Friday, April 7, 2017

That Could Have Gone Better

This hasn't exactly been a banner week. I've had better. I've had much, much worse, but I've had better. Let's just say I'm glad to be sitting at home today.

This past weekend was General Conference, which is always fantastic. I couldn't help compare it with last General Conference (Oct 2016), which I spent in the hospital, and, to be honest, didn't really get to participate much. I think we got a couple of talks off my mom's phone. I was recovering from the surgery they did to remove the giant blood clots in my leg, and said leg was still the size of a tree trunk and extremely uncomfortable.

So I was glad to be home and enjoying conference with my family, but I was also packing and getting ready for another surgical procedure. This time they were going to remove the IVC filter in my vein, the one they'd placed 6 months ago to keep any clots that might break free from going to my heart or lungs and potentially killing me.

The idea here is I'd been scanned and clot-free (in my leg) for 6 months, I'd been on blood thinners for 6 months, so it was time to remove the filter and take me off blood thinners. My DVT in Sept was caused by an anatomical defect that had been repaired, and there wasn't any real reason to expect that it would repeat. Right?


Because of the lingering effects of my head injury (post concussion syndrome), car rides are a huge pain, so Bryan wanted to take me up to OKC Sun evening and stay the night at a hotel rather than get me up at 4am Monday and make the drive so I could be at the surgery center by 7:30am. I didn't argue hard. We stopped by the church on the way up because the bishop had asked to speak to us about something that turned out to be a big something that wasn't good news, and kind of devastating to my mother heart. It wasn't so much "why is this happening to me" as "I'm just so, so tired, Lord" and I just broke down crying. If you've been on this blog for any period of time you know that we've been slogging uphill for quite a while. It's exhausting. I need a ledge, a plateau. I need a place to catch my breath for a minute.

I didn't get one.

That was Sunday. Monday we went in for the procedure, and they injected the dye to take images to make sure there wasn't a clot (which is standard procedure before removing the filter) and they found one. No kidding. Sitting under my filter is a clot. In the 6 months since my surgery drama my body had formed another clot and it had broken free and headed straight for my lungs or heart. The only thing that saved my life was that tiny IVC filter the doctors had placed in its path.

At first I was devastated. Another clot. I started to cry right there in the procedure room. I wanted to be getting better and just couldn't stand the idea of another setback. The filter is there for good now. The blood thinner regimen is likely a forever thing, and the side effects are literal hell. Plus having the knowledge that a blood clot is sitting right under that filter makes me feel like a ticking time bomb. What if the filter fails? What if more clots form and push against the filter? At some point one might slip past it. I feel like my life is constantly on the line now. It's so, so scary I can't even tell you.

After the initial feelings began to subside, I realized the filter had already saved my life. There was some comfort there. There's no denying my condition isn't serious, but I'm still here.

Tuesday I saw my hematologist, and we talked more about the surgeon's findings. Yes, the blood thinners are likely a forever thing. Surgeon wants to see me again in 3 months. He's probably going to scan me and see if the clot is still there or if the blood thinners have started breaking it down. Or if it's worse. My hematologist wants to see me after that. He talked about the possibility of more clots forming and crowding the filter, of clots forming in other parts of my body. If that happens there will be swelling and discomfort. It's not a fun prognosis. Not a fun long term outlook. These things may not happen. I'd like to think they're less likely if I get my weight down and get more active.

Which brings me to Wednesday. That's the day I met my new neurologist. Despite all my misgivings, despite the way I've been treated by neurologists in the past, I like him. His staff was nice and nobody treated me like I was faking or exaggerating my condition. I think part of that was the fact that it's no longer a worker's comp case. A patient gains more credibility when it's been 20 months and they're still there going, "Hey, I'm still in pain. My life is still upside down. Can you help me? And no, I don't want narcotics. Not only don't they help, they cause more issues." Get this, my new Dr is a board certified HEADACHE SPECIALIST. Seems like I should have had one of those all along, right??

So, there was a silver lining in the week. He recommended injections. Yeah, you read that right. Injections right into the head, just under the skin. They are supposed to last up to a month. It sounds kind of scary, to be honest, but after 20 months of constant, daily pain, I think I'm willing to risk it. I've forgotten what it's like not to have a headache.

Thursday I was looking forward to having a day at home. I had some church things to do and I'd been out every day that week so far and wanted a rest. No such luck. I woke up covered in blood. Remember Monday? My botched procedure? They'd still started, they'd still opened up my neck at the vein and injected the dye so they could check for the clot they ended up finding. Well, the incision site opened up. I bled through my bandage, all over my nightgown, and into my hair. I took the bandage off and squirted blood down my chest. It soaked the gauze pad I held to it. Because of the location (at the vein) I didn't have the leverage to hold enough pressure on it to stop the bleeding. I was home alone. So I texted Bryan. "My neck is bleeding. I'm covered in blood." He called me. Ended up turning around and coming home to help me. He called in to work to let them know he was taking me to the ER to get help.

All in all I got the help I needed but because of the circumstances I left the house without taking any of my meds. It was 3pm before I took anything for my headache, so I was majorly out of sorts yesterday evening. Just exhausted and hurting. They CT scanned my neck to make sure everything under the surface was okay, and it is, and did a purse string stitch to close up the incision. I'm going to have a lovely scar but I don't even care. I just needed to stop bleeding. I guess I'll wear a pretty scarf for Easter so I don't scare small children.

It's Friday now, and I get to be home today. Yay, me. Gotta say, I'm glad to see the end of this week. A friend posted on Facebook that we do a lot of damage to ourselves when we focus on our troubles, and it's better to focus outward. It's healthier. We can maintain a more positive outlook and focus. And we can help others.

She's not wrong. Obviously I have to add some self care in there, but if I focused on what's wrong with me, or the fact that I could die at any given time--or a blood clot could lead to a stroke, etc--I could revert to a very, very dark place. That's not going to help anyone, least of all myself, my family, or the people I love. I refuse to live in fear. For whatever time I have left, because it could honestly be decades. I'm not going to live in shadow.

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