Quit Your Belly-Aching… Oh Wait

Three words: Incarcerated Ventral Hernia.

or, “why Yoshi kept having to go to the ER since late August”

I… think I was kind of aware that a hernia was forming since last year I noticed a small mass forming in my belly, but it wasn’t causing any problems then, and unless it’s acting up there isn’t much that can be done.

Except in June (and more intensely as of August) it DID. I’d gone in thinking a bunch of things, that it was a UTI, that it was my appendix, that it was a bowel obstruction, and while two of those three were true, they were influenced by a larger issue.

Earlier in October, the ER doctors were all “you should probably investigate elective surgery, have your doctor issue a referral to the surgery clinic.” Um, sure, that’s a good idea! I’d like to not have to keep going back because I ran out of hydrocodone (aka Norco aka the pill that keeps the pain away) and I imagine the ER and medical/surgical wing doods are sick to death of me bouncing back, so I did exactly as they said. My primary doctor, however, was very much “WTF are they thinking, making you wait? They should really do the emergency Premier Image Cosmetic and Laser Surgery!” he said that there had been way too many clinical negligence cases lately.

But we kinda have to work within the confines of the insurance. This is Medi-Cal after all. I don’t have to pay for any of it, and never properly paid into it by working. I struggle every day with the guilt, with feeling that I don’t deserve the help I have (Medi-Cal, SSI, disability status, etc.). So, I feel like I didn’t have room to really push the issue and go along with what was asked of me.

The Friday evening of the 23rd, though, the shit hit the fan (oh man that’s incredibly appropriate given what we’re dealing with). My medicine was no longer effective. I thought it was because I took it after eating dinner rather than before, so I tried to just tough it out while waiting for a delayed activation… except it wasn’t happening at all. I couldn’t sleep at all that night, despite trying different positions or even taking additional medicine, and eventually I started getting nauseous despite having anti-emetic medication in addition to the hydrocodone. Oh dear.

So after briefly telling my brother what was going on over battle.net’s IM/global tell thingy, I go back to the ER yet again. The surgeons are called to look me over and they’re all “oh shit, this hernia is incarcerated, we gotta open her up right away.” Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Was it scary, the thought of emergency surgery? …no, not really, since there wasn’t much time to think about it. Since it was Saturday, and surgery isn’t usually done on weekends, it’s not like I had to wait long, I basically had a full emergency surgical team ready to go. They wheel me into the OR, plop me on the table, push the anesthetics and I wink out within a couple minutes.

No, it was AFTER the surgery was done that’s hellish. I wink out and wake up in the ICU not only intubated (2 attempts, I’m told, and the roof of my mouth is kinda shredded and tender as a result for the time being) but also with that infernal NG tube and TWO IVs (one is a backup and said backup ended up failing) and EKG leads. Yeah, I’m wired up alright, like I’m on my last legs! And I’m in the big BariAir fat person bed, which I would later learn is not very comfortable at all despite everyone’s assertions, and not designed for free entry/exit like the standard beds.

The respiratory therapist doods had to give me a steroid to drop the swelling that had formed in my throat (as a result of intubation), and it took two days to get the tubes out. And let me tell you, the dreams I had while drifting in and out of consciousness post-surgery ranged from depressing to outright scary, and I couldn’t vocalize anything I felt until after I had been extubated. It all hit me with the force of a Mack Truck, and I really wish my mother hadn’t been so victim-blamey and dismissive and most definitely”poor-me” when I broke down that evening. Argh.

Oh and it gets so much better, you see, because that bed doesn’t let me get in and out so easily, and it was such a huge pain to get a bedpan in after they removed the foley catheter, so… yeah. I couldn’t exactly get up to use the bathroom and was frequently buzzing the nurses for cleanup. They were really nice and professional about it and never once complained to my face, but I get really anxious about that stuff and hate bothering people over it and it definitely did not help my post-surgery depression.

They also attempt to put a CPAP mask on me and, uh, I was just not having any of it. While we got the settings enough to be bearable, I was having some pretty bad claustrophobia and I was already extremely stressed out because of everything, so that was stopped and they decided keeping me on supplementary oxygen was good enough. I still have a sleep study booked, so we’ll try calibrating that again under better circumstances.

Eventually I got moved to the usual med/surgery floor for less-invasive monitoring. (In a private room, thankfully, because of the size of the bed.) I get put on a clear liquid diet, which I am okay with because I get lots of chicken broth, and on the last two days I get upgraded to regular solid food (not renal, not cardiac, not diabetic, but the “normal people” food with a notation about keeping pineapples the hell away from me). I am told I need to be cleared by Respiratory, Occupational and Physical Therapy before I can be discharged, and those happen rather quickly– despite having been in bed for almost a week, I didn’t weaken much and didn’t get dizzy or anything when I sat up and could walk just fine, so they let me go home Thursday evening.

Right now I have a JP (jejunum-placed) drainage tube connected to some kind of Fisher-Price-esque flask that’s supposed to collect whatever fluid-stuff that formed from my stitches. I have staples in my lower belly (ew) that are supposed to be taken out along with said JP flask in a couple days– tomorrow, potentially…? And we’re looking at least a month before I’m fully healed, so, uh, more pain pills! Woo!

But, yeah, that hernia bullshit (huh huh) is officially fixed. Yesterday I got a letter from the AlphaCare doods (the actual insurance underwriter) that said that the consultation for what would have been the elective surgery wasn’t until December. There is NO EFFING WAY I would have been able to hold out that long, even if I had unlimited hydrocodone and all the morphine I could guzzle. It’s true that if this had been done laproscopically it would not take as long to heal, but… them’s the breaks, I guess. At least the doctors fixed me, even if it was a less graceful method.

Uhm… aside from that, I don’t feel as lopsided in my belly, and I notice that more when I’m sleeping because I used to kinda tip to the right. (It has the unfortunate side effect of not letting me easily swing my left leg up to rest on my bed while sitting, since now my guts are more evenly balanced rather than there being deflated on the left side. Oh well, I’ll get used to having to try a little harder there.) Because of the heparin shots I got (standard practice if you’re hospitalized, it prevents blood clots from forming due to reduced activity, otherwise you have to take dangerous blook thinner drugs, which can cause side effects. You read about them at http://sideeffectsofxarelto.org/current-xarelto-lawsuits/.) the bruises from all the IVs and blood draws are taking longer to heal, and it’s especially tender in my wrists because they got needled a lot. :P

For the more medically-technical-minded, or those bored enough to google, it was an open repair (approx’ 8-inch incision that barely avoids my navel). Thankfully nothing necrotized despite repeated paralysis, and it was supposedly a simple “push everything back into place and cut away the newly-formed tissue” repair job with no mesh needed, surprising because when it comes to fat people getting hernias it is very rarely this easy. So, uh, lucky me I guess.

Man, I don’t even want to THINK about how much all this would have cost if I didn’t have insurance. Yay Medi-Cal, because I probably would have been rendered medically bankrupt several times over.

I’m already back in the raiding saddle, of course. It doesn’t hurt me (more than the passive/always-on “oh hey, I have stitches and they’re kinda sore” pain) and being able to hang out with Robert and my raid groups keeps me from dwelling on how otherwise I’m a giant sad sack. :P I joke that I didn’t need a Halloween costume, I could be female Gorefiend or Patchwerk because of my grotesque stitched tummy. And, of course, the JP drain flask provides additional spooky factor, heh.

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