Bye Bye Baby Pt 3

Nearly 4 years ago to the day, I was living in Ulsan, South Korea. It seems like a lifetime ago now. While I was living there, I had the opportunity to go through surgery for an umbilical hernia repair. You can read all about part 1 and part 2.

It didn’t seem to work though. I’m not sure if my attempt at pilates screwed it up, or if the mesh was no good. There apparently were some ‘recalls’ for people who had hernia repairs with a mesh. Unfortunately mine was outside of the US so I wouldn’t know if that even applies to my situation.

ANYHOOOO! I’ve been back in the US for a year and was experiencing some stomach issues and my hernia was full-fledged back to party. I have a full-time job here with good insurance (For the first time in how long?) — so one of the first things I did was go to Surgical Group of Orlando. Dr. Chambers took a look, gave a nod, and we set a date.

So on July 24th (1 week shy of 4 years) I had my umbilical hernia repair. I had my entourage with me (parents and grandparents) and we waited for a solid 30 minutes before I was called back. Michelle was attending me and she was a blast. We made small talk and funny talk and went over all of the necessities that I now can no longer remember for follow-up care.

At one point, she was taking a look at my belly and gasped: my stomach was beet red. I wasn’t having a reaction to medication or had some sort of viral breakout. I was severely sunburned. I made this dumbass mistake of going to Siesta Key the weekend before my Tuesday surgery. I chose to NOT wear a 1 piece because TAN LINES! Hello!? Yup. The wind was strong that day. My SPF30 sport sunscreen was expired. And I was just not responsible. I got SO SO SO Sunburned that i had to take 3 black tea & apple cider vinegar baths. I lived in an aloe plant and rubbed super potent “CBD” salve on me. And I had no a/c in my car on the 3 hour drive back. Boohoo my poor choices.
So anyway, I almost wasn’t allowed to get the surgery, but luckily I hadn’t started to peel yet.

Back to the story:
Because my surgery wasn’t scheduled until 1pm, I was allowed to eat and drink up until 3:30am. Unfortunately I was asleep by 11:30pm the night before and barely woke up in time to drink a bottle of water before I couldn’t anymore. For anyone going into surgery where they say ‘Don’t eat or drink anything for 12 hours before the surgery’ — do your veins a favor: drink and eat up until the last minute. If you do what I did and have an easy Thai meal and hit the hay early, your vein may or may not collapse when they try to put in the IV. If you’re a punk like me and don’t do well with needles — this is a problem.

My vein collapsed and Michelle had to do it again. My wrist is now so bruised that I look like I was in a domestic issue (I can’t even wear my watch). Anyway, I spoke with the anesthesiologist and Dr. Chambers came in for a few minutes. Then I was wheeled back and moved onto a table. They put my oxygen mask on, I wished them good luck, and I was out. I do not remember my dream, but I did manage to not sit up this time.

To indicate to the nurses that I was awake, I made a joke about how the nurse they were making fun of for being short was ‘fun sized.’ Then my teeth started some serious chattering. And the pain started really hitting. I couldn’t swallow. I was not freaking out. The anesthesia was leaving my system and for some reason, this was how my body reacted. I wasn’t cold. I wasn’t scared. I was just in pain and my wonderful mom kept trying to give me water, but would take the damn straw away mid-sip and make a giant mess. But to be fair, she hasn’t had to feed a person in a while.

They gave me Vicodin and I proceeded to hate every second of it. My breathing was really shallow and I just felt like I was in this half-way state of sleep and frustration. I took it a couple of times that first day and haven’t looked back.

Repair:
Initially, Dr. Chambers was going to make the incision from my original scar with a possibility of using a mesh.. However, she changed her mind the day of (whether it was the sunburned scar or other reasons, I currently do not know). She decided to go through my belly button and sutured the hernia rather than using a mesh.

Recovery:
The act of sitting, standing, lying down, sitting up, twisting, coughing, or you know.. anything was pretty rough the first day or two. I’m stubborn though and did more movement than I probably should have. But also, 5 days after the surgery, I’m sitting on my couch cross legged without too much pain. Just soreness. And majorly itchy from this damned sunburn. I’m barely starting to peel, but if I can keep moisturized then maybe it won’t? Hopefully?

I was able to take a shower on day 2 — and it was painful. But on day 4 (yesterday), I was able to take a full shower with hair care and then go get a haircut. I don’t think I’ll be going to a movie or out for dinner and drinks just yet, but I feel better today than I have all week.

Week 1:
Rest. Rest. Rest. No lifting, bending, etc. Take it easy.

Week 2:
Rest, but I can go back to work. Follow up visit is scheduled for 1 week from the surgery. No lifting anything more than 10lbs.

Week 3:
Resuming light activities. Lifting maybe up to 20lbs? But more than likely 10lbs still.

Weeks 4-6:
Resuming normal activities, no heavy workouts still, but light activities are encouraged. No lifting more than 20lbs.

I’ll hopefully remember to write a follow up in a week or two.

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Gang-cyst-ers paradise

I had a hernia on my stomach for over 10 years. I came to Korea and had it taken care of for about $600-700USD after everything (hospital stay, meds, checkups, surgery itself, etc). The reason I wanted to get rid of my alien baby was to be able to start doing core-work at the gym. So when I moved up to Seoul end of Dec 2015 I signed up for a gym.
They had a pilates class and since it had been 6 months since surgery, I thought – ‘This is it. Here’s where it all begins’. The next day I felt great in the way that one does after a workout they hadn’t done in ages. But I noticed my wrist was hurting a bit. Typical when you are doing lots of floor work including plank! So a couple days later a student points out my wrist. She said, “Teacher, what?” and pointed to my right wrist. Lo and behold, there was a bump on it. I looked it up and immediately recognized it as a ganglion cyst. I went to an orthopedic doc nearby and he aspirated it. He said if there’s tingling, numbness, or pain that I should be worried — otherwise, no sweat.
There definitely was tingling and pain, especially when I was typing (which is often). I was also on a pasta making kick and that was starting to get difficult. I went back to the doc and he said that I should just wait it out because it will go away, then he aspirated it again. This time I noticed the blood in the aspirated fluid. Doc said no biggie.
The thing never went away. It never got smaller, only bigger, and more frustrating as I continued on my everyday activities.
I consulted with another doctor at Gangnam Several Hospital (Yonsei University) here in Seoul. He mentioned aspiration and I told him how the first two times didn’t do much. He said the next step was surgery. It was March 31st and he was to do surgery on the 10th.
wpid-wp-1428397015929.jpeg this is what my wrist looked like leading up to the surgery.

The hospital said I needed to come in on the 9th for surgery prep. I went in and they had me in a corner of a 6 person room. I thought six people wouldn’t be horrible… it was awful. Granted, it was only 12,000won (~$12USD) per night. But for every patient, there were 1-3 family members with them. Not the kind that go home, the kind that require a cot and a chair and snore louder than anyone I’ve ever heard.

Unlike the hospital in Ulsan, this bed was controlled with a remote so I could sit up and what not. However, unlike the hospital in Ulsan, this ‘bed’ was really just a mat on a cart. The hospital was fancy and all, but I didn’t expect the ‘mattress’ to be so thin. It felt like I was sleeping on a mat on the floor. So I wasted a whole day on Thursday (wasted it because I could have been at work) and then slept in the hospital. When I woke up on Friday (day of surgery) I noticed my back wasn’t feeling great. No thanks to the stupid mat-on-a-cart bed. They wheeled me in for surgery. The first male nurse tried to put the IV in my hand. It was extremely painful. (I’m bad with needles and pain, but this was really uncomfortable). Another female nurse came over and yelled at him for something and they took it out. Then they reinserted it into my wrist near my thumb. It wasn’t as bad but still uncomfortable. They roll me into surgery and start the anesthesia. I remember the ‘light going out’ effect, but I don’t remember my dream this time. I woke up and they brought me back to my little corner hole room. I had a huge brace on my wrist and they had a special tie up shirt for me. My back was still hurting but the wrist was worse.
Then my coteachers came and sat awkwardly in my little corner for an hour or so. They brought me a sandwich and some snacks. After they left, the hospital brought me their food– foul smelling seaweed soup, kimchi, tofu, and rice. And a spoon. And chopsticks. For those of you who are right handed, I dare you to try and eat with your lefthand using chopsticks. Luckily, I’m not an idiot and I brought some forks with me. I barely ate because it all smelled so bad.

I napped, I played games, I watched TV shows. It was hot as fuck in that corner. I asked them to turn on A/C and they said it was on. I’m “blessed with a chest” and for those who don’t know what that’s like… things get sweaty and they get really uncomfortable. I decided to tackle putting on a bra by myself. I succeeded. But what I failed in, was putting my shirt back on. As I tried to put my newly-surgerized hand through the sleeve, *POP* goes my back.
I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move. The nurses came back in and made me remove my bra again because they needed to xray my back. . . which was a muscular problem but they didn’t listen to me. So, I was back in square one. They brought me a heating pad, which is smart, but when I’m already sweating like a beast it was the last thing I wanted to feel.

The next day they gave me muscle relaxers and helped me with the bra. My back was in extreme pain and my wrist was in extreme discomfort. My fingers were like sausages. Food again was pretty meh, but that’s Korean hospital food for ya. #bringafork
They wanted me to stay another night or two to observe my back, but I convinced them that I would be better at home since the hospital bed is what screwed with me in the first place. They complied.
I went to gather my belongings and noticed that my ring was missing. Not just any old ring. This was the .25 carat diamond ring that I bought for myself in honor of my 21st birthday. I bought it from Na Hoku in the Mall at Millenia and only took it off during massages and surgeries. When this ring was not on my finger, I didn’t sleep well. I had an actual tan line from this ring. It was a part of me. And it was gone. I searched high and low and the whole hospital ward was helping me look for it. It was not to be found. I don’t think it was stolen. I think it was in my locker and when I tried to get dressed, I knocked it out of the locker and the cleaning lady probably swept it up with the rest of the trash on the floor. “I’m sure we will find it” the nurses assured me. But you know when something special is truly gone, you can feel it. I could feel it in my heart and the pit of my stomach. It has not been recovered and I am waiting for the next step in that.

Back to the surgery. I had the brace on for 2 weeks before they took out the stitches. I have a mini-Frankenstein scar on my wrist and my range of motion is restricted. One month later, I can finally make a fist. I try to do exercises and improve my range of motion. Typing hurts a bit still, so does falling and catching myself hah.

Total cost: ~500$usd after everything (hospital stay, medicine, check ups, etc)

Bye Bye Baby: Part 2

For the last 10 years I’ve had a hernia about an inch or two above my belly button. Check out ByeByeBaby for more information on that. 

Well, the surgery is done. It has been just about 3 weeks since I had it taken care of. 

I heard a lot of ‘Wow. You’re brave for getting surgery in a foreign country’ and ‘I hope you didn’t contract anything in that Korean hospital’ – – – Let me tell you something right here, right now. Korean healthcare may not be what us “Westerners” are used to… but I would be in massive debt right now if I had this surgery in the US. My school provides insurance and perhaps that covered a good chunk of it, but I was not insured in the US. The last time I went to the hospital in the US was for a kidney stone that I couldn’t tolerate anymore. that cost nearly $10k. I was in an emergency room for 3 hours maybe? I had blood work done and possibly an xray? or ctscan? Frankly, I can’t remember. The medication cost well over $100 that day as well. 

This ordeal included a CT scan, blood work, urine test, chest xray, 2 ultrasounds, the surgery itself, 2 nights stay in the hospital (shared with one person and had a bathroom), included meals and medicine, plus the medicine after I left the hospital, 2 follow up visits, and a minor surgery to remove excess fluid from the treated area. 

           The total cost: ~600,000won – – – less than $600USD. Even if I hadn’t had insurance this wouldn’t have cost more than $1,500USD.  

So what was the experience like? It was fine. The doctor, Dr. Im, was fantastic. He had a light sense of humor and spoke decent enough English. When he didn’t know a word, he’d look it up or just draw the surgical process. He joked that US doctors couldn’t do the surgery because of their fat fingers – “Asian doctors? We have small hands. Good for small surgery.” 

They briefed me on my pre-surgery do’s and don’t’s. I checked in and had an ultrasound to properly locate the affected area. Then waited in my room for a bit. They stuck an IV in my arm and wheeled me to the surgery room. They gas-masked me and eventually I fell asleep. I dreamed that I had slept too long so when they woke me up, I tried to sit up in a start. Note to self: NEVER SIT UP AFTER SURGERY ON YOUR STOMACH. It was incredibly painful. They brought me back to my room where a friend had been waiting for me. She helped me back into the bed and then I spent a few days in a bed. No, the hospital room wasn’t as accommodating as US hospitals maybe. The bed was hand-crank and I had to get up and do it myself. The phone and help button were on a table that was just out of my reach, so I had to stumble out of bed when I needed help. The IV was put in at an awkward angle and filled my elbow and upper arm with fluid to the point that I couldn’t move my arm. Then they put it in my hand and the same thing happened, and then they put it in my other arm. Luckily before that could do damage, it was time to leave. Each morning, afternoon, and evening they brought Korean food and medicine. The nurses were too afraid to speak English so they just spoke Korean at me and laughed and walked away before I could try and explain my pain levels. That was honestly the worst part – – the lack of English communication by the nurses. They apparently knew basic medical English but were too shy to use it. 

Anyway, 3 weeks later, I’m allowed to ride a bike and clean my apartment and do normal life activities. It still hurts if I eat too much or when I’m bloated.. And when the occasional fuck-face pokes, rubs, or hits my stomach. Otherwise, I’m doing okay, and I look forward to dropping some weight. 

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This is what the waiting list looked like. I was 06. it reads ‘swha-noen’ – – Shannon.

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Breakfast and lunch. IMG_20140801_183719    

 Scar after the stitches were removed and the healing process has begun.   IMG_20140811_093228  

Bye bye baby

 

 

alien baby

 

I’m pretty sure it started in 2003. During the LBHS fall production of “The Crucible.” I was both set running manager and playing the part of a ‘possessed’ extra at the beginning of the show. Between these two roles, I had to push and pull large and heavy set pieces in a timely fashion and, also, scream my head off. These actions gave birth to my ‘alien baby.’

It’s actually an epigastric hernia. I call it an alien baby because when I put strain on my stomach muscles, a smallish (but noticeable) bump appears above my belly button. 

What’s a hernia exactly? Well, when the stomach muscles are weak, your intestine can start to push the fat and muscle through. It forms a small bump. This isn’t detrimental. But when the intestine starts to really push through, it can get trapped and cause serious pain and also screw with your digestion. Mine didn’t get THAT far.. just the first stage or two. 

Why didn’t I get this fixed before? Well, I tried. A few times, I went to a doctor and inquired and their responses were ‘It’s too small. It’ll go away by itself.” or “Tape a dime in your belly button and then work out” – le sigh.

So I came to Korea and happened to be at the hospital for various reasons. I brought it up to my surgeon and he said “Sure, let’s operate on it. How’s next week?” ZOMG!!! Really?

So tomorrow I will go into the hospital to stitch it all back up. I will say farewell to this alien baby.. for the whopping price of 800,000won (Aka less than $800). Screw you American healthcare.

 

Wish me luck!

 

Not Just Another Beautiful Face – A Dedication

I saw my great-aunt for the first time in years. She was in the hospital getting ready to go for surgery. She called me a few months ago and when I asked to see her before I left for Korea, she said ‘No my sweetheart. It’s better this way.’ I’ve felt heartbreak before. I’ve felt it from young love, and the death of a beloved pet, and realizing that my dream would not be my reality.

But to be told by a dear family member that I may not see her again… that was new. I’m not happy about the circumstances that allowed me to see her. I ‘facetimed’ with my uncle while she writhed in pain in her hospital bed. But I saw her. I was as close to her as I may ever be again.

I looked at her aged face: the deep wrinkles, her teeth, her white and thinning hair. But what I saw for just a moment was such a beautiful smile. I know the smile masked the pain she was in. But we got to see each other. After years of not reaching out enough, her family surrounded her. Her nephew and sister in law (my uncle and grandmother) were by her side. They turned the camera away while she was in pain, and we talked of things far less important than her health: sports, tv shows, wedding details. I may not have been in the room to witness it, but I could hear her cries of discomfort.

Maybe this is a horrible thing to say, but I’m glad I wasn’t there. I mean, in the room. If I was in Florida, I would have dropped my life and been there in the fastest way possible. But to see her in pain, in a hospital bed, pale and frustrated… this would have torn me apart. Here was a woman who talked me through some hard times, hugged me in the few instances I saw her, and I couldn’t be there for her today.

Perhaps I’m making this sound morbid. She had a successful surgery. She woke up to her husband and only daughter, her brother and his wife (my grandparents), and her nephew. She had family surrounding her. This is something she had not experienced in YEARS. I can only imagine how happy she was to see all their faces. Maybe a bit humiliated too.. she doesn’t like others to see or feel her pain.

Now she’s headed to a rehabilitation center. She suffered from broken metacarpals (fingers/knuckles) that has her in a cast up to her elbow. She needs a walker too, which will be interesting I think with a cast. But she’ll have the help she needs, that my great-uncle could not provide.

Her strength empowers me. The thought of losing her weakens me. I suppose this is part of the balancing act of life, huh?

Here’s to you Shirley, you’re not just another beautiful face!

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