Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Weak Enough to Be Given Strength

I am not very brave.

I thrive on routine. Predictability. I like everything in it's place. I don't like change. I fear what is uncertain.

I am not brave.

Also, I cry embarrassingly easily.

I have been this way since I was a child. As long as I can remember. Near as I can tell, God has spent that whole time giving me lessons in trust and teaching me to have a little faith already, fercryinoutloud.

But I am slow and feeble and not apt to learn my lessons quickly. Among numerous small things, I've moved far across the country (more than once), been in a car accident, given birth (loooooong and agonizing), experienced a miscarriage-- all events that rocked my secure little world considerably. And has not the Lord always ordered everything in my path so that I am perfectly cared for? Yet I still crumple up in a ball and suck my thumb and tremble whenever things go slightly awry.

You would think I would learn.

I always knew that someday I would have to reconcile my crippling fear of doctors and hospitals. It's very interesting to me that God chose something pretty straightforward and almost "routine" since it's so common, and yet also without recourse. I mean, what do you do when you have appendicitis? You have it taken out. Everyone knows that. There's no way around it. It's that, or stay home and die. I even called my naturopathic doctor (er, after I called my Mom, of course) for advice. Since it was a Sunday morning, I couldn't get ahold of him (there again-- no way that I could even get ideas about trying something else first), but he did call back that night after we were already in the ER and said on my answering machine that there there are things you can try, but there's really no sure-fire alternative to surgery with appendicitis. Once the appendix is infected, he said, you pretty much have to go the the hospital. We didn't want to mess around with something that could go so bad so fast, so go to the hospital we did.

Now, there is a massage/visceral manipulation technique that I have heard about which will supposedly open up the appendix and allow it to drain. I did this to myself Sunday morning, and I heard lots of burbling and it started to feel a little better. But I honestly don't think that was a cure, at least in my case. It still hurt quite a lot, though not nearly as bad as it had during the night (which, really-- I should probably have headed to the hospital then. But I hadn't yet put two and two together and figured out what was going on at that point.). Aside: You should have seen the surgeons' faces when I told them I "tried to drain my appendix". They tried hard to be expressionless, but all I can say is it's a good thing they weren't drinking any coffee.

We waited two hours in the waiting room for the emergency room. Both the ER and Urgent Care were swamped for a Sunday afternoon. I guess that's the way it goes in hospitals, and that's the way it was all that day- hurry up and wait. Wait for the nurse to start the IV, wait for the surgeon, wait for the nurse, wait for radiology... clutch my belly and wait, wait, wait.

Then came the CAT scan--Ack! You want me to drink a quart of... what is this nasty stuff anyway? Hey, what is that... you're injecting that into my veins? Ahhhh!!! It burrrrnssss ussssss! They had to fax the scan to an offsite radiologist to read who had to fax back the report before the surgeon could read it and decide what I needed. Then he was apparently going off-duty, so the called the on-call surgeon to come in. The radiology nurse said to me that "Well, I can't make a diagnosis, but I can say that they don't call in a surgeon if he's not going to operate." So that was that.

I liked the surgeon. He was down-to-earth and easy to talk to, cracking jokes and assuring me that my fear was natural. But he was also very firm-- "You need this surgery. You have an infection, and you have to have it taken care of right now before you get a lot sicker." He was actually concerned that my appendix may have already ruptured.

Everything moved much faster at this point. They had called in a whole surgical team in at 9:3o at night whose only job was to get my appendix out, so it didn't take long to get ready.

I was almost overcome with fear. I know that people have surgery (even voluntarily, the crazies!) all the time. I know the surgeons are skilled and appendectomies are one of the easiest surgeries to do. Above all, I knew that God would certainly take care of me. But I just couldn't help the fear and anxiety I had. It was so eerie to know that they would put me to sleep and do all kinds of things to me that I wouldn't have any control over! I'm not good with lack of control-- illusion that "control" may be.

It was a lesson in trust. I prayed and prayed. I called my Mom (and was so thankful for the phone card that a dear friend had brought and put in the truck for us. Our cell phone was dying and Nathan had not brought the charger), who asked lots of people to pray for me. I kept repeating the verse I had read that morning, "Thou has beset me behind and before and laid Thine hand upon me." (Ps. 139:5) Everything all around me was already set into place. God had already selected the people to take care of me, and the circumstances were ordered. I had no idea where I was going to find the courage to go through this, but it didn't matter, since it was not in my hands. I was on a bed, and it was wheeled into an operating room. What could I do? Run out screaming?

I was really glad I had packed my homeopathy kit. To me, this seemed like a perfect way in which alternative medicine can actually complement conventional medicine. Conventional medicine has it's place, like in emergencies and trauma. There was no homeopathic cure for my illness, but I could at least use homeopathy to deal with it's effects. I had Nathan give me some Aconite in the ER room to help with my anxiety. It was amazing how much that helped me to keep from panicking. Then right before they took me into the operating room, I had him give me a dose of Arnica to reduce the trauma of the surgery. I've kept taking the Arnica when I feel pain (I think it helps just as well as the Vicodin but without the side effects!). How easy it would be for doctors and hospitals to use such simple medicines to help their patients! Of course, Big Pharma can't make money from Arnica... But that's another rant for another time.

I was so thankful to have my sweet husband there with me. I couldn't have been there by myself. He was comforting and patient. He kept reminding me that God would take care of me. That I would be okay. He didn't get upset with my weakness, he just kept holding me up. "Besides," he joked, "I can't not take you to the hospital or your family would get mad at me."

It was 10:00 when the wheeled me into surgery, 11:00 when they brought me out. It was pretty strange to be put to sleep, and then be waking up again with things different... and hurting... I had the odd notion of the passage of time, but it was like waking up from a dream that I couldn't remember. I was very agitated when I came out of the anesthesia. I was groggy and could quite move or talk, but I was thrashing my head back and forth and coming to the realization that something hurts! My shoulder! My shoulder hurts! I mumbled. I grabbed Nathan's arm, My shoulder! " There's nothing wrong with it!" he said. "They didn't do anything to it!" It hurts! I insisted. They said I had reaction to the gas they gave me which caused pain in my chest (which was radiating to my shoulder). I couldn't talk or swallow because my throat was swollen and sore from the breathing tube. Nathan fed me ice chips and I tried to open my eyes and clear my head. I don't know how long we were in the recovery room. After a while, they took me to a room and I had to walk across to the bed. I leaned on two people and tried to will my legs to move in the right order.

After I was in bed, Nathan told me he would go home to take care of the animals and milk the goats. I suggested that he just go home and sleep a few hours and then milk early in the morning before coming back. I knew that one missed milking would not be too horrible for the poor goats. (We had tried several times to call a friend to go milk for me, but we weren't able to reach her.) Nathan said that in that case, he would sleep a few hours in the chair and go home to do chores in the early morning. I tried to insist, but he was determined. I was thankful to have him there. I was terribly thirsty, so he gave me drinks and helped me try to get comfortable and then he slept a little before going home at 5:00.

I tried to sleep (between nurses checking my vitals every few minutes), but the pain medicine made me feel weird and my brain wouldn't shut off even though my body was mostly asleep. Everytime I moved or didn't move, something hurt.

Early in the morning, the nurses made me get up to walk and go to the bathroom. I was still pretty drugged and my head was so foggy. I gasped as I sat up from the suffocating pain in my right lung. They explained again about the reaction to the gas and said walking around was the best cure. They also threatened me with a urinary catheter since I was having trouble willing my bladder to do what it was supposed to do. Thankfully, I had a sweet nurse who stalled for me and took care of everyone else first, allowing me time to drink more water and walk and get my muscles working again. Nathan came back, and he had the foresight to bring me a thermos full of hot turkey broth (which I had him take out of the freezer to thaw the day before.) I was glad to drink that instead of the horrible fake stuff they brought me. (Why, oh why, can't they feed you real and healing food in a hospital of all places? Sorry... another rant for another time.) I had Nathan find the reflexology chart in my wallet and he worked all the bladder reflex points in my hands and feet. Here's another example of complimentary medicine-- after he rubbed those spots for 15-20 minutes, I said, "Hey, there's a familiar feeling..." and got up and emptied my bladder right as the nurse came in with the catheter. (Hey, sorry for the gruesome details-- I'm just tellin' it like it was!) Praise God for that!

I suddenly remembered a co-op order that was coming that morning, though I had no idea what time. Nathan was able to track down the coordinator and find out the time, so he went to pick that up for me.

After that we spent the rest of the day waiting to get out of there. I was required to walk the hall six times before I could leave, so you better believe I was walking! The walks were slow and short, however, as I was shocked at how surgery really knocked the stuffin' out of me! After a while, the nurses told me they had seen my doctor on the floor, so he would be coming soon. "Soon" is relative in a hospital, so I killed the time by making phone calls (with my voice still hoarse from my swollen throat) to update my Mom and a few friends. At this point, I was getting very irritated about sharing a room. They had pulled back the curtain that divided the small room to make room for the other lady's visitors, and the last thing I wanted to was to try to be amicable with people I didn't know. I was so tired from two nights without sleep and the noise and activity was getting to be more than I could handle. I just wanted to go home so I could rest in the peace and quiet of my own home.

I hung up on a friend in a big hurry when I saw the doctor walk in. When he asked how I was feeling, I said, "Great! Can I go home now?" He looked at me dubiously as I'm sure he could tell I was lying about that first part. He checked my incisions (the surgery was done laparoscopically, so I had three small incisions instead of one big one), gave me my post-op instructions, and said I had to have another round of IV antibiotics and then I would be able to go. He told me to call his office for a follow-up appointment in one to two weeks.

I was itching to get that IV antibiotic treatment overwith, but the nurse said I had to wait until 4:00. At my disappointment, she said she'd allow it at 3:30. She was busy, though, and didn't make it in until 3:45. (You can see I was counting the minutes at this point. I'm so thankful I didn't have to spend a extended period of time in the hospital. I don't think I would have made it!) Then what should have been a half-hour treatment, turned into a hour and a half as we battled the IV pump from "H" "E" "Double-hockey-sticks." It had been malfunctioning the whole time I was there in that when it was unplugged when I got up to go to the bathroom, or if I bent my arm, or maybe if I looked at it funny, it would go on the blink and was not to be reasoned with until the nurse came back, and as I said, she was very busy.

When it was finally done, they unhooked me so that I could get dressed, and we waited for discharge papers. Near as I can tell, hospitals know little about efficiency. Poor Nathan was sleeping sitting up.

Bust out, we finally did, however, and Nathan drove me home, being careful of the bumps in the road, where we both collapsed gratefully in exhaustion. Well, I did immediately, but he had things to take care of, so his collapse was somewhat delayed. He went and picked up Jonah from the friends he had stayed with for the past three days. Jonah had lots of questions for me and was not inclined to leave my side. My friend S. came and milked the goats for us so that Nathan could take care of getting us settled back in.

We were all more than glad to fall into our beds that night...


I mostly wrote this for my own benefit, and if you're still with me, I'm duly impressed! I already know what a wuss I am and that things could be so much worse, so don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Today, I'm just thankful. Thankful to be getting better instead of stuck in a hospital, sick. Thankful to be able to sit on my front porch with a cup of tea and watch the maple branches blow in the breeze. Thankful for a sweet husband and son to take care of me and help me. Thankful for returning health, and for God's preservation.


  1. Those paragraphs until "You would think I would learn.".... Are you sure you aren't describing me, there?

    Anyway, I definitely liked reading that, it was interesting! (Are you duly impressed that I read the whole thing? Heehee)

  2. Lyssa-- I really don't understand why you always seem so surprised that we, um, actually have things in common. Er... except that... you haven't been in a car accident or given birth... :-)

  3. Oh, shut up, you know what I meant ^_^

    On the other hand, that may have had something to do with me reading the post, then coming back to comment later...

    Let me rephrase that "Until the forcryingoutloud"

  4. here's what a hospital wuss i am.
    exhibit a) reading your post made me sick to my stomach. i'm highly visual, and being there with you in the action was a little more than i could handle
    and b) i had been at a home birth to help a friend. so when my sister in law asked me assist in the birth center i was like 'no problem'. and then she was transferred to the hospital. i was great, handling it like a champ, until 15 doctors ran in the room. then i had to sit and put my head between me knees. it wasn't the blood, or the fluid- it was all the drs. and the lights and the...well, you know...

  5. Hmmm... glad to know I'm not the only hospital wuss! Guess my post was a little graphic... :-)

  6. Control? You mean the control we think we have and never do? Yeah I know about this lesson and I am in the class.

    I am with the surgeon this time about "draining" your appendix. That would be called helping a toxic situation leak- name of peritonitis, fercryingoutloud! WHEW you had me sweating there. He probably thought you were a whacko. Docs have "No speaka de English" with alternative therapies.

    Nurses do work very hard don't we? I am taking a vow of poverty and staying home. As for those "rants" how about a duet?

    I am very glad your home and whole. Just get better. Not a graphic post to me at all, no mention of bowel movements, barf or anything else. Your shoulder may have been positioned in surgery in a way to make it sore but usually for that short of an operation you should have been OK. A lot of the time being very anxious prior provokes bad anesthesia reactions. Your herbals might have not mixed either. It isn't a safe practice to take anything without anesthesia knowing about it. The stuff they use is powerful, knowing how things mix is a big deal.

    How would you like to have them saw on your bones and take your hip out and put a steal one in and screw in a nice steal femur head? No? Me either.

    I'm glad you just had the band aids, otherwise they use a staple gun. If you want sutures you have to ask for those. Staples make ugly scars.
    Know you can say you survived an experience with "modern" medicine. IV pumps and all. You must have had an IV in the anticubital space of your inner arm, in other words every time you moved or bent your elbow you set it off. Then the pump has to be reset. It's a dad gummed nightmare for everybody, and I always hate it when anesthesia puts an IV there. Bad spot. You probably have veins like garden hoses, but you know people are creatures of habit.

    The good news is it's over!!! whooohooo and you aren't sick. Yep, that's what I'm talkin bout!

  7. wow didn't realize that comment was so long scuz me.

  8. I don't mind long comments. :-)

    I didn't take any herbs, only homeopathics. There's essentially none of the original substance remaining in them-- it's basically an "energy" medicine, strengthening the body's own healing mechanisms. After the surgery, they told me that the chest pain just happens to some people and is from whatever gas they gave me (breathing it made me lung hurt).

    The ER nurse did my IV. She tried it first in the back of my left arm, but it stung like crazy, so she had to do it again in my "elbow pit." Sucked.

    And I have no doubt that the doc thinks I'm a wacko. :-)