Thursday, May 12, 2011

A cute animal! And then I go into detail about my medical issues...

Here we have a photo I took of an adorable sheep at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival over the weekend.

HA! Now that I've sucked you in with a cute animal picture, I can reveal my diabolical plan, which is to gripe about my medical problems and upcoming surgery.

Yes, I am having surgery tomorrow morning. Dear reader, as you may recall, I was hospitalized for a week in January with a MRSA infection. Said insidious infection decided to form a terrifically painful abscess on my left buttock. After my release from the hospital, I cared for my surgical wound as directed by my colorectal surgeon. It did slowly heal, but I noticed that instead of staying closed, it would open again about once a week. We developed a routine. Every week, it would close. All would be well for about a glorious day or two. Then I would start sweating through my pajamas at night. I would get fevers throughout the day. I had absolutely no energy. A searing pain would travel across my left buttock. And then, the abscess would pop open and we would start the dance all over again. I've been trapped in this cycle since about March.

After determining that this was not par for the course with an abscess, I visited my surgeon again. He informed me that the abscess had either 1) always been a fistula, or 2) healed incorrectly and become a fistula. Surgery would be necessary. Which brings us to today, the day before my surgery.

I'm a curious person. I like to know what's going to happen to me. This means that I've done research on the surgery and sadly, I'm pretty clear as to what it involves. Basically, I am going to have a huge, gaping open wound on my ass for about 4-8 weeks, depending on the size and depth of the fistula. If you want to know what a fistulotomy involves, and what the open wound looks like after surgery, please refer to this photo. It is graphic. Don't say I didn't warn you. This is actually one of the smaller ones I've seen. The surgeon lays open the fistula, clears out the infected gook, and then you go on your way with an open wound that needs to heal from the inside out. In the case of this photo, a seton (plastic tube) was inserted to keep the wound from closing over again. I may or may not need that. No way to tell until they go spelunking in my butt cheek and see what the hell is going on in there.

I've never had surgery before. Sure, the surgeon cut into my abscess to drain it, but that was just under a local anesthetic. For this procedure, I will be totally under. That's a difficult concept for me to grasp; I don't like to feel out of control. I hate the idea of someone cutting into me while I'm just passed out on a steel table. I'll have no idea what happened until I wake up and someone decides to inform me. The loss of control is a big personal issue for me. Also, I've seen Steph have surgery, and she does not react well to anesthesia. I'm afraid that I could experience a similar reaction, as I generally do not respond well to drugs and tend to be allergic to almost everything.

Truly though, the most daunting aspect of this entire ordeal is the recovery. It's supposed to be slow and painful. I have a high pain tolerance, but when I'm rendered immobile I become really whiny and cranky, probably more so than the average person. I expect to be feeling sorry for myself a lot and crying. In fact, and to those who know me, this should indicate the seriousness of my personal crisis, I even asked my mother to come and visit and help while I am recovering. I generally need to get to a pretty sorry point before I ask for help with anything. It's one of my worst qualities. I love my mother, but I really did not want to bother her and ask her to come out from Arizona to help care for me (not to mention the very real possibility that she is going to have to do wound care on my butt, which is taking our relationship back about 28 years). When my Dad was sick, one of the worst parts for me, as a caregiver, was seeing how much it shamed him to need the kind of physical care that he did. I didn't mind doing those kinds of things for him, but seeing him crying and ashamed to be needing help in that way, it broke my heart. I don't want to know that I'm making the people I love feel that way. It was difficult for me to admit that I was going to need help. It helped to think that not only would she be helping me, but Steph as well. I really don't want Steph to be any more overwhelmed than she absolutely needs to be.

I considered not even doing the surgery (this thought was brief, don't worry), but then I realized that having fevers every week and not being able to go out and live my life the way I want to is not a long term solution. And make no mistake, my quality of life has taken a dive. I've tired all the time. We had to cancel plans to go up to Philadelphia a few weeks ago because I knew I couldn't sit two plus hours in the car. Plus, the longer I wait, the greater the possibility that the size of the fistula will increase. And the longer my immune system is compromised, the greater the chance that I'll pick up some other nasty infection. Thankfully, once the surgery is over and done with, there is a 95% chance that I will be completely healed and there won't be a recurrence.

I know I've neglected my blog. I'd say I'm going to be better, but it's doubtful that I'll be out taking pictures in the next few weeks. Maybe if I'm up to it, I'll just write some posts without photos. I'd like to apologize in advance if I am whiny and annoying.

I look forward to closing this chapter of my life and getting back to camping, kayaking, photography, and canning.

Oh yes, in some of the best news ever, Jess and Mike got engaged on Sunday. They've already asked me to photograph the wedding, and of course I said yes. Jess is also being so sweet to me and has asked me to help her plan the wedding. She's making it seem like she wants the help, but I think it's really just a ploy to give me something to do while I'm laid up in bed after surgery.

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