Monday, November 9, 2009

My First ER Visit, EVER!

The ability to swallow my own saliva was a short lived ability.

I got up Sunday feeling okay, but tired and weak and a smidge dizzy. My poor brain was jonesing for some Lexapro. Well, maybe I could take one after some warm beverage. I nearly got stuck taking one Saturday before the trip to the vet's office. So I wasn't looking forward to it.

Because I hadn't had much of anything in days and I was down 10 pounds since Wednesday afternoon's weigh in, I thought I would do hot cocoa again. Yeah. Not a good idea. Two small sips was enough to wake the Slime Monster.

This attack started about 9:15. By 11:30 I was still sliming and it showed no signs of stopping. I was anxious, jittery and worried. Enough was enough. I had to go to the hospital.

Here's a word to the wise: make sure you have an emergency contact number for off-hours for your surgical clinic. I assumed I had one, but I didn't. I emailed my nutritionist, Jessica, and my surgeon, but wasn't sure if they checked work email on the weekends. Lord knows I don't! I tried calling the hospital but got nowhere, there. I asked the guy who answered the phone if I came in, could they page the on call surgeon? "Ma'am, that's hearsay. If you need to come in, come in."

WTF? Hearsay? I asked you a question dude, I didn't tell you a rumor. I just want to know if the ER can get me my doc!

I gave up and decided to go in, spit cup in hand.

The time to go to the ER is 11:45 on Sunday. I was called back in less than a minute and in a room within 5. I curled up on the gurney and the emotional relief of being seen by medical staff helped me calm down and the sliming finally stopped. I slept for a few hours while they were paging the on-call doc, periodically interrupted by ER docs.

I had to laugh--one of them compared me to Goldilocks. This fill's too loose. This fill's too tight! My bandy is not very easy going. Very picky. Not enough, not enough, not enough--OVER THE TOP!

I'd say why me, but hell, why not me? Nothing in life has been smooth sailing, so why should this be an exception? I believe things happen for a reason. Obviously there's some lesson I'm supposed to be learning. I just have to figure it out. And make the most of it. Shit happens, and I'm not immune. I can either whine, or I can learn.

I was giddy to be awoken by Dr. Foster! Have I mentioned yet how much I adore her? She reminds me of the pediatrician Arizona on Grey's Anatomy. Like when Arizona gets in there with her patients and relates to them (last week where she had the kid with the bowel problem go on rounds with her and practice his algebra by calculating meds). So I was excited when she came in and 100% confident she'd take good care of me.

Dr. Sexton helped her out and he was great, too. Whew. I was terrified they were gonna just send me some ER doc who knew nothing about Lap Band ports that would make things worse. But my great team came to the rescue.

Unfortunately, though fortunately for my ER bill, they were not able to get me to a fluoroscopy suite. So they numbed me up with some lidocane and went on the hunt for my port.

I'm the Atypical Bandster for many reasons. One of which is my challenging port. Twisted 20-odd degrees (in spite of being anchored to my abdominal wall on a piece of surgical grade screen door fabric!) and covered in scar tissue. It's not easy to access for an experienced surgeon with visual access (x-ray). But Dr. Foster did a great job of getting in there blindly. It took awhile and involved sit-ups on my part. But she did it.

She pulled off the 1.5 ml she added earlier in the week and I felt immediate relief. They brought me a cup of ice with a dash of water and the first sip went down perfectly. Ahhhh, the best water on earth! I was able to drink 1/4 cup over a few minutes with no adverse effects. That was the most fluid I'd had in awhile! Glorious! Then I had a cup of apple juice! JOY!

While I drank, we chatted and she said she was hoping this wouldn't happen! Me too! But at least it was fixed. And she's amazing. The normal protocol after a problem like this is a complete unfill. But she only took off that 1.5 ml because she knew how frustrating my band has been. It took 7 months and 6 fills to get me just overshot. The first 6 months, NO restriction.

I told her I had a trip coming up to Chicago and a hectic week at work prior to that. So to be on the safe side, she took off another 0.5 ml before removing the needle. So I was up 1.5 ml and now I'm down 2. Which is okay. I can drink fluids again!

Long story short, the bandster existence is not always straightforward. For a vast majority of patients, they have surgery and a few fills and viola! They're at restriction and life is good with the steady pound or so a week weight loss.

Then there are the complicated people like me. It can be very frustrating at times. But I am losing and at least the docs are learning how to deal with challenging ports. And I had a really nice 2 hour nap, too. No barking dogs or anything!

Like I always say, it could be worse. Of course try asking me that after I get the bill. I'm sure I won't be so chipper then!

Attack of the Slime Monster

I'm breaking my story up into pieces so it's not tooooo overwhelming in length. : )

Saturday morning I had lots to do. I was able to slowly sip a mug of coffee and after that, had a 6 oz yogurt. Wooo hoo, things were looking up!

I loaded the dogs up and we went to the vet for Jack's shots and for Dr. B to take a look at Map's limp. Lucky us, she has luxating patellas. Probably a grade 2. Whew. Not bad enough to require surgery, but enough to give her some arthritis at the ripe old age of 3. Her prescription is Flexamin and aspirin.

On the way back, since I had had such good luck with the cream of broccoli soup at Panera (8oz = 190 calories, 10g fat, 16g carbs, 8g protein) on Friday, I decided to get a big bucket of it to eat off of for a few days.

Needless to say, my luck ran out. Apparently, I was still a smidge swollen from the Yam Incident and after a few scant teaspoons, I felt the unmistakable clunk of getting stuck. The teeny bit of soup had to come up, and the droolfest began. This time, the slime monster hung out for over an hour. Fun. But not really.

I hit the couch and watched 2 episodes of The Biggest Loser to keep my mind off of the slobber. Fortunately, my fat brain was not interested in food in the least. It's about damned time.

Later in the day I was able to get down a cup of cocoa made with Carnation SF Instant Breakfast and skim milk. So I thought all was happy in Bandy land, and that I'd try some baked ricotta.

Yeah, it wasn't happy down there after all.

Two tiny tastes of that and kapow! Attack of the Slime Monster yet again. This was growing old fast and I was really starting to worry. I can't get anything down. I'm afraid to drink. Can I get through the weekend without a visit to the ER?

This Slime Monster visit ran almost 2 hours. Seriously? I haven't had more than 8 oz of fluid since Friday. Where am I getting all the juice to make drool from?

I found lying stretched out on my side in bed made me feel better, so my spit cup and I called it a night. At least I was able to swallow my own spit and get a relatively decent night's sleep.

The Fill...

Oh this story is a long one! I'm writing it because I want people to see the real side of lap band life. There can be issues with the band. Most don't have them, but for those of you who might, I just want to remind you that you're not alone and that we can get through it!

I went in for fill number 6 on the 4th of November. The new attending, Dr. Foster, was doing fills that day. I love this doc! She's so personable, funny, sympathetic and understanding. We were all joking about girl power in the procedure suite. Who needs those crazy boy docs--they're not anywhere near as fun!

I let her know up front I'm a challenge. My port is twisted just over 20 degrees and I am a scar tissue making machine. It took her awhile, but she finally got in there. We both kept reminding the nutrition intern who was watching that this is not normal. Usually they can get in the port quite easily. I like to make it a challenge to keep the docs on their toes.

Dr. Foster was great and was pretty aggressive with the fill, adding 1.5 cc to bring me up to about 8.5 in my 10 cc band. I was able to get the barium down with no reflux into my esophagus, so we wrapped stuff up and I went on my merry way.

Thursday and Friday went pretty well. For the first time, I had to sip, sip, sip. I knew that if I didn't, it would overwhelm my pouch and things would not go well.

The current post-procedure protocol is 2 days liquids, 2 days pureed and 2 days soft foods before working your way back into the regular textured diet. The 2 days of liquids went pretty well. I had a few moments of, "whoa!" but I was very excited that the band was finally doing its thing.

Then I got to the pureed stage. Friday night (48+ hours after the adjustment), I tried some mashed sweet potato. Yeah, Bandy was not thrilled with that. Bandy got revenge on me (jeez, it was like 2 teaspoons!) by conspiring with my brain and salivary glands to throw me into Major Slime Mode.

I'm writing about this not to scare anyone off from having a Lap-Band, but to remind you that it's not a cake walk. Bariatric surgery is not the easy way out. There is a price you may have to pay when you have surgery and that comes in the form of complications.

I found out the hard way that I am a massive slimer! Basically that means when I get stuck, or my stoma gets overwhelmed by something trying to slither its way through, my stomach swells, sends a signal to my brain, and my salivary glands kick into overdrive. Normally, having a little extra pharynx lube is a good thing when you have something stuck in your throat.

Not so much when you have a Lap-Band.

The swelling caused by the offensive food particle does not like slime, either. It's incredibly viscous and can't fit through the swollen hole. So it has to go somewhere.

You're welcome, as I refrained from taking a picture of one of my full spit cups. I'll just let you know that it's gross stuff. And I could easily produce 16 oz of slime in one session. Not that I'm proud of that. Trust me, if I never produced another drop of slime EVER, I'd be a happy camper. Huge deterrent, on par with dumping syndrome that the RNYers experience.

It took about an hour on Friday night for my glands to slow down and for me to stop retching. Okay, fine. I'll take it slow and stick to liquids the rest of the weekend. My friend Debra said that she'd keep an eye on herself over the weekend, when trying to determine if she was too tight, and then go to the clinic on Monday. Sounds like a plan.

Sometimes plans don't go as, well, planned.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A few more days...

Until fill #6.

I really hope that this one helps, as I am getting very frustrated. I'm interested to see if he is able to pull off more than 6 cc when he checks the volume. I'm half ass wondering if there's a leak in my tubing or something. There's got to be a reason WHY I'm not feeling the restriction yet.

I'm really trying hard to do my best. Today, I took advantage of the time change and put in 20 minutes on the elliptical and did my hip stretches before I did anything else. In spite of needing to pee desperately, I took the long route and walked in from the parking lots instead of taking the bus.

I hauled in yogurt and high fiber, high protein cereal, a container of calcium lozenges and of course my food journal. Brought my lunch (chili with some 2% cheddar for the top) and am drinking my Crystal Light.

I'm trying hard today to work my tool. Now if it could just reciprocate.