Friday, August 12, 2016

A Day in the Life

Growing up, my best friend always told me that I had the weirdest things happen to me, and it's taken me a few years to realize that it's true. As a kid, I had all of the "regular" issues and procedures - tubes in my ears twice, adenoids removed. At 16, I had all four of my wisdom teeth taken out. But I have had a few interesting things happen to me in between and in the years following with plenty of surgeries and hospital visits.

When I was 14 years old, I was on a class field trip to the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne (a couple days before summer break). For lunch, we stopped at a park and a couple of my friends and I decided to play on the playground. As my science teacher yelled over to us that it was time to go, I went to go down the curly slide one last time and got my arm caught between two metal vertical bars (it's hard to explain - weird, I know). I heard the snap immediately and knew it was broken, but my teachers still made me ride the bus back to school (about an hour drive). A trip to an orthopedic surgeon yielded an x-ray and a bulky orange cast - and I still went to my eighth-grade dance later that evening. 

My arm healed up for the most part, although I do still have some pain in it from time to time (possibly because I broke it at the growth plate? - not sure about that one). As a softball player in high school, I got all kinds of injuries. My junior year of high school, I seriously injured my right hand (and I'm right-handed) which led to four surgeries over the course of eight years. (This is a long story, and one you can read about in detail here: What I Learned from Orthopedic Surgery). To make a long story short, I had the first repair in December 2006, then two scar tissue surgeries in June 2007 and December 2008. The final surgery was in July 2013 when I had the joint fused. When I had my first surgery in 2006, my father had just gotten out of the hospital after a lengthy stay following a serious accident that almost took his life. People who saw us together would always ask if we were in a terrible accident together because his neck was broken and my arm was in a cast. They were always surprised to hear that our injuries were unrelated! (For more on my dad's story, see this blog post: 1000 Paper Cranes). 

My hand after my third surgery to remove scar tissue adhesions.
The x-ray I received in the hospital after my joint fusion surgery.
During my junior year of college, my roommate drove me to the hospital with what I thought was appendicitis. After lots of tests and a dose of morphine to help with the pain, I woke up the next morning thinking I had surgery to remove my appendix. It turns out that I was extremely allergic to morphine (I'd never had it before then) and had a seizure. I had no memory of any of it, and I didn't even end up having appendicitis, but mesenteric adenitis, which is caused by swollen lymph nodes in the abdominal area, a condition that usually clears up on its own without intervention. I ended up missing over two weeks of school trying to recover from the after-effects of the morphine allergy! If it hadn't been for the morphine, I would have been sent home from the ER that night with some mild painkillers.

Justin and I "celebrating" our one-year anniversary after I got out of the hospital with mesenteric adenitis and a severe morphine allergy.
My freshman year of college, my best friend and I got our ears pierced together (I got mine double-pierced and she got a cartilage piercing). About a year later, I got my nose pierced and then my belly button a year after that. The belly button piercing didn't last long, and I never had any issues with my nose. However, the second piercings in my ears started hurting and then started to grow scar tissue. I didn't think much of it at first, but the scar tissue starting growing and getting worse. I went to see a plastic surgeon who told me I had keloid scars, an overgrowth of scar tissue most commonly found in darker-skinned individuals (like me). The excess scar tissue made sense since I had had problems with scar tissue following my hand surgeries and I had surgery during the summer after my junior year of college to remove the keloids, but the doctor warned me that they have a high rate of occurrence and, sure enough, they returned much larger than they had been before. 

These were taken before my first surgery.

These were taken after my first surgery to remove the keloids.
I went back to my plastic surgeon and he suggested surgery again to remove them, but this time I would need to follow-up with radiation treatments to keep them from returning. (And, after both surgeries, I was required to wear "compression earrings" on my ears to also help keep the keloids from returning). So during graduate school, I had the surgery again, but I had to receive radiation treatments at Michiana Hematology & Oncology for two weeks afterward. This was a very interesting process - I had to go in for several pre-treatment visits so that they could fit me with a protective head piece so that the radiation was only targeting the affected area and so my head was protected. I had these lead contraptions that I had to wear when I would go in for treatments. It's strange to say I've never had cancer, but I've had a series of radiation treatments. I had to keep ointment on my ears for a couple weeks because I did have some redness and dryness from the treatments, but everything worked out and the keloids have never returned. Plus, Justin (my then fiancé and now husband) surprised me on my last day of radiation at the cancer center with flowers.

These were taken before the second surgery, which was in the spring of 2012. As you can see, they grew much larger after the previous surgery, which was why the doctor suggested radiation treatments.

These were taken after the second surgery. There were a lot more stitches the second time around, and it was difficult to sleep for about a month!
I've also had weird issues with allergies throughout my life. When I was going into eighth-grade, I ended up in the hospital after petting the horses in my uncle's barn. I didn't know someone could be allergic to horses, but apparently I am! In the years to follow, I would have random moments when my face and throat would begin to swell, but I never knew what was causing it. In grad school, Justin and I went to our regular Bible study at Bethel College and my eyes swelled shut, sending me to the hospital again. Because of these weird episodes, I went in to have allergy testing done (a scratch test) and tested positive for almost everything on the panel. I had a series of "rapid desensitization" allergy injections and then followed up with two years of allergy shots at my family doctor's office. I still have issues with my allergies, but I'd like to think they are a bit better after my injections. 

After my "rapid desensitization" injections.
I consider all of these experiences part of life's adventures and am thankful to God that I am happy and healthy. I have scars and titanium and memories to remind me of the bad times, and the good. Through it all, God is good and life is good.

As a final story, Justin was once driving me to the doctor when I was in grad school because I had come down with a nasty case of strep throat. About two minutes away from the doctor's office, we witnessed a woman drive her car into a telephone pole and Justin had to pull over and help her and I had to call 911. We were late to the appointment with my doctor, but my strep was so bad I had to get a steroid shot to lessen the swelling in my throat! From what I heard, the woman in the accident was okay, but suffered a broken wrist. She was reaching into her purse to get something when she hit the pole.