After a very busy week in Cleveland we have arrived home victorious. Here’s a silly video that provides some highlights, and/or you can read a recap of our events below (click on photos to make them big):
This is an outrageously long post, and I’m sorry about that, but I had a lot to share and this blog is as much for me as it is for all of you. So snuggle up with a warm beverage and I’ll tell you the tale of my hernia repair.
Long time readers of the blog may remember that I mentioned back in April, after my 1 year checkup and CT scan, that the surgeons discovered a wild incisional hernia had appeared. This was revealed to me thusly:
“Ok, here’s the CT scan, everything looks good…” *scrolls through my body scan* “Oh hey! Look at that! You’ve got a little hernia!”
“What? No. No I don’t.”
“Yes you do, it’s right there.”
“But I don’t want a hernia.”
“Well you’ve got one. I’ll fix it. We’ll put a little patch in there, I’ll fix you right up. It’s small. Which is good and bad. Easy to fix, but not so good if you manage to push your intestines out of that little hole.”
It was all laughs and yucks like most of our appointments with the band of merry medical professionals that saved Derek’s life. But it was slowly sinking in for me that a hernia meant another surgery. One year out from the liver transplant and I had mostly forgotten the pain of major abdominal surgery, but the memory of not liking the pain was still pretty fresh. This would be different. A little incision to put the patch in, no intubating, a day surgery. I’d leave with an ice pack and binder which is kind of like a dumpy looking corset with velcro. No. Big. Deal.
Derek and I were at Lahey on Friday; I was there for my one year check-up Derek was there for a regular old check-up.
The one year living donor check-up involves blood work, a CT scan–with and without contrast–and a meeting with a surgeon. We arrived around 7:15 am and both got our blood work done (the couple that visits the phlebotomist together, stays together? I feel like I’ve made this same stupid joke before.) then it was off to CT. This was a much quicker scan, but I still got the IV to pump the weird contrast into my veins which leaves the taste of pennies in my mouth, and makes my head feel hot, then spreads through my body like a hot flash. 5 minutes later I was changing back into clothes and we headed upstairs to the 6th floor to see our beloved nurses and hopefully a few of the docs. The doctors had just finished rounds, and we saw the fellows and our favorite PA, Tom. Tom hugged us both in succession about 3 times. He was genuinely thrilled to see us both and we talked about scars and bilirubin and how nice it was to visit instead of being a patient. Then we turned the corner and saw a few of Derek’s favorite nurses and the nurse manager. They too were thrilled to see us. What a difference a year makes was the common refrain.
Yesterday morning I had my one month check-up with my surgeon. This involved blood work, an ultrasound and a meeting with my surgeon and the live donor coordinator. The blood work was the typical jamming of a needle in my arm and removing a few vials worth of blood. The ultrasound was pretty comprehensive. The technician took lots of pictures of my insides from many different angles. At some point I started to get concerned because it was taking so long, but I think they needed to look at all the major arteries going into the liver, the cut side, and the opposite side, to check for growth. Apparently my liver is growing quite well. She couldn’t say how much because an ultrasound can’t accurately measure volume, but she saw part of it near my stomach. Which might explain why my stomach is a little sensitive these days. Maybe it’s getting pushed on by the new liver parts.
When my surgeon came in the room his whole face lit up and he said, “Hey! There she is! Hello sunshine!” Then he gave me a great big hug. He sat down at the computer to check my test results, stopped for a minute and gave me an exploding fist bump. I showed him that particular handshake at our last meeting and I was impressed he remembered! He was anxious to see how my incision had been healing and I was anxious to show him the little plastic staple that was sticking out of my belly button. One of the other surgeons, the one who closed me up, said that it was probably a little close to the surface so it decided to push itself out instead of dissolving like the others. When my surgeon saw it, he rolled his eyes. “I hate these stupid things, I’m taking it out.” I freaked a little because I was sure it would hurt. He assured me it wouldn’t and a few seconds later it was gone. Phew! It wasn’t really hurting me, but it was annoying and I was worried it would get caught on something. Bleh. I think I just got a little sick to my stomach.
When we were all done he gave me another big hug and told me he was so happy to see me and that he was thrilled I was doing so well. Then I told him that it was Derek and my anniversary and showed him the photos from the blog post. He told me we were both ridiculous and that he absolutely loved us. What a sweet guy. Seriously, we are both so lucky that we have such an amazing team of doctors, nurses and support staff at the hospital. They have made this incredibly difficult experience actually tolerable. They all care for both of us so much, and they show us every day.
Before I launch into this epic post, I want to remind everyone about a post I wrote back in December called “The Ring Theory of Comfort.” If you’re not sure what to say when you speak to either of us, just remember the mantra: Comfort In. Reading it again was a good reminder to me that Derek and I are at the epicenter of something profound. We both need comfort and the permission to be honest even if our thoughts are not always positive. We also encourage all of you to find someone to tell your fears to, someone to talk to about all of the thoughts that are rattling around in your heads. We are strong, but we need your strength to help us get through the next few weeks. Thank you.
On Monday, Derek and I arrived at Lahey before 8am in order to get some blood work done. We walked down to the basement and got sequential numbers: 99 and 00. After the blood tests, I went with Derek to his pre-op meeting. He described the appointment very well in his post, so I won’t go into that, but I will say, as the anesthesiologist described what kind of shape Derek will be in when he leaves the OR, tears welled up in my eyes and I swallowed hard. Breathe, Logan. Just breathe.