Thursday, December 11, 2008

two for the price of three

As a child I used to lay in bed at night and invent a strange bargaining dialog with the witchmonster that lived under my bed. If I held my breath for 10 seconds, laying on my left side with one eye open, I would be safe for another another night, allowed to live.

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© Laura Kicey for Terrain. All Rights Reserved.

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Sometime a little over two weeks ago I reopened this strange dialog with an unseen force: the one holding my body together. This time round there was a bit more gravity to it all, at least more than a sound night's sleep. I've avoided updating the blog for ages as I didn't need to give voice to the chorus of fears leading up to the surgery. There have been some unforeseeable twists in this road but it seems like we are headed in a positive direction, though nothing is certain.

snowplace
© Laura Kicey for Terrain. All Rights Reserved.

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Just prior to the surgery I was frantically trying to fit in some work, including visiting Terrain for Christmas Open House and at the last minute and getting wrapped in a freakishly early snowstorm I was set to document the Holiday decorations at Terrain. Despite it taking over two hours in sluggish slip-sliding traffic to get there, it ended up being gorgeous and totally worth the trek. It transformed the site to an exquisite winter wonderland.

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Though by day's end the snow had melted, the lights at night made me, Grinch of the Century, feel a little warm holiday tingle... though my fingertips were losing sensation. Having never done a large scale night shoot before or really that much snow shooting, the results were pretty exciting.

snowflake set
© Laura Kicey for Terrain. All Rights Reserved.


the great divide
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© Laura Kicey for Terrain. All Rights Reserved.


Only days later I was chugging fluids in anticipation of a colonoscopy-style prep for surgery the next day. The Butcher and I had discussed that it wouldn't hurt to empty me out and keep me on liquids for some time after surgery to give the system a rest. Not especially good timing, being discharged the day before Thanksgiving, but I decided I could handle the temptations in favor of being CURED!!

hanging beadplant in the hothouse
© Laura Kicey for Terrain. All Rights Reserved.


7am Michael and I appeared at the hospital which was unexpectedly buzzing with patients. Familiar faces all round, except an anesthesiologist who was struggling to find a vein without going through it. All of the usual hazy memories, saucy thigh-high Teds, a stylish blue mesh hat, peppy words of encouragement from the Butcher, wheeling into the refridgerator-chilled OR, rolling myself onto the table, going awkwardly limp in the arms of one of the OR nurses while the nurse anesthetist gives me a sedative that leaves me mumbling "Oh my I feel that" as they push the spinal needle into my back.

fresh admission
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Next thing I remember is half-awakening a few times to ask the nurse anesthetist if I can blow my nose... he hands me gauze to honk while I am flailing to remove the oxygen tube from my nose, laying on my belly. Then my mind wonders and I try to look over my shoulder only to find my back end draped... incoherently trying to peek at the action going on behind me. It is times like these that I wonder at the variety of bizarre things that must transgress between the partially sedated patients and the crew in OR. I'm always very busy and chatty for one who is supposed to be asleep.

Morning broken
© Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

The Butcher
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The surgery went off without a hitch and after hanging out in Recovery waiting for the spinal to wear off, flexing my legs and feet with enthusiasm, I was wheeled up to my room to start slurping on the first of many hospital ginger ales and jellos. This time I was awarded the PCA armed with the not-so-magic dilaudid. After a few hours and the spinal effects of the spinal were nowhere to be seen the pain became so insanely intense, despite much dilaudid-button-pushing, I was writhing and in tears... until my good friends Rob and his lovely lady Leah appeared to help distract me from the epic ow in the bottom zone. Rob had recently accepted an amazing job off to work with the people who developed Guitar Hero and Rock Band at Harmonix.... in Boston. Had he gotten the apartment he had been vying for, he wouldn't have to had to return to Philly at all and I would have missed seeing him off altogether. Luckily for me (but probably most unfortunate for them having to keep a weepy wild-eyed me company) I got to bid him a fond farewell... though I was rather close to telling them I wasn't feeling up to company, it picked me up a little.


After my hospitalization in July for this same surgery which was generally a really positive experience, I had high hopes that this would be equally as smooth. Alas as the daylight faded so did the appearances of my nurse... until of course I was starting to feel sleep come on, then naturally they couldn't stop appearing. I got a roommate around 2am and they spent a couple hours getting her settled in. Then I snag an hour of zzzs only to be startled awake by some random resident or idiot intern who comes in to cross exam me about my low blood pressure. Ms. Kicey, we are concerned about your low blood pressure! Its always low! How do you know its always low!!? I'm always at the doctor's office and its always low when I'm there and my mom takes my blood pressure a lot too Why is your mom taking your blood pressure so much!!? She's an LPN and just checks it from time to time! That doesn't explain why she would be taking your blood pressure!!

If he had actually looked at my chart he would have seen that my blood pressure is always low. Always. Except when I have been jogging to doctor's appointments which I am late to. Even then its low for someone with high blood pressure. A few more hours of being ignored by nurses, getting tangled in blankets and the Butcher swings by to keep me company for a while, nerding out over iphone apps and A Christmas Story. When visiting hours begin Shanners comes by for a visit and about an hour later I am trying to make a break for it.

double dutched
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(During my bed rest, I worked on completing this wedding gift to my girl Shanners, in her wedding colors of blue and brown to keep myself continually distracted.

That all seems like so long ago. I got home and we had a wildly-downsized Thanksgiving celebration. Michael had prepared some things on Wednesday night but by Thursday was too entrenched in a nasty cold to make more than a quick appearance lest we infect me... since coughing and nose-blowing are rather painful activities even now, weeks later. The Butcher allowed me a mini-Thanksgiving meal but there was little to be had so I returned to liquids after a couple bites of filling. The next few days were spent not moving much and chain-watching DVDs. The most ill-thought-out of which was Eraserhead while the scent of Thanksgiving yummies were filling the apartment. Five days post-op and my body was beginning to catch up with its normal functions which without graphic descriptions means I spent an entire 8 hours trying to do something very natural, but wound up in oodles of pain to the point of graying out repeatedly. At the end of the day and many phone calls to the Butcher later, there was much relief that I didn't have to return to OR and I enjoyed some real Thanksgiving dinner. During the carving of the turkey, my mother declares she will be having a leg and will be eating it 'like a bohemian', which would translate to most people as eating like a barbarian. Leave it to maternal malapropisms to lift the spirits.

bohemian [sic]
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Early that week I felt fabulous and trying to take over the world from the horizontal position on the sofa. I tentatively agreed to do a shoot for Terrain later in the week for a new project of theirs, currently top secret. The night prior to the shoot and my one-week Butcher visit, suddenly the pain is getting worse and my lymph nodes are sore.

Romantic date with the ER
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Failing to sleep because of the pain and despite taking a whole bunch of pills, I am up early to get ferried to the Butcher's office. The Butcher sees nothing out of the ordinary, no signs of infection, just normal, expected swelling. I had a little temperature but he seemed unconcerned and sent me on my shoot with his blessing and said to rest up immediately afterward. I spent three hours with my Terrain crew but the site was not actually fully ready for shooting.

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Mid-way through, the pain is getting a little out of hand and Michael suspects I should get myself home for resting. I was a whole lot delirious and popping codeine pills every 3 hours and sobbing while my lymph nodes were starting to inflate. I explained to my mother it could wait until the next morning and neither she nor Michael were buying it. She called Dr. Butcher and he calls me back, I am incoherent and babbling and he calmly tells me I should get my ass to the ER. He would tell them to admit me directly and get me on IV antibiotics and fluids. Then the next morning he would check me out in OR.

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Michael comes tearing over to my house, frantic, and we take the now too frequent ride to ER. No beds are open and no one I talk to has heard from the Butcher. We wait a couple hours, long enough for my mom to materialize and finally they give me a bed in ER and (awkwardly and painfully) get my IV started. With my mother and Michael bobbing nervously over his shoulder, the ER nurse tries and fails to take blood for a culture, blowing out a vein in my arm in the process of wiggling it around trying to tease a few drops out. The veins in my right arm were wimpy at best but he was not to be daunted. He then start the IV in a miniscule vein in my hand and tries to draw blood off that by digging the IV around for a few minutes. Wa-hey that felt great!

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A distracted doctor comes through and then finally the best resident ever comes in and she is the Butcher's chosen one. She tries to tap my left arm with great and painless success and even manages to extract some laughs from the weary crowd. I finally get rolled up to a room around 1am and my itty bitty vein gets flooded with so much Benadryl and dilaudid I feel drunk and 10 minutes later I am in the long, cushy arms of sleep.

Not breakfast.
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Friday morning the Butcher comes by to tell me I will probably go into OR around 2pm because they are fairly backed up. The antibiotics are kicking in and making me feel a bit better but starvation is setting in and everything is forbidden by mouth. I get a sponge lollipop dipped in mouth wash around 2pm when they come in to tell me it looks like it will be later. Nothing like IV fluids to fill you right up!

Still life with the stuff I didn't eat for lunch.
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5pm, the trouble begins. The orderly came down to transport me. The Butcher told me they weren't going to give me a spinal and we'd be in and out in no time. I took a leak just prior to wheeling down, IV fluids do fill you up in some respects. When I get down to pre-induction the anesthesiologist tells me I am having a spinal... annoying but not a big deal, though I would prefer being back in my room in time to see my mom and Michael after getting the word on what he finds.

Still life with demon
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I wheel into recovery with the Butcher leaning over me saying the flap is breaking down, but there are no visible signs of infection. Still partially sedated and fueled by the really atrocious news I start to sob uncontrollably for the next hour. One of my nurses from way back takes over. I've had at least 4 spinals in past and normally they start to wear off almost straight away once I get to recovery. This one is not moving out and despite catheters being de rigueur for spinals, I seemed to have escaped without one. Two hours in recovery and I still can't move my legs. This only makes me more upset and panicky. Visiting hours are over and I don't get to see my mom or Michael... one very unhappy girl. Around 8.30 I start the bargaining... pleading with the nurse to go back up to my room, promising not to try and get out of bed. By nearly 9pm I am barely starting to be able to move my legs but they let me leave recovery and return to my room.

Now with more eyebrows
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Romancing the sitzbath
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Apparently when you are post-op, visiting hours are extended to 10:30. My mom, much to my relief, is still in my room. She tells me that they will be keeping me for the weekend for pain management and IV antibiotics and that the Butcher told her that even though the flap is necrosing at the edge, it is still managing to do its job, so its just holding together enough to still be working. No signs visible signs of infection. I'll be on clear liquids through the weekend. As it gets later and sensation starts to return to my lower half a weird feeling sets in, part burning, part freezing and a building pressure in my lower belly. Going on 10pm and I still can't feel my butt from the spinal and the pressure in my belly has become incredibly painful... they finally call in the resident who pokes me in the belly and recognizes I might be full of pee! Oh genius. I still can't walk or feel things properly so after losing the battle with a bedpan they give me a bundle of painkillers and cath me, drawing a full day's worth out. Genius figuring out that five hours later I might have to pee a little bit. Worst pain I have ever experienced, bar none. Thanks hospital!

Keeping me company over the three nights and three days were two amazing roommates both of whom my mother likened, rather accurately, to Flip Wilson. They kept my spirits aloft during the drudgery. My second roommate was suffering from a similar ailment and her surgeon also had her on clear liquids. Moral support and ample moaning about the flavorless chicken broth could be heard throughout the day. "Mealtimes" were low points in our days. My mom stuck by helping both me and my roommates out in lieu of nurses who would repeatedly 'forget' our requests. Fortunately my iphone was always with me so that I could constantly distract myself from the upsetting circumstance, the repeated searing burn of IV flushing and having orange jello meal after meal... taking pictures, twittering, obsessively playing solitaire and on flickr and facebook for lack other entertainment in the form of moving or decent TV.

Getting dressed getting discharged
© Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Late Sunday afternoon I was discharged with orders to be rest, continue with antibiotics, low residue diet and let Michael wait on me hand and foot. And that is where I find myself still. Every time I shift my position, I wonder have I broken something? Did I just bend over too far? Why is it hurting I didn't move at all? And the silent bargaining continues. If I lay here and don't move all day, I'll be fine, right? If I drink lots of liquids and eat the beige foods like a good girl, I'll be ok, right?

My first step outside
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A couple days ago I went to see the Butcher again. He said it appears to still be holding. The tissue is doing what tissue that is healing is supposed to do. This is not over yet... until I can move freely and live my life as a normal healthy person, this is not over. I can sit up for a couple hours comfortably and I agreed to go back to work for a half day Monday. Maybe my body can handle it but we'll see if the brain will follow. It feels a little soon but I am going nuts and have run out of Mad Men and Dexter... and the Netflix can't come fast enough to keep up.

LIVING ROOMS :: january 9, 2009

Tomorrow I'll have been out of the hospital a week. I'm scared. Impatient. Nervous. My hand still aches where my IV was. Weak and tired but getting a bit better. Still playing solitaire obsessively to help lull me to sleep at night. My cat is still keeping close at hand to watch over me, playing nurse. I'm transitioning to normal food from low residue slowly, waiting for my body to feel more normal to match. A lot of other things are cooking, a couple more photography jobs, preparations for my January show at Café Estelle which opens on Friday January 9th, 2009, from 6-9pm... and plotting a New Year's Eve week road trip with Michael.

Perhaps 2009 will see another update here, hopefully no more visits to the ER or OR... stay tuned.

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1 Comments:

Blogger MER said...

love your words

10:53 PM, January 10, 2009  

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