By The Numbers

October 18, 2012 at 8:07 pm (Hospitalizations, Medical, Mental Health) (, , , , , , , , )

12/28: The magical date everyone’s been asking me about. This is the day my panniculectomy is scheduled. I guess 4-6 weeks meant 4 months, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I was much slower in reaching certain benchmarks, and we’ve just gotten to the point when it’s prudent to schedule the surgery and hope I reach them by then.

8:30am: The time on Tuesday when the stitch holding my drain pulled. I awoke to a sharp pain at the drain site and immediately knew what was wrong. It’s not surprising: drains are meant to last a few weeks, and this one had been in for exactly two months the day it failed.

3″: Approximately how far the drain “fell out”. It was all tubing, so I just took a deep breath and guided it back in. This turned out to be a mistake.

1hr: The time it took for my general surgeon, who was in charge of the drain, to respond to my email. She’s super awesome and my favorite doctor at Johns Hopkins by far. I called both her work cell and her office and left messages, but decided to email her in case that would be faster. It turned out to be the right call, as she saw it as she was coming out of an early morning surgery and was able to schedule me for an emergency appointment that day.

30ml: The “goal” daily output from the drain that was the benchmark I had to meet to have the drain removed.

60-100ml: Where the average daily output from the drain was when the stitch blew.

5: The number of messages I left with the lead surgeon trying to schedule a date.

50-80%: How much bed rest a day the general surgeon wants me to get. I told her I had just made plans to go out of town for the first time since the hospital stay, and she reluctantly gave me permission as long as I take lots of breaks and lay down at the first sign of pain or discomfort. Honestly, that will be kind of hard where I’m going, but I am going to bring my own chair so at least I know I have a place to sit down if I start to feel bad.

When I get back, I have a few other social engagements I desperately want to participate in, but I’m going to have to take everything one day at a time. Two days after the drain was removed, and I still feel like someone punched me in the gut hard enough to leave a mark. It hurts to walk around. I’m not looking forward to two months of bed rest, but it looks like I don’t have much of a choice.

10min: How long it took my general surgeon to get the lead surgeon’s scheduler to put me on the calendar.

60:1: The odds I give that I’ll actually make it to December 28th before I have to go back to the hospital due to the abscess causing problems. I’m going to try my hardest, as several people are planning to come in from out of town in order to be there for the day of surgery, but I secretly feel that this is going to turn into an emergent situation before then.

So what does this all mean?

Well, now the big fear, and a pretty likely outcome, is that the abscess will regrow. The way it was explained to me, is that the output was still so high because the abscess had become a deflated balloon, and so instead of just collecting fluid within it, it was going straight to the drain. Since the drain had to be removed (it could have been saved if I hadn’t pushed those 3 inches back in, but since I had, we had no way to know if it was in the right position, or if it had been exposed to bacteria – and with my history of infection, it was the better choice not to gamble), that fluid needs to go somewhere. There had been some hope that the wound would stay open and continue to drain for a few days, but it closed up the next day.

I also still have pain at the bottom of my pannus, from the other infected site. The Infectious Disease people are writing off all of my current symptoms – low grade fevers, feeling flu-ish, incredible fatigue, etc – to the infected tissue in my belly. My general surgeon isn’t so sure, but basically they’ve reached a stalemate, as there’s little the general surgeon can do about it.

I had planned to write this Tuesday night when I got home from Johns Hopkins, but I’ve been suffering from major fatigue and pain, and so I ended up making a social media announcement about the date because so many people had been asking. I spent most of today laying in bed in and out of sleep – it’s hard to get long stretches of sleep due to pain.

I’m going to do what I can to try to go to CT this Saturday. All the plans are in place and Rave is doing all my packing in hopes of saving me a few spoons, but honestly I’m having a bit of a brain vs body war over it. I really want to go for a number of reasons – the foremost being that Saturday is my fifth wedding anniversary and the last thing I need is to be home moping about my failed marriage and how frustrated I am with my STBX – but I know it’s not the best choice medically.

I’ve written about these sorts of choices before. If I just go by the numbers, I should stay home every single day between now and the surgery, but that would destroy me mentally. I now live pretty far away from most of my friends, so it’s not like people are just dropping by for a visit. If I want any sort of social stimulation, I’m going to have to go out and get it. I’ve cancelled all of my teaching gigs so I don’t have to worry about obligations or having to be “on”. Most of the social things I’m looking at now are casual enough that if I have to cancel, or modify how I handle them, I can make that call on the day of. Saturday’s a little complicated because it involves other people – the people I’m riding up with, the people I’m sharing a hotel room with, and the people I’ve told I’m going to be there – and although I know all of them would understand if I had to cancel, I don’t want to.

I need my mental health to get through this as much as I need my physical health. If I stay in bed and get lost in streaming videos and social media, even my antidepressants won’t save me from the terrible depression I’ll feel. It’s hard enough hearing about all the fun things my STBX has the money to go and do while I’m worried about each little expense; the loneliness and isolation would drive me over the edge.

Like all good things, I need to find a compromise.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds. As I prepare to grieve the loss of my Beloved Dead this year – two friends and my grandfather – and begin to solidify the end of my marriage, normally my response would be to fill my world with positive and distracting social engagements that remind me that I am still a fun, vital, interesting person worth knowing. However, the more time I spend out of bed and running around, the higher the chances of the abscess needing more intervention, which means time in the hosptial, which obviously means no social engagements.

I also have to struggle with another one of my mental illness issues – the more time I spend at home, the more frightening and overstimulating the outside world becomes. There have been times when I’ve been home for a few weeks, and merely going to a IHOP for a meal feels overwhelming. However, when I see people and go out on a regular basis, the less I’m afraid of random strangers. It’s not logical, but it’s how my brain works. This time around, it’s all aggravated by the paranoia I’m feeling about the social circle(s) I share with my STBX; I feel like I don’t know who I can trust, who I can be honest with, who I can share how I’m really feeling and the dirty details that I’m not making public. I’ve already learned that someone I thought I could turn to has decided to become closer to him, but I only found out when someone I trust told me about this. I feel like I’m surrounded by people I have to be careful around, and only have a handful of confidants that I can relax and say whatever’s on my mind.

I should be happy. I have been incredibly frustrated that I didn’t have a surgery date, so I couldn’t really plan what the next few months were going to look like. Now I have it, but so much is going on, I can’t even take a few moments to feel settled. Instead, I’m just depressed, tired, worried, and slightly agoraphobic. And yet I miss people, specific people but also just being in a crowd of people I can talk to.

Keep your fingers crossed that I’m able to get away this weekend. It will do a lot for my depression, and I am making several contingency plans to take care of myself as best I can. And if you’re interested in coming for a visit, we have lots of room.



  1. Larch said,

    Wishing you a safe trip and a rewarding weekend.

  2. Elizabeth said,

    Love to you, and I hope the trip was as trouble-free as possible.

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