Star-Belly Sneetch

“Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches had bellies with stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.”

– Dr. Seuss

sneetches-dr.seussIf there’s anyone who can make me feel ok about having a horrific open wound and scars on my belly, it’s Matt. If there’s anyone else who can make me feel ok about these things, it’s Dr. Seuss’s “The Sneetches”!

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Guess which one am I?

WOUND CARE

The last few days have sort of normalized regarding wound care for the MEAT FLAP.

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Nothing has changed. It looks the same as the first day I removed the dressings to take a peek. The only difference I could see was a greyish creamy matter at one end of the opening. Any changes, to me, are to be regarded with suspicion and concern for more potential complications.

I had put in a call to a resource referred to me by the bedside nurse after my procedure called “Wound Care Clinic”. She listened patiently to Matt’s description of what the surgeon told him to do to care for the incision, then she said, “There are better ways”, like in this whispery, far-off, mystical tone.

“Better ways,” Matt and I repeated looking at each other. Huh. She wrote the contact name and number down on my discharge instructions, and away we went.

Then, after a few days of this seemingly ridiculous routine of Matt performing his interpretation of what the doctor instructed him to do each morning and evening, we decided we needed to see this Wound Care specialist.

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Florence Nightingale

Today Matt and I went to the Wound Care Clinic at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center. The nurse, Sue Wilson, was like a refreshing breeze. She was the Florence Nightingale of Good Sam. She kept reaching out to put a tender hand on my wrist or hand, to express reassurance, that she was truly sorry that I’d had to endure the disease and procedures that I had, and she wants to help as many patients as she can take the complication out of their post operative wounds. There were a number of patients waiting to see her in the lobby.

She listened to Matt regale the story of Dr. Childs and the meso-rectal envelope and the stoma-gone-wrong to the hernia “blow-out” and repair surgery, then the instructions that Dr. Tseng had given to care for the “meat flap”.

Florence, I mean Sue, proceeded to lay me back on the exam table and examine the unbandaged wound. “Well, it looks great,” she said, mildly impressed. “It’s a clean cut, consistent color; it’s been well cared for” (I gave Matt a high-five later). Then she warned me she would clean and poke around to inspect it, that it may hurt. I noted that I don’t really feel hurt with this one. Apparently, in ostomy sites, which this was, nerves are damaged and it’s common that people will not feel pain. (That was our first ah-ha moment. That’s why I did not need my pain meds much after the surgery!)

Then she cleaned inside the wound, and to our surprise, a 5-inch long Q-Tip slid easily into a channel under the skin about 2 inches (Ayayay!). That’s where the infection track went. An infection leaves a trail, like snails do! (Another ah-ha.) Or at least like a train track.

She noted the measurements; how deep the tissue was, how long the incision, how far the channel went…

She then introduced a product that is seaweed (kelp?) -based. It looks like angel hair in a bag. With this, instead of packing with gauze, it helps the tissue stay nourished and it absorbs wound drainage. The name… blah blah, it’s a new one, …KALTOSTAT. Then she loaded brown paper bag of water-proof bandages that I can wear while showering, some Q-Tips, adhesive protection spray (to make it easier to remove the adhesive bandages from my skin) for me to take.

 

The Last Ah-ha

Now, naturally, I think, Matt and I have been gravely concerned about the cleanliness and preparation of our at-home exam table (the bed) and countertop, hands, etc, to avoid any possibility of introducing a whole new infection to the area. Rightly so. When you cut your finger, you use alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls, Neosporin, band-aids for protection, you name it, on the wound to keep it from getting infected. And if you don’t? It gets infected! And the infection gets worse and worse until you do it right for long enough that it heals up.

In this case, that’s not necessary, it turns out!

Sue said, “You can change your dressings every 1-2 days, and if you shower every day, just let the water run over the wound” (??!?). Yeah; just shower like you normally do, and don’t pay any special attention to the incision (?!?!). Soap and water will not hurt anything, it will be good for the cut to be irrigated by the water (!!?!).

Gah? Totally counter-intuitive, no? I knew that the surgeon just knew something we didn’t or he would have given WAY more specific care instructions. So weird.

Other than that, I feel more energy. Kombucha, green tea, lots of fresh turmeric root, ginger, garlic, water… kind of what I usually do, just more of it. I introduced wine last night for the first time in over a week, and I maintain a strict regimen of ice cream after dinner. I can exercise (walking and not too much upper-body stuff), watch Matt work/play out in the garden. In the next few months we will be eating from home-grown bounty!

Anyway, that’s the short story (ha ha) of what’s been up the last few days.

MEAT FLAP

What do I make of this?

 

I posted some graphic photos at the bottom of this. For anyone who has a sensitive stomach, do not scroll down to see these shots.

 

Enjoying a contented, easy day of post surgery rest and relaxation, I had no stress, Matt had made sure I was comfortable and was now onto the work that he’d put on hold to be with me through surgery day. I was being ever so cautious and gentle with every movement so as not to stress my abdomen.

 

He had volunteered to change my surgical dressings, which were to stay in place for 24 hours post-op. Oh, my angelic husband; he was installing an air conditioning unit, and when it came time I carefully removed the dressings which had soaked up a good amount of fluid from the wound. What I found, I just couldn’t comprehend. I thought, “Did the doctor forget to stitch me up?” There was a surgically clean gash about 2-1/2 inches across my abdomen looking at me like a piece of raw, flayed steak, and underneath that, some kind of matted mass of gauze.

 

Matt dropped what he was doing and rushed over while questions were reeling through my mind and my mouth. I didn’t feel so well, and sat on the bed to allow some nausea and light-headedness to pass. As Matt prepped new dressings, he explained that the doctor said that this would be the only way this sort of wound would heal, “from the inside out”, and not to panic, it would be ok.

 

I lay down on the bed while Matt used some rudimentary tools to pull the gauze from underneath the meat flap, which did not want to let go where it was holding on. Oddly, it did not hurt, yet I was in shock from the sight of the gore.

 

Matt turned on my camera phone and handed it to me and said, “We should film this. Here, take some pictures!” Oh, Matt! I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do less… yet, I knew he was right, I mean, isn’t this a once-in-a-lifetime event, dealing with a live wound on his wife’s belly? So I obliged, making a pathetic mug for the camera, which didn’t take much effort.

 

After several minutes of gently tugging, the gauze finally pulled free and Matt finished dressing me with the fresh materials.

“I can’t believe they let me do this,”

he mused, referring to the medical staff sending him home with the responsibility of keeping the flesh clean and alive. I couldn’t either. Doesn’t it seem like something a trained professional should be doing given the risk of infection, or flesh necrosis? It seemed like a big responsibility for my husband to take on for me, let alone for me to do on myself??

Baffled, I am!

The hissing in my ears from the shock of the ordeal finally wore off and I napped until dusk.

I felt better when I woke up, but was extra-cautious of my movements now that I knew I had a meat flap to protect!

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Grossed-out

Grossed Out

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Yeah, kind of like that!

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Meat Flap

pathetic_mugs

Our Very Most Pathetic Mugs

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Gross Gauze Extraction

STITCH INFECTION: ABDOMINAL SURGERY RECAP

Surgery for the infection underneath my abdominal skin went as well as it could have yesterday.

Abdominal_Infection_SurgeryMatt delivered me to the hospital and stayed with me the entire time (that they would allow him). He was such a good sport, yet I felt badly that he would have to take an entire day away from his obligations for this little medical hic-up, and worry about me for hours on top of it all. Argh! Well, what could be done?

 

After a fast from midnight building up to the procedure, Matt & I made it to the hospital on time at 9:00am for an 11:00 procedure. The surgeon was running an hour and a half behind, so it was quite a long wait, but no worry, I could catch up on all the wonky politician statements in the voters pamphlet, ha!

 

Then the anesthesiologist appeared. Oh good, I thought, we’re getting close. I just wanted to get home. After the hernia repair, back in October 2012, I remember waking up and fighting nausea for hours. That kept me at the hospital until 11:30 at night when my stomach finally settled. I made sure they would mind the anti-nausea medication this time. Ok, it was a deal. Dr. Tseng came in and reiterated the planned procedure. We told him to go take a break and get lunch, we would be happy to wait until he felt ready (he was 1-1/2 hours behind schedule, for some unknown reason, possibly a stressful one!). He laughed assured us he would.

 

Next think I know, I was in the recovery room (funny, the passing of time). The nurse was buzzing around my bedside and I heard Matt’s voice coming around the corner. All went well, and I passed this test. No nausea to speak of. I ate some ice chips, then sipped some water, then added saltines on top of that. I was out of it, but felt good. About an hour and I took two Oxycodone for some creeping soreness, and got dressed, and we left! It was about 4:00pm; a full day.

 

The doctor had found some extra suture material under the smaller of the two pimples on my abdomen, which would have made it impossible to fight off an infection, then removed some of the mesh from under the larger pimple. He found no tracks of infection leading to other areas under the skin, so was confident he excised everything he needed to in order to vanquish the infection. Let’s hope. Now I will be “packing the opening” with gauze to draw out fluid as the infection drains. The nurse recommended instead that I see a healing specialist who will have some alternative methods of healing the wound. I guess packing went out of fashion? Not too fond of it, myself.

 

I felt some wetness on my clothes and the wound had been weeping through the bandaging and all three layers of clothing, already! I think this is good? My body is expelling the infection? I am not to change the dressing for 24 hours, so I packed on a hand towel and pulled up a fitted cotton skirt to aid holding it in place. I looked as white trash as possible with my hot pink tank top, short, fitted skirt and bulging belly bandages. Ha!

 

It was such a beautiful, sunny day, a good day for recovery on the couch! And Matt stopped at the grocery store to buy some salmon and halibut to barbecue. It was peaceful at home. I snoozed for a while. We watched The Social Network, which we enjoyed. Even though we were both tired, we had a lovely date!

 

Fingers crossed, now we wait and see. Only if the infection does not go away or the hernia reappears will I be back in the hospital.

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