If you missed Part 1 – see here.
So… as I was saying before I pooped out, we were all clueing in to the fact that it was my lungs – despite stellar sats and clear lung sounds – that were a problem.
Sure enough, the results of the chest x-ray were sent to Dr. Halpin, and it was determined I needed a chest tube because I had a pretty substantial pleural effusion. (You should have seen me – I did sort of look like the Stay Puft marshmallow man! I was so loaded with fluids!)
I will stop and interject here that I kind of had a vague impression of what a chest tube was… I mean, hello – who didn’t watch ER, right? My niece is a surgery resident, and I remember feeling duly impressed when she reported that she now knew how to place one. Little did I know…
Typically – unless it’s emergent – you get sent to IR (interventional radiology), where they do conscious sedation and then place the chest tube – so that you have no pain, no memories. Well, this was early Saturday morning (the 6th of February), Dr. Halpin was heading out of town until the coming Friday, and her fellow was being handed my care until Dr. Zelko got back from his trip on the 8th. It was decided that early on a Saturday would possibly mean that IR was likely not available, and that they’d place the chest tube right there in my bed.
Let me just sum up and say: I screamed.
I’m not one to do that sort of thing, btw. I typically clench my jaw, or do Lamaze-type breathing exercises (which are very handy to know!), or some relaxation techniques that I’ve learned over the years – it’s amazing what a focus verse of scripture or worship song can do to calm me and give me strength to make it through things that I would normally opt out of!
I screamed bloody murder.
It stinking hurt!
Good grief! The chest tube is about the diameter of a garden hose! Good grief! Yeah – they cut through – kinda below your arm pit, adjacent to your boob – and put this herking tub in there to suck all sorts of goo out.
Let’s just say that the best part of it was that it pulled about 700 cc’s of goo out. Normally one might say the best part was getting it out – but not so much – I screamed then, too. OUCH!
I did learn a good lesson: NEXT TIME – INSIST ON A TRIP TO INTERVENTIONAL RADIOLOGY – OR ELSE! (Don’t ask me what “or else” would mean – I’d sit down and throw a fit?! Who knows – but I’d definitely not blindly say, “Okay.” again!)
Moving with that chest tube in was not a pleasant thing. It made me want to lay very, very still, and focus on ANYTHING else. I watched a LOT of TV! Like a whole season’s worth of “Sunday’s Best” on the BET Network – I love that show! (How can you not love anything that Kirk Franklin is associated with, please?!) And honestly – about that point in time I needed a full day’s worth of praising God to encourage my weary heart! The tube did get pulled on Monday – a very, very happy thing to have it out.
Sunday night I started having some very low left quadrant pain. I would be fine when I was laying down or reclining in the recliner – but as soon as I stood up or had to walk – not a good thing. Walking my laps around the floor became harder and harder. I kept telling the nurses and the fellow to whose care I was entrusted, and the other surgical residents and docs who would stop by to see me. No one seemed to think it was any big deal.
Tuesday early morning Dr. Zelko – wonderful, amazing, fabulous, God-sent, God-blessed, marvelous Dr. Zelko – stopped by to check on me – freshly back in town THANK YOU GOD FOR DR. ZELKO!
Can I just say here: there is something incredibly precious to have a doctor who listens to you – knows you well enough to know that you’re not gonna whine unless there’s something to whine about?
I told him about my pain – he had me show him what made it happen, give it a number on the 1 to 10 scale (it was up there – like 8.5 to 9-ish WITH big guns pain meds!).
He had me lay down, looked at my incision – and said, “Your incision is infected… Darn. Let’s give it 24 hours and see what it looks like then – and we’ll track your labs, pain, and symptoms. Keep trying to walk, but don’t skimp if you need pain meds.” He also started me on the tube feedings. My albumin level was 1.5 on that day’s labs – it should be 4.5 – he summed it up by saying, “Basically, you don’t have enough protein in your body to even heal from any of the stuff you’ve been through!”
By Wednesday morning I couldn’t make a single lap around the floor – the pain was just too bad – I had to hang onto the IV pole for dear life.
True to his word – as he always is – Dr. Zelko returned Wednesday morning to take a peek at everything. He wasn’t pleased. He decided – and told me it was the best thing to do, and darn it – I trust the guy, I know he is trustworthy! – the incision would have to be opened up – all the way.
So – he went and gathered the supplies he needed, grabbed my fabulous nurse, and came back and did as he said he would. I chose to close my eyes and not look (I’m wussy that way), do my breathing techniques, and sing a little worship song that reminds me that I’m NEVER alone – Jesus is always there with me – no matter what.
In essence – a 12″ long incision, a couple plus inches wide once it was opened up. (I have a picture from shortly after I was discharged from the hospital – but honestly, it’s pretty gross, and I don’t want to gross anyone out too much… I’m trying to decide if there’s a way to make it a click through link to somewhere so that you don’t have to see it if you don’t want to!) He found a tunnel to where my very low left quadrant pain was from the bottom of the incision. So it had to be packed – along with the rest of the incision – wet to dry, twice a day.
He also said that I could probably go home on Friday, if everything worked out as it should. I told him I was gonna bank on that!
Okay – enough for now… More later! 🙂