Saturday, April 5, 2014

Surgery and So Many Blessings

There is so much good in life. I have been extremely blessed to be the recipient of so much of that goodness. It would be quite easy to focus on the negatives and the disappointments and pain in the last 18 months of my life, but I am very sure there has been more good than bad, more blessings than hardships.

I want to start changing the way that I blog, and while that means that I will actually do it sometimes, it more importantly means that I want it to be more positive in nature. I’ve had fun writing about stories that 99% of the time involve making fun of myself, but it’s time for me to blog about more than just those socially awkward moments (though there are plenty to tell). This post will be the first of many more to come that will reveal a more complete and whole version of myself. There’s so much that I haven’t written about that I would really enjoy sharing. Of course there will still be the funny stories, but there’s so many other things I want to include on this blog! Here goes!

In a way, this transition is reflective in my own life. This used to be an outlet for my awkwardness and, more honestly, shame over certain social situations and personality characteristics. I don’t know what’s changed, but I feel more comfortable in my own skin now. Maybe I needed this chronic illness, that has taken so many things that I thought essential to who I am, to figure out what’s truly important and why I am worthy of love and belonging.

Today (ok I'm an hour late, but on the 4th) marks the 18 month anniversary for the beginning of my headaches and 2 months post-op!

Here's the surgery story/update:

*Disclaimer: If you get grossed out by blood, don't scroll down for the surgery pictures.

My dad and I arrived in Houston and I went to various appointments the day before the surgery. I remember them repeating a lot of what had been said when I went in December, and to be honest, I didn’t absorb much because I was pretty nervous and my head was pounding. But those appointments reminded me that the surgery required a lot of recovery and care. The night before I felt a lot of peace about the whole thing as I prayed. I felt SO many prayers from friends and family. I have never felt the power of having so many people pray for me. I never understood when people said they could “feel” the prayers of others on their behalf, but now I get it. I felt so supported and loved and I knew that even if things didn’t go well, I had an amazing support system and people who would help me through it.

I wanted to wear my #usofkate shirt, but they made me wear a gown.
The day of the surgery I woke up feeling good and anxious to get started. Luckily, I had to be there early so I didn’t have to wait long. The closer we got to the surgery center, the more anxious I got. Any nerves I had were about how I would feel after I woke up. Having prayed about the whole procedure for so long, I felt confident in Dr. Perry and his team and their ability to perform the surgery well. But boy was I nervous when the nurse came in to put my IV in! So nervous, that I had a hard time distracting myself, and the next thing I knew, I was lying back in the chair with a couple nurses and my dad looking down on me. Passing out from needles isn’t anything new, I guess. Still embarrassing though. A few jokes later (from every person in the surgery center, mind you), and I was on the gurney with a couple surgical assistants/nurses distracting me with funny stories while another nurse stuck me with an IV. I was relieved it only took two tries! The last thing I remember is the surgical assistant asking me lots of questions that I knew the answers to but couldn’t quite reply as my body started to react to the anesthesia. 

Here’s what they did while I was out:

It's tricky to explain, but these are essentially before and after photos of the incisions they made. They decompressed the nerves and removed the scar tissue. So gross, I know.

Waking up went less smoothly. All I remember is a big blue bucket… a couple blue buckets, actually. I should’ve named them. Unfortunately, I was too busy throwing up what little I had in my stomach to worry about that. They kept thinking I was done so they’d throw away the bucket and then I’d need one again several minutes later. Normal post-surgery time in the recovery room is about 30-60 minutes. I’m pretty sure I both set a new record and managed to ruin multiple nurses’ dinner plans by sticking around for 210 minutes – that’s 3.5 hours, people. Surgery prep started at 9am and I did not leave the surgery center until 6:30pm. It was a really long day to say the least. I have never felt so miserable in my life. But getting back to the hotel was really great because I could finally lay down and hold my souvenir blue bucket in front of my face in peace, with no one telling me to do this or that. Dad was awesome and made sure that I got something to eat and that I was taking all my meds at the right time. He helped me get propped up at the 45 degree angle I slept in for the two weeks after surgery, get ice on my neck, and drain my brain juice from my pain pump. What a gem!

Imagine my surprise to discover that they had shaved half my head! So trendy...
The days following the surgery in Houston were both worse and better than I expected. For some reason I had it in my mind that recovering from head surgery wouldn’t be all that bad and I would just wake up without a headache. I don’t know where that came from, but it has really messed with my ability to mentally handle the challenge of recovery. The pain after surgery was compounded with the pre-surgery headache and to say that I was hurting is an understatement. Luckily, I have amazing friends and family and doctors to help me out and keep my spirits up! I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who prayed for me, called me, texted me, stopped by to see me, sent packages, etc! WOW am I blessed! Realizing and feeling so much love from those I love has been one of my greatest blessings and treasures through this whole journey. It’s amazing.

I’m glad to say that after two months post-surgery, I am feeling better. I still haven’t had any headache-free moments, but the surgery pain has mostly gone away and I can function for the most part on my own. The doctors are hopeful that I will start to feel better soon. I pray that I do. In the mean time, I’ve been resting, relaxing, and occasionally getting out and doing fun things again!
Thank you again to everyone who continually keeps me in their thoughts and prayers and keeps me thinking positively!

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that when I put God first, nothing else matters. When I don’t, I’m not as happy, no matter what my life circumstance is. During this chronic pain, I’ve felt closer to Heavenly Father than any other time in my life. I love relying on Him and trusting in His grace and timing. I know that as long as I am obedient to the covenants I’ve made to love Him and love His children, I will be okay in the long run. This life is such a gift and the hard experiences are just opportunities to increase love and grow. With faith in Christ, life is good.