The One About the Time I Almost Lost My Belly Button

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WARNING: CONTAINS PHOTOS OF SCARRING AND A HEALING SURGICAL INCISION.

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Remember this guy? He’s still around. I had absolute paroxysms of anguish over the possibility of his loss. Don’t ask why, just because I’m weird and I think too much. As y’all know, though, I also had a backup plan in the event of his tragic demise.

I’m not going to discuss how I got here in this post, as most of you already know. Suffice it to say, here’s where I started:

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8″ ventral hernia left from a surgical infection from a hysterectomy for 3 ginormous fibroid tumours and endometriosis. Horrible scarring. Body image lousy, regardless in my pride in the rest of my fitness achievements, no amount of lifestyle change could fix this. I had absolutely no abdominal strength initially. I spent a solid year, first on my own, and then with the expert assistance of a fantastic personal trainer, building the rest of my core to compensate and regain my mobility. But nothing I could do could change the fact that I now looked like a very fit person who somehow managed to swallow a basketball. My innards were directly under the skin; the two sides of my stomach muscle were split about 5 inches apart from my navel to the top of my pubic bone. Think about how dangerous that could be if I had an abdominal injury in, say, a car accident. When my stomach rumbled, a little old man in Chicago called to complain about the noise. My self-esteem was NOT good, despite my fitness training and lifestyle changes. Remember, too, that this was at a time when I was making my first tentative forays back into the dating world, as well. It would take a pretty special man for me to let him see this. Well, as we know, that part worked out, only because my man is absolutely solid gold, but that’s another story.

So: I lost the weight, increased my fitness and core strength, and quit smoking. The surgeon was blown away. I get the feeling that he’s not used to people doing what they’re told.

The night before, Den took me out for a nice dinner in anticipation of several days of hospital food, and I chose to eat lightly, but well, and we had a lovely evening. Got up the morning of the surgery, had a shower, threw on some sweatpants and a tee-shirt, and Den took me to the hospital. The signing-in stuff went very quickly, and I was gowned and on a gurney hooked up to an IV super-fast. They sure like asking when your birthday is. I’m expecting LOTS of cards this year, I can hardly wait!

Into the OR, strapped down, anesthetized (which as you know, freaks me out) and that’s all she wrote.

Came to in Recovery, in a WORLD of HURTIN’. “Where’s Den?” I ask. “We’ll pick him up from the waiting room on the way to your room.” They wheel me past the waiting room. I can see him reading a magazine. “There he is.” “Where?” I point. “What’s his name?” “Dendendennydenden.” “What?” “Den. Denny.” They call him. He doesn’t look up. They finally get his attention. He was waiting for someone to call MY name. He comes over.

“How you doing, baby?”

“Den?”

“Yeah.”

“It hurts.”

“I know.”

“Den?”

Here’s the BIG QUESTION – “Do I still have a belly button?”

Now, keep in mind, he’s been in the waiting room for, like, I don’t know, four hours. He asks the nurse, who cleverly directs me to ask my doctor, as she can’t stop and remove the dressing to check right now. So, they take me to my room, still not knowing!!!

I’m in a double with an elderly lady who happens to have the same name as one of my cats, a fact which in my drugged-up haze, I somehow feel impelled to share with her. She informs me that the jello is nasty and is, in fact, not even real jello. She is not happy to be there.

Days of clear fluid diet and catheters, people asking questions about my poop and whether I’ve had a good fart. I’m shy about sharing my poop information. Beeping things and pointy things. People taking my blood pressure and temp. Oxygen prongs up my nose, which makes it dry, crusty and prone to bleeding. Hot dry air, giving me a headache, dilaudin (sp?) pump making me nauseated every time my head is lifted. Finally, an Irish pain doctor figures it out and switches me over to my old friend, sweet, swwwweeeeeet morphine, and things start to get better right quick.

The night of my surgery, two nurses try to stand me up to take a few steps. My teeth chatter so badly I can’t speak. They get me vertical, with the help of the walker, but decide I’m not actually walking anywhere, so back down I go. Compression anti-embolism stockings, white, extra long. I decide when they put them on that they’re kinda sexy. That’s the drugs talking, I think, because a couple of days later, the sexy quotient went way down.

Den was there every day, for hours and hours. He called my family for me, let them know how I was, wrote down what the doctor was saying so I’d remember, brought me coffee and water, helped me brush my teeth, took me walking down the hall. Held my hand and reminded me what I was supposed to do and not do. Talked to me and listened to me ramble. He was my rock and it was sweet to see his smiling face every morning, sneaking in before official visiting hours. We spent the day of our six month dating anniversary together, but we didn’t really go anywhere. Down to the end of the hall and back, really.

The days go slowly, but I don’t really notice much. I read a book, try some puzzles, knit half-heartedly. The Therapy Dogs are by for a visit one day, a retriever and a lovely collie. That was nice. But regardless of how kind the staff are (and they truly are), I really want to go home.

The nurses are amazing, I have nothing but respect for nurses. My night nurse is hilarious, a young, blonde bespectacled lass who sounds like Francis McDormand in Fargo, for some reason, and cracks dry midwestern jokes with me at 4 a.m.

I didn’t get sprung as quickly as I’d hoped (mostly due to the bad reaction to the initial pain med). On Saturday morning, the doctor said probably Monday. Sunday morning he came in, checked me out and said “How would you like to go home today?” YES PLEASE. He was really pleased with my progress, and complimented me on all the work I’d done that made his work much easier. He got a SUPER BIG HUG. He’s kind of an awkward hugger, but he is SUPER adorable, really caring, a fastidious surgeon, obviously liked and respected by the nurses, and just a lovely, lovely man. I will be sending him a very special card indeed. He literally gave me the inspiration to change my life, for which I am very, very grateful. I have been treated rather badly by doctors in the past because of my weight, but Dr. P never treated me with anything less than courtesy and dignity, and his foremost concern was for my health and my quality of life. See, docs, THAT’s how you get people to take hold of their lives. Let them know that you believe that they can do it. That’s all.

So, now I’m home, and I don’t have to share my bathroom with an octogenarian with stomach problems, who has three daughters who, Gord bless ’em, visit her constantly and talk at the top of their lungs. I’m the Boss of My Own Poops. It’s okay, I know what’s good poops for me. If there’s a problem, I’ll get a man on it.

My incision is thin and neat. I think he’s incised ALL of the old scar tissue, which makes me super happy, but that’s just because I’m vain. I have to wear an abdominal binder 24/7 for the next four weeks, and will need some time to heal before I get back to the gym for anything more than some gentle treadmill walking. No lifting. Try throwing the cat off your face when you’re not sure whether she weighs more than five pounds or not. She’s sure glad to see me. She’s MUCH cuddlier and friendlier than her hospital namesake. I have Den coming in to help around the house, lift laundry, groceries, etc. The homecare nurse will be by tomorrow to remove the drains, and again on Thursday to take off the surgical tape. I had a shower this morning. It was totally awkward. I will follow up with Dr. P in 3 – 4 weeks.

I probably won’t be able to get back to strength training for two to three months. That still gives me three months to achieve my goal – to be in the best shape of my life by age 50.

Meanwhile, I rest. I eat lightly, lean proteins, lots of fluids. Keep things moving. My dear brother loaned me lots of DVDs, I have some books I’ve been meaning to get to, and some knitting projects on the go. People will call, and drop by, I will get out for some air and light exercise. I need a haircut.

Dr. P said I could probably go back to work in 2 – 3 weeks, but not to push myself. He recommended I just take the full four weeks he’s initially signed me out for. “You don’t strike me as a person who takes a lot of time away,” he said. “You know, they will survive without you for a little while.” And he’s right, they will.

So I’m home, which as you know is the best place in the world, with my lovely pets and my puttering and my friends and family, hanging out, being grateful, making plans.

Namaste.

Post-surgical pics follow. Scroll down at your own risk.

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3 responses »

  1. I am super pleased for you that (a) you got to keep your belly button and (b) they figured out that morphine is where it’s at for you. When the narcotics are part of the problem, it truly makes recovery suck suck suck.
    The weather guy on the CBC told me how cold it is going to be in P’borough tonight, so you’re in the perfect spot, right there on the couch with the cats.
    Therapy dogs = awesome.
    That last pic of you, in the flannel pjs? Cuteness.

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