so wait a little more

~ Lose gin rummy miserably to husband

~ Meet with Dr. Shibley, who reviewed the entire procedure with us, explained exactly what would happen, including what he would do, how I’d feel, and what to expect. He also told me that he had a new “tool” he’d be using on me, a liquid pain-relieving drug that he would inject (during the surgery) into my cervix and navel area. It’s called Exparel, and it’s an anesthetic med encapsulated in microscopically small “beads” that gradually dissolve over three days, making it a “timed-release” novacaine-like pain med. He said it would leave my belly button rather numb for three days (totally fine with me!) and make my recovery even easier. He then used something akin to a purple Sharpie to draw arrows on my abdomen to remind all parties to take out both Fallopian tubes, and he added a smiley face.

~ Meet with Dr. Kallitz, anesthesiologist. He was superb; took lots of time to ask questions and hear my concerns about past difficulties coming out of anesthesia. He told me that through my IV (all meds but one would be administered through IV), I’d be given a mild sedative as we rolled toward the operating room. Once we were in there, I would be helped onto the operating table, and then I’d be given major “knock-out” drug(s) mixed with an antibiotic and two anti-nausea meds. Once I was asleep, they would put a mask on me and I would breath whatever inhaled med would keep me unconscious as long as Dr. Shibley needed. I would be intubated (breathing tube down my throat), and a urinary catheter would be inserted into my bladder. My abdomen would be “painted” with some antiseptic liquid in an interesting shade of seafoam green.

~ Dr. Shibley would make his belly button incision and somehow do all the following through it.

– inflate my abdominal cavity with a large quantity of CO2 gas

I am not sure, but I suspect the purpose of this is to inflate my belly so that the organs to be dealt with are closer to the surface and more accessible?

– disconnect my uterus from my cervix

– disconnect each Fallopian tube end from its corresponding ovary

There are ligaments that hold all that stuff together, and all those supporting ligaments had to be cut. I asked him how the bleeding from those internal cuts would be controlled. It’s done with a specially designed device that utilizes a combination of ultrasound and heat to cauterize the blood vessels. This is more effective (gives a better and stronger seal to those vessels) than conventional, heat-only cauterization.

– do the zip-loc routine

This is a procedure that Dr. Shibley developed to solve a specific problem. Evidently this is his own technique so he is the best in the world at it, and it’s gradually becoming the standard where other surgeons have been able to be trained to do it. I will try to explain. It is suspected that some female cancers may actually originate in the Fallopian tubes. Doing a laparascopic hysterectomy (making only several tiny holes in the abdomen) means that the entire uterus needs to be pulled out through one of those holes. Think ship in a bottle. To do this, the uterus has to be “ground up.” I think the word he used for that was maybe “maceration?” So they generally “grind up” the uterus (and the Fallopian tubes, which are usually all removed as a set) with some certain instrument and then pull it all out the tiny hole. BUT there has been concern that in so doing a few cells may be left behind in the abdomen, and if any of those cells should HAPPEN to be cancer cells that were developing in the Fallopian tube(s), then they could set up a cancerous growth somewhere sometime in the future.

So. . . to alleviate that problem, Dr. Shibley has developed a technique (and I don’t know any more than what I am saying here) of somehow using an instrument he designed for this purpose to put the disconnected uterus/tubes in a “bag” and grind it up in the bag so that no cells are lost, and then pull the bag out through the navel incision. Isn’t that totally amazing?!? I don’t know the real name for it, but I refer to this as his zip-loc procedure, because it sounded a lot to me like when I attack a bunch of graham crackers with a rolling pin in a zip-loc to make crumbs.

– examine everything else (ovaries, cervix) to see if there are problems that would necessitate their removal

– inject the special numbing juice into my cervix and navel

– suck as much of the CO2 gas as possible out of my abdominal cavity; if bubbles of it are left inside, I could have cramping and pain

– removal all tools, and sew up the navel incision with one or two stitches

I am told that once my belly button was sewn shut, a number of other things were done. My urinary catheter was removed. (I hate that and was so glad I was unconscious to have it taken out!) My breathing tube was removed. My mask was removed. My IV meds were altered to bring me gradually back awake, and yet another anti-nausea med was added to the mix.

I was wheeled to recovery and Scott joined me there.

I was actually totally unaware of nearly ALL the above. The last thing I remember was my gurney being wheeled from my cubicle toward the operating room, but I never even saw the doors of that room. The next thing I knew was that I was dreaming, and someone in my dream was using medical terms, and I wanted to open my eyes but could not, and I wished they would all be quiet and let me sleep, but they would not, and I finally figured out that I wasn’t dreaming and that they really were talking to or about me. And I managed to get my eyes open, and I recognized my new good friend, Nurse Theresa, next to me. It was nearly 3:00 PM.

From that point on, they kept asking me about pain (I had almost none) and if I wanted pain med (I did not). My belly button gradually began to ache, and I took a Percocet at about 3:30, but by then, I was awake enough to talk relatively intelligently. Within an hour, and leaning very hard on Theresa, I walked three laps around the unit. They wanted me to pee before I was discharged (the bladder gets kind of numb and sluggish with both the anesthesia and the surgery itself), and Theresa did an ultrasound of my bladder to measure how much urine was in it, because that would supposedly indicate whether or not it would be possible for me to urinate. There’s no point going through all the motions of getting onto a throne if nothing can possibly happen. 30 ml. That’s two tablespoons. Definitely NOT enough to go; that despite having received 2000 ml through my IV! So we thought I was going to have to drink a whole lot of water to get things going, but I got into the bathroom with much assistance and did, yea and verily, pee. Hallelujah. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter. = )

Scott had already been given my discharge instructions. He then helped me dress, we collected all our toys, Theresa wheeled me out, and we drove away, stopping at Chik-Fil-A on the way “home” to pick up Cobb salads for supper. Amazing. Totally amazing.

Back in our room, I spent a couple hours just sitting around, typing up an update, and eating part of my salad. We were on the phone quite a bit that evening about stuff at home—a major ice event resulting in four other friends being stranded at our house with Josiah, and Andrew unable to get home from school and overnighting with another family in Reeds Spring. Scott and I played another game of gin rummy, which I won decisively, I took three ibuprofen, and we went to bed.

Sitting down, my pain is zero.

Getting up and down is somewhat uncomfortable, and getting in and out of bed (lying-to-sitting and vice versa) is actually painful (I yelp a bit), but Scott has been doing most of that lifting and lowering, which is wonderful. I can walk slowly and without much pain, but it’s nice to have a supporting, husbandly arm, and I am now firmly convinced that nearby walls are a simply brilliant idea. And did you realize that they are almost everywhere?!? Never noticed ‘em so much before. . .

My steri-stripped belly button is hanging out for all (well, really only Scott and me) to see. As long as my clothing is rolled below that point and nothing is touching it, all is well, but if someone were to bump into me from the front, I am sure I would scream, and I definitely could not be held responsible for any subsequent retaliation.

I took a shower this morning and managed to dress myself, but I think I will let Scott deal with my socks and shoes next time. The issue is just that they are so darn far down there! A bit of bending is required to access them, and bending is emphatically NOT good. Neither is coughing (which I must do, because my throat is—expectedly—somewhat raw from having the breathing tube down it) or laughing (which I like to do, but am endeavoring to avoid).

I know that the Percocet can be constipating, so I am trying to avoid it. So far, ibuprofen has been sufficient, but I may do the Percocet tonight, or take Ambien, so I can sleep. Last night I lay there wide awake for several hours. No pain once lying flat, but also no sleep.

It snowed about an inch here last night J, and the temp was up to 14 this morning.

There is evidently some concern about blood clots, so I need to walk a little every hour or so. It’s now time for that and for me to drink more water. Then I think I will take a nap. = )

God is great, and this experience has been wonderful!

The most amazing surgery story ever – part 2

(January 17, 2016 “In the frozen tundra”)

We had a great day of travel and are settled in a very nice, warm hotel room in greater Minneapolis. Outside, the temp is -6 with a 10 mph wind. It is definitively colder than cold.

Monday afternoon we will meet with the surgeon. Till then, we will be alternately relaxing and working. We have a great desk in our room with two work stations, plus a couch, fridge, and king bed. We are most blessed.

Thank you for your prayers for us. I have much more peace than a few days ago; I can surely tell people are praying.

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(January 18, 2016 “Favor that’s almost unbelievable!”)

We just met with Dr. Shibley, who will be doing my surgery tomorrow. I am really overwhelmed at God’s goodness. Not only is Medi-Share covering all my medical expenses and all our travel expenses (they paid our airfare and hotel, and gave us a perdiem for food and car rental), it seems that they have scheduled my surgery with one of the premier and cutting edge (no pun intended) hysterectomy surgeons in the country. He is the doc who developed the procedure that my former GYN in Springfield was going to use!

Dr. Shibley spent quite a bit of time with us, answered ALL our questions – you know I had many – and explained how and why the whole Bridge Health system works. In short, it seems to be a way to get around the whole terrifically expensive “big insurance” system and give patients higher-quality care with top-notch doctors at lower costs. This is a very good thing, and God is working it all out for me! I am humbled.

I am also amazed to hear about ALL the people who are praying for me – a friend in Virgina, the local Presbyterian church choir, a Sunday school class in Florida, etc. I want you to know that God is steadily answering all those prayers. He is amazing, and he is using all of you. Thank you so much!

I’m now enjoying a lovely diet of strawberry jello and white grape peach juice and anticipating all to go well tomorrow. Dr. Shibley expects to do the entire procedure through one, one-inch incision in my navel. Amazing! I told him this is approaching Dr. McCoy’s techniques for surgery on Star Trek.  = )
I truly appreciate your prayers.
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(January 19, 2016 “Surgery COMPLETED!”)

Praise God! Praise God!! Praise God!!! Praise God!!!!

WOW!

Five hours ago, I had a hysterectomy, and now I am back in our hotel room, comfortable (Percocet is a wonderful drug), a bit unsteady on my feet (Percocet is a powerful drug), and coherent enough to type an email.

I had The Most Awesome medical care imaginable.

We arrived at 11:00, and the nurses, doctor, and anesthesiologist explained everything and answered all our questions. Surgery started at 1:00, I was in recovery at 2:30, and I was discharged at 5:00.

There is not a way that things could have gone more smoothly or easily. At every single step of the way, God arranged for things to work in my favor – from getting a tough IV started on only the second attempt, to the right cocktail of anesthesia meds given at the right times (I was worried about that because I’ve had anesthesia difficulties in the past), to my being unconscious for the parts of the procedure that most concerned me, to the surgery going perfectly (with my being able to retain all the parts we wanted to retain), to Scott being allowed into the recovery room with me (against policy, but requested by Yours Truly to alleviate my anxiety) to EXCELLENT post-op nursing care, to a smooth ride “home” – we are blessed beyond our imagination.

Current prayer requests are:

1.  Safety for Andrew who is not yet (7:00 PM) home from school, due to the roads being slick.  He expects to get a ride with a friend (parents of friend driving, thankfully) to the friend’s house, where he will probably spend the night.

2.  Pain to be managed well. I have Percocet if needed, but Dr. Shibley said many patients only need ibuprofen (!!!), so I’d like to go that route as much as possible.

3.  My digestive system to get with the program ASAP.

Thank you again for your prayers!

The most amazing surgery story ever – part 1

This may be old news for many readers of this blog, but I realized that I never blogged about my recent surgery, and it’s a story that definitely deserves to be told because God worked out so many details in such a perfectly amazing way. If you were one of my friends who was praying for me during this journey, this will be a rerun which you are welcome to skip, as I’m going to piece together here some of the updates I sent out at the time.

(January 14, 2016)

Many of you have been asking about my upcoming surgery, and now that I finally have confirmed plans, I’m sending out one massive email to those of you who care and will pray. This surgery could be challenging, and I really need your prayers.

After two-plus years of virtually constant and occasionally dangerously heavy bleeding, and after many consultations, tests, and procedures, and after much consideration of possible options to get this bleeding to stop, I am going to have a hysterectomy on Tuesday 1/19 in Minneapolis, MN. Scott and I will fly there on Sunday 1/17 and return Thursday 1/21. I would deeply appreciate your prayers.

The Medical Part

I know that many ladies with similar symptoms choose other options.  We have already considered and either tried or ruled out for various reasons the following.

1. Ablation
2. D&C
3. Hormone-dispensing IUD
4. Oral hormones – BTW, if you want to become the Wicked Witch of the West, let me know; I have ten progesterone tablets here that I will share with you at no charge, and they are guaranteed to do the trick!

5. Wait (and pray) and see

But after The Horrifically Scary Bleed of November 2015, I decided it’s time to do something permanent, and in my case, due to some various health factors, that means hysterectomy.
The Insurance Part

Due to my weight and some pre-existing conditions, I am basically uninsurable. Most companies won’t touch me with poles of any length. I did have traditional health insurance a number of years ago, but when my personal premium (with a $10K deductible) passed $900/month, we dropped it, and I was uninsured for a few years.

Then when ObamaCare with its penalties hit the fan, we again tried to get me on some kind of major medical insurance but could not, and so we joined Medi-Share. It’s a Christian medical sharing plan that works sort of like insurance, but not exactly.  (We call it my “insurance” for ease of terminology, although it really isn’t.)  And I still have a $10K deductible.

The Travel Part

When it was determined that I had to have surgery, I asked the doctor in Springfield who’s been handling my case for 18 months what it would cost for him to do the surgery. He does these ALL the time, several (maybe up to a dozen?) a week. The best estimate his office could give me was “$10K-$30K.”  (With the aid of smelling salts I did get up off the floor.) We also couldn’t get clear information on what Medi-Share would pay after I paid my $10K out-of-pocket deductible.  Insert majorly frustrated frowny face here.

But Medi-Share told us that they are contracted with an entity called Bridge Health, which has a network of surgery centers around the country, and if my hysterectomy were done at a Bridge Health facility, my deductible would be waived (yee hah!!!) and Medi-Share would pay 100% of my medical costs, including all Scott’s and my travel expenses. Wow! It didn’t require an advanced degree to do that math.

However, there are a couple of drawbacks for the woman with the issue of blood in Walnut Shade. First, Bridge Health doesn’t have any surgery centers nearby, and second, we don’t get to choose which surgery center we use. Hence, I have now been assigned to a place in Minnesota, where the high Sunday is forecast to be -2.  = )

The Scary Part

I do realize that – and am very thankful – that a laparoscopic hysterectomy is much less invasive than a C-section, but having had a trio of those, I do have some personal experience with how one can feel immediately following abdominal surgery. In short, not so very great. I will be discharged a few hours after the surgery to a hotel where we will spend the next 40 or so hours. While I would MUCH prefer to spend that time in a hospital or at least in my own home, neither of those is an option, and Scott and I will just have to play with the cards we’ve been dealt.

I am sure he will do his very best to take care of me, but let me just say that there are reasons why Scott did not choose nursing as a profession.  = )  Yes, I am quite concerned about those first couple of post-op days.

I am also concerned about our travel home; the tight timing, the need to get ourselves and our stuff through three airports fairly quickly when I may be moving rather slowly and uncomfortably, etc.

The Schedule

For inquiring minds, here is the schedule we’ve been given.

    Sunday 1/17 (9:12 AM) – We fly through Chicago to Minnesota.

    Monday 1/18 (1:45 PM) – I see Dr. Shibley at his Edina Clinic for pre-op exam and consultation.

    Monday 1/18 (evening) – Having eaten only lightly all day, I drink only clear liquids and nasty stuff for prep reasons.

    Tuesday 1/19 (around noon) – Dr. Shibley does my surgery at Ridges Surgery Center.

    Tuesday 1/19 (around 5:00 PM?) – I am discharged, we pick up pain meds, we return to hotel.

    Wednesday 1/20 (all day) – I thank God that my friends are praying for me.

    Thursday 1/21 (11:15 AM) – I see Dr. Shibley at his Burnsville Clinic for post-op exam.

    Thursday 1/21 (2:29 PM) – We fly back to Springfield through Chicago and drive home.

In addition to not knowing what condition I will be in for that return flight, I am a little concerned about the timing of getting from the Thursday appointment to the airport (25 minutes away), returning a rental car, checking bags, getting through security, and making our flight. You could pray about that – either that it would all work out, or that I would have peace (or be sufficiently drugged not to care!) if it does not.

And now, to end on a more upbeat note, I offer the following timely wisdom, sent to us a last year by our daughter, Katie, who has traveled a great deal, has had a number of quite difficult airline situations, and who therefore avoids air travel if at all possible. We call these “Katie’s Rules of Air Travel.”

She wrote, “Given your recent experiences, I thought you might be able to use a friendly reminder of these basic rules.

1. Never fly.
2. If you must fly between December and February, don’t fly. Driving, biking, hitchhiking, and jetskiing are all better options.
3. Never check a bag, unless it is completely unavoidable, in which case you should find a way to avoid it.
4. Never fly United.
5. Never fly on the last flight of the day.
6. Peanut butter is a liquid.

You’re welcome.”

We will, of course, be in full violation of Rules #1, #2, and #3, but since we are booked on American on midday flights and don’t plan to take any peanut butter in a carry-on, all will be well.  And thanks in advance for praying!