And the Story Continues…

For anyone who missed out on Part 1 of my story – click here to catch up. 

I was finally released from the hospital with, surprisingly, little instruction. 1) Follow up with my primary care doctor 2) Follow up with the lung specialist to ensure my body reabsorbed the remaining fluid as they expected and 3) ENJOY BEING A MOMMY TO MY NEW BABY. 

My primary care doctor didn’t sugar coat it – I was in bad shape. She was appalled by my blood count – or lack thereof I suppose. She could not believe my resting heart rate in her office nor could she wrap her head around the fact that no one had given me a blood transfusion. 8 combined days in the hospital and everyone seemed to have ignored a major issue. I was insanely anemic. She whipped out her cell phone and called up a good friend of hers – who just happened to be a hematologist. She told him I was coming right over and I needed lots of help. She gave me an address and the doctors name and told me to go right away. You can imagine my shock and surprise as I pulled up to the “Cancer Care Center”. I checked the address again – it matched. I checked it again – it matched again. My doctor could have saved me from a heart attack by telling me her friend was also an oncologist. Meeting with him didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. My anemia needed TREATED; not simply left alone to “fix itself”. He immediately scheduled me for a pretty intense iron infusion routine. 3 times a week for 6 weeks. 3 times a week I would walk into that office and be escorted back to the IV room. Where they would set me up in a comfy recliner, hand me some extra pillows and stick a needle in my arm. I’d prop my feet up and watch Good Morning America for 90 minutes while a bag full of iron drained into my veins. Walking into that room every time was so surreal. Looking into the faces of suffering people who visibly looked sick. Having them look back at you as if to say “welcome to the club”. Watching them have their ports accessed. Watching them begin their first round of chemo. Watching some celebrate their last. Hearing some receive good news. Hearing some cry out in pain. I’ve never prayed harder than I did while sitting in that recliner. I swear that room has heard way more cries to God than some churches have. I prayed for strength and healing for every one watching Good Morning America with me. I prayed that he would touch every person in that room, all of the ones who forgot what it was like to truly have a ‘good morning’. Still to this day I have never been in the presence of more courage. 

I was to check back with my lung specialist in 6 weeks for a repeat chest x-ray – to receive good news. News that said “all the fluid is gone, hooray!”. But just 2 weeks into that 6 weeks I knew something wasn’t right. I knew the intense pain I was still in with every breath meant my body wasn’t doing everyone told me it would. An expedited x-ray would spur a phone call from my doctor that would put me between a rock and a hard place. My lung was still full of fluid. And since it was obvious my body was not healthy enough to cooperate, my choices were 1) repeat the draining process (hello again 10-inch needle in my back) or 2) surgery. I had no idea that was ever going to be an option that would be thrown on my table but here I was. Darned if I do, darned if I don’t. The decision wasn’t too hard to make – my last surgery almost killed me and being as I still wasn’t remotely near recovered from that one – I chose to redrain the fluid.

That procedure, although being an outpatient procedure, still required me to go to the hospital and officially be admitted for a day. Going back to that hospital…the one I had my c-section at, the one I got rushed by an ambulance to…gave me a feeling I’ve never felt before. The feeling I imagine a victim feels when having to go back to the scene of a crime/accident. I wanted to turn around. Run back out of that hospital. Run all the way home, scoop my baby into my arms and hide. Hide from the doctors. Hide from the needles. Hide from any one in scrubs. Hide from it all. But a few minutes later I was in
that gorgeous hospital gown. And when the nurse blew 3 of my veins out trying to start an IV…I really wanted to run. (And punch her if she pricked me one more time, but that’s neither here nor there). Deep down, I was oddly excited for the procedure to redrain the fluid. I was excited for it to work. I was excited to get it over with. I was excited to not be in pain anymore. And I was excited to finally be able to move on from all this. I kissed my husband goodbye and they rolled me down to the procedure room. A few minutes in, I could tell by the look on the doctors face that something wasn’t right. I could tell by the tiny drop of fluid they drew out that something wasn’t right. And when I heard the words “unsuccessful” my heart sank. My stomach literally dropped out of the bottom of my gown. 

The doctor cleaned me up and re-tied my robe. He grabbed my hands and said “I am so so sorry”. He explained that the fluid in my lung had gathered into pockets. In order for them to be able to drain it, outside of surgery, he would have to insert that 10-inch needle into my back for every single pocket that existed. We both knew that wasn’t an option, no matter how bad I wished it were. And at that point, I broke. Every nurse with me could sense the hurt in that moment. They comforted me as best they could but no one could take away the despair that news brought me. I pulled myself together on the roll back up to my room. My husband was there waiting for me and eagerly asked “how did it go?”….breakdown #2. The only words I could get out were “it didn’t. It didn’t work”. Another follow up with my lung specialist made surgery a, now, necessity. He threw out names of surgeons he works with and highly recommended. All of whom would perform the surgery at that hospital. I couldn’t do it. My mind would not let me consider walking through those doors to that hospital again.

So I searched. And I searched for the best. And the best lung surgeon is what I certainly found. To this day I know he was one of the many answers to prayer through this journey. I knew it within the first minutes of meeting this man. He explained my pain to me…just by seeing my x-ray. He knew exactly where it hurt and how it felt. He explained to me how it all happened, when no one else had been able to up until this point. He walked me into his office, let me sit in his desk chair and taught me all about my x-ray and what it all meant. And when I asked him “if I was your daughter, what would you tell me to do?”….he reached around and pulled out the surgery orders that he had already prepared for me. He already knew how hard of a decision it was going to be to schedule another surgery. He already knew how hard it would be to leave my daughter again. He already knew. So he already made the decision for me. I didn’t realize at the time how much of a gift he truly gave me. And it wouldn’t be until later that he would give me an even better gift. 

It just so happened to be April Fool’s Day. And it very much felt like a sick joke having to wake up at 5:00 and kiss my baby goodbye. Tears stream down my face still to this day as I think back to this moment. Walking out of her room shattered me to my core. But walking out of her room gave me strength I didn’t know I had. Strength to put one foot in front of the other…to keep fighting to get better. And away we went to the hospital for surgery. I was to be in surgery for 1-2 hours. I was to have 2 tiny holes cut into my right side; 1 for a camera and 1 for the surgical tools. I was to wake up in recovery with 1 chest tube to drain all fluid not removed during surgery. I was to see my husband and mom shortly after that. I was to then be taken to my hospital room where I would stay that night for observation, have my chest tube taken out the next morning and then go home. The wait to be taken back for surgery was an agonizing eternity. I wanted to hit fast forward. Skip right through surgery, right through the pain when I woke up, right through another lonely night in the hospital. My surgeon finally came to my curtained off oasis and it was time. I instantly felt…peace. I was in the hands of one of the best lung surgeons in the country and he was going to fix me. In that cold OR the nurses and anesthesiologist were asking me all about my daughter. I told them she was perfect; she looked exactly like her daddy. That she was such a happy and healthy baby. That I couldn’t wait to get back home to her. That I…..

….and then I woke up. I woke up in a private glass room. Everything was still blurry but I could make out a bunch of people standing around my bed. Within seconds, I could see my husband, my mom, my surgeon, my anesthesiologist and my new nurses. Confused, still trying to orient myself. I looked around for all the other recovering patients – there weren’t any. My back hurt; bad – as if I had an ax stuck in it. Everybody knew but me. Everyone but me knew that my surgery hadn’t gone as planned. Everyone but me had just endured the wait of a long 5-hour procedure. Everyone but me knew that I was in the ICU. Everyone but me knew that I would not get to go home tomorrow to see my baby. My surgeon went in to my lung, through those 2 tiny holes, as planned. But when he got in there, he saw that it was worse, much worse, than he had thought. The fluid that was once fluid – had congealed in my lung. It had hardened itself to the lining of my lung and it would take much more extensive measures to remove it. He called my husband and my mom in the waiting room, he told them there was a change in plans, the surgery would be much longer and they should plan on meeting me upstairs – in the ICU waiting room. And then he proceeded to cut me open, across my shoulder blade. Cut through every muscle and pried them apart. Broke some ribs, pried those apart and finally got down to my lung. I’ll use the words of my surgeon here for effect. “The hardened fluid was 3 inches thick on the lining of your lung. I had to peel it away, piece by piece. It was like peeling an orange with no tools.” So instead of 2 tiny holes in my side, I had three – and they each had a large chest tube coming out of them. My back now had a 6 inch cut across it. And I had quite a few cracked/broken ribs. I can feel the phantom pain all over again just by typing these words.

The whole day was such a blur. I remember my dad stopped by later. I don’t remember a single thing anyone said to me. I’m sure they all said things to comfort me, to encourage me. I’m sure they prayed for me. I’m sure they all ached with my pain. But they all had to leave. My husband had to get back to our daughter – because no matter how sick I was, she was the most important thing through all of this. And oh, how I got so sick. The extra 3-4 hours of anesthesia mixed with the amount of meds I had to have just to be comfortable took their toll. I’ll never forget those ICU nurses. They were simply amazing – certainly earthly angels. They helped me get through the next 3 days. They helped me get up out of bed every morning by 6:00. It was known that my surgeon does his rounds EARLY. He comes to see all of his patients before saving a few more that day. And it was known that he does not like to come see patients still in bed. So as angry as I was to 1) wake up that early and 2) to move my body at all – it was refreshing to see his face every day before the sun. He didn’t know it, but he brought the sun to me. He didn’t let me get down and out about this situation. He reassured me constantly that “the tough part is over, you’re going to get better now!”. 

But neither of us knew that the tough part wasn’t over. After 3 days in the ICU, I was finally good enough to move to a regular room. They were still waiting on some test results to come back from my fluid in my lung. 
Tests to determine the cause of the fluid and tests to detect any sort of possible infection. Up until this point, there has been no sign of infection in my lung – so it was more of a precautionary measure. Here I will emphasis ‘up until this point‘. My mom and dad were there for a visit and we heard a knock on the door – it was my surgeon. The middle of the afternoon – a very unnatural time for him to be popping in. I should have known what that meant. I should have known the 3 steps forward I had just taken were about to be undone with 7 steps in the opposite direction. He had the results from my fluid tests – positive. No, not positive news – positive for infection. Further tests were done to determine what type of bacteria was causing the infection. There were many but one in particular that was quite worrisome. I remember the look on my surgeon’s face when he told us – like he had let me down. They had found E.coli in my lung. Talk about being kicked while I was down. I met with a doctor who specialized in infectious diseases; to decide how best to attack my infection. But the only attack I could feel was that of the devil. I remember sitting in my hospital bed alone that night, praying. Saying over and over “you can’t win. You won’t win. You can’t win. You can’t defeat me. You won’t.” And as positive as I was outwardly and as strong as those around me thought I was; I lost. In my head and in my heart, I lost. I started to question. I started to doubt. I started to ask “why would such a loving God allow me to suffer so bad? Why would he strip me of all the joy that is supposed to come with a new baby? Why would he cause such pain? Why is the one who can hear all our cries ignoring every single one of mine?” And it was in that moment of defeat that I realized – I hadn’t lived a comfortable life up until this point because of myself. I hadn’t been sheltered from pain and grief through my own accomplishments. He had carried me up until this point in life – and he was still carrying me. 
I am beginning to realize that this is perhaps way more than a two-part story. That this dark, terrible time in my life had lasted much longer than I had originally thought. That even though I wish I could erase these months from my life altogether, I don’t want to forget a single thing – the lessons learned and the strength gained are far too precious. And so I must say again, my friends…. STAY TUNED….

3 Comments

  1. Carly Jones

    Court,
    1. You’re a beautiful writer, but an even more beautiful person.
    2. Thank you for sharing. I have found when we share our darkest moments of pain, we take some of that pain away.
    3. God has blessed you with wonderful parents and a supportive comforting husband.
    4. Your story had me in tears but your faith proved your willingness to keep moving forward despite the set backs. That’s true strength. And it’s funny because I think we learned a lot about that from our soccer coaches. It’s all good. I would love to come visit you sometime soon! ❤️

    • All Mommed Up

      your words mean so much to me! as intimidating as it is to put myself out there – you are so right!! it is so healing to share this!! whether 1 or 1,000 people read it.

      I hope you are doing well. I love seeing your journey; so inspiring. keep being awesome (as always). God has certainly blessed us far more than we often realize. would love to catch up sometime too!!! <3

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