Monday, October 31, 2016

I survived...

Hello, world...

Six months. It's been six months since my last post, and it's as if my entire world changed. Again.

I'm less than two weeks away from my 31st birthday. Pain has been part of my life for nearly eighteen years. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, much of my life has been a struggle. I've endured physical pain that most people can't even imagine. I've had heartbreak and loss repeatedly. Somehow, I've always found a way to see the light through all of it.

Two and a half years ago, my world was completely torn apart. The life that I was living, the story that I believed, the future that was talked of and dreamed about was nothing more than a series of lies. I did what I had to do to survive. I  moved to be closer to my family because I knew there was no way that I could heal when my demons would have been everywhere.

One day around the year mark of saying goodbye to a place I thought I would never leave, surviving turned to thriving. A couple of short months after that, in June of 2015, I experienced the loss of my father. For probably the first nine months or so, I was an absolute wreck. I wouldn't even say that I was surviving. I was waking up, crying, working, crying, sleeping, crying, etc... It was like Groundhog's Day, every day. What made it worse was the pain it brought up from my past. I hadn't healed entirely from what I had lost in DC. There was no way for me to separate the two. One day in April, I woke up and none of it hurt as much. I had made it through all of the firsts without my dad (except for the anniversary), and I realized I actually had survived. I started feeling like myself again. April through Mother's Day was really good. Fittingly, the day after that, the sky fell. Again.

On May 9th, 2016, I woke up with what felt like a swollen lymph node or possibly a cyst in my right groin. It hurt some but I didn't think too much about it. That night I could barely sleep because it had started hurting a lot and the swelling was growing. By the following afternoon, I was in excruciating pain, and the swelling around the area had easily grown by 100%. I went to the emergency room immediately. More than six hours later when I finally was able to see a doctor, the swelling had continued to spread and I was in so much pain that I was shaking and had a fever. My mom was there with me, thank God. The doctor said that they were going to admit me after I got a CT scan, but before they sent me back, she traced around the swollen area so they could see how rapidly it was expanding. They had to hold me down to do it because it felt like I was being sliced open with a scalpel (without medicine), and I remember just lying there, writhing in pain and screaming.

My scan showed nothing, but they figured it was just a skin infection of some sort so they hooked me up to pain medications and antibiotics. My temperature kept getting higher but they weren't concerned because it hadn't gotten above 101, despite the fact that I told them repeatedly that my normal is 96. 101 for me feels like I'm dying. The days passed by and my pain level grew, the swelling had wrapped nearly all the way around from one groin to the other and had started to radiate down my leg. By the morning of day five my fever had spiked to 103 (seven degrees above my normal) and they decided that maybe they should change the antibiotics again because the three they had me on weren't getting the job done.

My fever was roughly 7 degrees higher than my normal

Changing of the lines after blowing another one

And after blowing yet another vein, they used this scanner to try to find a new one.

Swelling on day 3

Swelling on day 5
By the morning of day five, the swelling had continued to wrap around to the back of my right hip, and all the way across the top to the other hip. By the time it was radiating down my leg, I had blisters that had been popping up for a day or so. Once they started to rupture, my pain level was out of control.

Oxygen, iv, and pain pump cords

I had to start oxygen after struggling to breathe through the pain

By the morning of the sixth day, I was truly in fear of my life. There was also an incident with my normal primary care physician and as a result I removed her from my case. I basically hadn't slept more than and hour or two at a time here and there the entire time that I was there. It already wasn't a good one when the primary did rounds on me that morning. The other doctors on my case were amazing, and had been in my room for quite some time that morning. They spent a lot more time seeing the physical anguish I had been under. They, along with two other doctors suggested a pain pump to her because all infection, swelling and pain got worse all weekend. The primary looked at me and said she would only sign off on this if I talked to someone in psych first. She felt like the only reason my pain was so bad was because I was grieving my dad. I stopped speaking or looking at her at that point. You should have seen the looks on the other two doctors faces who had actually seen the agony my body has been through--the infection, swelling, and blistering had done to my body. I missed my dad and she had known three months before I went in that I was still struggling with my grief. However, I had never once said that any of this had happened because he was gone.

Thank God the surgeon who had consulted on my case was convinced that since none of the five antibiotics or pain killers were helping, that we needed to do another scan. There were some spots that looked like they could cut into and hopefully drain. They went in that evening, essentially just exploring to finds areas they could remove the apparent infection from. They tunneled through a lot of infection, and removed as much as they could. It required two incisions, one on the inside of my right groin that was roughly about two and a half inches long, and another roughly and inch long just above my vagina. Such pleasant areas to be sliced open. The pain once I was back into a room, was ungodly. Because they tunneled so far into my body, the incisions couldn't be closed up with stitches. Instead they had to be cleaned and packed multiple times a day. When the packing would be removed, the pain was so unbearable (and that was with multiple pain killers) that all I could do was scream, shake, and cry. I had horrible experiences with nurses who were so careless we had to request they not be assigned to my case.

The morning after surgery, my cultures came back positive for necrotizing cellulitis, staph, and MRSA, any of which can kill you on their own. My room was instantly turned into an isolation room for the rest of my time there. Nobody could come in or out without a gown, mask, and gloves on...except for my mother, because nobody tells her what to do. The hospitalist told me that had they not gone in when they did, the infections would have spread to my blood, and I would have been dead in one to two days max.

After my eighth line blew, they finally moved to a picc line, which took two separate attempts.

I had more than thirty bruises on my stomach from the blood thinner injections I received twice a day. A month after being discharged, some of them were still there.

Day 14, still miserable.

This was the smaller end of the biggest incision, eight and a half days after surgery .
Eventually, on the fifteenth day, my blood counts had improved enough for me to be discharged. I was sent home with two antibiotics, a steroid, two pain killers, sleeping pills, anti-nausea pills, and anti-anxiety medication. I had never been so happy to go home in my life.

Removing the picc line the went from my right arm all the way over to my heart. I still have the scars from both lines.

I received so many phone calls, emails, texts, cards, thoughtful gifts and beautiful flowers from friends literally all over the country.
If you've followed my journey at all, you know that I stand firm on knowing that I would not be alive were it not for God. Were it not for my faith, I would have ended my life when I was in junior high because of the hell that I was going through. I will tell you this right now, from May 9 through much of August, I have never experienced such agonizing pain, and that is saying something. Without knowing that God has a purpose and a plan for everything in my life, I would not have survived. Without the prayers of hundreds of people, I would not have survived. Without my Momma taking care of me after I was discharged, I would not have survived. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't change my own dressings. I could barely walk. I couldn't lift anything. Going to the bathroom or attempting to bathe seemed like really stupid ideas because of how painful it was. The surgeon said it would take four to six weeks for the incisions to heal all the took more than two months. Five months and six days after being discharged, I still have a ton of scar tissues that hurts sometimes.

I love writing. I love knowing that I'm able to use my journey to help others along the way. I couldn't write for most of the time I was recovering because I was at a loss for words, and just in so much pain. This fall has been great so far (more about that later), and I'm finally back into the swing of my Primal habits, too.

For now I will leave you with this. I survived. They say that you should do more than just survive. There are periods in our lives where sometimes it takes everything within us to merely survive. I made it through a year that for a while, I didn't know if I would. My body is literally covered in scars from nearly a dozen lines that went in and out of my body, dozens of needle marks, and huge incisions that I find myself fairly self conscious about. I survived. I'm alive. I don't had from the wars that I have been through. Somehow, God thinks I am strong enough to handle all of these things. And if for no other reason than to share my story and to give even one person enough hope to keep fighting their battles, then I'll take it.

Because I survived, and because I am alive, I did something this weekend that I never thought I would do. I had a scripture reference tattooed on my wrist-- Psalm 46:5. It is my constant reminder that God is within me and that is what gets me through all of it. I also had my Daddy's hand writing traced from a birthday card he sent to me, and tattooed onto my foot. I've struggled with the fact that he won't be there when I get married some day. His words are on the side where he would be standing next to me if he was. Every time I look down, I see his actual words and it makes me smile.

No matter the battle you are facing, no matter how scary life gets, no matter how hard you are fighting to just survive, you can do it. One day merely surviving will turn into more than that. One day you will wake up and realize that you've done more than just survive. This entire year has changed my perspective on absolutely everything, and that's not a bad thing.