Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Fix

I was greatly anticipating the big surgery day with both excitement and dread.  I couldn't wait to get this whole thing taken care of, but I was petrified of going in to such a long surgery.  The long awaited day to repair my vesico uterine fistula had arrived.

My parents generously gave of their time to come and stay for the long weekend with us so that I could have Corey there with me in the hospital and also so someone other than Corey could take care of our little Dawson while I was in the hospital.  It was a huge load off of us both knowing that our boys were in good hands! 

The day of my surgery was May 8th, which also happens to be our wedding anniversary.  Happy Anniversary let's go spend a couple of stressful days at the hospital and celebrate!  Sheesh.  We checked in early that morning, they set up an IV, talked to us, and then wheeled me off.  The last thing I remember was something being put into my IV that they said would "relax" me, and that was that.  Six and a half hours later I was trying to claw my way back to consciousness while mumbling one word communications to Corey like "diarrhea"(I swear I felt like I needed to use the restroom!  How embarrassing), and "more" over and over because he was spooning ice chips into my ridiculously dry mouth and I really just wanted, well, more ice chips.  Corey talked to me some telling me it had gone 'textbook' (Dr.'s words), so I was feeling groggily hopeful.  Finally, when I was getting closer to coming out of it all, they wheeled me into a recovery room, and wanted me to walk to the bed.  All I could say to them was, "I'm sorry.  I'm not trying to be a whiner, but I can't even fully open my eyes yet, and there is no way I can walk to that bed."  My brain was working, just not the rest of my body. 

That night was stressful.  I was so glad to be done with the surgery, which was a little longer than we had expected, but now I was on to the part that would take some diligence.  Making sure the catheter was working was my numero uno priority or the whole thing would be unsuccessful.  The nurses that night were terrible.  They weren't checking the catheter often enough, if at all, and at one point after after doing a very slow and difficult walk down the hall, a nurse hooked me up to the saline again and I ended up with and infiltration (fluids seeping into my arm and tissues instead of to the vein).  That was a bummer.  My forearm felt strange, looked puffed up and took about 4 days to go away.

The next morning I was sore, drugged and stressed out of my mind after dealing with no sleep and trying to convince the nurses that my catheter was in fact a big deal.  Poor Corey.  He was dealing with all of that plus a crazy wife who was dishing out a little anesthetic induced meanness.  When the Dr.'s showed up to see how I was and gave me the option to stay another night or go home, we opted to leave.  We just couldn't see how we would be getting any better care by staying there.  Plus, I had a baby to feed, and pumping every few hours to try to get my milk supply up again after surgery was working ok, but Dawson, I was sure, would do a much better job.

After coming home, I was upstairs in bed for the better part of 4 days.  Those first few days, I felt like a zombie...barely alive, ghostly pale, no energy, sore and wiped out.  It was bad.  Nursing Dawson was tough because I was trying hard to keep him from putting too much pressure on all of my incisions, so I'd balance him really high on the Boppy.  I had 5 small cuts from the laprascopic route, and then a big lower abdominal (c-secion-ish) one too because the Dr. just couldn't see one side and ended up having to so he could be sure all was fixed.   I stopped taking the pain meds after 5 days, and even the ibuprofen after a week.  Once those first several days passed, things improved much faster, thankfully. My parents were amazingly helpful and wonderful to have there after I came home.  I was able to share a Mother's Day breakfast in bed with my mom which was fun and memorable.  Corey, and the boys made some yummy food and my mom and I hung out and snuggled with baby D.  Sweet!  My boys each had some awesome homemade cards/artwork for me, and it made me smile and laugh.  (Laughing was a killer!  The air trapped up against my diaphragm from surgery made laughing or crying awful.  I actually found myself begging Corey to stop talking and making me laugh a few times!)  A nice Mother's Day despite my aches and pains. 

Corey was great through this whole surgery ordeal.  He arranged things so he could work from home for a week.  Whenever I needed to feed Dawson or if I needed help with anything at all, he was right there to do it.  With my very own 'husband and father of the year' there to patiently help, and my amazing baby who sleeps well, cries little and smiles abundantly we made it through that first week.  Oh, and two weeks of meals being brought in by our ward family was a huge help too!!

Eleven days out from surgery, I went in for a cystogram.  The first time I had this done, I was an absolute mess and they couldn't even do it properly because I had such large holes and tears in my bladder.  This time I found out what they're really like.  I was beyond nervous before the procedure, because if surgery had failed, this was the test that would show it.  The radiologist filled my bladder full of contrast dye, which he watched on a screen to see if it stayed put or leaked out.  I was SO nervous!!  The procedure was akin to some type of torture, truly.  It was the best torture ever though because as I saw the screen I could tell that my bladder was holding firm.  I was fixed!!  I came out and found Corey, and gave him a hug and just cried and cried.  They were happy tears, stressed tears, tears of gratefulness and relief.  I was just so so happy.  We both were!  I will never forget that moment and how we felt.  So thankful to have each other to get through the hard things in this life together, and so much gratitude for a Heavenly Father and a Savior to carry me on through those tough times.  A few minutes later, our appointment with our amazing Dr. confirmed the success, and even he couldn't help but smile.  Out with the catheter...after 3 1/2 months, it was finally time to say goodbye. Hallelujah.  It was fantastic.

Now, 3 1/2 weeks out from surgery, I feel great.  Really great.  I am still not up to full-speed-ahead energy level, but beside that and watching what I lift, I feel like I'm healing up well and I'm thrilled about it.  I am so excited to wear jeans, to ditch the long skirts.  I am looking forward to taking a long hot bath sometime soon. I can't wait to start exercising again!  I am happy to be sleeping on my side, although I can now sleep on my back with no problem which is weird.  I am even happy to have to get up to pee in the middle of the night; something you never have to do when you're hooked up to a catheter, ha. 

The surgery worked, I am fixed (well, my bladder is at least), and I am filled with gratitude, happiness and joy.  I can't wait to do normal things with ease...playing with my kids, date nights with my husband, sleeping without worry.  Life really is about the simple things.

Friday, May 29, 2015

End of School

It's here, it's here!  Summer is here.  The end of school came so fast this year. These boys of mine are so ready for summer and all the fun it is.  Swim lessons, free time (and still some chores, darn!), reading, traveling, visiting family, popsickles, sports and fun!

Here are a few pics from events throughout the year including the Jog-a-thon, Science Fair and Celebration of Children (school events), Pinewood Derby and Blue and Gold Banquet (Cub Scouts), and meeting up with the boys at lunch and more. It's been a fun, busy and eventful year for sure!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spring Sporty Pants Asher

Our Asher is a sports nut.  All around.  He loves any sport, he loves to watch any sport, play any sport.  He loves it all.  This spring was, as always, super busy for us with Asher playing both soccer and baseball, and Beck playing soccer and basketball.  It was a mess, really.  But, we got through it with the whole 'divide and conquer' technique that so many of us parents are forced to use.  I love watching these boys though.  So much fun.  Business aside, it really is a great way to spend a Saturday.  Or a Wednesday.  Or a Thursday.  Okay, so practice and game days have no bounds, but our weeks were busy but fun.  There were lots of meals on the go, snacks in my bag, chairs in the car, and a pack of water bottles in the back of the car (which we depleted and replaced...twice).  With a new baby and my health problems I've been dealing with, I was leery if not downright nervous going into this all, but it was probably a saving grace in the end.  And Dawson, it turns out, loves his car seat so he was a happy camper even though he spent oodles of time in transit to this game or that practice.

Asher played on an 'Extra' team with soccer this year, which is a competitive team within the league.  Their team, the Earthquakes, played in a few tournaments and did well in those.  Asher wanted to try his hand at Goalkeeper this year, and mostly split his time between that and defensive half back.  He did well at both and learned some new skills.  In my opinion, one of his best skills is his speed.  He whizzes past kids who are much bigger than him. He is also an excellent team player.  He is positive, builds up the other players on the team and never has a negative word to spare.  It's kind of an awesome trait to have and I love to watch him using it.  As a mom, I am proud, because even if they didn't win the game, my boy wins every time.   Overall, this year was rough and his team won only a handful of games, but they were well matched and often only lost by a smidge after playing their hearts out.  It was a fun year with a great coach and a nice bunch of parents.

Baseball started up a few weeks after soccer.  Asher played on a kid-pitch team this year, which left me fearing for his life as he was hit with a pitch during several different games.  It's just scary business when a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds are learning how to pitch which means throwing balls crazily towards a kids abdominal region.  It's frightening, really.  But, Asher loves it and when he's not playing on the field, he's playing in the backyard with his brother (and gently wearing at my grass which will soon resemble a baseball field, but that's another story!).  He's been playing 3rd base and right field for the most part, although he really really wants to try out pitching (probably wants to get back at those kids that keep on hitting him, ha!).  He's loving it, and his team, the A's, are actually pretty good!  Asher's had some good hits and plays so far this season.  Again, he's a great sport and always gets his team to cheer on the other players at bat with a good old, "here we go----, here we go!!"  When they start doing it, I always know Asher's the initiator.  It's great, and makes me smile.

3 Months!

Oh my. This little boy has our hearts. Every one of us.  He is 3 months already and he's just so much fun.  Some fun facts about Dawson at 3 months:

  • His thumb. Oh. No. I am not a fan of this one, but it's SO darn cute when I catch him with it popped in there.  Adorable even.  The sound is even cute.  But I am pretty sure it's not a cute sound when he's eight, so I'm trying to keep it outta there. 

  • He's too big for his bassinet. Darn. He's so cozy and sweet and safe inside it, and he's been sleeping like Super Baby, so it's hard to want to move him.  However, when he starts to look like he's stuffed in there it's time to move on.  I'm not ready to have him in his own room yet, so he'll still be in our room, just in the next level down of the pack and play, which oddly enough I think they still call a bassinet. 

  • He's a great little sleeper.  Yup, this little superstar has been sleeping thru the night for this very thankful momma for over a month now.  LOVE it.  He's been my best sleeper by far.  I'm so luck and I totally know it. 

  • He eats like a champ.  Nursing little D has been easy and great.  I love it when he stops and just stares at me, gives me a big smile, then keeps right on going about his milk drinking business.

  • He's a talker.  All of my boys have been chatty and he is definitely following suit.  I love the baby talk though.  He has THE sweetest little voice.  I especially love it when he responds to me with his little coos and's just me and him and our very interesting conversation.

  • He plays games with us.  He plays a little game we like to call "Up, Up, Up."  The rules:  well, there are no rules, as long as he's safe.  We let him grab our pointer fingers, and if you say the words "up, up, up" he stiffens his arms and wants you to lift him to sitting.  And he'll keep you playing it for as long as his arms will let him.  Too cute.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Facing a Fistula

Fistula.  A funny sounding word with a not so funny meaning.  By definition it’s an unwanted connection between 2 organs.  I became a most unlucky recipient of such a connection when my bladder fix went south and didn’t hold up.  My bladder was badly torn during the c-section that was done in February.  I was enjoying one of life’s most amazing moments with my husband and sweet newborn baby when my OB leaned over the curtain and informed me we’d need a urologist STAT.  The urologist saw the mess my bladder was in and I was soon in surgery, taken away from my miracle moment with my new baby.  Thankfully, my baby boy was healthy and beautiful, and from that moment on, my shining star throughout a long and unexpected darkened path.

Flash forward a week from delivery to a me who is feeling better!  I was getting up and around more, with the soreness of my surgeries fading behind me.  I thought all was well and hoped for the best.  I’d had an OB check that day, and was resting comfortably on the couch.  Upon standing an unusual amount of fluid gushed out from between my legs and onto the pad I was wearing.  I waived it off as some type of post pregnancy fluid (of which there are many!) and continued on.  Not until it continued to happen a couple of times every other day or so did I start to worry.  My concerns were disregarded. I called my urologist’s office and they simply chalked it up to bladder spasms or a faulty catheter, throwing medications at the problem and swapping out the old bag for a new one.  My anxiety grew, as did my discomfort with this new and very wet problem I was having.  

The day for my scheduled cystogram came after 3 long weeks of having a catheter.  I was hopeful this was it, the end of my problems…no more catheter was great and it also meant no more “bladder spasms.” My parents were in town for a few days to see the new baby, help me out during my appointment, and to maybe watch the kiddos while Corey and I snuck out for a quick dinner out.  I had high hopes and was looking forward to life sans catheter.  Unfortunately, those few days were some of the darkest I’ve yet to encounter.  My catheter was having trouble draining correctly and even though it had been swapped again, it was only working some of the time, leaving me to more and more random ‘gushes’.  My mom came with me to the hospital for the cystogram, staying out in the main lobby to entertain my Dawson while I was checked out.  The procedure was a nightmare.  I laid there as the clinicians and radiologist injected a dye into my bladder and then watched on the screen to see how it had healed.  The results:  it hadn’t.  My bladder was leaking into my abdominal cavity and seeping into either my vagina or uterus.  As I laid on the table, fluids ran freely out underneath me.  I was horrified and scared.  As I came out to the lobby to see my mom and baby, I sobbed uncontrollably, afraid of the future and struck hard by the fact that my bladder was a disastrous mess.

That night, my catheter was failing 100% which meant I was incontinent 100%(they’d switched it out again during the cystogram).  I felt hopeless and afraid, and I had a newborn to care for.  My husband was beyond distraught with the situation, not knowing if I’d be ok or not.  After having trouble getting a hold of my Urologist on the phone to clue us in on what was next, we sought out an unknown dr.’s opinion on the situation.  My good friend Ingrid had texted me a week prior, telling me there was a dr. she went to church with who specialized in women’s pelvic floor surgeries.  He was a urogynecologist (a specialty unkown to me up until this ordeal).  I had passed it off as a nice gesture, but now remembered she’d sent it and grasped at the info on the text with desperation.  This Dr. called us within an hour or so and talked to my husband on the phone about my history and current situation.  He couldn’t of course give us sound medical advice without seeing me, but helped us understand what could be happening and eased some of the panic. It sounded like a Fistula- a rare condition except for African Women who have long and complicated labors that can cause such a plight.  This Dr., ironically, had experience repairing them including a few a year here in the U.S and many more than that during the week he spends each year in Africa for that very purpose.   My dr. did end up calling later that night assuring us that what I was experiencing wouldn’t hurt me, not physically at least. 

After an appointment or two with both my Urologist and my OB, it was becoming clear to me and my husband that my now mostly diagnosed condition – a urinary Fistula – was not something either of them was used to dealing with. This was especially true of my OB who was off-ish and had little to say to me when we talked except that what I had would not hurt me but was highly associated with a poor quality of life (what everyone wants to hear!)  Corey and I were getting increasingly nervous about the situation, and just days before I was to go under general anesthesia to officially diagnose the type of fistula with my Urologist and OB, we sought a second opinion on the situation thru the Urogynecologist we’d only talked to on the phone.  After talking to him officially in his office, he gave us some good information, and one thing he said hit home…He said if I were his sister or Mom, he would be very concerned with the path we were on (treatment with inexperienced dr.s). That was that.  My friend’s text was no accident.  She had, no doubt, been inspired to send me his name, not knowing of his specific expertise in my exact condition.  I can’t see any other way around it. Less than a handful of Dr.’s had ever seen my condition outside of a textbook.  My sweet friend’s sensitivity to the spirit and our desperation to heed her advice to call him led us to a chance at a successful outcome, the best chance we could have here in Albuquerque, and leaving the office that day we had, for the first time in weeks, hope.

Over several office visits, a CT scan and another cystogram, my dr. arrived at the conclusion that I have a vesico-uterine fistula, a very rare condition that consists of an opening between my damaged bladder and my uterus.  The best chance for a successful outcome includes a 3 month waiting period during which a catheter stays in place, then a surgery to remove my uterus and fistula, and repair the bladder.  

Apparently, this used to be common just about everywhere, but is nearly non-existent in developed countries, and in the U.S since the 19th century thanks to the increased use of c-sections (ironic, in my case of course as this is the cause of my particular type) and better obstetrics practices decreasing prolonged child labor.  Sadly, this is still happening all the time in Africa and Asia where they estimate some 2 million women are walking around with this condition every day caused by too small pelvic cavities due to malnutrition and prolonged and difficult labor. Only they don't have access to an experienced physician, or supplies to keep them dry, or even a catheter to help them manage this on a daily basis.  To make matters worse, in Africa, these brave women are ostracized for it, and are often shunned by their villages, divorced by their husbands.  They are social outcasts, shamed for doing nothing more than attempting to bear a child.  These women don't have a sweet baby to take home in most cases either, as the days long labors they endure equates to a horrifying and helpless condition of urinary incontinence and the baby they hoped to bear perishing in the process.  When I consider all that these women are going thru, my experience is nothing more than a bump in the road, truly.  Corey and I both had talked of these amazing women and the kind of character they must possess to endure such hardship.  I can't even imagine.  Those women are heroes.

 For me, these past 3 months have been interesting, humbling, frustrating, eye opening…words to describe it all are hard to come up with.  Above all, my sweet baby Dawson has been an undeniable balm of joy during some difficult days.  We have been so thankful for a beautiful, healthy baby to make this all worth it.  I’m not sure how I would’ve fared without my baby’s perfect little face to greet me each day.  He is an amazingly good baby, and again, I know that's not just a little luck.  I believe strongly in the fact that God gives us only what we can handle and by giving me the sweetest baby ever I have been able to manage it all.  Dawson is such a blessing to our home and has given me so much happiness.  With his sweet coos and smiles, I've kept on going without too much difficulty.  I feel like I've been carried by my Savior through these past few months too, because I know I could never have waded through this pain and sorrow on my own and come out on top. And yet I have felt my burden lifted, literally.  It didn't seem as bad as I thought it would be,  not by a long shot.  My spectacularly awesome husband has been a champ through all of this, and he doesn't complain, ever.  I know it's been hard on him too and extremely stressful dealing with a new baby and a wife who came home from the hospital broken, and still hasn't been fixed. He deserves one of those 'Father of the Year' awards if they exist out there somewhere. Seriously, I hereby nominate him. With my loving family there to support and love me and my faith in God to carry me through, the time has passed and I've been able to live life to an almost normal level.  

And honestly, if the catheter is working, it wasn't so bad. At the beginning of all of this, I was horrified by the fact that I had to wear a catheter for 3 weeks.  Three months later, catheter still in place, I can see that, as always, its all in the perspective.  I look back now and laugh that I was so freaked out by that, when such a greater challenge lay in store for me just around the corner.  Nope, a working catheter is no big deal, even if you do have to wear long skirts and baggy pants to accommodate the leg bag.  At least you can get out and live a little!  It's when they don't work that it's a real pain. 

So, I'm now looking forward to the future with loads of hope that this surgery will be successful and crossing fingers that I can look back on this period as something that made me stronger and more compassionate for what others might be going thru.  I find myself thankful for healthcare, good friends who listen to promptings, a healthy baby boy, my amazingly stalwart and wonderful husband, and a God who knows how much I can handle.