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Archive for August, 2006

I’m referring, of course, to my wound vac, “vac” being short for Vacuum-Assisted Closure. I got hooked up today. It looks like I have the navel of a space alien, with this big black blob (that’s the sponge) compressed by the “negative pressure” (read vacuum) over my more normal human navel. A tube leads out of that and into a canister, and through vacuum pressure the drainage that is keeping the wound from closing is sucked out and deposited in the canister, which is changed when it’s full and disposed of as medical waste. At the same time, the vacuum sucks up healthy cells from elsewhere in the body and deposits them into the wound cavity, which speeds up healing (by how much, I’m not entirely sure. Weeks, anyway).

The rest of the machine consists of a large battery pack that has to be charged up twelve hours out of 24, which leaves me with quite a bit of freedom, providing you don’t mind toting the battery-pack-cum-canister everywhere you go. I’m most concerned, at this point, with how to manage the drainage tube when I settle down for the night, since I’m still sleeping in a recliner, and I don’t want the tubing to get caught up in any of the chair mechanisms — if it does, I run the risk of breaking the vacuum seal, and I don’t want to do that because I’m not sure, yet, how to fix it.

It’s not particularly painful, thank goodness, just a definite sense of pressure in the area of my navel, but I guess I’ll get used to that. Nor is it especially noisy, which was one of my concerns; however, the noise it does make resembles nothing so much as, well, a quick fart. Do I really want to tote this thing into church with me??? 😉

The alien-navel sponge gets changed three times a week; the canister is changed whenever it’s full of drainage (they think that might happen once a week, with my wound); the whole healing process is supposed to take two months tops, which is just about the time I should be completely healed from the hysterectomy, or, as I’ve taken to calling it, the “hystericalectomy,” because it just gets weirder and weirder. And once the procedure is complete, and I can confidently expect to resume what passes for my own life:

MY FATHER-IN-LAW WILL MOVE IN WITH US!!! Ain’t life FUN!!!

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In the ongoing saga of post-surgical sub-existence, my mind is still boggling. I’m beginning to wonder if this will be its permanent state.

Today was supposed to be the day when I got hooked up to my vacuum cleaner. The doctor comes in (not, thank goodness, the same as my surgeon), takes a look, and shakes his head. Apparently there are two little tunnels, one at either end of the wound, and they are still draining, and he can’t get them in contact with the dressing that covers the wound and creates the vacuum that sucks all the bad stuff out and pulls up all the good stuff. He says either they need to close — by next week — or he will need to open the wound further to expose the tunnels so they can come into contact with the dressing. Can this get any more complicated, d’ya think?!

I met with my gynecologist today, and needless to say, it was not the happiest moment of the day for either of us. She wanted to undo the dressing that the Wound Care Center had just put on, and yes, she knew I had been there, and I wouldn’t let her; her dressings are nowhere near as thorough as theirs are. Finally I just walked out. She also tried to tell me that the wound would not have closed over in any case, and yeah, that’s possible, since I’m not the skinniest woman around. But I would like to have the feeling that my doctor had done everything possible to see this surgery through to an uneventful conclusion, and that’s not how I feel; and then to have my feelings discounted – well, now I’m not sure if I should even go back at all, and if so, when. (I should add that the post-surgical exam will be done by the surgeon of record, a gynecological oncologist; the woman in question is my gynecologist.)

Most disturbing in all of this is my poor husband, who thought he would be running the household for maybe 4-6 weeks, till I got on my feet, and now there’s no end in sight for him; and he’s still trying to hold down his day job, working half-days from home and spending the other half on the household stuff. At work, they keep bugging him for updates, and he’s in no position to give them, because I’m in no position to give them; this is almost a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants situation. So anyone who has any spare prayers lying around, please send them our way; my husband’s name is Jim. Thanks.

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I don’t know if I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I had an appointment at a Wound Care Center in the next town over, people whose job is (in my not-so-humble opinion) cleaning up after other doctors’ messes. Actually, they deal with severe wounds that just won’t close.

I was sitting at the table, trying to force down a soft-boiled egg, when one of the visiting nurses showed up to change my dressing, despite my having told everybody and his uncle from day one that my dressing wouldn’t have to be changed today, since that would be done at the Wound Care Center. My husband went outside to try to chase her off — we get billed by the visit, and our insurance will only cover 25 visits per year — while I attended to various personal chores. When I came out, she was standing in the kitchen, talking to my husband. Sigh.

And for some reason — I found out later that she and dh had discussed this outside — she mentioned that in a circumstance like this, the body takes a terrific hit. Dealing with the emotional trauma takes all the body’s reserves, but after surgery and then a complication, there are no more reserves.

Do you know how incredibly helpful it is to hear someone say this?! That that awful helpless feeling of not being able to cope with even life simplest tasks is physiological?! I can’t describe the lift I got from hearing it put that way. No “Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” no “It’ll be fine, you’ll see,” none of that phenomenally brainless optimism that leaves you feeling as if you have to Get Into the Spirit of the Thing, rah rah!! Just, “This is how it is, and it takes time to get off Point A, let alone actually making it to Point B.”

I kept this in mind all day, and had proof of it later in the day, when I went to make a medication log in my planner, just something that would help me keep track of how much of what I had had — I wrote it out for today, then what I’d had for breakfast and lunch, and I was absolutely exhausted. How can you get wiped from making a list?!

Oh, yeah, the Wound Care Center. Apparently they have this vacuum thing that sucks up healthy cells from other parts of the body and deposits them in the cavity of the wound. I asked for a worst-case scenario, since I can’t function with Optimistic Prognostications, and was told, “Worst case? Two months.”

Two months?! I was sure I was looking at 6-8 months!! Of course, I’ll be hooked up to “Ginny” 24/7 for those two months, but hey, it beats 8 months. (“Ginny”: wound vac = WV = West Virginia = Ginny. I need to do at least one weird thing per day to stay on keel.)

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Well — I survived, as most of you know by now. The surgery actually went very well (I’m told), and I came home last Monday, slept for half the week, and was all set to move on to recuperation.

Yeah, right.

On Friday, I went to my gynecologist’s office to have the stitches taken out, something they used to do in the hospital back when I was having kids. And back then, the stitches were in for 8-9 days, and those puppies HELD. Not this time, they didn’t. So now I’m walking around with a 5″ slit in my gut, which needs to be dressed twice a day by Visiting Nurses (and our insurance will only pay for 25 visits).

To top it all off — my doctor is on vacation. I really liked this doctor, and I can’t get over the fact that she scheduled someone for major surgery the week before she went on vacation. And I can’t get past wondering if she wasn’t in such a big honking rush to get the stitches out so she could go on vacation — and now I have to live with the consequences of her being in such a rush.

Honestly, if I had known? I don’t know if I would have gone through with it, I just don’t know. But what I do know is that my life is now what I swore it would never be: I have no life. It’s taken up by medical procedures and consults and pills, 24/7. And this is what it will be, now that I’ve chosen this semi-“life” instead of letting nature take its course: As you age, you become more and more of an income for the Medical Establishment.

70 is a good age. 80 can be a good age. 90? I have people in my family in their 90s. 90 is not a good age. Nor do I want to do that to my kids (“When the heck is the old bat finally gonna give in?!”). No one in his 60s should have a living parent.

I can only hope now that God takes me before then. Now that I’ve chosen “life.”

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Blogthings – Where Should Your Inner New Yorker Live?

You Belong in Brooklyn

Down to earth and hard working, you’re a true New Yorker.
And although you may be turning into a yuppie, you never forget your roots.

OK, I had to post this one. As most of you know, (a) I’m seriously addicted to BlogThings, and (b) I am actually a native New Yorker, who grew up on the border between Queens and Brooklyn. So this quiz was a must-take for me, and finding out I’m a “true New Yorker,” who “never forgets her roots” — ahhh. Newtown Creek still runs in my veins! =:0 (That’s a Screaming Mimi face — if you ever had the misfortune to have to cross Newtown Creek, you’d scream too.)

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