Monday, August 31, 2009


Today, I can honestly say despite the pain and all that's happened in the last two weeks, I am blessed.

A few of the chemicals excreted from the kidneys are still out of whack, mainly, creatinine which is now at 9.3. And I am told I just need to be patient awhile longer.

I woke up this morning thinking of things that remind me of home. Chocolate pudding my mom used to make -- how the steam would rise from the little bowls as she covered them with cellophane and placed each one gently in the refrigerator to cool; the smell of autumn, the sounds of my dogs. Simple joys that make life worth living.

There have been so many people who have nursed me back to this point over the last two weeks. Dr. Gretchen Clark, who rounds on her OB patients early at 6 a.m. and was always the first face I'd see. Dr. Sweet from Internal Medicine, who listened when I could hardly talk. Dr. May, who kept me from dialysis, despite being a nephrologist, Dr. Richardson, Dr. Cody, and countless nurses and nurses aides: Carrie, Lainie, Ali, Lauren, and all the others who left me alone to sleep at night because they knew I was tired and my patience was wearing thin. And Sue, who patiently worked for 45 minutes in the pre-dawn to find a vein from my tired arms for blood draws.

So many people work tirelessly around the clock, day and night, to help others. I owe my life to them.

I am humbled. I know repairing my life will likely take a few months of rehabilitation to get back to where I was once. But I am here, and I am getting stronger. And there is hope. I am blessed.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Update: day 10

At this moment, I cannot imagine having my body back again. It feels so decrepit and old, withered and spent. I cannot imagine walking ¼ mile, much less racing dogs up and down hilly, snowy terrain.

Today, I waited. I waited for food to come, and promptly gagged when it did. I waited for sleep to come and didn’t want to wake up. I’m waiting to live again.

Spent a long time crying again today. My kidneys continue to dysfunction. I thought about the other day when my breathing crashed. Vulnerable, in huge amounts of pain, a big man came to place electrodes all over my body for an EKG, flopping private parts of my body this way and that. And there was nothing I could do but lay there, prone.

Modern medicine renders us helpless.

How do you move forward when something this unexpected happens, with 9 dogs and two kids at home to care for? I’m terrified of the thought of going home. But if these kidneys don’t turn around real soon, I won’t be going home tomorrow – or anytime soon.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"The Time is out of joint"

And now, quite suddenly, I am flooded with sadness and anger. Now that I have been offered a few hours’ reprieve from the lines of oxygen and IVs, and it’s quiet and I can finally sit and think, I am angry.

I realize almost two weeks have gone by where my only thought and focus was on my next breath, next pain, and just simple survival.

Modern medicine has reduced us all to our primordial instincts. The night when my lung started to collapse and I had people surrounding me wanting to poke and prode when I was already fighting to stay alive and hurting horrendously, I understood the viciousness of a mother lion protecting her cubs. Every morning when dozens (I’m not kidding) of doctors and specialists and clinicians and nurses all began making their rounds through my door, I knew what it felt like to be just a “tough case.”

And I grieve. I grieve like no one will ever know, up here in this hospital room all alone. I grieve for an entire summer nearly sacrificed. Time: you simply cannot take it back. This experience has been the most life-altering experience of my life – one I won’t soon forget.

Turning a corner?

If you were to tell me I’d have gone through hell on earth and back just because of having a routine hysterectomy – a fairly standard operation of which 660,000 are performed every year in the U.S. – I wouldn’t have believed it.

But this experience, and especially the last week and a half, has changed me forever.

Very early at 4:15 a.m. on Thursday morning, I awoke in my hospital bed to excruciating pain in the lower right lobe of my lung. As if what I had gone through wasn’t enough. I thought my lung had collapsed. I hit the nurse call button and yelled for morphine – a drug I rarely accept. My breathing was extremely shallow and labored and shot pain throughout that right lower lobe every time I took a breath in. My oxygen saturations were 82%.

Helpless and unable to move, a portable x-ray machine was wheeled in, followed by an echo cardio gram. On 6 ml of morphine, 6 ml liquid IV Demerol and Adavan, the pain was still uncontrollable and literally took my breath away.

Earlier that day, I had been up for my first shower and eaten actual food for the first time in days. I thought I had turned the corner. What went wrong? All I could think of with my constant every thought was how to escape this pain. But there was no escape.

Tests revealed pleural effusions of my right lung, which is a fancy way of saying portions of my lung had pockets of fluid in them as well as atelectisis, or a collapse of all the aveoli in the lungs, in the lower lobes of both lungs.

And, still, acute renal failure.

Because of the renal failure, my body puffed up full of water. Nurses could no longer find a working vein with which to draw blood from. I had to have heparin shots every 12 hours to prevent blood clotting, be hooked to an IV drip of a super potent antibiotic and saline, as well as being hooked 24/7 to 4 liters of Oxygen at all times.

But today, one of the dozens of doctors and clinicians came in to tell me he thinks I’m “rounding a corner.”

Can we only hope?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

update three, day seven in the hospital

Thank God for small victories!

I was able to eat a normal (but very small) meal and shower today for the first time since Saturday morning. It's amazing how these very small things can make you feel more human.

Kidney function continues to deteriorate, despite the above good things. Subsequently, I am retaining so much fluid, it's difficult to move or breathe. I joke and say I look like Patrick Star from Spongebob. I'm anemic and very easily exhausted, and my patience is wearing very thin with all of the dozens of physicians, respiratory therapists, nurses, and dietitians that parade in and out of here starting at 6 a.m.

There is no estimate of when I will get out of here. So I wait and try to heal.

Update two, day six in the hospital

I'm told by nephrologists that my kidney function continues to deteriorate from something called Acute Tubular Necrosis, ATN. This is caused by something that happened in the operating room on Saturday. I bottomed out, apparently, my blood pressure plummeting and heart rate rising. This causes death in some of the tissue more sensitive to deprivation of oxygen. There is talk of dialysis.

I still have lower lobe pneumonia, and it hurts to breathe deeply. I continue to receive breathing treatments every four hours. And my stomach muscles are in horrendous pain every time I move because of all the cutting and cleaning out that was done down there.

The bacteria that caused the massive infection in my pelvis has been identified as gram positive cocci strep, and I am now on IV antibiotics made just for that bacteria strain, so I've not had any temps for awhile.

But It's not clear when I'll get out of here, and recovering from all that has happened will likely take a couple months.

Even simple activities, like typing on my laptop are exhausting. I sleep a lot. Today I got to eat real food for the first time since Saturday morning. And I got a foley catheter out - Small victories.

Just watned to let any of you know who are responding to these notes that your kind words of encouragement are definitely needed and appreciated

August 25, 2009

I am having difficulty typing so this will be short.

I had surgery at 7 p.m. Saturday night and what the docs found stunned them. An over 6 cm across ball of pus, called a tuboovarian cyst, was quickly taking over my pelvis. It had adhered to everything near it, much like putting your tongue on cold metal in the winter time. It had pushed most of my bowel to one side. I guess the surgery ended up being quite complicated as my pressure dropped several times during it. When the abscess was removed, the follopian tube and the right ovary had to be as well. They flushed my pelvis with several gallons of saline. When they pulled the bowel off the abscess, it tore, so a general surgeon had to come in to repair that. They had hoped to do this surgery laproscopically, but had to open me up with a 7 inch incision along with three others.

But the fun was just beginning.

Since then, I've developed pneumonia and kidney failure. My oxygen saturations were 82 percent, so I've been on 4 liters of oxygen since the surgery with breathing treatments every 4 hours. I couldn't stop puking. There was talk of my moving to ICU; dozens of docs were rounding on me from internal medicine to ICU, to nephrology.

I still haven't eaten since Saturday morning.

I've never been so sick or felt so helpless in my whole life.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I am watching the sunrise from what the nurses call the "Princess Suite." And I have to admit, as far as hospital rooms go, it's nice. Through five east-facing windows, the sky emerges in a swirling conglomeration of pinks and blues, clouds streaked with sunlight to rival the best of inspirational poster.

But it's hard to feel anything but gray.

My doc rounded late last evening around 6:30. Her face conveyed to me before she even spoke that she was not the bearer of good news.

"It's grown hasn't it?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"Yes," she said. "I will never say that 'it's not likely' to you again. You definitely don't fit the mold. In sixteen years of practice, I've had one patient present with this issue."


Ultrasound revealed that the glowing mass is now six centimeters across - roughly the size of a standard tennis ball.

At this point, sitting in certain positions hurts, and even the tiniest pressure on my lower belly makes me cringe. There is constant pressure on my bladder, and I pop Percocet like Smarties.

What makes me the most nervous is now, my doc isn't even sure what it is.

"It could be something called a hemorrhagic cyst, which would be a fluke thing that developed independent of surgery," she explains. "Or it could be an abscess like we originally suspected, as a result of the surgery."

But hemorrhagic cysts don't present with 102 degree temps. And regardless of what it is for sure, it's looking like another surgery is eminent.

Back-to-back IV antibiotics all night alternating between Zosyn and Metronidazole kept me up all night. Once the fever broke, I was covered in sweat, my sheets, hospital gown and hair soaked.

Today, I sit in the Princess Suite and wait.

3:39 p.m. UPDATE:
I am going in for exploratory surgery at 5 p.m. today. I'm told there is a good chance I could lose an ovary.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Direct admit

Over the last 36 hours, I have grown increasingly sick. I spent 19 hours in bed the night before last and most of the day yesterday, only getting up to fix the kids a quick bite to eat, apologize to them for killing the last days of their summer with my sickness, and go back to bed.

This morning, in the dim light of 6:15, I awoke from the pain. Everywhere. Throbbing pain in my head, shoulders, neck, hips, knees, even my ankles. And especially pain in my belly: shooting pain that makes my eyes squint shut. I was hot, alternating between sweating profusely or quaking and shivering with chills. I fumbled for the thermometer, waited for the beep and shuddered when I read it. 102. It was then I called the doctor's office.

Shortly after being admitted, I was taken to the ground floor for an ultrasound. It was then I saw the dark mass - about the size of a tennis ball - glowing behind my bladder that's been growing and making me sick.

I am now listening to some woman freaking out in the room next to me about God knows what, and to the steady hum of liquid Zosyn, a heavy-duty antibiotic, flowing through a bag of Sodium Chloride and into my veins. I find out shortly what the plan of action is to get this dark glowing mass out of me. There's talk of doing a painful, CAT-scan-assisted needle drain, but there's significant risk for further infection.

I just want my life back. Dog training starts in the next few weeks, and I won't have my plans for the season derailed by some post-operative infection.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A night of silhouettes

It's been hot here. The kind of heat only a mid-August Ohio can bring. Monday, the temperature combined with the humidity created a heat index of 100 degrees. The house has been invaded by pooches; I hate to leave them outside in temps that high.

The last three nights, I've retreated to the lake in the evening.

I love the week nights, because I'm often the only soul on the big lake. This was the case the last few nights. Perhaps the heat was even too much for boaters. My mother, as always, gets so concerned with my seeking of solitude.

"Be careful," she warns through the cell. "People can do anything out there in the middle of no where."

But I've never felt safer or more at peace than when I'm paddling on open water.

Alone floating in my favorite summer place, a symphony of crickets and cicadas sang, celebrating the pinnacle of summer's heat. The silhouette of a blue heron, leggy and tall, stands on a sand bank like some thin yogi. Bats flutter above my head - five or six of them diving, silhouetted against the cool blue-gray sky, their paper-thin beating out a tiny rhythm. They're so close, I can see through their wings.

They're just doing what they do: fluttering around, helping keep the balance by eating insects.

In the distance, two flocks of Canadian geese form two silhouetted arrows pointing northwest, squawking loudly, doing what they do.

The grass is high. Despite my allergies, I am not allergic to hay and have always loved the smell of a fresh roll of it drying in the sun.

Ah, it's definitely mid-August. And regardless of my affinity for fall and winter, I try to appreciate mid-August, even when it's 100 degrees.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Some happy pictures

The Thief, Big Brown (BB). The other day I was cleaning out their water pails and turned around to find BB had stolen my Brillo pad!

BB and Ruffian love rolling in grass - especially fresh-cut grass

BB and Ruffian also love Chris. They are sweeties who live to give and receive affection

Just watch out: they sometimes nip when they get excited!

Look at those muscles!

Another lover, Gwennie. She loves belly rubs

Finally Yeti, who has healed nicely from his abscess from a few weeks ago. Now if only I could do the same!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Do I dare disturb the universe?

"Do I dare
Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse."

T.S. Eliot The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Every time I am on the water, I think this same thought: with every touch of the tip of my paddle, I am disturbing an entire universe. From fishes to turtles to plant life to the tiniest micro-organism, just the simple, slightest movement of my paddle stirs it all.

At first, I never want this evening to end.

Finally back in my kayak. I threw caution to the wind this evening and headed out to the water. How I've missed my time on the water, paddle in hand, the steady rocking hip-to-hip row, row, row in perfect rhythm, nothing out there but me and several hundred species of animal.

I am rowing like this, poised and peaceful, simultaneously calling to a Bard owl somewhere in a forested distance and chasing a Blue Heron when I receive the phone call.

I had my second CAT scan Monday, the follow-up appointment with the doctor today.

In the office, the radiologist hadn't yet given the reading to my doctor. She promised a call, reassuring that, more than likely, the abscess in my pelvis had receded.

"It is very unlikely that it's grown," she said.

Schools of tiny water insects skim across the lake in zig-zag formation as I answer the call.

"Remember how I said it was very unlikely that the abscess has grown?" she says from the other end of the line.

"Well, true to form, you're the one case to go against the odds."

A painted turtle paddles under the surface, his thick, clawed feet moving like slow rudders. My heart sinks.

"The report says the abscessed area has grown since the last scan, now over four centimeters," she continues.

I sit with the setting sun for a long time tonight. It was an amazing sunset - like orange sherbet scooped from God's own hand. I cried on the water. I felt and feel all these emotions: regret, fear, anger, sadness, helplessness.

There's nothing I can do.

Then, I hear the owl again, calling to me from the same forested distance - only now it's closer. I'm reminded, from nature, of just who I am, and more importantly, that it's not up to me. Again, I need this message.

The owl calls, "who cooks for you, who cooks for you.." in the infamous monkey-like call of the Bard owl. He asks me a good question.

I am floating in this water. And though I can paddle, steer, stay afloat, I am not in control. It's not up to me. The boat holds me, its buoyancy sturdy and strong. I let my weight rest in it, and let go.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Not up to me

Bring on the dancing horses

I've had enough.

Still "infectious," still sick, I cast aside all this "rest" to retreat into the things that will make me heal the most: my children, and the lake.

Elise at the county fair - ride em cowgirl!

Saturday night, I took my girls to the fair, walked for hours, looking at the beautiful lights and all the animals.

The dizzying array of lights on the ferris wheel - our favorite

We saw the sights, road the rides, ate the cotton candy.

Not sure what Elise was thinking here, but that horse she chose does look pretty ominous

Sophie on the merry go round

Elise stuffing herself with sugar! Cotton Candy! Yum!

Along the way, we stopped to smell the flowers:


One of my favorites: the Tiger Lilly

And tonight, Sophie and I headed out to the lake, just the two of us, a mom & daughter date night. We floated along together in my kayak and witnessed the most spectacular sunset. Fish jumped, but otherwise, the lake was smooth as glass.

While floating along in a peaceful bliss, Sophie and I came across a young raccoon shaking on the shore. Clearly sick with distemper or some kind of disease, we floated up to it, his feable human-like hands grasping a branch, shaking.

"Oh, mom! He's so cute! Can't we save him!" Sophie pleaded.

This was an opportunity to teach my eldest daughter the one of the hardest lessons of life: it's not up to us.

I thought about this in reference to myself. This infection, getting better, getting worse: it's not up to me, if I lie in bed 24/7 or if I live my life. What will be will be.

It's not up to me. So I let go.

I return to the doctor on Wednesday and will learn then if I need another surgery to clear up infections from the first surgery.

Intervening is sometimes notthe answer.

Sometimes we must just let nature take its course, and live out our lives the best we can, do right by those we can.

But in the meantime, I'm gonna do the things I love, and rejoice in the beauty all around. Life is short; the life of a raccoon, even shorter. It's no coincidence when we first spotted the raccoon, he was limping along weakly, making his way to rest on the shore facing the setting sun. One beautiful final view, indeed.