There’s a Little Sadist in Every Doctor, Except Mine

This was originally posted to my old blog on February 25, 2014

*As usual, the following is written from my memory of the events.  Some things may be inaccurate due to faulty memories.  In any case, this is how I remember it:

February 25, 2014 was round two of operation: Save Tiki’s Eyesight.  The week before, I had surgery on my right eye to clean up the mess made by years of damage from Diabetic Retinopathy.  Today I went in for a check-up and laser surgery.

The original idea was to come in, check-up, and if all was well, go ahead and do laser surgery on both eyes.  However, as soon as the doctor walked in and saw my badly bruised and swollen eyelids and still half bloodshot eye, he decided it would be prudent to wait another week on the right eye.  He did examine it and do an ultrasound on it.  The retina, which had been detached, was now reattached and healing well.  There was some hemorrhaging as a result of the surgery which was now causing some obstruction to the doctor’s view which was what ultimately made him decide to wait on the laser surgery.

He went ahead and did the laser surgery on my left eye which entailed numbing and dilating that eye and then putting an ungodly bright light in my eye and then making me look this way and that while a red/purple light flashed and clicked causing flashes of pain through my eye.  This torture lasted several minutes and then was over.  The pain lasted only a few minutes and then my eye was normal again.

I still have to keep my head facing down at all times for another week, even though the retina in my right eye is reattached.  There is still gas in there holding the retina in place as it continues to heal.  In one week I go back to the doctor to have a check-up and , hopefully, have the last of the laser surgery done.

I have to say that Dr. Hunter at Eye-Q in Fresno/Selma, Ca. is an excellent doctor and has an outstanding bedside manner.  He apologized for “having to go through so much pain in such a short period of time.”  He has compassion that equals his great knowledge and ability as a doctor.

The Straw, Best Invention Ever!

This was originally posted to my old blog on February 20, 2014

*As usual, the following is written from my memory of the events.  Some things may be inaccurate due to faulty memories.  In any case, this is how I remember it:

On February 18th I had the first of , hopefully, only three eye surgeries.  These surgeries are meant to help clean up and prevent more damage from Diabetic Retinopathy.

It all started many years ago, about seventeen years, I think.  I was young and had good health insurance, but I was wild and didn’t care about taking care of my health.  I went in for a routine yearly eye exam and was told that I had the beginnings of retinopathy in my right eye, but it wouldn’t become a problem if I took care of my diabetes.

Fast forward about twelve years, I had been living with no health insurance for  about six years or so and my vision was becoming very blurry, especially in my right eye.  The only place I knew I could go without health insurance was Lenscrafters.  Come to find out, for nearly two hundred dollars you can get the whole nine yards of exam..including a retinal exam.  This was when I found out the retinopathy was now in both eyes and actively causing hemorrhages and retinal damage which was what was making my vision blotchy and blurry.  Well, at this time I definitely couldn’t afford surgery so I just got new glasses and lived on as is, hoping I could get insurance before I went completely blind.

In the years to come I would experience some strange things like the time I was laying on the couch watching T.V. when suddenly I saw a couple of blobs in my vision, it was like watching a lava lamp inside my right eye.  I went to the bathroom, turned on the light and looked in the mirror to see if I could see anything in my eye.  I couldn’t but with the light on, I now could tell it was blood floating around in my eye.  It took several weeks for the blood to go away and all the while I kept wanting to blink it out of my line of sight!

Fast forward about four years or so.  It is January 2014, time to renew my driver license.  Lucky me, I have to do the written exam and eye exam.  I stand at the counter with my glasses on and read the exam chart flawlessly.  I cover my right eye and again read the chart flawlessly.  I now cover my left eye and can not read anything, it is total blur.  The girl takes me over to another eye test and I fail that one with my right eye as well.  I am told to see an ophthalmologist and have a form filled out in order to get my license back.  Yippe…

Since now I do have insurance, in February I go in and see an Ophthalmologist and since it has been roughly five years since my last exam and I know I have retinopathy, they do a complete eye exam.  The doctor finds all kinds of lovely damage in both eyes and tells me to come back in a week and see a retina specialist.  One week later I return and see the specialist.  I must take a moment here to let you all know that Dr. Allan Hunter at Eye-Q Vision Center in Fresno/Selma California is the most kind and gentle and awesome eye doctor I have ever known.  The exam was not the most comfortable experience but his attitude and calming nature made it all the more bearable. He explained that I needed immediate surgery on both eyes and since the right eye was the worst for wear, it would be done first…in four days, followed by the left eye sometime later. The right eye surgery would be the more invasive, the left eye only laser.  Wow.

The following Monday I had to go in to have an Avastin injection in my right eye.  As far as I understood it was supposed to shrink up or dry out some membranes and make it easier to clean up the eye.  The injection, even though they numbed my eye, hurt a bit, and my eye was irritated for nearly 24 hours after, all scratchy and burny, etc.

On Tuesday afternoon I went in for the surgery.  The prep was your usual interrogation about medicines, illnesses, family history, pregnancy test, blood test, eye drops galore, IV.  Then they put me to sleep for only about five minuets while they did the “painful” stuff, numbing and paralyzing my eye and surrounding tissues and muscles.  As soon as I woke up I was in the operating room strapped down to a pillow with my eye clamped open but I couldn’t see or feel anything.  Then the surgery started and it was fascinating.  I couldn’t see outside my eye, but I could see everything going on inside it.  I could see the cutting tool, the scissors, the infusion tool, the vacuum, the blood swirling around in pretty little clouds and then being sucked away, the scar tissue being cut away and pulled by the little clam tool.  A purely amazing thing to watch.  The only bad part was when I did feel pain.  There were a few times when he went in near my sinus/nasal area and it hurt a little.  And there was a moment when the infusion machine stopped working and my eye began to collapse…that hurt.  All in all the surgery was only supposed to last an hour or so, it lasted three hours and they didn’t even finish everything!

He’s going to go back in later and finish my right eye and then do my left…

Because they had to detach my retina, they had to put a gas bubble in my eye.  So as I am healing I have to keep my eyes to the floor at all times in order to keep the gas to the back of my eye to hold the retina in place as it heals.  This is how I discovered that straws are the best invention ever.  I can drink without having to lift my head!  LOL

So here I am two days after surgery,  my eyelids are so very bruised and swollen, I can’t see a thing, and my eye is so bloodshot it looks frightening.  The good thing is that I have very minimal pain.

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You Mean It’s Not Over Yet?

This was originally posted to my old blog on January 19, 2014

It has now been three months since I had triple bypass surgery.  I had this point set so firmly in my mind as the moment all would magically be well again.  In many respects it is, and in some it is not.

I am pretty well healed up although after a long normal day I can have some strong fatigue and a weak feeling in my chest muscles.  This just reminds me that I have not done anything for three months and need to rebuild my stamina and muscle power.

I was told by my surgeon that I would only be on a couple of medications for three months.  But then when I saw my cardiologist, he bumped that time up to six months.  I can not express how  much I hate being on blood-thinners.  Imagine looking over your body everyday and everyday find one or two new bruises that  mysteriously popped up.  Also, imagine getting your period while on blood-thinners.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is like the floodgates of hell opening and staying open for three solid days!  And after doing some research on my own, I find that I may be stuck on the blood-thinners for life!  Thanks for letting me know this little tidbit, doctors.

I have resumed regular activities and am doing very well so far.  I have been back to work for two shifts, both only five hour shifts but with no restrictions.  I was able to do everything my job requires, even bring in the carts from the parking lot and running up and down stairs while carrying bulky and slightly heavy items, which are the two activities that caused me so much pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea before my surgery.  I can now do everything with no trouble or symptoms at all.

The only problem I have had at work was that less than two hours into each five hour shift I felt exhausted.  I was able to push on and do my job well, though.  It will take some time to rebuild my energy and strength again.

Over the last couple of weeks I have had swelling in my ankles which has concerned me a bit.  I was very worried that going back to work and being on my feet for several hours would make the swelling worse.  In fact, working…all the walking, I am assuming…actually resolved the swelling problem and all is well again.

So, to sum it up, things aren’t perfect but they are good and getting better.  It just takes time.

Obligatory New Year Resolution Post

This was originally posted to my old blog on December 26, 2013

Every year my resolution is the same;  I resolve to work out regularly, lose weight, and get healthy all around.  Every year I start out well and in no more than a few weeks all returns to it’s normal gain-lose-gain-lose roller-coaster ride.  Well this year is going to be different, damn it!

I have just a tad bit more incentive to get healthy this year.  After two years solid of chest pain caused from a combination of GERD and coronary artery disease, I had a triple bypass back in October.  So, yeah, I think it is a very good idea to eat healthy and exercise regularly.

So, how do I go about actually sticking to my resolution?  For starters, I wrote down a workout routine and posted it on my bulletin board so I will see it everyday.  Secondly, I thrive on variety, so I have six different workouts planned, one for each day.  The seventh day I shall rest.  I will also be keeping a record of my weight, which I will be checking once a week.

As for food, the household has been decent about only having “healthy” foods in the house…except for on what we call “Fat Sunday”.  So, as long as we can all be good, it will all be good.  I have only had fast food three times since my surgery, and even then I didn’t eat all of it.  My appetite and preferences have changed (for the better) since surgery.  I hope it stays this way.

I think if my friends and family can be supportive as well as holding me responsible for my resolution, it would help.  I would love to hear things like, “How’s the resolution coming?”,  “You’re looking good!”, and “Don’t eat that, you fat pig!”  would be nice.  OK, maybe not the last comment, it would probably make me sob into a tub of ice cream.

…And Two Months Later…

Today, December 18, 2013, marks two months since my surprise heart surgery.  I am doing well, everything is healing on schedule. I don’t think there is anything new to report.  I saw my surgeon for the last time on December 6th.  From now on I will be working with my cardiologist.  I have an appointment with him on January 2nd.

If I were to complain about anything right now, it would be the same two complaints I have had since the beginning, I have extreme exhaustion very easily, – I don’t think I can find words to adequately describe what I mean by “easy exhaustion”.  Imagine yourself casually walking through your house when suddenly, in the blink of an eye, you feel as if every ounce of energy is stripped from you…right down to the bones!  It is as if you could just lay down where you stand and sleep for hours.   And I am still constantly frustrated over being on restricted activity. I want my independence back! Oh, God, I NEED my independence back!

A new complaint would be the aching I feel in my shoulders and collar bones. I was warned I might experience some aching in the shoulders, and I have been feeling it on and off a bit since week one.  However, over the past week I have been feeling the ache more frequently and to a more painful degree.  I attribute this pain to muscle ache due to exertion and healing. Since it is usually worse later in the day and especially at night when I lay down to sleep, I am apt to believe this true.

The only over-the-counter pain medication I am allowed to take right now is acetaminophen, which is worthless to me.  For some strange reason acetaminophen (Tylenol) has never been effective in relieving ANY type of pain I have experienced. It doesn’t touch the pain at all.  Instead, it makes me extremely drowsy.  I suppose since my pain is at it’s worse at night, I can try taking the Tylenol and letting it make me drowsy enough to sleep through the pain.  Sounds legit.  🙂

Don’t misunderstand me here.  To have had major heart surgery and two months later only have three complaints, I think I’m doing pretty good!  Oh, and a bonus, I have been working hard to eat healthy and have lost nearly twelve pounds since surgery.  😀

Sex, Menses, and Nudity

This was originally posted to my old blog on November 25, 2013

What’s been going on since my last recovery post?  Not much, everything is going well.  I’m feeling close to normal.  I will point out a few things about my recovery that I didn’t mention in previous posts, though.  The following can be considered private or touchy material which is why I originally didn’t mention some of them.

1.  Although my libido is healthy and rarin’ to go, my husband is scared of hurting me.  According to the doctor I was fine to have sex, as long as I felt up to it, as of two weeks post op.

2. I have always been a very vivid and active dreamer.  I always remember my dreams, but for almost a month after surgery I rarely remembered a dream.  This may have been because my sleep was so broken, but I’m not sure.

3. My November period was nearly two weeks late.  This is a common occurrence after major surgery.  Your hormones get all messed up and it can take some time for things to get back to normal.

4. For about three weeks after surgery, food tasted off, almost like it was going bad.  Not all food, just some things.  I’m not sure if this was because of some medication, or more likely because of the pinched occipital nerve in the back of my head which can cause some numbness of the right side of the face, which, I assume, can effect the taste buds on the right side of the tongue?

5. One of the main things I missed for over a month was the simple act of picking up my cat and cradling her in my arms like an infant as I walked around the house.  I wasn’t allowed to pick up anything over five pounds for the first two weeks and anything over ten pounds until week twelve.  Although as of today I am only on week five, I started picking her up…she’s not much more than ten pounds.  I only lift her up into my lap, I don’t carry her around, yet.

6.  For about a week and a half after surgery I could see better without my glasses, but then my vision went back to the way it was before.  I have no idea why this happened.

7.  For the first three weeks post op, I had some random mood swings.  Most often when these happened it was a sudden burst into tears for apparently no reason.  Other times it was anger or, more accurately, frustration.  This is normal after major surgery and usually clears itself up within a few weeks.

8. One of my medications has manifested in me an annoying side effect, restless leg syndrome.  Thank goodness it is a mild version and only bothers me for up to two hours after I take my pill.  Another annoying side effect of one of my medications is a runny nose.  It is a very watery running and can happen suddenly at any given moment.  One minute I’m fine and the next it is like my faucet starts to drip!

9. I have found that I am one of those people who have no qualms about displaying my war wounds.  I am by no means proud of them, but I find no shame or embarrassment in them.  These scars are part of who I am, and if anything, they are a story for the whole world to see: “This woman has been through a lot, and now she is stronger for it.”

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10.  It is hard to stay down.  I am supposed to rest a lot. Yes, the doctor says I need to walk and get some very mild exercise (20 minutes a day of walking) but I need to rest a lot. I just can’t sit on my ass all day!  I’ve got shit to do, man!  I may not be an athlete or super active, but I get way too antsy just sitting around “healing” all day.

I see the doctor again on December 6th, we’ll see what he thinks about how my healing is going.  In my opinion, I’m doing great.  I feel good, not near “normal” yet, but better than I was.

I’m Good, I’m Good

This was originally posted to my old blog on November 15, 2013

*As usual, the following is written from my memory of the events.  Some things may be inaccurate due to faulty memories.  In any case, this is how I remember it:

It is time for another update on my heart surgery recovery.  I’m thinking this one will be short because there really isn’t much to report.  All is pretty quiet right now.  This is a good thing, I think.

I have not been in contact with my doctor in a couple of weeks.  He had asked me to call in and report my blood pressures and how the swelling in my feet had been doing.  When I called in, of course, the nurse was the one to speak with me (the doctor is always in surgery).  She took a note that my blood pressures had been creeping up and the swelling in my feet was going down, and said the doctor would call me back later that day.  He never did.

I went in to the office three days later to drop off some paperwork for disability, and while I was there I also took the opportunity to drop off a detailed list of my blood pressures ( which were now slowly dropping again).  I happened to cough while I was there and the nurse was concerned that I still had a cough after nearly a month.  I told her it was a dry cough and quite persistent.  She didn’t say anything but her expression was one of mild concern.  She finally asked if I was still using the breathing toy to exercise my lungs.  I am, and am getting stronger, but the cough persists.

As far as problems or, more accurately, irritations go, I am still having trouble with the pinched occipital nerve on the back of my head.  It sometimes feels like it is getting better, but at other times feels as if it is just as bad as ever.  I feel as if the back of my head is deeply bruised and so very sensitive to any touch.  Also, sometimes the right side of my face goes slightly numb and I get a sharp pain behind my right eye.

When I first returned home from the hospital, I experienced a rash in my armpits and groin area.  I had thought it was because of chafing, but then, despite thorough cleaning and drying, it became more moist and smelly.  I treated it with clotrimazole cream and that seemed to slowly take care of the issue.  Even though my pits and groin are good now, I have developed a rash under my left boob.  I don’t know why I am getting these rashes, I am bathing normally ( no more sponge baths) and am sure to dry thoroughly. My mom tells me these things can be a normal occurrence after major surgery.

I am starting to have more sensation in my chest now.  Since the surgery, my chest, along the incision, and inner halves of my breasts have been completely numb.  This is a good thing since without the numbness I am sure I would have experienced a whole lot of pain.  Every now and then my incision feels powerfully itchy and I have to resist the urge to scratch.  Also, sometimes I get sharp shooting pains in my breasts and along the incision or in my shoulders, but they only last a couple seconds and then are gone.

The incisions on my left inner thigh, where they took one of the veins, have been sore and feel bruised.  This is simply because of the location.  I am a chubby woman and so you can imagine the rubbing and pressure these incisions have to endure whenever I walk or lay down on my side.  They are healing very well despite the abuse, though.

Speaking of weight, According to my bathroom scale, I have lost a total of ten pounds since surgery.  I am thinking this is because of the healthier diet.  I am disappointed that I haven’t lost more, though.  But I have to take into consideration that I am on restricted activity orders.  I walk around the house a lot and do very light activity, but can’t do anything close to even mild exercise.

Sleeping is much better these days.  I can sleep comfortably on either side now and  have even found that I can, for short stints, sleep flat on my stomach!  These are my natural sleeping positions so sleeping is very comfortable and restful now.  The only problem is when I need to change positions it takes me a good minute just to roll over because of the stiffness and soreness in my chest.  I am still healing and far from back to normal, so I still need to be very careful whenever I move.

My energy level has sored in the last week and a half.  I still have to move slowly or else I get short of breath.  I still get tired easily, but I can do much more before I get to the point of needing to sit and rest, or take a nap.  Like I have said, I am far from being back to normal, but I can see and feel improvement everyday.