Over the course of the months that I’ve been writing on this blog, I’ve established myself as an upbeat, happy go lucky person who has been able to accept the hand I was dealt and move through life without anger for my trials. I believe I am those things. I don’t fake it, I’m always honest and real with my readers, so I’m not going to stop now. That’s a promise I made from the very beginning and I’m not going to back down when it gets tough.
I got hit – HARD. And suddenly everything I’ve ever written is being put to the test. I was driving home from work on Friday evening, with Hubbalicious. It was a nice treat because typically, we have to drive separate. “How about some take-out and a nice family night together?” So we called in an order for some Chinese. Sesame Chicken – it was calling my name and sounded delicious. It was Friday night, so of course we waited for a bit for the food to be ready… and as I stood there, I thought, “Hmm… my stomach is kinda bothering me. I wonder what I ate earlier that is disagreeing with me? The carrots, I bet it was the raw carrots.”
See, I’ve been trying to eat healthier and get into better work out habits recently, so I thought it must be the carrots. Anyone with Crohn’s Disease probably knows by now that raw fruits and veggies can be hard to digest. But I’m in remission, and typically I can eat whatever I want. And I do eat – whatever I want, without much consequence. On rare occasions though, my belly will argue and I’ll have some discomfort for a while until it passes. I figured that’s what this was, dismissed it, and picked up our take-out. But as our evening progressed, so did the pain in my tummy. I ignored it for awhile, not wanting to be a whiner and ruin the night… but at some point, Hubbalicious could see the pain I was hiding and I told him what was going on. He agreed – it was definitely the carrots. In fact, he might have mentioned something about whether I should be eating them while I was dipping them in ranch and gnawing on them at my desk.
We put our little man to bed and called it a night. As we lay there, my stomach pain was getting worse and I was almost in tears. It’s important to point out that I have experienced pain like this before. One time I ate tomato soup for dinner – I think because I wanted to torture myself – and I was in pain like this for about 2 hours before it finally passed and then it dissipated as quickly as it had come. This felt different. The pain was familiar, but nothing was moving through my bag. It had been hours and I hadn’t passed anything. That’s not normal. When you have an Ileostomy, you’re nothing if not regular. So Hubbalicious gave me a pain killer, which dulled the pain enough for me to lay there and not cry… but not enough for me to sleep. And when it wore off and I was still in extreme pain, I looked at the clock and saw it was 3 am. I told him, “Something’s wrong. We’re going on 6 or 7 hours now with constant waves of pain, and nothing passing.” He agreed: it was time to go in. To the hospital. That dreaded place that he figured he’d have to drag me kicking and screaming. He mentioned later that he was surprised he didn’t have to force me to go. Clearly, I had no idea what I was actually in for, or I might have fought a little harder.
We have family staying with us right now, so it was a huge relief to not have to worry about our little one. My husband and my brother in law gave me a blessing and we were on our way. It wasn’t a big mystery when I got there, what was wrong with me. We pretty much knew – obviously I was having some kind of bowel obstruction. What we didn’t know, was how do we fix it and what caused it?? And let’s be honest… all I cared about was the pain medication. Where is the morphine?! Once they took care of the immense pain I was feeling, I was much more open to conversations about what to do next. I was flying high and chattering about how I was supposed to be on a party boat on the lake the next day. Instead I’m stuck here with you people. Eventually, they got the urine they needed from me and a CT scan that showed my ileum had twisted, causing an obstruction. Next step? NG tube. REALLY?? Is there not anyway to fix this without one of those awful tubes going through my nose and all the way down into my stomach? They assured me that this was the course of treatment, and 3 doctors and as many attempts later, they finally got it in. It was not pleasant. If you’ve had one, you know… they are awful. They basically sit in the back of your throat and suck out all the crap that you can’t move through your bowels because it’s blocked.
As time passed and they kept telling me that I’d probably be here another day or two, I just kept feeling so surprised. Never in a million years did I think I was going to the hospital for a 5 day stay. I couldn’t have been more shocked and with every hour that passed, my frustration grew. What am I still doing here??
Visitors came and went, and Hubbalicious came to see me several times a day. He brought D.O. and we hung out for a while. I colored in my Disney Princess coloring book and even posted a pic or two on social media. I was impressed with myself, I was totally fine being alone. There were no tears, or anxiety. I didn’t have panic attacks when I was left alone. These were all things that I had struggled with during my last hospital stay. I felt great – yes this was a set back. Yes, I’m back in the hospital. But I’m handling it, I’m dealing with it – I’m doing the work and then I’ll go home and be fine again.
I didn’t see the storm brewing…
By the 3rd day, I was starving and dying for some food. They finally removed the tube and let me have some clear liquids. I was wolfing down vegetable broth like it was going out of style and pretty much begging them to let me have soft foods. They took this as a good sign and on the 4th day, bumped me up to softs. Everything was going well.. Aside from being completely bored out of my mind and ready to be back in my own bed, my prognosis looked good. They had me on Steroids in case there was any Crohn’s inflammation that they weren’t seeing, and were managing the pain with IV meds.
Generally speaking, it was a pretty smooth trip to the hospital. They said I didn’t have any active Crohn’s, which was a huge relief, and that just having the surgeries in the past made me more susceptible to obstructions. I’ll take that. I’d rather the occasional issue like that, than another Crohn’s flare. On the 5th day, they finally discharged me. I packed up my stuff and headed out the door. I was feeling good… I was so ready to be out of that joint.
Then I got home. And that storm I never saw brewing… It hit me full force. FULL FORCE. I could barely walk to the refrigerator to get food. I didn’t have enough energy to carry my child up the stairs. Even my voice sounded tired and strained. I suddenly realized that I am not going to just bounce back from this. I guess I thought it would be like when you’re down with the flu for a few days…. and then your body is tired and you take a day to recover and get stronger, and then you’re fine. No. That’s not what’s happening here. There’s something sinister threatening to invade my thoughts. All that anxiety and emotional trauma from my first hospital stay came screaming back in all at once. I found myself feeling disconnected from the world. My friends would call and text and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I would just avoid it… What am I supposed to say? They want to know how I am? I can tell them “I’m fine” and “Just a little tired” but that’s not the truth… Or I can be honest and a complete buzz kill. I don’t want that either. But I don’t live in the world they live in. They get up and face each day with the same health and strength as each and every day before that. Where as, I’m facing the harsh reality that just one little step backwards, has made all the work of the past 6 years come crashing down and I’m starting from square one. At least that’s what the emotional stress I’m experiencing wants me to believe.
I’ve only been home from the hospital for 2 days. Already I’m a little stronger today than I was yesterday. I’m not afraid to shed some tears, so I made a few tearful phone calls to people who understand what I’ve been through. My mom told me, “Don’t think about where you were 6 years ago. Think about where you are right now. Set a goal each day, even a small one. You WILL get stronger. Don’t get lost in your fears and anxiety because of what happened to you 6 years ago. That’s not what happened. You had one short little hospital stay, and it’s over now. Let’s get back on track.”
My Hubby tells me, “I know this is hard, and you feel like you are starting from square one. You’re not. You might feel like you are in the same shape as you were when you got out 6 years ago, but you’re not. You’re so much stronger now. You can’t see it, but I see it. You are not as bad off as you think you are. Just focus on getting stronger. Eat, walk, enjoy Dominic. That’s all you have to do for right now. The rest will come faster than you realize.”
They are right, I know they’re right. And I can feel my mind and body working to make sense of what happened. It’s a scary thought to feel like you’re never safe in your own skin. That at any moment, I could end up back in the hospital and have to start over again. Okay, so my body isn’t as healthy as I would like it to be. I’ll probably always be just a step away from a hospital stay. But that’s okay, that’s my reality. And it’s a reality I’ve dealt with for 12 years now, I just didn’t realize it. So there’s no sense in letting it get me down now. The truth of the matter is, I am still in remission. I am stronger than I was 6 years ago. And this time, I’m better equipped to fight off the fears and anxiety that threaten to linger. Next time, I’ll be even stronger. I’ll GET even stronger. I will part from this trial with a stronger determination to take care of my body and build strength, so that if this happens again, I WILL be even stronger.
I’m so grateful for loving friends and family in my life who stick by me when I get knocked down and when things get hard. Everybody deals with something. This is my something, and I know I can handle it. I’ve handled it before, and if necessary, I’ll handle it again. But just for good measure – I think I’ll go ahead and hope that there is no next time.