Friends have often told me that I need to write a book. Tell my story. But up until now, I didn’t want to share a tale of five months in the hospital. Yes, it was a learning and growing experience, but not one you want to recreate by telling it. Not one that you want people to fixate on. So let’s leave it that I was in the hospital for about five months where I had some, let’s say, interesting experiences.
So a bit about me. I was actually quite healthy and physically fit at the start of this saga. In 2005, I went through a divorce after nearly twenty years of marriage. The following year I was diagnosed with Graves Disease which resulted in hyperthyroidism. From there I was hospitalized for totally unrelated and undiagnosed abdominal pain. Ultimately, my colon was removed, along with part of my small intestine and rectum in 2006/2007. I had an Ileostomy which was reversed after twelve months. Although I looked a bit feeble then, I was well on the road to recovery when I allowed this 2007 photograph to be taken of me.
I nearly went blind from the aggressive nature of Graves Disease and even came close to not being around today because of the intestinal complications. Please know that the information provided here is meant to assist you in your search for solutions, but should never be considered as a medical diagnosis or doctor's opinion. I know I had limited resources when I needed answers. I hope to make this process easier for you and to make your road to recovery faster and with less pain.
I survived. I am so grateful to have my vision and to be living my life. I am so blessed.
I didn't know what an ileostomy was until I was told that I had no option but to have one. What does that mean? We always have a choice in every situation. I wanted to know what my other option was in this one.
When the doctor who was subbing for my primary surgeon stopped by my hospital room to give me this news, I knew he wasn't giving me the full story. We all have at least two options in every situation. What I didn't realize was that my options were to either live or die. So much for options. This was the second time within weeks that I had a life or death choice. So I had to do some homework to understand what this was and how it was going to work for me.
I had many struggles with my ileostomy which was reversed after twelve months. For whatever reason, I kept visualizing my abdominal area as still flat. What I forgot was I had had a number of surgeries and multiple procedures. So I don't have the same flat abdominal surface which was still fixed in my mind's eye. Having my mind stuck in the past caused me some problems. Consequently, I was using the wrong type of ostomy bag. I needed an ostomy product which accommodated my newly, uneven and wavy surface.
If you have one, you probably have heard that you shouldn't eat certain things like nuts, popcorn, raspberries (because of the small seeds), and so on. I ate them all, although I only had popcorn occasionally.
What you will find is that healthy foods will work the best for you now. Sugar-laden foods are not your friends. Moderation in sugary foods is strongly advised. Eating foods with little or no nutritional value will probably be ok if you limit the amount you eat.
Heavy, dense foods that are hard to digest should also be monitored and limited. Popcorn is hard to digest as are nuts and many raw greens. Steaming your vegetables is one good solution. Enjoy just a few nuts and you will be fine. If, however, you eat the entire can of peanuts you will probably have some difficulty with your apparatus functioning properly. I heard of someone who had to have emergency surgery to remedy the "backup" they experienced when eating an entire can of peanuts by not knowing when to stop. So be reasonable and you will probably be fine.
What is MRSA? How do you get it? Can it kill you? Can it be spread easily?
Here are some handy MRSA facts and a variety of articles that can address these and other questions. If you have spent any significant amount of time in the hospital and had an open wound, there is a good chance that you may have already contracted MRSA. Medical practitioners can easily spread this disease by not washing their hands thoroughly enough as they go from patient to patient. It can be contracted from equipment that has not been disinfected properly. It can also be contracted outside of the hospital wherever cuts and scrapes occur. Football practise fields are well known for having such strains present and often children and youth do not realize that they have contracted MRSA.
What makes it challenging is the fact that it has been resistant to many antibiotics. In recent years, by introducing a combination of antibiotics, the medical community has begun to combat and control this disease.
MRSA spreads readily and rapidly as it can pass easily from patient to patient, person to person and especially to those with compromised immune systems, open wounds, etc. Since it is especially aggressive for those who are in a weakened state - it’s important that you arm yourself with information. Pregnant women and the elderly also need to take special care. Protect yourself and your family by becoming familiar with issues surrounding this super bug and thus minimize your chances of contracting MRSA.
VRE is another resistant disease that is spread from patient to patient, from medical practitioners' poor hygiene when washing hands and is also spread by an unclean hospital environment. Hospitals need to encourage routine and thorough hand washing of medical staff and better cleaning standards by the hospital's cleaning crews.
A wound culture needs to be taken to determine if the VRE organism has been contracted. Once diagnosed, patients are usually quarantined or placed with other patients who have already been infected. Thus, minimizing exposure to those patients who do not have VRE.
Here are some insightful articles to provide you with more information on VRE. Just know that there are new remedies in place today and that once health has been restored, these strains will go dormant or in some cases, just disappear.
Graves Disease is an autoimmune disease. If I understand it correctly, this disease caused my situation. This condition develops from an overactive thyroid that is known as hyperthyroidism. My version of the disease was unusually aggressive and advanced very quickly. My eyes bulged excessively due to the swelling of fat and muscle behind my eyes. What might typically have taken eighteen months (if ever) to develop as it did with me, advanced within two short months.
I nearly went blind as my optic nerve was being stretched beyond its limit. I was prescribed high dosages of prednisone or steroids to reduce the inflammation, redness and swelling. I had Graves Disease in advance and then concurrent with my other issues.
What might have started this medical situation was my strong desire to reverse my hyperthyroidism. Make my thyroid normal. In doing so, I took multiple supplements to reverse what seemed to be ravaging my eyes. In hindsight, I wonder if I helped to advance the situation by hitting this disease from every vantage simultaneously, rather than taking a more measured approach. I caution anyone from doing as I did. If you want to find a potential solution via supplements, please take one and see how it works for you before trying another. Taking multiple ones simultaneously is not a good idea and can cause serious havoc to your body. Please always consult a doctor or pharmacist as you make life-changing decisions.
On a more positive note, I also embarked on a mission to change the way I ate. I asked the author, Paul Pitchford to help me. And so began a transformation of my food choices. I found that I had not had the best diet before and would need to work on changing it. As a result, I removed so many foods that I had to really rethink how I ate. I gave up liquor, caffine, sugars & sweets, pasta, milk & milk products, and more. Really it would be easier to tell you what I could eat than what I gave up. But here is the amazing part of it. After eating healthier foods for a month or two, I never thought it was a burden and really could no longer imagine eating the way I had before.
What I realize now is that Graves Disease caused my hyperthyroidism. My quest to bring my thyroid back to normal would never have individually solved what Graves brought to the equation. It was this disease that started everything.
I started receiving radiation treatment. This occurred for a number of weeks. Radiation was administered in short doses of less than 30 seconds to the side of each eye while wearing a protective, specially molded head guard. The hope was to slow the growing mass behind my eyes. My intestinal issues interrupted the next step - surgical plans for bone removal allowing the eyes to recede back into their sockets.
I was hospitalized (for the unrelated intestinal issue) shortly thereafter and did not see an improvement to my eyes until a subsequent eyelid surgery in 2007. This surgery had to wait until I was healthy enough to handle it.
After all the various surgeries, in the end, I took a radioactive iodine pill to oblate the thyroid. I was told that stress may have been a contributing factor to my having acquired Graves Disease in the first place and it might reoccur if I were again to reach those same stress levels. Hearing this as a potential reality, any questions I had about keeping it left me. I now have a hypothyroid and take Armour Thyroid daily to replace the hormone deficiency that now exists.