Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One Year.

One year ago today, I went into the hospital for my second surgery.

I had had the first part of the J pouch procedure in October 2009. This is where they remove your colon and create a J pouch out of the end of your small intestine. The J pouch is stapled into your pelvis and was supposed to act as a small holding area for stool. While the J pouch heals, your stool is diverted with an ileostomy. Unfortunately, I developed pouchitis in my J pouch right away. Essentially, my ulcerative colitis moved from my colon to the J pouch. By last summer, my immune system was going nuts. I could barely walk from arthritis and muscle weakness. My whole body hurt constantly. I was having bowel obstructions almost daily. My stomach either didn't empty properly or emptied almost immediately, wreaking havoc on my ability to absorb fluids and medication. I was exhausted, constantly nauseated and in pain, and passing blood from my J pouch 8 times a day. My doctors, family and I reached the difficult decision that the J pouch needed to come out.

I don't even know how to describe this surgery or the difficulty of the days which followed. After a 5.5 hour surgery, I spent an additional 5 hours in the PACU, where they tried in vain to stabilize my vital signs and pain as I screamed and cried.

I was taken up to the floor, but my vital signs continued to deteriorate. A Rapid Response Team was called into my room. I vaguely recall the room being filled with people (and I was not sure why they were all staring at me!). The tech eventually had to turn off the monitors, because everything I was hooked up to was beeping and alarms were sounding since my vital signs were so bad.

I was transferred to the ICU. My hemoglobin was half of what it was prior to surgery - I had lost half of my blood. During my time in the ICU, I had periods of lucidity, but became very confused and was hallucinating. I was in the worst pain of my life. I was experiencing what we later found out was Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome - my already hyperactive immune system wildly overreacted to the surgery, causing my body to go into shock and experience extreme pain. They tried different medicines to try to calm me down and help my pain so that I wouldn't try to get up or take off my tubes and wires in my confusion. I spent quite a lot of time screaming in pain.

Thankfully, while I remember more than I want to about the days following surgery, the clearest memories I have are of my wonderful family. My mom was by my side every single minute, except for the hour or two when the nurses kicked her out. My dad and brothers and sister came any time they could. I remember how calming and comforting it was just to hear their voices, to hear them talk about everyday normal stuff. I also remember Bryan Kervin of Rise and Conquer coming to visit me in ICU.

While my recovery from this surgery was excruciatingly slow, painful, and riddled with complications, not one thing that happened was a surprise to God. He did not change. He remained in control. The (literally) hundreds of you who wrote cards, sent emails, facebook messages, texts, flowers, gifts, balloons, visits -- your testimony of love and support reached many people in the hospital. And I was greatly encouraged, and many lives were blessed by memorizing Romans 5:1-11 with me.

One year later, I hit "SUBMIT" on my application for Physician Assistant School. While I'm much healthier than I was a year ago, I'm not quite healthy (yet). This year, God has brought me through two additional surgeries related to last year's surgery. And now, the Lord is allowing me to move forward again with my life, to some extent. One of my favorite Proverbs, one that pretty accurately describes my life, is Proverbs 16:9: "The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." I make my plans, but the Lord directs my steps. Often, I end up walking a road that I would never have chosen to walk. But guess what? His plans are ALWAYS better. I would rather be where He wants me to be than anywhere else in the world. I'm excited about the possibility of PA school. I am confident that God will continue to guide my steps - whether it be towards PA school or in a completely different direction. And I am at peace with that. It may seem like uncertainty, but leaving something in the hands of God and trusting Him with the outcome is the furthest thing from uncertainty in the universe.

Hannah ;)

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