I recall the time over Labor Day Weekend in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson had his gallbladder removed. I was at my grandparent's home, staunch Democrats, when my grandmother showed me a photo of the President showing the world his gallbladder scar. It was quite shocking to many that he would so publicly discuss his surgery and show his wound. My grandmother was quite appalled. Her sense of decorum was quite upset by his decision to show the world his scar.
I decided I would look to see if I could find that photo on the internet. It is out there, but it is copyrighted, so I'm not including it in this post. It is interesting to find out, these forty-nine years later, that Johnson was politically motivated when he pulled up his shirt and showed his long scar to the reporters waiting for a story. Evidently, some thought Johnson had cancer and that the public was just being given the story that he had gallbladder surgery. He asked what a scar for exploratory cancer would like and was told it would look nothing like a gallbladder removal scar, so LBJ showed the world that his scar proved he did not have cancer. (Read more about it here if you are interested.)
I'm so glad I don't have a long scar to show you. (No, I wouldn't show it to you anyway.) We've come a long ways surgically since the sixties. The procedure to remove a gallbladder now takes only about thirty minutes. I was in recovery for about another two and a half hours. After that, I was sent home to be cared for by my dear husband.
Surgical methods are not the only things that have drastically changed since the sixties. Now, it seems that our health issues, good and bad, are discussed openly on the web by those of us who feel no qualms about doing so.
I do hope that this surgery will solve many of the issues that I have had for some time. Time will tell. Some wondered why I went to Denver to have my surgery when I live in Colorado Springs. My husband and I even laughed a bit on our drive to Denver, which is about 65 miles from our home because when we lived in Pueblo, we drove 45 miles to doctors in Colorado Springs. Now that we live in Colorado Springs, we are driving to Denver. The reason I went to Rose Medical Center is because I have suffered for over a year with severe pain in my upper right quadrant. I was hospitalized for three days in Colorado Spring last May because of the pain and the lab reports that went with it. I've made no fewer than five trips to the emergency room in Colorado Springs with this problem. I've had labs drawn, and I've had more labs drawn. I've had two MRI's of my gallbladder, more scans than I can remember, and a HIDA scan. While none of these tests were conclusive that I had gallbladder disease, the pain and nausea were making my life miserable.
I had gone to an excellent GI doctor at National Jewish Health last spring after not getting any answers that were conclusive about my GI problems from doctors here in town. Dr. M. has expertly guided my medical care ever since. Finally, after inconclusive pancreatic tests done at the University of Colorado, and after my pain continued without showing an elevated lipase level, Dr. M. sent me to her surgeon for a consult. He meticulously went through my records and said that if I was ready to have my gallbladder removed, he would perform the surgery. I could not have been happier with the kind of care and the level of expertise that I received from this fine surgeon and from Rose Medical.
I am hopeful that I am on the upswing when it comes to my health. I am off all of my heart meds and that has greatly improved my over all GI health. I am watching my diet and exercising to fight pre-diabetes. I have a fine team of doctors who are monitoring my auto-immune issues. It has been a long journey.
Health and Grief
I've learned much about the effect that grief and loss has on the body. I remember a phone call from a dear friend just days after my daughter had died. This friend, no stranger to the kind of shock that I had received, had worked with my husband as an assistant principal at one time. She told me what to expect during the next few years as I mourned the tragic death of my daughter. She was the first one who told me that grief can compromise health.
I've always been an optimistic person. I think that whatever I faced in life, I just pushed through and did what had to be done. I found that I could no longer do that after Julie died.
I hesitated to have surgery so close to Julie's birthday. She would have been 38 years old tomorrow if she had lived. I know that this time of year is hard for me and her family. I also know that Julie would want me to go forward and take care of my health.
Just walking into a hospital and putting on a hospital gown is more than I can bear. When I first saw Julie after her death, I was shocked to see her in a hospital gown. I will forever remember the print that was on the gown.
I was once given a surgical gown made of the same print about a year after she died. I bravely put it on, fighting back the tears. The nurse came once I had changed and lowered the bed to give me an i.v. My blood pressure plummeted and I passed out cold. The next thing I knew, I was in an ambulance and on my way to the hospital where I went through hours of testing.
Thankfully, in the four years since Julie's death, the designs on surgical gowns have changed. I can pick up a hospital gown and put it on. I can do that. Not easily, but I can.
In preparing for last week's surgery, I was quite upbeat. I could not wait to get it done. I wished it would happen at a different time of year, but I was more than ready to go forward. I don't think I was that nervous about the surgery. I felt I was in good hands. Yet, I was not prepared for what happened as I came out of surgery.
It seemed I'd barely been wheeled into the freezing cold operating room, and lifted my body from the hospital gurney to the hard, skinny operating table when I was quickly administered the anesthesia. As I moved my body from flat surface to the other, I thought of making that same move from gurney to table to give birth. I commented on how skinny the table was. "Are you going to tie me on in case I get too crazy during surgery?" I jokingly asked the nurse? I remember she said, "yes." Then I was gone.
I woke up in pain in recovery. I was crying for Julie. Literally, I was calling her name and crying. I've not had extreme physical pain like I experienced right out of surgery since her death. I remember thinking that it felt like I'd just given birth via a c-section, but I've never given birth via c-section, so how would I know how that felt? All I know is that in my physical pain, I could only cry for her pain and hope that she had not suffered. Grief is funny that way. It hits you in the body when your defenses are down. It hit me hard.
|Julie & Mom|
Walking for A Cure
Today, I wrote this poem about that experience. I am sharing it in the hope that it will help others know that they are not alone as they suffer the loss of a child. I am sharing it because as I heal physically I know I am still on a long journey of emotional and physical suffering that accompanies the loss of my beautiful daughter. I am healing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I am doing what it takes to move toward health. Thank you for being by my side in the journey.
I cried out for you.
Anesthesia just losing its grip on body and mind,
Shocked by the pain.
I'd been just fine.
Then I was in no man's land.
I felt nothing,
Awakened, not knowing where I was,
Pain took over.
Just as on the day you took your life,
I went from happiness to shock,
And unbearable pain.
This time shock and pain cried out for you.
Your mother 's body experienced shocking, cutting pain.
Did you feel pain?
I can't bear that as you left this life you might have felt the cutting pain that severed your life from mine.