Friday, April 30, 2010

In the hospital...AGAIN!

I've definitely been MIA on my blog lately, but I have a good excuse... I've been in the hospital again. That makes three times this year, and I was so hoping that 2010 would be a hospital free year just like 2009 was! No such luck! Here's how everything went down...

I had surgery on April 5 to remove the kidney stones that were in my left kidney. The surgery went well and the urologist put a stent in my kidney to help it drain. (A stent is a small tube that goes from your kidney through your ureter to your bladder, and it helps everything drain after a procedure.) I had to get the stent taken out about two weeks after surgery. Fortunately this is something that can be done in the doctor's office, but I always dread it because it involves an uncomfortable and yucky procedure. It's not exactly painful, just really uncomfortable.

The appointment to have my stent taken out was Friday, April 23. Everything went well and I thought I was good to go. When I got back into my wheelchair I noticed some slight pain in my kidney, but I wasn't concerned about it considering that I'd just had a tube removed from the inside of my kidney. My mom and I left the office, and we probably should've gone straight home, but there was a church activity that I really wanted to go to, so we went to get a bite to eat before the activity started.

As the evening went on, the pain in my kidney intensified. The activity ended around 8:30 pm, and although I really wanted to socialize with my friends, I decided to go straight home. By the time I got home around 9 I was in intense pain. I decided to take a sleeping pill so that I could get a good nights sleep, and I fell asleep shortly after 10.

I thankfully slept well (which is rare for me) and when I woke up the next morning all of the pain in my kidney/lower back was gone. I was relieved that the pain had gone away, but I noticed I was much groggier than usual and it was hard to wake up. I was determined to get going, though, especially since I had big plans that day. My younger sister Chandra started working full time earlier this year, so she works almost every Saturday. I'm happy she has a job, but I miss hanging out with her and our friends on the weekend. To make a long story short, Chandra was off work so we were going to go to the movies for a double feature. Some people might not like sitting still for two movies back-to-back, but I was excited since it had been two months since I'd seen a movie at the theater.

I'll write about the movies in another post, but let's just say that I'm going to have to see both of these movies when they come out on DVD because I slept through a good majority of both of them! (Good thing I didn't pay to see them!) I got home and continued to get more and more tired. I had no appetite and absolutely no desire to eat anything for dinner -- something else that is also rare for me since I only eat two meals a day.

As the evening progressed it became apparent to my mom and Chandra that I was "going down." Around 7 in the evening I told my mom that I was feeling really badly. I was extremely lethargic, I was repeating myself and I couldn't keep anything straight. These are clear signs from my past experiences that I am becoming septic. My mom and Chandra got me ready to go to the ER at Barnes and we left.

When we arrived at the ER, my mom checked me in at the front desk and told them that my vital signs were all over the place. (My heart was racing and my pulse was about 125/sec, I had a fever, my blood pressure was dropping and the oxygen saturation in my blood was in the low 90's.) I was taken back right away, and this was the last thing I remembered for a few hours.

The long story short is that things got stirred up the previous day when my urologist took the stent out of my kidney, so an infection had begun to brew in my body. I'm not sure how the infection gets into my bloodstream, but once it does, it doesn't take long to start taking over.

I spent the next four days in the hospital. The first 48 hours we were waiting for the blood cultures to come back to see what bug I had and what drugs would be resistant to it. I was disappointed, but not shocked to find out that the antibiotic I needed to fight the infection had to be administered intravenously. (I was hoping for an oral antibiotic, but I was expecting an IV antibiotic.) The next hurdle was getting some kind of line started so that we would have access to my veins so that I could do my two weeks of antibiotics at home. This was easier said than done. A picc line in my arm wasn't an option this time, so I had to get a central line put into the subclavian artery in my chest. Getting a central line is much more invasive than getting an IV or even a picc line, but fortunately they were able to get it done on Wednesday morning without too much trouble.

Although I was only in the hospital for four days, it felt like a lot longer. I was first told that I could go home on Monday night. That turned into Tuesday and Tuesday turned into Wednesday. I was on a normal patient floor, so either my mom or my sister had to spend the night with me each night. Thankfully I was in a big enough room so that they could have their own hospital bed to sleep in. Even still, it was a lot of extra work for them.

I came home on Wednesday evening and it feels great to be back home! I really could use a nice, long break from being hospitalized. I'd like a good 18 months before being hospitalized again! 18 months isn't long, but I'm only being realistic since I know that I'm going to be plagued with kidney stones and other urological problems for the rest of my life! I can't complain, though, because I'm really very healthy for someone in my situation. I know my health could be so much worse than it is.

Glad to be back home doing the things I love!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Things I miss

Sometimes people have asked me what kinds of things I miss that I can no longer do anymore. There are a lot of things I miss; some big and some small, and some things you might not even think of or expect.

One thing I really miss is being able to show physical affection to others. I miss being able to shake hands or touch people in a gesture of friendship and support. I especially miss being able to give people hugs. Not being able to put my arms around a friend or loved one and squeeze them close to me is something I really miss.

I miss driving a car.

I miss being able to dress the way I used to, and the way I wish I still could. Since I'm always in a sitting position there are just some kinds of clothes/fabrics that I can't wear because it's hard to get them smooth and looking nice. Before my accident I loved shopping and I always dressed very well. Now I feel like I look dumpy a lot of the time.

I miss carrying a purse. (Strange, I know, but I really like purses/bags and it's too bad that I can't carry one anymore.) I also miss wearing coats. I LOVE coats, and  now I can't wear them anymore (imagine how difficult it would be trying to put a coat on someone who's in a wheelchair and can't move.

I miss being able to exercise. I wasn't an exercise fanatic by any means before my accident, but I know if I recovered I would be one now!) I've gotten used to not being able to move, but I really miss it.

I miss being able to work and make money. I was so excited to get a job/make money that I started working at a local movie theater on my 16th birthday. I worked 30 to 40 hours a week for the next 3 1/2 years until I had my accident. I especially loved working as an associate manager at the movie theater when I graduated from high school. Seriously, I loved my job and I loved working!

I miss going to nursing school. One of the things that disappoints me is that I was never able to finish nursing school. I loved everything I was learning, and I would've loved to finish school before my accident happened. I think it would be really cool to be able to tell people that I am an RN, even if I am paralyzed. I wouldn't be able to do the practical skills, but I would have the knowledge. I really wish I would've at least been able to finish my LPN year (licensed practical nurse), but that's not how things went. I know that there are no "do-overs" in life, but if I could go back and do things differently, I would've gone straight to nursing school after high school, instead of spending a year at UMSL. If I had done that, then I would've been finished with four of the five semesters of the RN program, instead of only almost finished with my first semester. It doesn't really matter what I would've done, but if I could do things differently, this is what I would've done.

Another strange thing I miss is being able to clean. I liked cleaning and having everything in order. I wish I could still contribute to the cleaning and household work because it was always something I enjoyed. (Most of the time!)

Most of all, I think, I miss being independent. I'm an adult, but I have to rely on others for all of my physical needs... bathing, eating, getting dressed, etc. It would be so nice to be self-sufficient again!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Something to Think About

When I was at the Galleria last Saturday I saw a poster in a store window that said, "What brings you joy?" and there was a picture of a pair of stiletto heels under the words. I immediately thought, "I know what brings ME joy." Although there are a lot of tangible things that bring me joy, the thing that brings me the most joy is my knowledge of who I am and what life is all about.

I know that life on earth is just a mandatory stepping stone to get everyone to the next life. It seems like so many people in the world think that when they die that's the end of their life. What a depressing thought! I'm so glad that I know that there is so much more to life than the living we do here on earth. If I didn't know this I would feel very angry that my one chance at life was drastically altered through no fault of my own. I would feel bitter that I wouldn't be able to experience all of the things that life has to offer.

I'm one of the happiest people I know and I think a lot of other people would be happier if they knew what I know. It's true that "bad things happen to good people." However, when bad things happen and when trials come it's at that time that you can either embrace your challenges and become a better person, or you can let your challenges make you bitter. The latter is probably in the easier option, but for me personally, I know I would be missing out on so many awesome opportunities if I didn't try to make the very best of my situation. I hope I don't sound too pious or like I'm doing a better job than everyone else, but I know if I can be happy and positive, you can too! Sometimes life seems like a long, never ending road, but with a positive attitude and a reliance on the Lord I know ALL things are possible, no matter how daunting they seem!

This is what brings me the most joy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My new nephew

I realized today that I never wrote about my new nephew, Matthew Johnson Leigh, who was born three weeks ago on Wednesday, March 24. This was my sister Sharon's fifth baby, but her first boy. When Sharon had her ultrasound last year to find out the sex of her baby I remember feeling shocked when she told me it was a boy. I was just expecting her to have a family of all girls.

I knew that Sharon was being induced and I waited all day for her to call with the news that Baby Matthew had arrived. Things got started a little bit late in the day, so Mattie wasn't born until 4:53 in the afternoon. (I'm always so excited to get the phone call that my new nieces/nephews have arrived!)

Here are a few pictures of Sharon and her new Little Guy (hopefully she won't mind me posting pictures of her on my blog):
Elizabeth and Kate checking out their new baby brother: I love these pictures because they just say "motherhood" to me:
Here's baby Matthew a few days after coming home from the hospital:What a cutie! I can't wait to meet him later this summer!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My humble abode

After my accident the living room in my house was converted to be my bedroom since I could no longer go up and down the stairs in my house. Although the living room is smaller than my former bedroom, I'm grateful for it and I'm grateful it was relatively easy to convert. Here are a few pictures of my bedroom:

A view looking towards my bed:
A view looking the opposite direction:
My bookcase (I really need a bigger bookcase because I've acquired more books than this bookcase can hold):
My entertainment area:
The shelving unit where I keep a lot of my scrapbooks, photo albums and other projects (I like everything well organized): Some of my nick-knacks (I like pretty things): My garden of African Violets (I love plants, especially ones that flower): My overhead lift (this is how I get in and out of bed/my recliner/wheelchair):

Of course it's kind of hard to understand what my room looks like and what the layout is like from just a few pictures, but hopefully you can get a sense of where I live and what my living area is like.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cheesecake Factory: check!!

At the beginning of the year I made a list of goals and fun things I wanted to accomplish in 2010. One of the things on my list was eating at The Cheesecake Factory. I've never been there before and I've always wanted to go there, so that's why it made my 2010 list. Here's a few pictures of the outside of The Cheesecake Factory: I went to The Cheesecake Factory at the St. Louis Galleria this past Saturday with my younger sisters Chandra and Laura, Laura's husband Brett and my friend Nate. We went at 1:30 pm, so it wasn't too busy and we only had to wait 15 minutes to be seated. I decided that I would just get an appetizer instead of a meal so that I could also get a piece of cheesecake for dessert. I decided to get chicken potstickers for my appetizer. The potstickers were good, but I probably wouldn't get them again. My friend Nate got an appetizer of avocado egg rolls, and those were really good. They tasted different than I thought they would and they were really yummy. I would probably get the avocado egg rolls for my appetizer if/when I go back. Here's a picture of the potstickers and the avocado egg rolls: I ordered a slice of Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake for dessert. Here's the description of the cheesecake from the menu: "Layers of flourless Godiva chocolate cake, Godiva chocolate cheesecake and chocolate mousse." It was delicious! I had a hard time finishing it since I had eaten my entire appetizer, so Chandra and Nate helped me out! Here's a picture of my Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake: It was such a fun way to spend a beautiful afternoon. Here are a few more pictures from my outing:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How it went...

I had my surgery on Monday to remove the kidney stones that were in my left kidney. My surgery was scheduled for 1:30 pm, so I had to be at the hospital at 11:30. I was checked in right away and taken upstairs to the pre-op area. I was transferred from my wheelchair to a gurney, and then I was undressed and put into a ultra-chic hospital down. After all of my vital signs and initial information was taken there was a lot of down time where I was just waiting. Fortunately, my mom brought along the book we are currently reading for our book group, so we were able to make quite a bit of progress in our book.

The anesthesiologist came in shortly after 2 pm and put some medicine in my IV, and after a few short minutes I was out of it. Although I was still conscious, this is the last thing I remembered and my mom said that I was "flying high." I was taken to surgery about 2:15 pm, although the surgery didn't really get underway until 2:45. My mom got a call from my urologist a little before 5:30 pm and he said that things had gone well, but he'd had a little bit more trouble getting the stones out then he'd anticipated. (There were several kidney stones -- one big one and lots of small ones.)

My doctor wanted me to stay in the hospital overnight just to make sure I was recovering well, since in the past I've developed major complications. I was taken to my hospital room about 6:50 pm, and although it wasn't a room in the ICU, it was a nice, large room. (The reason I always like to stay in the ICU is because that's where I get the best care. The nurses in the ICU only care for two patients, so they can devote a little more time to each of their patients. The nurses on regular floors care for five or six patients apiece, so a lot of times my needs get overlooked since they are so busy.)

My mom had decided beforehand that if I had to stay on a regular patient floor she would stay with me to make sure I was well cared for. When my nurse found out that my mom was going to be staying overnight with me, a hospital bed was brought in for her to sleep on. My sister Laura and her husband Brett came to visit in the evening, as well as my sister Chandra.

Although I was quite tired, I still had a hard time sleeping through the night. It was harder to get comfortable, and people kept coming in my room to do different things to me, so my mom and I kept getting woken up. However, we were both able to get quite a bit of sleep, all things considered. I was just so grateful to have my mom/advocate there with me in the hospital.

One of the urological residents that works with my urologist came to check on me the next morning at 6:15 and told me that everything looked good and that I could go home that day. I was dressed and ready to go home by 9:30. In my past hospital experiences the discharge process has taken all day, so I was pleasantly surprised to be on my way home by 10:30.

The drive home from Barnes Hospital takes about 40 minutes, plus my doctor prescribed an antibiotic, so we stopped by Walgreens to get it, and my mom had to wait about 30 minutes for it. I was quite tired (you usually are when recovering from anesthesia) so I slept the entire way home, including the wait at Walgreens! Actually, I slept most of the day yesterday. Anytime I would try to watch TV or have my mom read to me, I would fall asleep!

So long story short is that I survived another surgery! I didn't make my 2010 goal of not being hospitalized, but hopefully I will make it the rest of the year and a good portion of next year before anything goes amiss with me.

Easter 2010

We had a very low-key Easter this year, but it was also very nice. We didn't have any family or friends over, so it was just my mom, my younger sister Chandra and myself. We had a yummy dinner on both Saturday and Sunday so that I could enjoy the meal two days instead of one since I was having surgery on the following Monday.

I told my mom that the Easter Bunny better not bring me any edible treats since I'm trying hard not to put on weight! (Sometimes I ask my mom not to buy me sweets, but she does anyway because she can't resist.) However, this year she complied with my wishes and bought me a completely non-edible present. She bought me a new African Violet. I love African Violets because they have the softest leaves and the prettiest flowers. One of my friends bought me an African Violet almost 2 years ago for my 24th birthday, and I (or I should say my mom) has managed to keep it alive, and it has flourished and grown.

My mom thought my birthday Violet needed a companion, so she bought me a new African Violet for Easter. I love it! It's the perfect gift for me! Here are a few pictures of my new Violet (although, the pictures definitely don't do it justice!):

Friday, April 2, 2010

About my week

This week has been pretty busy, so I haven't had as much time to be on my computer. Plus, I haven't really had anything to blog about. This is a different feeling for me because I usually have so many things I want to write about, but not enough time.

The weather this week has been absolutely beautiful, and I enjoyed sitting outside Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Hopefully I will be able to sit outside on Easter because it's supposed to be really nice.

My younger sister Chandra had the day off of work on Tuesday, so my mom, Chandra and I went to Kohl's to do a little shopping. We all found some stuff that we wanted, and it was all on sale. My mom had an additional 30% off coupon, so we got some great deals! After shopping we went out to dinner at Chili's to use a gift card that my sister Annette gave us this past Christmas. We all enjoyed our dinner. I got Southwestern egg rolls and a turkey sandwich. I've eaten at Chili's several times, and I always get Southwestern egg rolls because they are my favorite!

On Wednesday afternoon my mom and I had to go up to the hospital for my pre-op testing and registration. Fortunately, they were able to call St. Anthony's Hospital to get my most recent chest x-ray, EKG and blood work. I was fearing I would have to get out of my wheelchair to get these tests over with, but I didn't since they were able to get everything from the other hospital. My mom and I had a long wait, and we were at the hospital for several hours, but at least we got everything over with so hopefully everything will go smoothly on Monday.

I'm looking forward to this weekend. We're having Easter dinner on both Saturday and Sunday so that I can enjoy the meal two days instead of one since I can't eat or drink anything after midnight on Sunday. I'll be in the hospital overnight on Monday, so it will be a hospital dinner tray for my dinner that night! The things I'm looking forward to eating most for Easter dinner are corn pudding (so good!) and the coconut cake my mom is making for dessert.

Well, this is a relatively boring and short post, but I didn't want to go too long without writing anything. Hopefully my surgery will go well so that I can report back on how everything went sometime soon. Happy Easter, everyone!

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