Saturday, October 30, 2010

Remember to eat your greens!!

Well, I finally did it, I had a salad!! Now to some this may seem like a silly goal or statement, but to me it was momentous, allow me to explain. 

I have not had a green salad or fresh fruits or vegetables since the winter of 2007, why you may ask?  Well, in 2004 I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and given many different drugs to keep the illness at bay.  They seemed to  work some what, although I had a very low immune system and was often sick with a cold of flu like symptoms all the time, but I carried on with life.  That was until October of 2007, I got a stomach bug and ended up in the emergency room at 2:00 in the morning.  I had a fever of a 103 and was severely dehydrated.  I explained my medical history to the ER docs, they proceeded to hook me up to IVs and pain meds and sent me home with a prescription for what they called a Z-pack of antibiotics.  The Z-pack from what I could gather was a very concentrated form of antibiotics that took only a matter of days to get into your system and work its magic.  So I went home got my Z-pack and did as I was told.  And the ER docs were right within days I was feeling much better, no fever, up and about getting back to my regular routine.  That was until the 10th day, I jumped into my car to go to the post office with my daughter and it suddenly felt like someone just stabbed me in the stomach with a hot poker.  I doubled over the steering wheel, the pain was so intense, unlike anything I had every experienced before.  My daughter helped me back into the house and into bed.  That evening the fever came back and so did the nausea and the stomach pain was even worse, we made another trip to the ER.  Well, to make a long story short the magic Z-Pack had destroyed all the good bacteria in my large intestine and due to the history of ulcerative colitis the ER docs should have never given me a Z-pack, but the damage was already done.  My large intestine was now inflamed and swollen and on the verge of perferation.  I was admitted to the hospital and put on steroids to reduces the swelling.  I was on a steroid drip and no food for 28 days and still the intestine did not shrink, it only got worse.  So on December 8, 2007 I had my whole large intestine removed, and was fitted with an iliostomy bag on the right side of my body. 

 On that day everything about my diet, and how and what I was able to eat changed.  No fresh fruits or veggies, no grains or nuts, no seeds or peelings of any kind.  Beware of citrus drinks and vinegar, carbonation, hot sauce any type of chili, and no eating after 7 P.M. And now I also had to take medication every four hours for the rest of my life.  I had three more surgeries to look forward to, that was if I was lucky and the small intestine was healthy enough.  Also we needed to give the colon area time to heal so that a possible Pull Through procedure could be done and the iliostomy bag could be removed.  There were a lot of "ifs" and it would take months, four to be exact before we would know if the operations would be successful.  During those four months I spent two of then in the hospital full time with complications.  In February of 2008 everything physically seemed to be settling down and I was preparing for a final surgery in April to remove the bag, I was so looking forward to that operation.  I had been helping my daughter plan her wedding during all of this and was glad to be able to stand in her line in June without any complications.  In March of 2008 on the 28th just two weeks short of getting my final operation my father passed away from a massive stroke.  The pain and loss I felt that day I can not yet put into words.  My tough, but sweet dad had called me every other day while I was in the hospital to check on me and had come to my home and checked on me to see how I was doing.  All the while he had been having small seizures and had told my stepmother not to tell me because he didn't want to worry me.  Of all the crazy things, he didn't want to worry me, boy how I love that man.  We layed my dad to rest on a cold March morning and carried on with life.  I had my operation, it was a success, no more bag.  My Doctor was amazing.  My beautiful daughter had a lovely wedding and promised herself to the love of her life.  They have since then given us the most amazing grandchild. 
So yes, after four surgeries, a funeral, and a wedding, if I eat a salad it is a call for celebration.  Remember to eat your greens, hug your parents and tell your children you love then, and kiss that grand baby every chance you get.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back to the grind

Well I have been recovering nicely and time has flown by.  It is now time for me to head back to work.  Yes time to wake up with the working class at 5:00 A.M. and start back at the eight hour grind.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm glad to have my health back, and in today's economy glad to have a job to go back to. 
But I worry about this wonderful creative spirit I have nurtured while I've been out on medical disability.  During this time, my art has saved me.  It has given me the rehabilitation that no doctor or pill could give me.  I have been able to open up my mind and let it soar higher than I ever thought possible.  I'm am so grateful to have found my joy and passion in creating art.  I know that this desire to create is too great to just fade away, it may need to be scaled back a bit, but not forgotten.

But to be honest what's really got me tossing and turning at night is the idea of parting with the little love of my life " Baby Jacks".  That's right, I have grown so used to caring for him daily, that I am going to miss him.  I know he will still be cared for by his wonderful mommy or daddy his big pa pa, auntie ally or uncle tony, but I'll still miss him.
Today while I was putting Jacks down for a nap, I just sat there and held him after he fell a sleep.  Looking down at that perfect little face, with his dark lashes resting on his chubby little cheeks, I made time stand still, for just that moment.  I remembered having those same moments with my own children when they were little, making time stand still just long enough for me to store it away in my heart.  Although I know Jacks will be waiting more me when I get home and he will probably sleep right through the whole idea of me being at work, I will still miss him something terrible.  Now who sounds like the real baby?

Monday, October 4, 2010

"Listen to your hear it's not all in your head."

Well one minute I'm sitting in the doctor's office the next I'm making an appointment for heart surgery the next day, wow talk about fast. How did it all come to this and why, well let's talk.
 It all started in my head. Since I was a small child as young as maybe four years old I can remember having migraine headaches. I would get so ill from them I would have to go in a dark room with no noise and lay down, sometimes it would get so bad that I would vomit. As I got older the headaches seemed to get more severe. I learned to manage the migraines with early detection, my eyes would start to see flashing lights and I would run for the aspirin and a quiet place. I also found that after a hard workout or long hard hike, anything really that got my blood pumping, I ran the chance of getting a migraine, not every time maybe three out of five times.
 So for the last 41 years it has been something that I have learned to live with, learned to accept. I wasn't until this last year that something new started. In January of 2010, I started having small bits of memory loss. Maybe it was even before then, I don't remember.(ha ha) But on top of the noticeable memory loss I was having headaches everyday, and migraines about three times a week. I examined my life, trying to figure out what had changed and came up with nothing major at the time. Things had seemed to have calmed down compared to the previous two years, so what was it?

In April I couldn't take it anymore. I left work one day and could not go back. In addition to the headaches and memory loss I couldn't stay on task, I was having bouts of confusion, not even able to remember the simplest of things like my birth date or phone number. I was a mess at work. I couldn't do my job without worrying and that only made the headaches and migraines worse. I had to go on short-term disability, fortunately for me I have a great employer and wonderful benefits.
 So started the trip after trip to the family doctor in order to get a handle on the problem. It seemed like all the doctors wanted to do was throw one drug after another at me for migraines. None of them worked, and they all had terrible side effects. So if the migraines didn't get me the medication side effects would. After three months of medications I noticed that my right arm was starting to go numb. I was dropping things and every time I had a migraine it felt like the right side of my face was having paralysis; I couldn't move it very well and the right side of my body also felt weak. Again, more pills and now a sleep test to see if I had a sleep disorder. Well again the pills did not work and the sleep test came back normal.

 At this point the doctor is scratching his head. He will not and can not release me for work. But now disability is no longer willing to pay because people live with migraines everyday and that is not a disability. I'm stuck is what I am. So I ask to see a neurologist, something is wrong with me this is not all in my head, I am not making this up. I do not want to live this way. If I had my choice I would much rather not have headaches five days a week and two or three migraines a week as well as the confusion and memory loss. I would much rather enjoy my grandchild and my life, be healthy and happy and not a burden. So on to the neurologist I went. The first one was a ding-bat, she didn't even look at my medical history. She gave me a balance test, pushed sleeping pills at me and told me to come back in three months. Next!! Don't give up this is your body your health. The next neurologist ordered another sleep test because she looked at my medical history and found problems with my first sleep test. She found that the prior tech hand read the test wrong and it needed to be redone. She also asked me if I had ever been tested for a PFO (patent foramen ovale). What is this disorder you may ask yourself? Well here it is, straight from the medical flyer provided to me from Intermountain Healthcare.

PFO: Fetuses in the womb have a normal opening between the heart's upper chambers. This opening usually closes soon after birth. But for about 1 in 5 people, it doesn't close completely. A PFO allows tiny amounts of oxygen-rich blood and oxygen-poor blood to mix, almost like a "leaky tunnel" between the two heart chambers. For many patients, a PFO does not cause significant health problems, but in some patients a PFO can increase the risk of stroke.

So, on Thursday I went to the medical center for my bubble test, it is to see if there is air leaking from one side of my heart to the other, if there is then I have a PFO. They put some dye and bubbles in my veins and watch them move around on ultrasound imaging. The severity of the PFO, if you have one is based on a scale from 1 to 5 resting(5 being the worse)and 1 to 5 active. Well after a battery of test it came back that I have a 5+ resting and I was off the charts active. It was a big hole, about the the size of a quarter. Wow, I knew I was not crazy, I knew there was something wrong, I was not faking it or making it up. In laymen terms my good blood was getting mixed with my bad blood and little clots were getting through without being filtered out though my lungs first. These small clots were giving me migraines and causing mini-strokes in my brain. That explains the memory loss and confusion, as well as the loss of feeling in my right side.  I was a ticking time bomb, just waiting for a stroke to go off. I was in the doc's office on Thursday, in the hospital for surgery on Friday, spent one night, and home on Saturday. That's right Heart surgery in a day, you got to love modern medicine.

So listen to your heart, it's not all in your head, and don't give up, your not crazy!!!