We had such plans for the week after Christmas!!! We were going to Pasadena, and we were going to help on the Donate Life Float in the Rose Parade. I got to ride the float in 2009 and I think it was the most amazing experience I’d ever had, other than falling in love with Laura or getting Kari’s beautiful, new lungs. Being around so many donor family members, other recipients, Organ Procurement Organization and medical and transplant professionals is my idea what heaven will be like. Holy Moly, did I put a fire-hose on that idea!!!
To the untrained eye, the picture above might look like a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Indiana Jones being run down by a boulder… The more discriminating eye might see a great deal more in this picture. I personally see a gall stone being released from my gall bladder and careening through my small intestines then colon – which certainly cannot end well!
So… Friday afternoon before Christmas, we end up in the Emergency Room because I’ve got a belly-ache that won’t seem to go away and it’s only getting bigger… After an ultra-sound, they were thinking it was a bladder issue (doubtful, and catheterization is uber-pleasant when you’ve already got a belly ache…) The CT scan following that showed a mixed bag of possibilities, including appendicitis and perforated intestines. I wasn’t acting appropriately for any particular ailment, but the pain was covering pretty much all of them. After much deliberation and re-reviewing of the scans and results, on Christmas Eve, we decided it was likely appendicitis and to go in after whatever else might be there…
The surgeon who is scheduled to perform my kidney transplant sometime this year was there, and she had been watching my case. Laura and I had already checked her out months before – we have an incredible amount of respect for her, and faith in her skills. By the end of the day, that would multiply ten times. I felt comfortable and safe in her care. One of the docs who takes care of my lungs, for whom I also feel similar levels of respect, was there to guide and provide counsel on anything to do with my beautiful lungs… On Christmas Eve, when she could have been at home, or other qualified surgeons could have been attending to this – my future kidney surgeon was opening me up to see whussup…
She found a substantial hole in my colon that had dumped stuff-that-should-be-staying-in-my-colon into my abdomen, where it doesn’t belong and causes all kinds of havoc and infection… Apparently, I passed a gall stone the size of a small dog into my small intestines… (She said it was the size of a mothball, but I knew what she meant…) It careened through my small intestines into my colon where, at some point my colon took a right, and the small-dog-size-stone took a left, and the result was sub-optimal at best. Inside my belly, she reached up, under my liver, and found my gall bladder “chock full of stones” (a kinda-common issue with cystic fibrosis patients…) She removed my gall bladder, removed my inflamed appendix, removed 6 or so inches of my damaged colon and re-attached them so I didn’t need a colostomy bag… Flushed my belly out with over 9 liters of fluid, stapled me up and sent me on my way with an AWESOME eight inch scar that will finally get me the reaction at the beach that I’ve been looking for!!!
I wore nothing but a hospital gown while I was in the hospital… You know – providing easy access to everything and all that stuff, along with easy moving around and flashing fanny to anyone wandering by… At home, I am always in Iowa Hawkeye stuff – t-shirts, sweatshirts, windshirts, jackets, coats, gloves, scarves, hats, whatever. It’s always black & gold. I wear it for Kari – though her friends grin and now-and-then tell me, “she would NOT have been a Hawkeye!” I know they like seeing me wearing it anyhoo… And when I pull on my jacket or coat, I feel like a knight in shining armor… I feel like I’m pulling on a protective garment. I feel her strength, and her goodness, and her smile wrap around me when I pull on my IOWA stuff… I didn’t wear it for a whole week at the hospital – but I didn’t need it. Recovering in the ICU, I whined that my breathing was shallow – that I knew I had this big gash in my gut inhibiting things, but I didn’t feel as strong as I thought I might… My doctors grinned – they told me that my lungs were healthy, and that they’d never seen someone go through what I’d gone through, and breathe as well, and as strong as I was breathing… At that moment, I didn’t worry about my IOWA apparel… I was wearing IOWA inside.
I work with Larry & Celeste… Throughout the year, once a week, we climb 108 commercial flights. A few months before the Hustle or Sears, we ramp it up to twice a week. I whine and try to find ways to wiggle out of our climbs, to which one of them will usually roll their eyes and tell me, “just get moving…” My primary lung doc was in California with family when all of this started – when he got back, he came to see me, more on a social than professional visit… He rolled his eyes when I reminded him we had 8 weeks to get me back into the stairwells for my 94 floor climb – he told me that was up to my surgeon… (I will listen to her…) I told him that the Tuesday before all of this happened; my co-workers had me climbing 108 floors in our building. He said, “THAT is exactly why you are recovering the way you’re recovering…”
I will still whine and complain and try to wiggle out of climbing. And they will still make me climb. And I will also know that they are one of the reasons how and why I was able to sail through a major surgery quite well…
And finally – I have amazing family and friends supporting me… I cannot imagine loving anyone more than I do Laura… My Mom & Sisters celebrated Christmas & New Years at the hospital with me and Laura… The picture above is me and my neighbors in my room on New Year’s Eve. Ruth drove me and Laura to the Emergency Room when my $hit started literally and figuratively hitting the fan. She dropped Laura off at the hospital every morning, and paid me a little visit while picking her up every evening… She’s picked up my prescriptions and taken us to our follow-up appointments. And, I know that any of them would have done that for us.
I’m healing well, though not as quickly as I’d imagined. And as goofy and scary as these moments are – they are also the moments when I feel overwhelmed by the love that surrounds me.