Monday, April 7, 2014

Health Reports~Should They Public or Private?

I hardly know how to begin this post.  I have had such heartfelt wishes for my recovery as I prepared for gallbladder surgery that at times I felt a bit overwhelmed.  It is a blessing to know that one has so many friends in the world out there cheering one on through the good days and the bad days.  The surgery, scheduled for 2:30 in the afternoon on this past Friday actually didn't take place until around 3:00.  I was on my way home by around 6:30 that same evening.  It seems rather unimaginable that such surgeries can take place so quickly these days.  That is the  beauty of removing the gallbladder laparoscopically.  While my activities are somewhat limited, and I do have some pain, I am just amazed at how well I am doing.  Thank you all so much for your good good wishes, prayers, phone calls, and cards.  I am feeling quite cared for.

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,
Remembered 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?
Did you?
I can't bear that as you left this life you might have felt the cutting pain that severed your life from mine. 


Elizabeth said...

Dear Julie's Mum,
Your posts are wonderful. Thank you.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Oh,'s amazing, isn't it, how close the pain that will ease in days is to the raw pain that will never leave, how one triggers the other? And how a simple thing, like the pattern of a hospital gown, can transport us right back to that time never to be forgotten. Thank you for sharing these moments of your life with us -- trusting us to understand, allowing us to be with you in thought and in prayer.

Jackie said...

As you continue to recover from your surgery, know that I am thinking of you, Sally.
Also, I want to give you a gentle hug.....having absolutely no idea of the intense emotional pain you have suffered and continue to bear after the death of your Julie....but knowing that as a Mother, we have a bond that allows me to offer you this hug.
Take the best care of you....and hugs to your sweet Hubby for being there for your side always.

Linda Myers said...

Sending positive thoughts your way for relief and health!

#1Nana said...

You've come such a long way on your road to recovery. It is amazing to me that you can share your grief and insights in such a hopeful way. I know that there are people out there who will be helped on their journey by your words. Hang in there. I'm so glad you're feeling better...both physically and emotionally.

Dartford Warbler said...

Such a thought provoking post. You are so right about the link with grief and subsequent illness and pain.

I do hope that you make a good, quick recovery from your surgery.

Your poem is so moving. Thinking of you.x

Joyce said...

I'm glad you're doing well, and am wishing you a speedy recovery. It is pretty amazing how quickly people are in and out of the hospital, but in many ways it's probably better for your health. Take care and hoping you're back to good health soon! Thank you for sharing the poem. Thinking of you.

Olga Hebert said...

Heartfelt and beautiful. Take care.

troutbirder said...

Indeed. It's been 14 years now since our beloved son Ted left us due to the effects of bi-polar disease.

Jean said...

Your story of the hospital gown is very moving. I'm glad to hear your surgery went well, though, and you're recovering from it nicely.

Jeanie said...

Oh Sally, I'm sorry that part of the surgery, the emotional part, encompassed so much of the past. And I so admire your sharing this with us for they are wise words to remember. I think there is always something that can gobsmack us when it comes to remembering someone -- a moment, a place -- a hospital gown. Sharing this was brave and honest and very beautiful. And your poem is incredibly eloquent and from the heart.

Wishing you a peaceful recovery. And sending big, huge hugs.

Rose said...

Somehow I missed that you were having gallbladder surgery--I'm so glad that all went well, and I hope this alleviates some of the health issues you have been suffering. Physical pain can be awful, but at least it diminishes or can be treated. Pain in the heart takes much longer to heal--wishing you continued healing and comfort, Sally.

KathyA said...

Interesting how we tie these traumas together with a mighty but thin thread.

So glad your surgery was quick and successful. I marveled at mine that it was almost 'drive-through'!

Be well -- and contact me if you want to talk.

Arkansas Patti said...

I am so happy that the surgery is over and am amazed at how quickly it was done. Like you, it took them 10 years to figure out I had been passing gall stones. They told me it was ulcers. You will love being pain free in the future.
So sorry the surgery happened so close to Julie's passing anniversary date. Be totally well soon Sally and may all your pains ease.

DJan said...

I hope this will be the fix you needed. And your post and poem both made me cry, right out loud, for the pain of your loss, and from the pain you were in. I am wrapping you in my virtual arms right this minute. Can you feel it, dear Sally?

Jeanie said...

I have to agree with Dr. Cathy McCoy, above. The workings of our minds hearts and bodies is amazing.
I hope your physical healing is moving forward and that the surgery has healed you physical issues.

Grandmother (Mary) said...

I just accompanied my sis-in-law for her gall bladder removal so I know how quickly she went home. I hope your healing is swift and complete. May it continue to happen emotionally as well. We are with you because you let us be. Good for you.

Keicha Christiansen said...

Her pain. I wonder and worry about that too. It upsets me to think of the psychic pain I know she must have felt in the last conscious moments of her life. It's the one thought I can never, ever make okay in my mind.

rosaria williams said...

Stress and grief go deep into our bodies and stay there. There is no getting over what we have experienced; but there is a level of helpfulness just in the sharing, isn't it? Your pain was/still is real throughout your body and soul. Your telling us helps us all realize what's it all about, this living, this life when these experiences are all related; when the rest of the world can only stand in a chorus line until they too experience the same pain. Only then, they can sing the principal roles.

I have concluded that the ancients knew so much more about grieving than we do, that we have lost the rituals that allowed the grieving to go through what they had to go through. We rush to get to the other side, only to discover that we make the return journey over and over again.

Perpetua said...

Sally, I'm glad your surgery is safely over, but I'm so sorry that the experience brought back such painful and heartrending memories. A trauma such as the loss of a child leaves a wound too deep ever to heal completely and we never know what will trigger a return of the pain and grief. Your poem expresses these emotions with deeply touching clarity.

A Quiet Corner said...

Sally, glad your surgery went well and with a positive attitude, the rest will follow!...:)JP

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I'm glad your surgery went well and I hope it gives you renewed health. I'm sorry the pain took advantage of your vulnerable moment, just coming out of anesthesia. What a cruel trick. And how brave and generous of you to explore and then share through poetry. Wishing you peace and comfort.

Linda P. said...

Happy Birthday to your Julie.

My husband's birthday is today, too. As we celebrate his birthday, I think of the part you played in having him here with us today. I still remember getting up straight from the computer after reading your post about your husband's experience and asking my husband that question that your post had prompted: Have you been having chest pains? You will always have a special place in my heart, and I wish I could heal your heart as you helped my husband get the treatment that healed his. Thank you for the vital part you played in letting us celebrate this birthday with him. I hope you recover quickly.

Terra said...

I hope you heal quickly and fully. You share here eloquently about how grief can impact our health.

Linda Reeder said...

There is pain, and then there is pain. I wish for you healing for both.

Barb said...

That last line is wrenching, Sally. A question without an answer. I came by to check on you. I know that grief lives on in our minds and bodies. I'm glad that you can write and also verbally share your feelings with loving family and friends. I'm in Denver - Rose is the hospital I use. I hope this surgery is a fix for you. Sending you healing thoughts.

Sandi said...

Hi Sally, I went through an avalanche of emotions as I read this post. At first, I was going to say that you will be so glad you had the gallbladder removed. I have never regretted that surgery, and it wasn't so awful to bounce back.
Then, I got to the part about Julie, and as always, wept because I feel your pain so intensely.
I remember scheduling a knee surgery on the anniversary of Chris' death, purposely (I think) because I knew the pain couldn't touch the pain of his death. Those birthdays are killer, I know. Chris would also be 38, isn't that amazing?
Love and a long, long hug to you across the miles.

Maggie May said...

I somehow or other missed that you were going in for surgery. However, I'm relieved for you that it's all over now.
A friend of mine had the same op for the same thing some time ago and she's had no problem in any way since she recovered. Hope you will be the same.

I was so sad that to read about you crying out for Julie. It brought tears to my eyes .......
It must be a living nightmare.
Glad to hear you are an optimist though as it will see you through.
Hugs Maggie x

Nuts in May

Betsy Adams said...

Yes---the gallbladder pain will soon be gone ---but the pain of losing a child will NEVER leave... That is the kind of pain none of us want to bear.. And --you are right. It probably has affected your overall health more than you know... God Bless You, my Friend...

My gallbladder is full of stones (had an ultrasound to find out)... Probably been a part of me for years. Luckily though, I haven't had but two or three attacks with mine... My doctor does say that if I have more attacks, I should go ahead and get it out before I get OLDER, and/or before my symptoms get worse.... Fun fun!!!

My worst attack came after I ate a thick burger and fries from Hardee's... Guess I won't do that anymore... I eat VERY healthy 99.9% of the time --so that is what is controlling mine.... Sorry you have had so much trouble ---with no indication of Gallbladder Disease... Gads!!!!! Hopefully, this will be a life-saving decision for you.

God Bless... Love you!

Kay said...

Hello Sally...
I've been gone for a month on the Southeast Asia trip and then spent several weeks getting my blog posts about the trip up and now am working on the trip album. I feel like I haven't been able to visit others in ages. Art said he would take over a bit tonight so I could "visit" a few of my blog friends.

I'm on his computer and discovered I had a number of blog comments that had to be moderated to publish. I had no idea. It's amazing what I can forget in a couple of months. I saw several of your comments. I've published them now. Thank you so very, very much, Sally.

And oh my gosh! You've had surgery while I was gone. I'm so sorry for the pain you've had, physical and personal. One of my friends in tai-chi told me today that her 44 year old daughter died suddenly of a heart attack. My first thought was of you. I could see the pain in her eyes. I could also see that she didn't want to really talk about it with everybody in class yet. It was too raw. As I read your post this evening, I'm aching with such sadness for you and for my friend, Inge. It's so hard...