Sunday, February 21, 2010

At home, a little lighter


Well, I'm back home with a huge gash across my abdomen, but it seems to be healing up and feeling better day by day. I ended up spending about a week in the hospital (2/4-2/11), but most of the stay was uneventful. Unfortunately, I'm still having some mild fevers, but they're not quite as bad as they have been in the past. Nobody seems to know where they're coming from - could be infection, but that's unlikely, since they cultured my blood like crazy in the hospital; could be just post-operative fever, in which case hopefully it'll go away soon; or it could be due to the remaining tumor.

The surgery itself went well, although they managed to nick my bile duct or something by accident, so repairing that ended up taking a little longer than expected. Apparently the surgery was trickier than expected. Since the liver tumor's main blood supply had been cut off by the previous embolization, it started seeking other ways of getting blood and latched onto a few places in the inner abdominal wall. It's pretty amazing what these tumors can do to survive. They're insidious. It's baffling why such a thing should exist.

The total time in the operating room ended up being around 8 hours. Of course I had no idea about any of that, since I was completely knocked out. Since the surgery ended late, they decided to just keep me on the breathing machine overnight, rather than wake me up that evening. The following morning I woke up with a breathing tube down my throat, a bile drainage tube down my nose, a small drainage tube in my side, and a Foley catheter up my, well, you know. All that and about four to five IV lines in my arms and neck (but definitely no bag of chips).

I remember waking up in the ICU to the doctors talking to me, and I was trying to answer but couldn't because of the breathing tube. Definitely a weird feeling to wake up and not be able to talk. I was trying to nod or shake my head, but then I also had some questions, so I signaled for a pen. They gave me something to write on but of course I was so dazed and confused I wasn't really able to write legibly. I think I was trying to ask if taking out the breathing tube would hurt, but I don't think that really came across. In any case, they took it out soon after, and though it didn't hurt, it did feel awfully strange.

As it turns out, it feels awfully strange to have any man-made tube pulled out of any natural body tube/orifice. Later that first day, they flossed my sinuses by pulling the bile tube out of my nose (it was running down the back of my throat to my stomach to drain the excess bile). The next day when I got out of the ICU back to a normal post-surgery floor, they took the Foley catheter out, which always provides a nice little burn. The key for any of these is of course to just do it quickly. It's really not that bad - it feels more weird than anything else. When they finally took my drainage tube out about five days into my stay, the 3rd year med student didn't do it very quickly, and that was just a little more excruciating than it should have been. I don't know, I can't really tell if it's actually painful, or just kind of a burning feel, but it's definitely uncomfortable, and you want those things out as quickly as they can be taken out for sure.

Besides keeping my pain under control, the main goal in the hospital was to get rid of these stupid fevers. Of course nothing cultured grew anything, so they just gave me a zillion antibiotics, based on what they found from the fluid that my IR doc pulled out of that liver mass a while back. Eventually I think they just gave up. I'm still on antibiotics now, and though the fevers persist, they're not quite as bad as they used to be. I can walk further than I could before without pain, and almost stand up straight, though it still hurts to stretch the stitches too much. I think as I start to be more active my body might fight off these fevers as well (crossing fingers anyway). We'll see. . .

So I do have a couple pics from when I was in the hospital. One is of me with all my tubes and IVs, and the other is a photo of my wound. I thought they maybe a bit gruesome, so if you want to see them, click here. Otherwise, you might enjoy this silly picture of my niece, Scarlett (actually my second cousin, once removed). Til next time. . .

** One last note - a lot of people have been asking me about this liver regeneration thing. It is true that it does regenerate, but it seems there's not a lot of agreement about how long it takes. This site, not necessarily scientifically accurate, claims that it will get back to its original pre-surgery mass within a week after a two-thirds removal.

I thought this was pretty hard to believe, but MedicineNet says the same thing, one to two weeks. What my surgeons left behind should be healthy liver, so I guess maybe it will grow back pretty quickly. I just got a CT scan yesterday (two weeks post-surgery), so maybe we'll see from that report what things look like.