Monday, June 30, 2014

Incision Problems

The weekend went ok with the packing, except that is is still leaking a LOT. It is soaking through the packing and my clothes 2 - 3 times a day. I called the doc today because I am still having significant pain, and I am worried about how much it is still draining so much.

The nurse called back, and she said he is in surgery until the afternoon and that she would talk to him and call back. Her name is Jennifer, and I am starting to feel like we are old friends since I have talked to her almost every day recently. She called back later and said that he wants to call in an antibiotic. I checked with CVS later and saw that it was Flagyl and Cipro that he called in. I have an intolerance to Flagyl (they tell me it doesn't count as an allergy but it makes me sick). I called my BFF Jennifer back again, and she talked to him about it. He then called in Augmentin instead.

Because I am out of state, they called it to my Floridalocal pharmacy, and then I called the pharmacy here in SC. They transferred it to the local one here in SC so that we could pick it up. I am not sure what happened, but somehow it was transferred to the other CVS on the island, so my mom had to go to two places. :(

Morgan packed my wound with 5 sheets of dressing and mounds of tape, and it held up MUCH better. Of course, it seems like I have a diaper on my belly, but it is better than it leaking.

Tonight, my wound was bleeding some. I hope that is not a bad sign. Hopefully, it will not be bleeding tomorrow. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Open Incision and Packing

This morning, we arrived at the doctor's office right at 8:15. Dr. Tran came to see me at 8:35. He sliced open my incision and drained a ton of nasty fluid. He wanted Morgan and I to look at it but it was gross. He said it was like a geyser. Lovely.

He showed Morgan how to pack my wound and said it needs to be packed twice a day. He gave us a bottle of the wound packing stuff, some long Qtip with a stick on one end, and some gauze. Here is some basic instruction.

Basically, she uses the stick to shove the packing in and to lay it over itself until the wound is full. Then, she lays a bunch of gauze dressing pads on it with the first one fitting inside the wound. Then, she tapes it all up. My dad and Katie have been her main assistants with Mike taking her place with the packing one night. It is a team effort and it is my least favorite time of the day. GROSS and it hurts. He said it would probably take two weeks. Fun, Fun, Fun.

We did make the trip to Hilton Head ok. Morgan and Katie took turns driving. I took two pain pills and a Valium and it made the trip tolerable. I was fairly loopy though and the girls laughed at me at times.

My parents just built an amazing new house in Hilton Head, and it has an elevator which makes it easier for me to move around. It also has an amazing deck with a beautiful view, so I can sit there and at least be in beautiful surroundings while recovering. I am also enjoying getting to spend some time with my family even though I can't do the beach or swimming. :( 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

YUCK, Leaking from my incision

Today, I woke up and my pajamas were soaking wet. I got very nervous. After trying to figure out what was happening, it continued to leak nasty yellow-red stuff. I called the doctor, and the nurse said he was in surgery and couldn't see me until tomorrow morning. It was a disgusting day of leaking through anything I could put there. Gauze dressing pads would be saturated in a couple of hours. I finally resorted to wads of toilet paper on top of the gauze dressing. The toilet paper would at least absorb more and keep it from leaking so quickly.

My incision is also burning, and I feel like I have a fever even though the thermometer insists that I don't. :)

Morgan had to take a test at school, so I rode with her driving and was going to sit in the parking lot waiting for her. Travis was nice and came to pick me up for some lunch and to drop off an application packet that needed to be mailed.  He has a range rover car, and I couldn't get in it. The security guard at the school asked if I needed help. I was so embarrassed, but I did finally get in. Then, Travis figured out that he could pull the car by a curb and that worked much better.  :)

I had to change the dressing twice during the night and I was aggravated that the surgeon couldn't see me before the next day because we are leaving Friday morning to go to my parents house for me to recover there for 2 weeks. We also had to pick Katie up at UF where she had been to a journalism camp. But, they promised to get me in and out quickly starting at 8:15 Friday morning.

I am ready to get tho leaking to stop. It is really nasty.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Today, the doctor came around 8 and said I was good to go home.

Discharge meds

  1. Percocet 7.5mg/325
  2. Colace stool softener
  3. Zofran
  1. Start on soft diet
  2. Low fiber
  3. Work up to harder to digest things like steak or high fiber food over the next 8 weeks
  1. Walk as tolerated
  2. No lifting anything over 5 - 10 lbs
  3. Rest, Rest, Rest
  4. Return to work in 6-8 weeks
  5. Can shower now
  6. Can go in the pool two weeks after surgery (like to cool off and sit in the pool)
  1. Keep it clean and dry
  2. Call if it gets red to the touch or has pussy discharge
  3. Some slight moisture is ok
It was great to get home. Sophie was happy to see me. I missed her so. :) I had a pretty good first day home and walked in the cup-de-sac a little outside. I did still have to take my 2 pain pills every 4-5 hours though and the pain was pretty intense at times. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday (Post Op Day 7)

The doc came in this morning and said that I could either go home today or tomorrow. I was still on the PCA pump and pushing it quite a bit, and I was still having more trouble walking than I had before. He decided to do a CBC to make sure that everything was ok, and then we would see how I was tolerating the pain medicine. He prescribed Percocet 5/325 - 2 tablets every 4 hours. I took two doses of that but I was still having pain of a 5 or 6 when walking.

We decided to stay one more night to make sure my pain was controlled and that I was going to be able to sleep ok. He increased my dosage to Percocet 7.5/325 and it was better walking around that night. I also had a little more dinner with some soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. I slept pretty well on the pain medicine which was another worry I had. I was very glad to have stayed the night. I felt so much more comfortable going home after the dosage change and the good night of sleep.

Mike came and did a run of stuff back to the house so that we didn't have so much left. Ready to go home tomorrow!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday (Post Op Day 6)

The doc came in around 9, and he said all looked good. I got moved from "full" liquids instead of just "clear"ones. He said that I can even move to soft food in the evening if that is going ok.

As I moved around this morning, I was excited because my gas factory was in full gear. It means I am healing ok. However, to my surprise, my first post-surgery BM decided to come! Yes, Poop! And quite a lot of it. It was very liquid.

When I was trying to clean up, I twisted too hard to the left and I really hurt my side. My pain immediately went to a 9/10. I was in tears and thought I had pulled something inside. I called the nurse and she told me that I probably didn't tear anything. I pushed greenie a lot and tried to calm down.  Finally, it got better, but it still was pretty difficult when walking. The day before I was walking 2 and 3 laps at a time, and now I was struggling to do a single lap. It was a little scary and depressing, but my pain was controlled with greenie. I just hated to push it as often as I was.

Mike came with a refresh of home supplies, and we just took it easy today.

The pet therapy people came again. This time it was a big dog. He was sweet.

It was around this time that the nurse brought me a diet pepsi. AHHHHHHHHHHHH

Morgan and I watched the X Men movie. It really isn't my kind of movie, but it was pretty good anyway. :)

I was feeling better around dinner, so I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. It was so good. I felt like I was inching toward the land of the living again.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday (Post Op Day 5)

FINALLY!!!! At 4:05 am, I finally farted. Blare the trumpets and put out the news release. AND BRING ON THE POPSICLE!!!!

I immediately called the nurse. She says she will tell the doc when he comes and he will "probably" start me on clear liquids. I would like to see him try to wait. :) I happily counted my "gas" until he arrived around 9. I was beaming ear to ear and told him. I guess he hears this all the time or something because he wasn't nearly as excited as I was. :)

He started me on clear liquids, said the incision looked good. Keep walking. Stay in pain control. If I get nauseated, back off because the body just might not be quite ready yet.

I called the nurse for a popsicle. "We don't carry popsicles," the nurse says. What???? I have never heard of a hospital without popsicles. Oh well. They had lemon italian ice. That and shasta sprite like drinks. Yum. It was way better than ice chips. I savored every minute of my throat feeling the cold liquid. I went slowly but I repeated it until I didn't feel so freeing thirsty.  Glorious!

Mike and Morgan brought me back a banana popsicle when they came. Awwwww..... it was SO good. Otherwise, I walked and pushed greenie and ate some broth and italian ices.

Banu, Sarathy, and Anish came by today, and Anish brought me a get well picture. :)
Thanks Anish! i talk to Banu so much at work that it is so weird to not have talked. She had me in stitches over her C Section story where she refused to get out of bed to walk. Hysterical. Sarathy educated us on the World Cup as we hadn't been following it as much as we should.

 Pain was pretty controlled. Walking was awesome. I was told that it was 14 laps to make a mile, so i decided I was going to go a mile.  I was at 11 laps around 7:30pm.

Unfortunately, around 8 pm, i started having really bad pain.  Like the worst pain in days. I was in tears. I guess what happened is that I didn't push my friend greenie and I walked so much. The combination wasn't good. So, it took a while I resting and pushing greenie before I finally relaxed. I then stayed on greenie for a while to be sure. I decided the mile was less important than feeling well, so I am happy with my 11/14th of a mile.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday (Post Op Day 4)

Well, I made it to Friday. Still on gas watch. Doc says he still doesn't hear any bowel sounds. He said that I might have an ileum (a non-mechanical bowel obstruction) but that some people just take longer than others. He said he doesn't want to rush into investigating and wants to give it a little more time.  He says that my incision looks good and to keep walking and using my spirometer.

Mike came and took Morgan to horse, and I knew they needed some time away. So, they went back to the house and Morgan took a shower at home, played with Sophie, lounged around, etc. I took the opportunity to get some walking in alone. The staff at St. Joseph's was so fantastic. I had one nice lady whose name I cannot remember who would cheer for me when I went by the nursing desk. She was awesome. I will say that I definitely did at least a few extra laps over the days just to have her cheer and smile. Very encouraging. It wasn't just her though. Everyone was awesome. The guy Mark who cleaned the rooms was AMAZINGLY friendly and polite. He would always say hi if he saw me walking and ask how many laps I was up to for that day. He was very into the World Cup, so we talked about that some. Other techs and nurses would stop me and make conversation. I really felt like I was in an environment that was there to help me, and I think that is a big piece of healing. Once I got out of the ICU, I didn't have a single nurse or tech who I didn't think was awesome.

This was a video Morgan took of me during the day.

After work, Vera, Sarah, and Melissa came by the this amazing picture! We use Zoom at work for video conferencing, and it puts everyone in a square on the screen. They all got on a video conference and took a screen shot to print out for me. So, now, i have my work friends right there smiling at me. There are some noticeable people who didn't make the picture, and of course, there is my step-son Chris who didn't get his video camera to work in time so it says You Cam instead of his picture. :) This picture is awesome and I really, really love it. The hospital staff are amazed by it too. The did a lap with me pushing my IV pump around the floor to get the whole experience. :) It was so nice to see them.

Then, Travis came behind them and did another lap with me. He brought some "I found an error in my medical record" buttons. I didn't bring them out though because I hadn't found an error at St. Joseph's (yet anyway!), and I didn't want to make the natives hostile :)

Friends visiting makes the time go so much faster and the laps so much shorter. :)

Signing off. Very, very, very, very sick of ice chips. SO THIRSTY. Want flavor. Especially a popsicle. A banana one. Or a grape one.  One day.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thursday (Post Op 3)

Mike came and took Morgan to horse this morning and Carmen came by to see me. It was nice to see her. I decided to step up my game walking and I worked up to TWO laps by the end of the day. I think I did 8 laps. It was nice.

It is about this point that you are either really lucky like I am to have fantastic support or you are really wishing that you had a different set of family and friends. :) Thankfully, I had two partners in helping me.

Mike has been the perfect support system for Morgan and I. He has come back and forth with whatever we needed whether that was jolly ranchers and Starbucks for Morgan each day or soft toilet paper and home supplies for me. He didn't complain about coming back and forth, and whenever I needed a leg moved, a pillow adjusted, a pole pushed, or a hand to get up, he was cheerfully there. It is really hard for me to ask for help, and he acted like he wanted to do it which made it so much easier for me to ask. I know it is tiring to work all day, drive kids around, remember to bring things back and forth, and then come and cheerfully help in not so fun ways.  Thank you Mike!!!

On my other hand, Morgan has been there staying with me each and every night. It is so nice to not have to worry about waking up alone in the hospital or to be looney in those late night or early morning hours. We all know that Morgan values her sleep, but it meant SO much to me that she was eager to help even in the middle of the night or (gasp) the early morning. She would even ask me if she heard me shuffling around or grumbling in the middle of the night if I needed help. But, I think most of all, Morgan provided laughter. She has a way of being silly and fun and entertaining that just lightens the mood. I really appreciated her "Momit" calls to which I would answer "Yes, Momit."

I can't emphasize how important it is to help friends and family if they have something happens and have to go to the hospital. GO VISIT THEM. Even if it is for 20 minutes. It really means a lot. If you can't visit, make silly videos and send them. Or text them something funny every day or send them something cheery for their room. It is really hard being in the hospital, and it is really a time where true friends completely make the entire experience. I feel very blessed.

On the gas front, there isn't any. My bowels don't have movement. The doc said that some people just take longer than others.

I am starting to get tired of ice chips. Some water would be good. Just water even. But even when the ice chips melt, I am being good and getting fresh chips. I have been tempted to just slam down the water, but I haven't.

I have my method of getting in and out of the bed down pat now. I put the back of the bed up all the way and then I flatten the legs part out by lowering it all the way. Then, I swing my legs around and push up with my arm at the same time. I can get back in bed alone now too but I really like it when Morgan or Mike straighten out the pad, move the pillows, pull the sheet out of the way, grab my second leg as I get in (kind of reverse I sit with my left leg on the bed and start to lean back while they put my right leg onto the bed for me and I lean back. Then, I use the arm rails to brace myself to scoot my butt back so that I am higher in the bed. I put the knees up and Morgan or Mike add a pillow under my knee).

I am still using quite a bit of greenie (my nickname for the green PCA button), but I am much more awake and I am really tolerating the pain pretty well by now with the PCA assisting me.

I had a nice treat today in that the pet therapy people came in. When Morgan is in the hospital, she always loves the pet therapy, so I was excited. I didn't get to have them sit with me on the bed like they do with Morgan, but I think that was probably so that they didn't accidentally hurt by belly. Bella was a Spaniel and she was very cute. Her mom brought her into the room in a stroller. Too funny.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wednesday (Post Op 2)

Today was pretty good. I finally could stay awake long enough to have a conversation. I was still sleepy and slept a lot of the day, but I felt like I was coming back. No bowel sounds yet so only ice chips are allowed. I think I forgot to mention that I started getting ice chips yesterday afternoon. They are heaven after nothing. I was sooooo thirsty. I am still soooo thirsty. I am getting an IV with fluids, but I am always thirsty. I am so thankful to have a toothbrush that I can brush my teeth and spit it out and water to just swish around and ice chips. I also used lip balm a lot to moisten my lips.

Today, Lisa and Mark came to see me. It was so nice to catch up with them. Morgan had horse, so Mike took her and they escaped hospital land for a while. Lisa and Mark did a lap with me around the floor. By the end of the day, I got up to doing a whole lap (the hall had short cuts where you could do about half the loop, 2/3, 3/4 or all of it).

Lisa brought me this beautiful bracelet that says Partner's in Crime on the charm. It is so awesome, and I can't wait to ditch the hospital bracelet for this one :) Thank you Lisa!

I am not having any problems peeing, butt he elusive gas will not come. I have heard a LOT of fart jokes by now. Never thought I would spend so much time trying to fart. :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Surgery Day (and Tuesday - Post Op Day One)

I had to be at the hospital by 7:15 for an 8:45 surgery, so I got up at 6 to take a quick shower. I took one last night with my antibacterial soap and everything, but I decided that I might want another one since it will be a while before a good shower takes place.

Sophie and Tally were like, "What? Why are you guys doing such weird things? Are we having surgery?"

We assured them that they can sleep, and we left Morgan and Chris sleeping to head off to the hospital. Mike had a previously scheduled business trip for today, so he will be leaving after I get out of surgery (yes, he offered to stay and yes I told him to go and that Morgan will take good care of me for two days in the hospital) So, we drove different cars to get there so that I could leave all my stuff in the car because the hospital said not to bring everything in until after surgery when you are in your final room.

The hospital is pretty on the outside. Let's hope it is good on the inside.

The hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital North, gave a great first impression. They had a desk where you check in. They asked me to go into admitting while Mike got a badge printed. In admitting, I was shown to a kiosk that had be checked in and ready to go in 2 minutes.
This also printed my allergy bracelet and my patient bracelet. Once I had that on, a nice gentleman escorted us upstairs to the second floor. He showed us how the elevators required a badge swipe before they will move. So far, I was loving the tech.

I was taken back to the pre-op area and they left Mike there and told him he could come back in a while. They made me LEAVE MY PHONE WITH HIM. I was not quite prepared for that early of a departure, and my heart skipped a beat. Amazing how attached we can become to little pieces of electronics. At that moment, I was receiving best wishes and prayer notifications from my dear friends, and it was comforting. However, I somehow managed to pry it out of my little hands and give it to Mike. :)

She asked me some questions and verified the procedure (colon resection and hernia repair with mesh). They had me scrub my whole body with these wipe things. She said it was because i would be getting mesh. I got in a gown and a warm blanket, and then they started my IV. I was apparently ready to bleed and made quite a mess. She put the IV in the weirdest spot to me - under my wrist. It was very difficult to put my hand anywhere that was comfortable, but it seemed to flow ok. 

The anesthesiologist came and asked about my past anesthesia experiences. I told him that I haven't ever had any trouble except that I do tend to wake up a little mean sometimes. He said that he has something extra he can give me at the end to help with that. 

Carmen and Jen were there with me and Mike until I went back. It was so nice to have them telling jokes and making me laugh. Then, I went back and was wheeled into a room. They said they were putting me to sleep and I was out.

The next thing I remember was that I was drowning. And Mike was there for some reason. Why was Mike there? He was supposed to be gone on a trip. And why was I drawing again? and OMG my belly hurt. My eyes had sand flying in them. 

The nurses started to tell me that my oxygen dipped into the 70's and that they were having a hard time getting enough CO2 out of my system,. So they had this CPAP like machine on me. It was completely miserable and DRY. I was already dry and coughing from anesthesia, but this thing made it worse. And I wanted to take it off to cough but they wouldn't let me. And I couldn't stay awake. And the nurses were kind of a little bitchy that I wasn't staying awake and kept making some snide comments like I didn't know. Like, shocker, there she goes again. Asleep. And they would say things to my family that didn't sound very nice. Now I might just have been sensitive at the moment, but all in all it was terrifying and extremely frustrating.

I was in ICU for all of Monday night and until Tuesday afternoon. I slept in tiny slices, and they kept asking me questions that they couldn't hear through the dumb mask. I kept asking to take it off to get a sip of water or to wash my mouth out or to have some ice chips or anything. I did get to swish my mouth out a coupe of times, but I was told, "Don't think that you are going to do this every hour or something." Since I am writing this later, I can tell you that I LOVED my nurses at St. Joseph's Hospital - except the only one I really remember in ICU. Morgan and I dubbed her the evil nurse. I was so happy to get away from her and to get to a new room.
Even on Tuesday, I was pretty out of it. I fell asleep in the  middle of conversations and I was in a lot of pain. I pushed the morphine button a lot. We named it greenie since a little light came on that was green to tell you when you could get the morphine. Greenie quickly became my friend. 
Travis came to visit on Tuesday, and he brought me flowers and a Product Manager Stay Calm shirt.

 I loved them. It was great to see a friendly face.  I wasn't allowed to walk at all until Tuesday when I was allowed to do a short walk in the hallway. It was certainly no marathon, but I felt victorious.

I did get my foley catheter out this afternoon. It was great, but the rule is that you have 6 ish hours to pee or they have to put it back. I was panicking around hour 5, but then the magical moment came. more foley for me.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Prep Day - Surgery Tomorrow!

Since April 22nd, I have been feeling pretty rough and finally scheduled surgery a little over a week ago. I can't believe that tomorrow is actually the day. I am scared, but I am also so ready to get this taken care of so that I am not in pain. I have also been so very worried that my bowel was going to perforate before I made it to surgery, and the surgeon telling me that he had 3 recent cases that perforated before they made it didn't help my nerves. :)

So, last night at midnight, I switched over to "clear" liquids only. Apparently coffee and diet coke count as clear liquids which I don't understand, but I did have a diet coke late last night but none today.

Before colon surgery, you have to do a bowel prep similar to when you have a colonoscopy. For my colonoscopy in December, I had to take Ducolax tablets and drink miralax in 64 ounces of gatorade. It was disgusting and it made me so very nauseated. My surgeon gave me a fairly new bowel prep called Prepopik. It is SO much better than the traditional kind. It is two pouches of powder that you mix with 5 ounces of cold water each time. Then, you just drink whatever "clear" liquids you want and that is it! While I am pretty sure that no bowel prep is ever a fun event, this has been very tolerable.

I spent $145 at Publix today getting supplies - clear liquids, Jello, popsicles, italian ice and things for when I get home like pudding and ice cream. I got Morgan some snacks for the hospital and some other things like face wipes and such to hopefully not feel so disgusting while i am there.

Here are pictures of the kit and instructions.

Here is me mixing the first batch at 12:00.

Here is my drinking the first batch (Proof that it isn't that horrible)

 I will admit that right after this was taken, I did get a bit of an aftertaste that made me gag a little. But I think I just wasn't expecting it. It was kind of like when you take a big swig of a liquor and all the sudden it kind of has a backlash at the end. It was still easy and tasted pretty much like lemonade.

I then had to drink 40 ounces of "Clear" liquids over the next 5 hours. Because I am an overachiever, I had that completed within an hour. :) I had water and diet cream soda in a can. I love cream soda so I figured that would be my treat of the day.

By 12:52, I was already spending a lot of time in the bathroom. It was pretty constant until around 4 when I got a little break.

I did my 6 pm dose and for some reason I could feel the liquid turning warm while i was stirring it. I added two ice cubes to it as I had read that it is nasty if it isn't cold. It actually was much easier with the ice cubes and didn't even have the weird after taste.  Drinking 5 ounces of a lemonade tasting drink is nothing. Easy Peasy.

I did start having some popsicles and white grape juice around 5. I was feeling a little puny I guess because i hadn't had any calories. It really helped, so i have tried to have something with calories pretty often since then.

I am supposed to do a shower with antibacterial soap tonight or tomorrow. I was thinking I would do it in the morning so I would be ultra clean before going in. I know after being in the hospital bed for a few days makes you feel disgusting, so hopefully starting with a good shower will help :)

I am not sure that my prep has done all the work it needs to do yet, but I hope that it will before the morning. I am leaving the house at 6:45 because I am supposed to be there at 7:15. My surgery is scheduled for 8:45.

See you tomorrow! I hope I am going to be able to sleep. 1

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Today's Mission - Update Advance Directives

It may not be the most exciting goal for a Saturday, but my goal for today was to wrap up some loose ends for work, help celebrate Father's Day early for Mike since I won't be able to tomorrow, watch Morgan ride Riley, and to update my Advance Directives before surgery.

This morning, I got up early and took Morgan to ride Riley. I love watching her ride him. She looks so free and seems to have so much fun.

After that I rested for a long time and worked on wrapping up some things for work before my surgery. It is stressful leaving things open and worrying about what will happen. I feel better now that I got a lot of those things finished. I did have to take pain medicine as I was really not feeling well. I had the same issue yesterday which makes me really glad that I am scheduled for Monday. I have this fear of it perforating before I can get to surgery especially since the doctor said the last three he scheduled had perforated before he got them on the table.

Mike opened his father's day presents and we talked about my Advance Directives. We haven't had that conversation in a long time. I wrote out a new form and made sure to put all the details down. I do not want to live like a vegetable or be unable to enjoy my family. In those cases, I do not want heroic measures. I have to find two witnesses who are not my medical surrogate or a blood relative, so i guess I can do it at the hospital when I get there or get a neighbor to do it tomorrow. I really think that we should be more open and talk about these things when we have the choice. Why is it so taboo to express our wishes? I guess I am really crossing the line talking about colons AND advanc directives. I mainly want to be sure that my family knows my wishes so that they aren't burdened with making decisions that might cause guilt. Hopefully, they won't need it for a long time, but I feel better knowing it is there.

We then went to a dinner for Father's Day since i can't eat tomorrow. Mike even got a free bottle of steak sauce. :)  It was a nice relaxing day. I am glad I got to spend it with Mike and Morgan.

Tomorrow is PREP DAY. I am using a new type of prep so hopefully it won't be too bad. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My Search for A Surgeon

Since I have had 5 attacks of Diverticulitis with 2 in the past month and 4 in the past year and a half, the doctors said I need to have part of my colon removed. I do not want it to perforate and have to get an emergency surgery that results in a colostomy bag.

I have always had a pretty practical opinion of looking for doctors and always felt like it was good to research but then if you didn't like them, you could just find a new one. Well, with surgeons, it is a bit different. You only get to pick them once and then it is out of your hands.

Since I talk to people about being an engaged patient, I decided this was a good exercise to practice my skills. I asked my doctor for recommendations, and I also asked physician friends and other friends who they recommended. I quickly decided that there was another problem. In Tampa, it appears that most of the surgeons only go to one hospital. So, I might like the doctor but not the hospital or the other way around. For example, our dear friend and colleague Debbie died in the hospital 2 years ago. Her bed was rusted in the hospital, and I did not feel that they gave her the best care they could have. I really did not want that hospital even though I was assured by the first surgeon that they had done millions of dollars of renovations that made it much better.

So, I searched for the recommended doctors and I also searched for surgeons as well as colorectal surgeons. Healthgrades seemed to have the best information on the doctors and the hospitals, but the information didn't really speak to me.

For example, here is one of the doctors I spoke to.
First, his experience was good in that he was board certified and the procedure I am having is listed.

Then, it lists review from patients. As you can see the ratings are pretty good, but there are only 20 of them. More disappointing for me is there were no "amazon" style reviews where patients just told their story in their words. 

Then, I could look at the hospital for colon surgery. Not the greatest mortality. :(

So I repeated this process for each doctor and I saw 4 surgeons in total. I had all of my records thanks to CareSync, and I could share with them my Health Timeline that had a brief summary of all 5 of my diverticulitis attacks as well. I also had the CT images and a second opinion comparison read of 3 of the recent scans. I felt so confident that they had the story and it was so nice to watch them process it and comment on how nice the summary was.

The first one said he would do it robotically but he couldn't fit me in until July 15th (remember there is a risk of perforation due to my recent events so this was a LONG time to hear in May).

The second one said that he does them open where they slice you long ways down your belly and he said that he didn't think he would be the best person to do the surgery.  

The third one said that he would do it hand assisted laparoscopically because of the time under anesthesia and that he can feel the colon better. He was very patient and answered all of my questions. He told me how many he had done and what his error rate is for leaks (only 1 in the last 200) without me even having to ask. I like that this was important to him.

The fourth one said he would do it all robotically. He seemed insulted that i spoke to four doctors and said that it really didn't need a second opinion and that I needed the surgery. I didn't want to tell him that I wasn't getting an opinion on whether to have it but who to have do it.  He is probably a fantastic doctor and was actually the one I had planned to go with before meeting them, but then I just didn't really like his answers about error rates and such.

So, my surgery is scheduled for June 16th. I have to do the prep on the 15th, and my pre-op testing on the 14th. I was excited to know that there is a new kind of prep where you drink a packet in 5oz of fluid twice during the day and otherwise you just drink clear liquids. Sounds SOOO much better than the Dulcolax and Miralax I had before colonoscopy.

As I have been reading blogs and message boards, I haven't found a site that really summarizes the whole process from the beginning. I decided that even though it is nasty colon stuff, I should be that person. I have really wanted to read someone's experience from the beginning to the end. I hope that this helps at least someone :)