This day in this picture was the day everything was about to change. I couldn't even begin to imagine what was ahead of me. I had already been away from my kids for two weeks in a hospital an hour away. Then, I was home and barely out of bed for four weeks. I didn't leave the hospital for six more weeks from the date of this picture. While I was "grabbing a bag" I was talking to my husband debating if we go back to the original apathetic surgeon an hour away or stick with this very attentive surgeon twenty minutes from home. I remember calling my parents and telling my mom, "I think something is really wrong with me." When I took this picture with the boys, in my deepest thoughts, I took it because I wasn't sure I was going to make it. If there were other pictures taken of me during the next six weeks, they have been deleted. This was not a time we chose to remember. All I have is arrival and discharge day for the record books.
For six weeks, I had 5 more surgeries to repair and remove infection and abscesses they found over my entire abdominal cavity. I had ten IV antibiotics at the same time (on 2 poles which made mobility a trick), a central line, 6 drains across the bottom of my stomach, an ostomy, wound vac and catheter. After a few of the surgeries I was on the cardiac floor wired up for monitoring as well. I had horrifically painful wound care three times a week with every pain med on board and it felt liked I was being operated on in the battlefield with no anesthesia. I had every pain medicine available in every form: pump, IV, needles, and pills. I had pain pumps, failed pain pumps, antibiotics, TPN (IV food). I even remember waking up with so much pain from a surgery in the middle of the night and watching the nurses read the instructions on how to use the pump. Not kidding. The hospital ordered new pumps and had not yet instructed nursing staff on how to use them. It was HOURS before my pain was relieved. I couldn't breathe. I had a surgeon, anesthesiologist team, gastroenterologist, infectious disease doctor, interventional radiologist, urologist and any number of techs that knew me by name in the basement for all the CTs, MRIs, Hide a Scan, X-rays, and more. And I could never ever forget the countless amazing nurses that cared for me in 6 weeks of time on various floors. I could easily say it was six weeks of hell. But strangely, it was the best and worst time of my life.
We witnessed miracles. Full-blown miracles. We prayed so hard for so long as my prognosis started out pretty grim. My quality of life was certainly in jeopardy. When you have nothing to do but depend upon the power of prayer and the multitudes of people that were praying, God shows up. God showed up in ways you could never expect.
The great news is that I was eventually released from the hospital on July 17. The Houston humidity never felt so good. My amazing surgeon (#2) never gave up on me. The day I left he told me to wait until he was done with surgery so he could personally walk me to my car. The nurses whispered, "He doesn't DO that. Are you sure he said that?" And sure enough, in came my surgeon, wheelchair in tow, to take me to my car. His reason, he quoted a doctor who was his mentor, Dr. Red Duke. "When you have those patients that are your most difficult cases. It's therapeutic for you both if you send them off yourself. A good farewell." And this amazing doctor, who gave me the enormous hospital suite on his dime so my kids could come spend the day in the "living room" with me, who never stopped fighting for me and he had tears in his eyes more than once, also walked me to my car on July 17, 2015, two and a half months after the day I had my original surgery to remove my stomach. I left the third hospital of my ordeal at 109 pounds, with an ostomy and a wound vac. I still had a LOT of healing to go. In fact, two more surgeries to go. But home on the couch surrounded by my people and my dog was the absolute best medicine for me.