"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Good & Bad Of Foot Surgery

 I am super lucky and have had a severe foot condition called Morton's Neuroma.  I had both feet operated on the same time in August 2011 because the doctor told me that if I only had one foot done and then planned to have the other foot done, I would likely not come back in to do the second foot after seeing how difficult the recovery was from the first foot.

He was absolutely right.

As you can see from the above picture, the normal nerve is supposed to be the size of cooked spaghetti or even smaller.  Most people with MN can relieve it by only having ligaments cut so that over time, pressure is relieved and the tumors on the nerves will shrink and not be aggravated anymore.  The tumors form in the same way that an Oyster makes a pearl from a grain of sand.  Increased friction and pressure over time forms a not-so-beautiful tumor on the nerve, otherwise known as a neuroma.

My feet were worst case scenario.  When the doctor got in there back in 2011, he found that the nerves were so badly damaged and covered in tumors and the only way to fix it was to cut the ligaments and remove the tumors.  My nerves, which were supposed to be teh size of spaghetti, were in fact the size of a grown man's finger.  Huge and corroded.

The left foot healed beautifully, but the right foot never seemed right after surgery.  Over time I could feel a mass forming around the ball of my foot and I figured it was just scar tissue.  I did my best to break up the tissue by doing some physical therapy exercises, but back in June it was really bothering me so I figured I needed to get back in to see the doctor.  When I went in, he found that yes there was a massive amount of scar tissue, but there was also a massive nerve where it had once been removed.  It had grown back!  Seriously, call me Wolverine.  Apparently I regenerate just like he does.  The doctor gave me a steroid shot in hopes to soften and shrink the scar tissue which would in turn relieve pressure from the area.

After the triathlon I did in August, I realized that the steroid had NOT worked and that I needed to get back in to see the doctor.  When I did, we weighed pros and cons and decided that the best thing would be to go back in an operate.  NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

 So ON September 26th I checked back in and got ready for surgery.  Knowing that I would be down and out for quite a while after surgery, I deliberately crammed a million to-dos into the week leading up to surgery.  It was so busy, in fact, that checking in for surgery felt like a relief.  For the next week I would lie in bed and watch movies and read and be waited on hand and foot while someone else ran the house for me! 

I get extremely nervous before surgery and the great anesthesiologist gave me a dose of "liquid courage" to calm me down before heading into the OR.  I remember feeling very tense and being on the brink of a panic attack before he administered the drug.  He put it into my IV and two seconds later I felt a warm sensation go through me from head to toe.  Good doctor.  I think I laughed a whole lot and when I got wheeled into the OR and saw everyone wearing blue gowns and masks, I laughed more and said everyone looked like smurfs. And then there was nothing.

A split second later a nurse was telling me to wake up.  I started singing some Belinda Carlisle song, according to the nurse.  I am certain that the same song had been playing in the OR some time during surgery, but why on earth wold my doctor choose to listen to that kind of music while he operated?  The song haunted me for days after that because I could never quite figure out what song it was.  I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning with that mystery song in my head, but forget it when I fully woke up in the morning.  One day, about five days after surgery, I was doped on Percocet and the tune of the song popped into my head.  I was coherent enough to jump online and Google "Belinda Carlisle songs".  A list came up, and BAM.  There it was. "Mad About You".  I was elated to finally know what song had been haunting me!
 I won't lie.  Recovery has been 10x worse than it was the first time.  About a week after surgery I decided to Google pictures of the exact operation I had.  I shouldn't have done that while in so much pain because it about made me throw up.  They cut in between my middle and fourth toes and the incision came down about an inch and a half and around at the ball of my foot too.  But they retract the toes sooooo far apart and get way down in there with the instruments.  No wonder I was bruised up to my ankle!  The doctor said that this surgery was very invasive because I had mounds of scar tissue inside that he dug out.  And the nerve that he removed, was AGAIN as thick as his pinky finger. I was shocked that it had grown back at all, let alone that big!! 
 I about brought my foot to the point of frostbite each day, but cold was the only thing to relieve pain.  Percocet did a good job, but it makes me so itchy and loopy and I just don't like the side effects.  Surgery was on a Thursday and Cody was here through the weekend taking care of me and the household.  Then his mama came into town on Sunday and stayed for the week.  Having surgery like this is about impossible without a lot of help because you can NOT be up and about.  I had a walking boot that I had to wear when I was up at all *like to go to the bathroom), but even with the boot being up for more than ten minutes would have me reaching for a Percocet.  And since there is a giant cavity in my foot where everything was removed, it would pool with blood and fluid when I was up for too long.  Yuck.
 It goes back and forth between being horribly bruised, and then looking like this.  Not too bad at all.

 Stitches came out on Friday the 11th.  Holy pain!!!  That seriously hurt like a mo-fo.
This is my foot today.  Look at all the bruising near my ankle.  Weird, huh?!  Pain and recovery is relative and I am doing a lot better than I was a week ago.  Still, the majority of my time is spent sitting with my foot propped up on ice and it stills hurts a heck of a lot. Brings me to the point of tears at times.  But it's getting better.  The doctor is certain that the nerve will NOT come back again.  I start PT next week and I think that will prevent a lot of the same scar tissue from coming back.  I told Cody that if the problem comes back in either foot, I will live with it until I die because I don't want to go through this again.  I say that, but I don't think I mean it because the surgery is still better than living with the problem. 

Halloween Costumes

 Tonight was our church's Halloween party and since I was getting them ready anyway and it was a "somewhat" stress-free evening (meaning we weren't rushing from school, to a parade, to a work party, to dinner, and then to trick-or-treat with friends) I decided to do their annual costume photo shoot.  This year we decided to make the kids utilize costumes that we already had on hand.  They weren't too happy about it because they are in the habit or getting new stuff every year (especially Ethan), but they ended up having fun going though old stuff to come up with new stuff.  I think we spent less than $25 on Halloween this year.
Garrett Allan- 2 1/2 years old
 Since Devin and Garrett are obsessed with all things "Toy Story", going as Buzz and Woody was perfect.  Ethan went as Buzz when he was two years old, and the costume fit Garrett very well.  But the stinker threw a major fit when I tried to get him dressed in it.  He screamed and thrashed and became possessed.  I had to bribe him with about a million things to make him calm down and sit for a few pictures.  He refused to wear the hood, but I'm grateful for the pictures I got.  As you can see, he was way more interested in ringing the doorbell and running in to lock me out.  He's good at being two years old. 

 My neighbor was getting rid of this Woody costume so I snatched it up for $5 a few weeks ago.  Score!  Devin was super excited about it and he was perfectly happy to let me take pictures!

Devin Joseph- 4 years old

 Lauren went back and forth between a fairy (wearing an old ballet costume and fairy wings from their dress up box) or a University of Utah cheerleader (already have the outfit).  In the end, she went with a pirate.  She already had the shirt and skirt, so I bought her the patch, earring, tights, and the head wrap and sword came from the boys' dress up box.  Score again!

Lauren Elizabeth- 6 years old

 Hailey wore an old ballet costume that actually served as a mouse costume when their studio did "Cinderella" last year.  But it worked great to add cat ears that they already had to make it a cat.  I bought a face painting set and turned her face into a cat, and voila!  I think it turned out okay.

Hailey Jane- 7 1/2 years old

 Ethan was the hard one to please.  Because he is the oldest and he gets everything brand new, he's not used to recycling clothes or anything at all.  He has always gone as a super hero of sorts, and this year we tried to sell him on going as Tony Stark, which we had some great ideas for.  But he didn't love the idea and kept pouting about not getting a new costume.  I had an old black cloak and I suggested going as "Death".  When I said I'd buy him an ax to go with it, he loved it immediately. 
Ethan Gilbreth- 9 1/2 years old

One Degree From Matt Bomer

Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I have quite the list of Hollywood crushes.  Hugh Jackman is at the top of that list, followed by a close second of Matt Bomer.  For anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of getting to know this beautiful man, I suggest you watch an episode of "White Collar" which is currently available on Netflix. 

I feel a sense of camaraderie to Matt Bomer because he graduated from Klein High School c/o 96, which was one of our rival high schools.  I know it's silly, but him being a fellow Houstonian and a fellow Cy-Fair ISD-ian, makes me feel like he's my friend.  Or my boyfriend even.  Yup, I totally could have taken him to homecoming a couple of years running.  I wish I could go back in time and kiss his face.  Am I getting carried away?  Perhaps a little.

So a new family moved in a few houses down from us.  I'll call them the Smiths.  Tonight was our church's halloween party and Smith and his wife swhoed up in football attire.  He was in a football jersey and she was in his letterman's jacket.  My eyes imediately zoned into the bright blue letters that read "KLEIN" on his jersey.  I thought "Huh, I know of a Klein High School".  And then my eye caught the letterman jacket that had four Texas patched down the side.  No. Freaking.  Way.

I grabbed his attention.  Even though the Smiths moved in a couple of months ago, I haven't had a chance to get out and meet them since my surgery.  So I said "Hey, are you from Houston??!"  He smiled and said "Yes!!" 

You see, people from Texas love meeting other people from Texas.  And especially living in Utah where I am surrounded by nothing but other people who are born and bred in Utah (and that is a-okay, but makes me feel a little homesick) it's rare to run into someone from my home state.  Let alone my home town, let along my home school district!!  He and I got to talking rather loudly and rather obnoxiously, and his wife teased that we were typical Texans.  Yes, we are and proud of it!  We talked about high school football and the new stadium and all that.  I told him we were new best friends and that he should come by and we'll talk about who's who. 

Out in the hall while standing in line for food, it dawned on me that Matt Bomer went to Klein.  Duh!  And....wait for it....Matt Bomer played football at Klein.  And Matt Bomer graduated high school a year before Smith.  My husband is the one who pointed out the fact that Smith likely knew Bomer.  It took every bit of self restraint not to bust back into the gym and grab Smith and bombard him with more questions.

Back in the gym while sitting around the tables, Smith got my attention and started asking me more questions about my home church stake and if I knew certain people.  Well, since we were on that subject anyway, I couldn't resist.  "I have just one question for you.  Do you by chance know Matt Bomer?"

"Heck yeah!!  played football with him.  In fact, I've taken several showers with the guy too," Smith said with a laugh.

Oh.  My Gosh.  I could feel the blood rushing into every part of my face.  My knees shook.  I started giggling like a silly  school girl.  A silly school girl in heat. I won't lie-  I intentionally reached out and touched his arm.  Yup, I wanted to touch the man who used to shower with Matt Bomer.  Because in a way, it's like I showered with Matt Bomer too.

While sitting back at the table eating my chili, trying to disguise the redness in my face that Cody wouldn't stop teasing me about, something else dawned on me.  Matt Bomer's costar on "White Collar" is Tiffani Thiessen.  Tiffani Thiessen is Kelly Kapowski.  Kelly Kapowski is Zack Morris' girl friend turned wife.  So it's kind of like Matt Bomer is a part of "Saved By The Bell".

So I kind of took a shower with Zack Morris as well.  Be still my heart.  Life don't get better than this!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Big 4-0

Cody turned the big 4-0 last Thursday the 10th.  I can't believe I have been with this guy since he was 27.  Over a quarter of his life!  And it's been a fantastic 13 years.  Full of crazy ups and downs, joy and sorrow, and a LOT of love.  I'm so happy to call him "mine".

Since I had surgery and have been pretty much useless, the kids kind of ran the show.  A year ago I had plans to do something bigger for his birthday, like have friends over for a cook out or something, but it turned out to be a good thing that my plans didn't work out because the weather was terrible that day.  It rained cats and dogs and was dark by 5:00.  Jane and Allan got in to town and came over as a stop in on their way to catch a plane on Friday for vacation, so they were here for dinner and celebrations.  It was great to have them

I drove up to Layton to pick up BBQ from Cody's favorite restaurant, and after that drive on my foot I vowed to never drive that far again until I am much more healed.  By the time I got home I was in a lot more pain than when I left, but it was well worth it for my guy.  We had dinner and then kids put on a program that they pretty much came up with themselves.  It turned out to be HILARIOUS.  I still don't know why they insisted on wearing fake mustaches, but it made it so much better that they did.  They spent the afternoon making pictures and signs of "Things That Are Older Than Dad".  Rocks, dirt, the sun, the locomotive, cave men, volcanoes, etc.  So funny!  And with my help they put together a list of 40 things they loved about Dad.  It was awesome!

We had Cody's favorite berry cake and it dawned on me that I have made 12 of those cakes for him.  It's what he wants every year and we all love it.  Black was the theme of the night and we put 40 black candles on his cake and he blew them out in a single puff of breath!  I'm surprised it didn't set off the smoke alarm with how much smoke it created.  For presents Cody got a new Utah shirt, the Ironman 3 blue-ray, a tub of chocolate covered almonds, and a Payday candy bar, and of course money from my parents and his parents.  I think it was a really fun and memorable night!  Here's to celebrating 40 more birthdays with my main squeeze!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hailey's Bionic Bladder

Hailey has been plagued with urinary tract infections since she was three years old.  We have spent an immeasurable amount of time in doctor's offices for almost five years and the poor girl has gulped down gallons of antibiotics during that time.  When she was 4 1/2 we took her in to be tested for bladder reflux because she was getting them so often and sometimes ran fever.  The testing for that is HORRIBLE and HORRIBLY HUMILIATING for a kid, and when it came back negative, I felt even worse for making her endure that test.  I'm pretty sure she is still traumatized to this day, over three years later.

*It would likely embarrass her if she knew I was talking about this so publicly, but if anyone reads this and has a child with the same symptoms and is at their wits end, hopefully they get the idea to consult a doctor about the same thing.

Not only does Hailey have chronic UTIs, but her urine has a VERY strong and offensive odor.  On top of that, for about a year or so she has had problems with dribbling and for the life of her, can not seem to get it under control.  Not full on wetting, but enough to wet her underwear and drive us crazy.  At first Cody and I would get mad at her for getting distracted and not listening to her body and not going to the bathroom when she needed to.  But over time, we realized that it was something she had no control over and it was futile to get angry about it,  In fact, getting angry and embarrasing her would cause long term issues for her that would probably be irreversible.  So we decided to lay off, remind her frequently to use the bathroom, and to always be on alert for signs of a UTI.

In fact she has had so many UTIs that most antibiotics won't even touch it anymore because she has grown so resistant to all of them.

We decided it was high time to see a specialist, so I made an appointment for her to see the same pediatric urologist who Garrett saw for a congenital issue he had.  Dr. Patrick Cartright was highly recommended by our friend who was doing his own urology residency under him.  I honestly don't know why we waited so long to see him.  Hailey has been dealing with this problem for years, but I guess since everything came back normal back in 2010, we thought that it was just something she would have to outgrow.  We did everything that we were supposed to do to prvent UTIs, but they came nonetheless.  So seeing a specialist was long over due.

I have been very nervous about today because I was afraid they would find something very wrong with her.  Cancer, kidney disease, or a severe anomaly that would require invasive surgery.  I tried to put everything negative out of my mind, trust God, and know that everything would be okay.

She started off with an extensive ultrasound of her entire abdomen.  The sonographer was so nice and even spoke a little French so he and Hailey were able to say bad things about me and I didn't even know.  Hailey actually enjoyed the ultrasound and said it felt like a warm massage.  He looked at her kidneys at length, stopped to take several still shots, and looked all at her ureters and sphincters.  He pointed out that there was a lot of white stuff in the bladder which at first looked like protein (which made me panic) but then he said it looked more like debri.

I was told that she needed to come to the test with a full bladder, and about halfway through the sonogram, the tech told her to go to the bathroom and empty her bladder completely.  I went with her and as always, as she peed she started and stopped several times and had to push in on her bladder to help herself go.  I have always seen her do that and although I thought it was weird, I never thought anything of it.

Back in the room the tech continued his test.  Before Hailey went to the bathroom he measured the amount of urine in her bladder, and when we came back in he measured to see if there was anything remaining in the bladder.  On a normal person the bladder would have been completely empty only a minute after using the bathroom.  But Hailey had about 4-5 ounces left in it, which was shocking.  He also pointed out that the bladder wall was very enlarged.  All of this meant nothing to me. 

The radiologist came in and checked all of the tech's work and said that anotomically everything looked great.  Everything was where it should be and the kidneys were the perfect size and seemed to be in perfect functioning order.  There was no sign of scaring or past infections on the kidneys, but he verified that the bladder wall was in fact very thick and inflamed looking.

Next we got sent up for a consult with Dr. Cartright.  I just love him (as I love every nurse and doctor up at Primarys) and after I filled out a TON of paperwork and questionnaires, he got started by talking to Hailey.  He asked her a million questions and asked me a million questions.  Then he spent a lot of time testing her reflexes.  This was to see if her body was sending the correct signals to her brain, and she passed everything.  Then he did an exam on her belly and her back, and he left to go review her images and notes from the ultrasound.  When he came back in, he had a certain look about him that both concerned end excited me.  I was concerned because I knew that he HAD found something wrong, but I was excited because maybe this meant we had an answer!

He started by drawing a normal bladder on the whiteboard.  He said that Hailey's bladder should be the size of a grapfruit and the wall should be about as thick as the rind of the fruit.  But Hailey's bladder wall was three to four times as thick.  He then drew the bladder and again, Hailey's was enlarged.  He then explained what it meant by urine remaining in her bladder after she thought it was empty.  He said that if there was still over four ounces left when she was instructed specifically to empty it of ALL urine, just imagine how much was always left behind on a normal ocassion when she was in a hurry or just wanting to get it done with.  She probably has at least ten ounces of urine in it at any given time, or more.

He concluded that when Hailey was about three years old, she started having chronic spasms of the bladder and bladder sphincter.  They are supposed to work in harmony, all controlled by the brain, to know when to contract and when to relax (dilate).  When the bladder gets full, it is supposed to contract and upon sitting on the toilet, the brain signals the sphincter to dilate.  This is how we are able to voluntarily release our urine.  But Hailey's bladder and sphincter are extremely over active and contract and relax at all the wrong times, and never in sync.  And unknowingly to any of us, she has been involuntarily working the bladder muscle for years to the point of strengthening it so much that she can't relax it enough to empty it.  That's why she always has to push on it to get anything out.  That's why the bladder wall is so thick.

Why the chronic UTIs?  Because the bladder always has urine in it and never empties.  What does bacteria love to breed in?  Liquid.  Germs can easily travel up the urethra into the bladder, but the normal person can flush all the germs away before they are able to set up shop and breed.  But being unable to empty the bladder, Hailey's bladder is a cesspool for bacteria.  That's why they were able to see very clearly the debri on the ultrasound, and that's why her urine has such a strong and offensive odor.

Where do we go from here?  It's pretty simple, actually.  Her bladder, brain, and sphincter have to learn how to get in sync and that will happen through medication.  Once the bladder knows how to relax and everything gets synchronized, Dr. Cartright is very confidant that everything will domino and fall into place correctly.  She will be on a medication to stop the spontaneous spasming in her bladder and sphincter, she has to very dilligently time when she urinates, and she will be on a low does antibiotic for eight weeks to get rid of the debri in her bladder until it is able to fully empty on a regular basis.

Her severe over active bladder (OAB) condition is nothing that could have been prevented because it's just how her brain and body wanted to work.  Some people are just wired that way, but thanks to modern medicine it can be corrected.  In about six months we will re-evaluate things to see if the medication is working and if the problem is remarkably better, which it should be.  The doc thinks that in two-three weeks we should be able to tell a big difference.  I hope so!  Most people outgrow OAB by the time they are about twelve years old, but for some people it can last into young adulthood.  Thankfully there is a medication to stop the problem from happening, and thankfully we have a doctor who knew exactly how to help her!!

*I should mention that ever since Hailey was night trained, she has never ever been a bed wetter.  So the dribble accidents only apply to daytime, not night time. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Pumpkin Patch

 Devin turned four years old on Friday the 11th.  Even though my foot was throbbing and oozing (graphic, I know) we headed to the pumpkin patch when Dad got home from work about 4:30.  Devin was super excited to get home and have his birthday dinner and open presents from family, but he was equally excited to go to Packs Farm!

We love Packs and it's a tradition to go there every year.  It's not nearly as big or as fancy as Black Island in Syracuse, but if you are going strictly to get very affordable pumpkins and to have the patch experience, this is the perfect farm.  There's no admission fee, there's  hay maze and lots of perfect photo ops, and pumpkins are SUPER cheap.  Each year I buy my straw bale for the porch and a corn stalk and about eight pumpkins, and never spend over $30.  And it's the nicest family that owns the place, and it's less than 20 minutes from our house.

 It was probably unwise of us to go on this day because I'd had my stitches out that morning and everything in foot let like it was coming apart.  It kind of was, and by the time we got home, I was in horrible pain.  But it was Devin's birthday and I didn't want to disappoint him, so I put on a brave face!

 The birthday boy loves all things Halloween and orange.  Good thing he was born in October!!