2022 threw a big, ugly curve ball right as she was fixin to roll over to the new year.
In mid-December, I had major surgery: a hysterectomy to treat endometriosis which has been a brewing, growing piece of my ongoing chronic illness that’s infiltrated my life for over 5 years now. I knew at some point I’d need the surgery, but put it off until I just couldn’t take the impact it was having on my quality of life anymore, it being an invasive and risky procedure, after all.
“The surgery went well, no complications,” I was told, and thus, was discharged from the hospital after three nights to begin the road to recovery.
An odd thing happened in the hospital, however (that which caused what was supposed to be a one night stay to a three night stay); a bad reaction to medication or temporary sickness, I’m not sure, but I spent an entire night ferociously vomiting which split an incision and God knows what it might have done to my raw and swollen insides. But, I stabilized & two days later, was sent home.
Two weeks later (only a few days ago) I began to hemorrhage. Bad. On insistent instructions from my doctor, I rushed to the ER where, though I was actively bleeding out, had to wait nine hours–NINE HOURS–in a fully packed waiting room. Throughout the room, the hospital entrance, and even on the sidewalk leading up to the emergency room, signs indicated that masks were required in the hospital. However, throughout the (let me repeat) NINE HOURS that I sat uncomfortably in a plastic chair (repeatedly asking the front desk for more supplies to control my bleeding) never were there more than about 2/3 of the people in that room wearing masks.
Look. The debate about masks and the emotions surrounding them by so many people is a tired argument that I’m not looking for, however, there were signs indicating that it was the rule. Of all the places to make a point of your stance on whether or not masks work or whatever, the ER is NOT the place to stake your flag. There are really sick and vulnerable people there. And further, why wouldn’t you want to protect YOURSELF from that guy barfing in the corner? Or whatever else is floating around that cesspool we were all packed in like sardines?! It infuriated me and should infuriate you, too.
(yes the staff did what they could to enforce to rule including having multiple boxes of masks available for people to take, but there just weren’t enough of them to do it. Two active nurses and a receptionist for a room full of patients… Reminding people to wear masks just wasn’t an option)
Through a series of events and an overwhelmed and frustrating hospital system where navigating as a patient is more often than not, a total nightmare, the following day (24 hours after having been in that waiting room awaiting an available bed which never came) I was rushed into emergency surgery, after my third of fourth round of lab tests showed an enormous amount of blood had been lost.
The surgery, risky again, showed a rupture that could’ve happened during the bad, vomiting night the first time around, but no one is sure. Either way, they had to completely open me back up, re-slicing tender incisions that had only begun to scab over. During the surgery, a second surgeon had to be brought in as well due to the complexity of the problem.
“We stopped the bleeding” they told me when I woke up somewhere around 11pm or midnight, still foggy with anesthesia, but we can’t confirm what caused this or why. They found some other things which I won’t get into, but they were “glad I came in” because had I waited any longer, I’d have “needed a blood transfusion, or worse.”
Makes me wonder how different it would’ve been had there been enough staff to support the people who needed help in that ER.
Being a chronically ill spoonie, it’s easy to get used to tests/procedures/biopsies and even some surgeries, so when you go in for what’s most definitely a major one, it kind of becomes just another day. But in the hospital, as it took 24 hours for them to get me admitted and into surgery as my ability to walk, move, see straight, or even function began to diminish, the hum-drum “just another day at the hospital” began to wear off and I realized that this was bigger than that–especially the faces on the nurses and doctors when they were able to see with their own eyes how badly I was hemorrhaging and how my hemoglobin was dropping.
But big hospital complexes don’t make it easy to get what you need right away when it’s completely overrun with patients. All of the staff I encountered was absolutely amazing, but there just weren’t enough of them. They’re all overworked, spread so thin, and their best just isn’t enough to accommodate what’s coming in. Not to mention, they have to handle angry, hurting, scared people in the best way that they can so please, next time you’re in an emergency situation, show your healthcare workers some kindness and respect, even if you’re hurting and panicking. They don’t have the support they need and I reckon most of them really are doing their best.
I was finally seen though, for once feeling safe being prepped quickly for surgery as I simultaneously signed all the paperwork needed should “you know what” happen. The anesthesiologists bid me farewell to a nice nap and then my body was reopened, scoped, operated on by two surgeons before in what to me felt like the blink of an eye. I came to, back in a hospital bed, already feeling how badly I was beat the holy living f*ck up.
My surgeon and my nurses took such tender care of me and if I could remember all of their names, I’d send them all flowers. (actually, maybe I’ll call the hospital to figure that our so I can do just so). Nurses, doctors, phlebotomists, ultrasound and CT techs, transporters…everyone…I wish I could hug them all and thank them for saving my life, because they did. They saved my life.
I’m home now, a handful of days later, with much stricter instructions than before, much higher risk for infection or ruptures, much more medication, and much more mandatory assistance needed. But I’m home. Alive. Able to [gently] hug my son, and once again cannot express my infinite gratitude for my family that has sacrificed their holidays to be there for me. None of us got a Christmas this year but, that’s okay. We got to be together. And that’s more important.
My mom took me for a very slow, gentle walk around the property yesterday and it’s the first time Bunny, my best girl, has seen me since before the surgery. She hugged me for so long. She sighed and rubbed her head on mine until my legs began to give and I had to bid adieu for the day. (Thanks mom for this pic of me in my jammies with my donkey). I don’t think she’s ever hugged me that hard. Donkeys know. They know.
Thank you for all the messages, texts, good vibes, good juju, prayers, cute animal video distractions, offers for assistance, and calls. It means so much to me. Most of all thank you so much to my family for everything you’ve done and sacrificed for me and my kiddo and animals and everything. I am grateful beyond any possible words.
Maybe this is how 2023 starts: in indescribable gratitude to be alive, even though sometimes it’s so, so hard. In reflection of the importance of community and connection with one another because at some point, you really can’t do this alone. In awe of the people that selflessly keep us alive and in anger that there’s a bigger system that makes their jobs harder for the sake of profit. The healthcare professionals deserve better. We deserve better. The billionaire CEOs need to wake the f*ck up because no matter what you do or don’t believe, I get the feeling they will have a day of reckoning–a day where they realize how much good they could’ve done, but instead, chose greed. Shame.
I’ll say it again: WE ALL DESERVE BETTER.
But in the meantime, I love you. I love you. I love you.
And I’m so grateful to still be here. I want to make it count more than ever. Happy New Year indeed.