Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No Sew Fleece Blanket

When I was in the hospital my daughter brought me a nice fleece blanket that she had made. It was cozy and warm and just what I needed to keep me comfy and comforted. I asked how she had made it and it sounded so easy I decided to try and make one myself.

I've mentioned before that I am not a sewer by any stretch of the imagination. Making this blanket does not involve sewing of any kind so that is right up my alley.

You start off with two yards of fleece in two different patterns. I like one side patterned and the other side a complimentary solid. Of course you could use whatever design you like.

Spread the solid fleece on the table, good side down.
Then take the other two yards of patterned fleece, put it on top of the solid, good side up (so the two good sides are facing out). Try to keep the sheets as together as possible.
You may need to do a little trimming.
Cut out a 4" X 4" square out of each of the four corners.
Then start cutting the fringe on the ends. I made mine about 1" wide and about 4" long. Using a rotary cutter made this part go very fast.
Now for the knotting. Tie every other fringe (top and bottom) into a simple knot.
After you've gone all around, flip the blanket over and start tying the other knots.
Before you know it you have a finished fleece blanket!
I got my fleece on sale for less than $25. It took me less than an hour to finish the whole thing. You can make it bigger or smaller according to your needs. This two yard size is perfect for curling up on the couch. It doesn't get much easier than this!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

First Doctor Appointment

Yesterday was my first doctor appointment after having lap band surgery. Everything went very well and I think he was pleased with my progress. He did make note of my lip explosion and when I told him I felt like I should be further along in my recovery, meaning I still felt kind of weak and tired, he reminded me that I had been very sick. "Went through the wringer," is how he put it. I had one surgery, then got very sick and basically for one week was subsisting on the iv fluids before I had another surgery. Yes, I went though the wringer for sure!

He was very reassuring that I was doing well. The cuts on my abdomen from the laparoscopy are healing nicely. They still have some scabs and as soon as the scabs fall off I'll be able to start taking my beloved soaking baths again!

As for food intake he said he generally leaves it up to the patient. I have been on what's called "Phase One", which is basically a liquid diet. Water and soup and protein drinks have been the basics, 2 ounces every 15 minutes. For dessert I get sugar free popsicles or sugar free jello. This has been surprisingly satisfying for the time being. What happens next is as the interior swelling goes down I will be feeling less satisfied. And actually this has been happening in the last two or so days. I've been checking the clock to see when I can have another 2 ounces of protein shake. The doctor said when that happens it is time to move to "Phase Two", mushy foods.

On Phase Two I'm allowed to have four ounces at a time. Now besides the protein drinks I'm allowed to have mushy food, which means anything with baby food consistency. It has to be blended until it's mushy and then I can eat it, four ounces at a time. This time though, I'm not allowed to drink with, 30 minutes prior, or one hour after a "meal". Also there are certain foods I'm not allowed to have, like whole milk cheese, crunchy peanut butter, anything more than 1% milk, dry cereal, bread, crackers, or gas forming veggies. And the best part, of course, is dessert, where I am allowed sugar free jello, puddings, and the popsicles.

The doctor said eventually when Phase 2 fails to keep me satisfied I'll move on to Phase 3, soft foods, which I will go into later. And when Phase 3 doesn't keep me satisfied it will be time for my first fill. That leaves me a little scared.

I am feeling better every day and I even went out in public yesterday to do a bit of grocery shopping. My mouth still looks kind of gross but at least all the big, ugly scabs have fallen off and it's now just a matter of the pink underneath fading out.

To date I have lost 24 pounds. I figure I have about 64 more pounds to go to reach my goal weight. So far so good!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bad Nurse/Good Nurse

I wanted to get my thoughts on this subject down before I forgot everything. Time does have a way of making one forget, especially for me!

The difference between a good nurse and a bad nurse can make a huge difference in the patient's attitude. I don't make this statement as a matter of fact, rather as a personal observation.

I understand people can have an off day, but in something like nursing, in my humble opinion, the bad day should be shoved aside and all effort made to take care of the patient in a good, professional manner.

When I had to go back to the hospital the triage nurse was not very personable. When I had first gone in I was told not to bring a purse or any personal items as they were obviously not needed. So when I went in the second time I remembered that and didn't bring anything with me.

The triage nurse asked about why I was there and what my history was. I told her I had been instructed by my surgeon to respond to the emergency room to get checked in. If he hadn't called yet he would be calling soon. I told her I had just had lap band surgery and what was going on with me. As for my prior history, I politely asked if she couldn't just look it up in her computer since I had just been there. Because I was so dehydrated I was having a hard time focusing on anything, like what my medications were, never mind the dosages. (I did remember one medication, diovan hct. After going back and forth with her about what the medication was she ended up writing something down that wasn't what I said. This was found out later with another nurse going over my meds with me.)

She told me there was no way she could pull up any of that information from where she was. Excuse me, but I just find that a little hard to swallow. Meanwhile I was put into a room. The attending nurse was a little nicer. She flitted back and forth. Sometimes it seemed as if she were a little lightheaded too, because she would forget what she came into the room for. Well, at least she was nice about it all.

Later on after I was put up in ward room I went through a succession of nurses, some the same. I looked forward to the shifts where Katherine or Ana was my nurse. Both of these ladies were exemplary. They were always polite, always had a smile, responded immediately if I called, and if my husband or I had a question they went above and beyond to try and answer. I felt like I was the only patient they had because they would often check on me and see if I needed anything before I even asked.

At one point we were talking about the triage nurse. I don't remember which nurse it was, but she didn't think it sounded right either that the triage nurse had no access to the hospital's records. She said that didn't make any sense whatsoever.

The other nurses were all okay. I could tell I wasn't their only patient, and I knew that, so most of the time I was okay with it. I did get a little irritated at one point when I asked for a dilaudid shot. Thirty minutes later I asked again and was told she was getting it ready. Fifteen minutes later I finally got the shot.

On my last day I was finally cleared to go home. By this time my arms looked like they belonged on some kind of street junkie, they were bruised and poked from all the iv's. I was happy I was finally going to be able to remove the iv's and get dressed in real clothes. The iv alarm went off because it so happened one of the iv's was empty. I pressed the nurse call button after a while because apparently nobody heard the alarm. A different nurse came in. She turned the alarm off and I asked if, since I was being discharged could the iv be removed from my arm. She explained she'd have to get my nurse and ask her. I told her I would appreciate it if she would ask.

A few minutes later my nurse came charging in the room and looked at me like what did I want? I explained the alarm went off, when the other nurse came in I asked if the iv could be taken out. She jumped all over me then. "I'm your nurse. She is not your nurse. I am your nurse and only I can do that." I was a little surprised at her outburst but said, "Ok, I understand. That's why I asked her to find you about it." Then she looked at me and said, "Can it wait? I haven't had lunch yet."

Now it was my turn to look at her dumbfounded. I looked between her and my arm and maybe she got it then. She unhooked the iv tubing from my arm but left the needle in. She would take care of that after she had lunch she said. I knew it would still be a while before all the paperwork would be done and I figured at least I wasn't going to be dragging a pole around anymore and I could get dressed in my real clothes.

An hour and a half later I started poking my head out the door looking for the nurse. Someone walking by asked if I needed anything and I mentioned I was waiting for my nurse to finish up my paperwork so I could go home. They said they'd find her and check on it.

Another thirty minutes went by before "my" nurse came back in and said she was so busy she'd have someone else finish everything up for me. Well, I guess, if you're sure it's okay for another nurse to take care of me!

Finally all the paperwork was done and the needle was taken out of my hand. A final check out person came to wheel me to the door. On the way out I saw a few of the people I'd been dealing with during my stay; various transportation people, patient care techs, house keepers, etc. We waved goodbye and had a few laughs ("hope I don't see you again!"). The check out lady commented that it seemed I'd made a few friends while I was here!

I try to treat everyone with respect and kindness, regardless of what their job may be. Now, I admit, I'm not always the happy, cheerful person, but that side of me doesn't usually come out until I'm out of earshot of whomever may be riling me up.

Many years ago I was at a horse show. I was, as usual, very tense and nervous. Someone told me to just smile, even if I didn't really feel like it. I pasted a smile on my face as my horse and I entered the ring and guess what? I actually did start to relax and the smile became real as my horse and I started working nicely together. I learned something from that experience.

It may sound corny but it doesn't take much to put a smile on your face. You may be surprised at what happens afterwards. I think the good nurses know this little secret. The good nurses can be inspiring to a patient's recovery.

Thank you for letting me vent!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!


The Water Is Back

Thursday, as my son was flying over our house he texted me. "Ponds are filling up" he said. For us that is a big deal. When the ponds are full we feel like we own waterfront property.

I took a little walk that day just to verify, and sure enough water was slowly filling the furthest pond.

Part of my therapy involves walking every day, at least ten minutes. This is not only good for me as in exercise-wise, but it also helps relieve some of the residual gas pain that settled in my shoulder. (The gas they use to pump up the abdominal area for the laporoscopic operations--remember I had two in a week!)

There are five recharge ponds behind our house and yesterday the water was getting closer to entering "our" pond. On my forced march walk yesterday I brought the camera along to take some pictures.

This is where the water enters our pond from the next pond over. As you can see here it's still just a bit off.
Some seagulls have already found the water. Why do seagulls come so far inland anyway?
This is the pond directly north of our pond. It looks all marshy/swampy here. Wait a day or two and it will all pondy. (What??)
This is the weir. It is totally boarded up, most likely until the ponds are all full.
Here is the canal after the weir. Look how pretty the green grass is. It reminds me of velvet. Too bad it doesn't always look like this.
This morning I looked out and I can see our pond is now beginning to fill. The last time the ponds filled we were told it would be for about 6 weeks. It turned out to be less than 6 days. I sure hope it lasts a while longer this time!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lip Explosion

An unwanted side effect from my surgeries last week has been that my lips have exploded.

**If gross pictures make you queasy then you may want to skip today's post.**

Ever since I was a little kid I have had a tendency to have cold sore break outs on my lips and around my mouth. As I grew into adulthood the break outs lessened in both severity and frequency. I'm thinking it's because I used to take pills like prescription Zovirax by the handful when I could feel an attack coming on. Plus I tried to avoid the triggers, which I learned were stress, sun combined with wind, and being ├╝bertired.

When I went into the hospital for the second time I could feel an outbreak coming on and I had my husband bring me a tube of abreva. I rubbed that on my lips everytime I thought about it, which was frequently.

The abreva was able to keep the cold sores at bay, just lurking under the surface of my lips, for only so long. Once I got home it was just too much. My lips and mouth exploded into a mass of blisters, at one time even looking like one giant blister!

Not too bad at first.

The pictures don't really show everything. Don't forget besides the ugliness it also hurts!
The abreva was overmatched. I can't take any medication right now unless it's in liquid or shot form or its been approved for crushing (which is still very nasty tasting) and I've always been told that some of the medications I'd asked for before were ineffective unless taken during the tingling stage. If the break out already happened then it's too late.

I went looking for some other form of remedy and found this stuff called "H Balm". Of course I ordered the extra strength because I want to get rid of this as soon as possible. I couldn't find it on line in any of our local Vitamin Shoppes or Health Food Stores so I ordered it overnight.

When it came the next day I had to try it out right away.

I am very impressed with this product. I could feel it started drying up the existing blisters immediately and no new blisters have formed. This is after one full day of applying once every 2-3 hours.
Meanwhile I am feeling better, by increments. I'm looking forward to when I'll be back to "normal" and especially when I'll be able to be back on my horse.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Silence Explained

I have been a little inactive here for the past three weeks. I don't have much of an excuse really, but at least part of it is because I don't want to post the same type of picture of the cow(s), the pony, the chickens, etc, again. The rain has made everything a big mess in our yard and I feel really bad especially for the cows. They were literally standing in water and I had to let them out. So much for my trying to let a little spring grass grow for them to snack on later.

The bull's pen is also very mucky, but since it's just him in there, the pen is a fairly good sized one, and there's a little spot that's sort of sheltered by a eucalyptus tree, he's still okay to leave in. My plan doesn't include letting him out with the big cow until a week after she's had her baby.

The ram's pen (I still have him) is the driest and he has a house he can go into. Flora, the pony has a nice overhang in her pen so one third of her pen is protected. She's made a couple of trails from the dry area to her water through the mud.

Carli and the baby moved into the house about three weeks ago. They are taking over the middle room, which is where the treadmill is, and all the papers and receipts I haven't filed yet (lots of those!!). The treadmill has been folded up to make more room. This move came about because she was fast losing track on her bills, mainly due to a legal issue (FB friends know, I won't go into further detail).

Now for my latest big news. This was something I wasn't even sure I was going to discuss at all, or maybe much later if I were successful! Since October 2009 I've begun the process to become a man! No, no, no, NO!!!! I'm just kidding. Actually, I started the process of getting a lap band, since I'm considered "morbidly obese". Just take a look at some of the past photos of me and you can't deny it.

Anyway, I was becoming more depressed and unhappy about my weight issues, including my inability to keep weight off. And the fact that I was taking 12 prescription pills every day for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

I had asked my doctor about a year ago about getting a lap band, but at that time he put me off saying my insurance would not cover it (which at that time it probably would not have). Fast forward one year and you can't get away from the commercials on tv about lab band and losing weight and feeling great.

So I tried again, only this time I used a different tact. I attended a lap band seminar first. At this point I still thought my insurance wouldn't pay and I actually thought I would be a self-pay. Well, one thing led to another, and I discovered that since my husband and been layed off and rehired he changed the insurance at rehire (I vaguely recall talking about it now), I found out through the seminar people that my insurance would pay for the surgery after qualifying. I made an appointment to talk to them, filled out my packet, and had the appointment.

I qualified. Next I had to go to my doctor because the insurance required a note from him, along with notes about every time we discussed weight loss in his office (which was every time I went in). He was still less than enthusiastic but said he would do what he could.

One day during this waiting period I got a call from the insurance coordinator from the bariatric office. She said she thought the insurance would need maybe just one more visit from me to my doctor. I really wanted to do everything right so I made an appointment (unnecessary in my mind). Just prior to the appointment the insurance coordinator called again and said the insurance approved me. My doctor must have written one heck of a letter! (I cancelled that appointment.)

The next steps involved having all the required testing done. These tests included meeting with a psychologist, going to the lab and having about fifty vials of blood drawn, EKG, abdominal ultra sound, upper GI (ech!), echocardiogram, and attending a dietician class. I met with the psychologist. (A strange experience. I couldn't help thinking of the movie Dead Bang starring Don Johnson. If you haven't seen it, watch it and I bet you'll know the exact part I'm talking about.) I had the option of going to whatever facilities I wanted for testing but getting it all done in one fell swoop was easier so I had that all done at Mercy SW which is where my surgery was going to be.

Finally was the meeting with the surgeon. He basically said everything the same as in the seminar and then checked my paperwork and gave me a quick checkover.

A few more appointments to be made and the clock was counting down to surgery day: Monday, February 1, 2010.

I had one more thing I had to do, which is required of all bariatric patients, and that was go on a liquid diet for the last two weeks before surgery. I really thought that would be hard but it actually wasn't. They like you to do this to lose ten pounds to: 1) prove your commitment to the program (you definately have to change the way you eat!), and 2) make the surgery as safe as possible (losing just ten pounds of inside fat makes it much easier for the doc to maneuver around).

Some of the people that knew of my upcoming surgery asked if I were nervous or excited. I always said I was excited, because I could picture a healthier, happier, better looking me in the not so distant future.

My arrival time was set for 8 am. I was taken to the pre-op room and got my not so stylish gown, and hat, and the nurse hooked me up to these leg squeezie things that are supposedly to help prevent blood clots. After what seemed like a long time it was time to hook up to the iv and say goodbye to the family, who had been waiting with me. They left and I was wheeled into the OR. Can I just say it is freezing in there!!! Soon enough it didn't matter though because I remember making small talk with the anesthesiologist and then he said "you should be feeling a little sleepy now". Before I knew it I was in the recovery room and not much later I was being taken up to my hospital room. The hiatal hernia that was discovered at the first upper GI test was repaired and I now had my lap band installed.

The plan is to stay overnight. All I'm allowed to eat is ice chips. The next day a test is done to ensure that there are no leaks and everything looks positioned properly. After that I'm given a lunch of protein powder, chicken broth, and cranberry juice. If I can keep that down for two hours then I will be released to go home.

Just looking at it made me sick to my stomach. I went ahead and tried to swallow two sips of each but I knew then if I had more I'd throw up. When the girl took my tray I don't know why I didn't say anything but I didn't. Live and learn.

I went home and it was bad. I couldn't even swallow my pain medication. I tried to keep hydrated but pretty soon it was apparent that nothing was working. I would be rocking with pain, then suddenly I would have to throw up. Immediately afterwards I felt great. But that was only temporary because the cycle started repeating itself.

Finally on Thursday I couldn't take it any more and called the surgeon's office. He was in surgery, of course, but did call me back within an hour. He sounded extremely concerned and told me to get to the Mercy SW ER and get checked in. He would let them know I was on the way.

THAT took forever. That intake nurse is going on Santa's naughty list this year for her rude and unprofessional behavior. (More on good nurses vs bad nurses in another story.) Finally I was back up in the bariatric ward, just two doors down from my first room. The room was a little nicer but the bed was not. The feet part didn't work and there was a big, sunken hole in the mattress where the big, saggy butts of the bariatric patients sit.

The thinking was that maybe my bowels weren't moving (I hadn't had a movement or any gas since the day before surgery) and we just needed to get things moving along. That night I was given a Fleet enema. Well, that didn't work.

The next morning I was given a suppository. Well, that didn't work.

And now there was a new development. When I threw up it reeked of ... well, let me put it this way. One of our dogs, Chester, has been a poop eater since day one. Usually he tolerates it very well, though we don't. Occasionally Chester will go on a "poop pork out and purge". This is where he may have a tummy ache or whatever but can't resist eating the poop. Of course he's also been nibbling on the grass. Then he finds a semi-secluded spot in the house to purge.

That's what my vomitus smelled like.

Friday was another barium type test. That's the one where you have to sip the disgusting liquid while the X-Ray doctor is taking constant pictures. It tastes like cloyingly fake sweet syrup with a sharp bitter after tone. Gaaagghhhhh. They didn't really see anything on that one.

I was getting desperate. My husband was starting to get angry and panicky. Not good. Most of you know he carries a gun.

Saturday morning, first thing, I was scheduled to get a scope down the throat so they could actually see a clear picture. I would like to have seen that. While I was waiting the first assistant started setting things up. She grabbed a plastic covered roll of tubing and stood over the garbage. As she split the plastic the tubing went "PLOP", right into the garbage. I saw her eyes flick my way and she dropped the rest of the packaging into the garbage and went to get another. This time she was a little more careful. Good girl!

A nurse came in and got my iv incorporated into their iv. The doctor came in and it was kind of the same as the first time in the OR ("you should start feeling sleepy now"). The only thing I remember from that was the nurse telling me to open my mouth so she could spray some numbing stuff and then to swallow it as best I could. Then came the tubes and I recall my pathetic gagging/retching noises and I was thinking "what if I threw up? No I won't. Good I didn't."

Then I was back up in my room and the doctor came in. He said the test showed that the band had slipped way down my stomach, creating a way-too-large upper pouch, and it was shutting off the bottom part of my stomach. Not to mention all the ulcerations they saw. Get ready for surgery in one hour.

At last I had an answer. I don't know why I was throwing up to begin with, but the act of vomiting exacerbated the problem and it just went downhill from there.

I was whisked back to the operating rooms. I can always tell when I'm close because the temperature drops so drastically. The first time I asked the nurse why they keep it so cold in there. It's to inhibit germ growth, basically. Duh. Also because the lights get hot and the doctors are all gowned up, but mostly for the germs.

This time there was no small talk. I got on the table and within five minutes I was out.

When I woke in recovery I just knew it was going to be better.

When the doctor came in to see me a little later he explained what he did. When he first got in he noticed that two of the three stitches from the hiatal hernia were gone. So he redid that. Then he totally removed the lap band and repositioned it in the proper place. Now he wanted to keep me in an extra day or two because I had developed a slight fever. Fine. I guess I was in the right place for that.

I did have to undergo another one of those nasty swallowing tests and the surgeon was there to watch the entire procedure. He was satisfied with the results and I was sent back to my room to recuperate. I was allowed the bariatric diet of protein powder, cranberry juice, and chicken broth. This time it didn't make me nauseous.

I was released for the second time on Tuesday, February 9th. One of the first things I did was see if I could swallow the pain medication I had from the first time. I am happy to report it went down without a hitch.

Yesterday I still wasn't 100% sure how things were. I felt super swollen and extremely tender. I guess that's only normal though after being cut open twice. Today is already much better. My next appointment with the doctor will be on the 19th. I hope I have good things to report then.