It has been 17 days since I delivered the long-awaited and celebrated baby Azulito via cesarean section.
It has been 10 days since I came to my senses and asked my Dad and his fiancée to take me, the MT and Azulito to the emergency room.
When I contacted my sister in law and then my Dad (because my sister in law was busy and not in any position to reach me quickly), I was pretty sure it was my appendix making me feel like death warmed over. Still, I was hopeful I’d be mistaken. Nobody wants a ruptured appendix 8 days after major abdominal surgery to deliver a child (or so soon after any delivery for that matter).
I wasn’t mistaken. I guess bad luck runs in threes after all (the first surgery this June was an emergency retinal reattachment repair for the LP, which occurred simultaneously with baby A’s delivery because… Well because that’s how we roll.).
I am home and have been for several days. For the first time today I could walk upright without moaning as though I were 103 years old. I consider this an achievement, especially after taking only Tylenol (not T3s, I can’t take codeine). I am not pain-free by any stretch and I can’t lift almost anything or pull on things (you don’t know how much you do either of those activities until you cannot do them) but I am doing much better than I have been in what feels like ages. It is such a relief to see a light at the end of the tunnel that has been this long journey toward enjoying our finally-complete family.
Still, I am waiting to exhale fully. I’m at what I consider a fairly high risk of developing an abscess where that devil appendix was. One of my surgical team said 1 in 20 before the surgery and when it was assumed my appendix would be intact when removed (it wasn’t) but current medical literature on the subject says that once ruptured that risk is closer to 1 in 5. Either way, those odds are not great.
When I was discharged I was told not to call or wait to see a doctor if I have any signs of infection once at home. I am to go directly to the emergency room of the hospital where I had my appendectomy (also where I delivered baby Azulito).
Typically if an abscess forms it does so about 14 days after the appendix was removed. That would be next Wednesday. I finish the course of two oral antibiotics the surgeons prescribed upon discharge on Monday (for which I’m grateful as they have upset my stomach and aren’t helping baby Azulito in the GI department, either).
I am crossing my fingers that I do not develop an abscess and need to return to hospital. May the appendectomy put an end to the drama train that has been June 2015 in our household.
Something strange – or perhaps not so strange? – happened when the head surgeon told me about 48 hours after surgery that my appendix had made a mess of my insides when it burst and that I was about 2 hours away from disaster by the time I was in surgery. I was septic and, as the surgeon said, “very sick”.
I didn’t see a light. I didn’t hear the voice of God. But I did and do feel as though someone grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me a solid shake.
I have spent several moments in tears, reduced in my humility to a sense of “Oh my God, what if…?” that I’ve found simply too terrifying to think about. As cliche as it sounds, I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful to be able to enjoy my family – this family that the LP and I have struggled so hard and long to create – and determined not to take for granted these precious gifts.
It sounds so trite. And yet there it is. This is my truth.
In addition to the realization that I could have lost everything (although with modern medicine it is very unlikely one will die in a developed country from a ruptured appendix it still happens, more than I would have expected) came another realization. I am following in my mother’s footsteps. My mother suffered unspeakable hardships in her life, before she had me. Then she suffered medically for years before succumbing to cancer and heart disease.
During her time my mother was hospitalized for sepsis. I travelled back from where I was living in Mexico to see her. She confided in me that at one point she wanted to throw in the towel. She saw a light. But in the midst of being drawn to that light my brother’s ugly plaid shirt kept hauling my Mom back to her hospital room where my brother (and father) had sat at her bedside. It was not her time yet.
My Mom later told my brother to get rid of that shirt. She never wanted to see it again. She did not tell him why. Some things are better left unsaid.
I have thought a great deal about that story my mother told me and about what she experienced when she was so sick. She had a presence of mind about being and ceasing to be. Consciously or not, she made a choice.
When I was taken to the operating room and in the hours beforehand I felt as though I was dying. The LP later said I looked and acted that way. He kept asking if I wanted to hold Azulito. “I can’t” I said each time. And I truly couldn’t. I did not trust myself to hold him. I could barely stay conscious, the narcotic pain killers had stopped working and I experienced everything in a haze of pain and exhaustion. I was out of gas. It hurt to breathe.
I am grateful I didn’t see any light or feel I had any choice of whether to fight on or surrender. I don’t know what I would have done. I’ve never been so sick. (I used to say that about the time I had Typhoid while living in Mexico but that experience pales by comparison to the appendicitis and peritonitis I experienced this month.)
I had no options, metaphysical or otherwise. For that, too, I am grateful.
I do not yet know if or how this experience and the determination to live in each moment to which it has given rise will play out in my life choices. I have a strong sense it will, however. I believe it is meant to. There were lessons for me in all of this earthly suffering. I look forward to making sense of what they are.
In the meantime, I am basking in each day’s grace and the love I am here to shower on my family.
Amen to that.