I noticed something strange about my stoma. For some reason there was a slit in the top of it. I didn’t know if it was supposed to be there, so I called the doctor. They didn’t know what I was talking about, so they set up an appointment for me to come in the next day. Yay, driving down all the way from Columbia!
That night, the fever hit. My husband freaked out, thinking I had another leak and was going to die. He drove me to MUSC’s emergency room, where yet another IV had to be placed. The surgeons on staff assured my husband that I was too far past my surgery for there to be another leak. I probably had something else wrong with me. Joy. A CT scan was ordered, and I began to down the contrast. Seriously, I wanted to ralph it, but I forced it to stay down. Two hours later, my CAT scan completed, I asked the nurse to hand me a vomit bag. He watched in disbelief as I threw up every last bit of the contrast. He had never seen a patient intentionally hold it in long enough for them to perform the CAT scan. Frankly, I didn’t know I had it in me, either. Fighting nausea, they drugged me until they could receive the test results and determine if I was to be admitted or not.
After waiting for hours, they returned. I had a deep pelvic cyst the size of a tennis ball. It was due to the leak into my body cavity, causing an infection. Seriously? Could I not catch a break?
They admitted me and began antibiotics. Due to the location of the cyst, the doctor didn’t want a drain placed yet. If the radiologist hit a major blood vessel on accident, I could bleed out. (Since I had lost close to 20 pounds, the chance he would hit a vessel was higher. This isn’t saying he’s an unskilled radiologist). Given my current condition, that could be life threatening. I knew he didn’t want to freak me out, so I read between the lines. He had also previously told me that I had been on the fence during emergency surgery. Actually I’ll never forget it. “You could have gone one way or the other at a certain point. We’re lucky you’re here, but you aren’t out of the woods yet.”
Honestly, I hadn’t realized I was on the fence of death. I was quite oblivious, focused only on getting better. The ordeal was matter of fact for me. I had surgery, a leak, another surgery, and now a cyst. But seriously, I could have died? And now I’m at risk again?
The doctor was eternally optimistic that antibiotics would work. I spent three days on IV meds, and they discharged me with oral medicine, hoping it would do the trick. Learning our lesson, I stayed in Charleston with my parents, who lived less than 10 minutes from the hospital. My parents had an event to go to, but my father came home early to find me puking in the toilet. He called my mom and drove me back to the hospital, where I was readmitted.
Every morning, when the doctor made his rounds, he explained the risks of placing a drain and why he was choosing to continue antibiotics. Finally, on the 5th morning, he told me the cyst hadn’t decreased in size, and the drain was the only option. By now, I was terrified. Mike drove down, and family visited to comfort me. The next day, I had to wait, and wait, and wait. I could hardly stand it. The whole speech about how this radiologist was one of the best in the country provided little comfort.
Finally, they took me back. I had to be slightly sedated, but awake enough to follow instructions. I held my breath, winced when the drain went in, and sighed in relief when it was over. The nurses complimented me for not crying. Apparently it should have hurt worse than it did. Or I was just used to pain by now. Either way, the drain was placed and I was alive! As the cyst decreased in size, they took me off the antibiotic, which was the source of my endless nausea. Less than 24 hours later, my appetite returned. I mean full on returned! I had never felt so hungry! The meager portions my mother was accustomed to serving me weren’t enough!
I walked lap after lap around the hospital floor. I even visited my hospital buddy Laura, who was in PCU recovering from a surgery of her own. After 8 days, I was discharged.
I spent a good amount of time in Charleston. My mother helped me with my drain, fed me, spent time with me. But I also missed my house. My bed, my kids, my dog…not necessarily in that order. The day the drain was taken out, Michael came for me, and I got to go home! And, you won’t believe it, but I still wasn’t in the clear. Within two weeks, I would be back again…