School’s Out

For the summer!

Well, even though I’m not on the blog so much these days because time is simply something I don’t have, I did want to post a little bit to celebrate the end of the school year. Nell is a first grader now, which is almost impossible for me to believe. Even though she was a school-ager already, she was a kindergartner, and kindergarten is different — it’s still young, it’s still my baby.  But now she is one of those school kids who know the routines in the halls, who can handle the lunch room, and who carry their backpack like a pro.  Wait, no, she still wants me to carry that.

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She’s taller, she’s smarter, and she has grown up so much this year (even though, yanno, she was five when she started kindergarten, and she is still five years old, much to her dismay — she recently discovered she will always be the youngest in her class, and she was NOT pleased).

She had a wonderful school year, and we were really lucky to have such a wonderful teacher (and teacher’s assistant, who Nell adored).  It’s hard to remember the beginning of the year, but now she can add and subtract, she can read almost anything (and tries to read everything), and I definitely can’t spell words in front of her anymore — that game is OVER.

She has also gotten stronger and more confident.  She has been doing a CrossFit kids program since Easter, and it has been an excellent experience for her.  She can carry kettlebells, rope climb, do burpees, and is close to doing complete pull-ups on her own.  She practices on a bar she has at home with various attachments, and she is so proud of her progress.  She practices every night and is proud of her strength and her new skills.

I am so happy with Nell’s school, which has a really strong spirit and sense of community. This weekend, I joined members of the PTA and teachers from the school to paddle in a series of dragon boat races as part of a massive fundraising event to benefit End Hunger in Calvert County.  More than 10,000 families in Calvert County rely on the organization, including families at Nell’s school, so it was an honor to help raise $4000 to support this organization along with other members of Nell’s school community.  Here are a few shots G took of the event.

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First race of the day — we got our butts kicked in this race but it was a great *learning experience* of what not to do!  We did much better in our second and third races.IMG_8552 IMG_8559

Game face was on! (So were my jellyfish pants, for one race anyway!)IMG_8580 IMG_8587 IMG_8600

Race two, second place — a little bit better!IMG_8636 IMG_8661

Our third race was for the division cup (PTA versus teachers).  We took the trophy, but it was nothing but smiles on both teams. Our team motto may have been “in it to win it” but really, the motto was “two boats, one team.”IMG_8682

Now that school is out, we’re in full summer mode. Beach days, pool nights, mermaid tails, and beach towels hanging on every rack and rail. It’s going to be a great summer!

The empty space in the room

I had a fluoroscopy today, which is basically a test where you don’t eat for a day, then you chug cement, then you get x-rays taken every 15 minutes over the course of several hours, then they use a strange paddle to smoosh your insides around to take even better pictures, and just when you think you’re going to puke, they tell you it’s time to go.  I’ve got several more tests like these in the next few weeks (all the things that end in SCOPY!) — all of which require fasting and cement mixtures and some of which add in sedation for the trifecta win!  All trying to see might have caused the volvulus, and what has been going on since.  Do I know how to have fun?

But since I feel like an absolute slug right now, it’s a good time for another back blog post!

When we first moved into this house in 2013, we did a lot of updates/remodels — most notably, the kitchen, the bathrooms, the basement, and the guest house. After that initial burst of GETALLTHETHINGSDONE, major updates slowed down, in part because, yanno, kids, life, work, etc., but also in part because the things we didn’t do right away were more often than not the things we were undecided on.  Things like the fence — when we first moved in, we had expected to fence a much larger portion of yard until we realized our property lines were wider and more complicated than that, and the change in plans led to so much indecision.  But the fence for the yard and the gates for the deck turned out to be such a wonderful change that really enhanced our quality of life outside around the house.  And things like the stairwell and the loft — we puzzled over solutions for that for years before realizing what we wanted to do to update the space and make it safer and more usable (and I do owe this blog some proper photos of that transformation at some point).

And, most recently, things like the big empty gap between our kitchen and dining room that just existed.  As you will recall, our kitchen looked like this when we moved in:

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We remodeled the kitchen, but kept it on the same (more or less) footprint as the old kitchen, which meant that we still had one annoying problem: the empty space between the kitchen and the dining room that was just useless.  (Also, I forgot what it looked like to see the wood railing! Wow, I don’t miss that!)

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We tried different solutions for the space over the years — a rug, the kids’ play table, that little sideboard, but nothing felt right.  I had one (spectacular, if I do say so myself) idea for the space, which would have only required a major remodel of the kitchen and some plumbing here and there to move the laundry but for WHATEVER REASON, G vetoed that.  So, luckily there was a second idea in place that I sketched to G in concept and he ran with and built himself.  And it turned out to be one of the most fabulous changes we have made to the house!

He redid the bar top and extended it into a full counter over the empty space.  More seating (cough, when we buy more bar stools, thanks IKEA for discontinuing these), space for appetizers and platters when we have folks over for dinner and meals, and an area for everyone to gather and have snacks while I cook that isn’t actually IN the kitchen.

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And since we were IKEA-ing, and G likes to wrap all projects into one, we also replaced those awful laundry doors with beautiful glass sliding doors.  And by “we,” I mean G. This was all his project.

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Pre-Easter, Easter Fun

We are getting ready for Easter around here. Since I am desperately behind on holiday preparations and anything else life-related, Mom and Dad stepped in and hosted the egg dyeing party today.  Nell took her time and enjoyed the colors available to her, while Guy dyed all of his eggs blue as fast as he could.  You will notice the rapid accumulation of light blue eggs…

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Officially the fastest egg dyeing party ever, but the kids had a blast!  Even if we did end up with a very blue non-assortment of eggs.

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After the real eggs came the fake eggs: the county hosts massive egg hunts for all of the different age groups at each of the country parks, so this afternoon, Nell and Guy joined a gazillion other 3-5 year olds on the field to scoop up 2,000 eggs with candy and prize tickets.

The face of a competitor.

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Of course, downtime is pretty good, too, when you’re a toddler with a basket.IMG_8486 IMG_8485 IMG_8484 20170409_143244_HDR  Look how well-behaved we look…20170409_141559_HDR

We didn’t hang out with the Easter bunny at the park — he looked too intimidating — but Nell did sit down at the daycare egg hunt with this totally legit, not at all creepy looking version…

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And yes, it was 30 degrees on Friday for that picture, and 70 degrees today.  Must be spring in Maryland.

More than you need to know about it, really

It wasn’t appendicitis.  My appendix was inflamed and we took it out (that’s what I do these days), but my surgeon thought it might have just been caught in the crossfire of the other issue.  Pathology later confirmed there was never any appendicitis.

It was acute small bowel volvulus: in pretty terms, when your small intestine ties itself in a bow and (as you can imagine) stops working after that.  A volvulus in and of itself is not uncommon; however, volvulvus of the small intestine (something occasionally seen in infants or young children as a birth defect) is extremely rare in adults.  So uncommon, in fact, that the studies on the issue show only a handful of cases every year, and there are only a couple studies I could find on it at all, quite frankly.

Because it’s so rare, the question of the hour is why did it happen to me?  Or, in medical terms, was this primary or secondary small bowel volvulus (i.e., did this happen on its own or did something cause this to happen)?  The obvious trigger is my hysterectomy — in fact, in the most recent study I could find, which identified 35 cases of acute small bowel volvulus in adults over a ten year span, 23 of those cases had had prior abdominal surgery.  However, in those cases, the cause of the volvulus was obvious: postoperative adhesions.

I had no adhesions.  I had no nicks, leaks, adhesions, or other obvious signs that something was amiss.  And I am pretty convinced, based on everything my surgeon had to say, that he checked thoroughly.  “Absolutely none,” he said emphatically in his quasi-German accent.

As for primary acute small bowel volvulus, because it is so rare, they have no idea what causes it.

But as I said when I thought it was appendicitis, could I be that unlucky?  The two surgeries surely have to be related in some way, even if it isn’t obvious.

Whether it was primary or secondary — and for the sake of my sanity I am assuming secondary — I will undergo a number of tests, including repeat scans, beginning in a few weeks when I have healed enough to see if we can learn anything else about why this happened.

Is it likely to occur again in the future?  Not necessarily — in the study I referenced above, three of the 35 patients had this happen more than once; however that was not explored further, and there really isn’t a reason to assume this would happen again, aside from the fact that we don’t have a reason why it occurred in the first place.

The one thing that is certain, though, is that in any case, immediate surgery is critical, and I am grateful that my CT scan showed enough junk and inflammation (even if it didn’t actually show them what was wrong) to get them to move quickly toward surgery. And as I mentioned in my previous post, the doctor on call in the ER was very firm that surgery was urgent (if only to deal with my ruptured-not ruptured appendix).

Pics in order:
1. surgery one, 1 day post-op (three total incisions inc. belly button);
2. surgery one, 3 weeks post-op;
3. surgery two, 1 week post-op, and 6.5 weeks from surgery one (one long incision, still taped, and one shorter incision exactly along my star tattoo — my surgeon was quite pleased with his creativity on that one).

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So now it’s back to recovery, though this one is much more difficult than the last.  Not all laparoscopic surgeries are alike, apparently.  I’m one week post-op and still struggle to get up and down, walk much, and move around.  I still feel shortness of breath and nausea when I first start walking, and if I sneeze or cough… well, I may as well be ripping my stitches out.  But I do feel some improvement (slowwwww improvement), and I am confident I’ll be able to go for some walks by the weekend — at least get out of the house!

I have another six weeks of restrictions (if we’re being honest, “at least 6 weeks” may be more what my surgeon said), which means, of course, no paddling, but also none of the other things I was looking forward to — like picking up the kids and swimming in the pool with them.  In April, I had planned a trip — a reward for getting through the other surgery! — to NC to paddle with the #1 female paddler in the world who is flying in from New Zealand.  It was only for a night, but I had a nice hotel room, and I was so looking forward to it.  I canceled it already — on Monday, when I was exactly 6 weeks out from my first surgery and had big exclamation marks on my calendar indicating the end of recovery.  That definitely hurt a bit.

But here we go again.  Hopefully by this time next week, my mornings will be recovery walks on the beach and sea glass in my pockets.  And maybe this time around, I won’t need winter coats and hats.

The Second Surgery

The kids had been sick for three days — fevers, stomachaches, one very random burst of vomit from Guy — so I assumed I had the stomach bug, too. I was queasy, thirsty, didn’t feel right. I fell asleep at lunchtime, picked the kids up from daycare early, and was happy to come back and rest on the couch with them that evening.  I went to bed still queasy, but otherwise fine.  Just a stomach bug.

That was a week ago.

That night, around 11, I woke up to a stabbing pain along my right side and waves of nausea that would have sent me scrambling, except that I could barely move against the painful spasms in my abdomen. The night was a long blur of moving back and forth between the bed and the bathroom, trying to find relief from the pain or the nausea (both seemed too optimistic), but neither came.  When it was time to get ready for work, I just shook my head at G, and curled back into a ball of misery.

It wasn’t long after he left that I realized something was wrong, and it might not just be a stomach bug.  The pain on my right side was becoming more acute.  If I hadn’t just had surgery, I said to my parents on the way to the emergency room, I would say it was my appendix — but surely I couldn’t be that unlucky?

The emergency room was a long, drawn-out nightmare. They had no beds available when we got there, so G (who had turned around on his way to work and met us there) and I waited in a small room — the pain for me was becoming intolerable at that point, and he was feeling helpless to do anything.  But finally, a bed opened up, and I don’t really have a good sense of time after that.  We got there early in the morning and the next actual time I remember is 8:30 pm when I was awake after surgery.

In between that was a lot of pain, a lot of nausea, and very little relief honestly.  At some point in the afternoon (mid-day? I don’t know), I had a CT scan.  It wasn’t long after that that the nurse came back into our room.  “Appendicitis,” she said.  I asked her to repeat herself.  All I heard was “another surgery.”  G said, “We should have taken that out last time.”

But the doctor came in and explained that actually they couldn’t see the appendix at all.  There was too much inflammation in that area on the scan.  There also appeared to be pockets of air.  His guess was that it had already ruptured.  At any rate, quick surgery was necessary.  He contemplated sending me to a university hospital but felt the wait would be too long, and he was also very confident in the surgeon on call (who several of the nurses said was the best surgeon they had, for what that is worth).

The issue of the serum sickness was a tricky one — obviously I haven’t yet identified what caused it last time because who knew I’d need that information less than three weeks later.  I still had all the paperwork on serum sickness from NIH and other sources printed out in my backpack, which I shared with the surgeon and the anesthesiologist.  Finally, after lots of conversation about it and a call to my GP, they agreed to switch one of the agents being used for general anesthesia, give me a strong dose of pre-op prednisone, and follow that up with antihistamines for the length of my hospital stay.  Agreeing to those terms, I finally signed the consent form for general anesthesia outside the OR and was asleep before the ink was dry.

The next thing I remember was G by my side that night.

“Did the doctor talk to you after surgery?” he asked.  “Did he tell you what it really was?”