Confessions of an Imperfect Transition

Everyone has been so complimentary of us through all of this. They send sweet messages or call with kind words…

“You are so strong.”

“You are such a good wife.”

“You handle all of this with such grace.”

I feel like a fraud. If only they knew. If only they could see inside. If only they saw the selfish side of the “graceful girl.” The one who groans when the toddler gets up in the middle of the night… again… and she has to get up with him because Brandon can’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for the next 6 weeks. The one who picked up a pizza because cooking seemed too daunting.

My house has been a mess more days than its been clean since we’ve been home from the hospital. I blame it on the two little tornadoes I have, but really, I’m so exhausted I choose laying down over unloading the dishwasher, and today was the first time I washed a load of towels in over a week. I’ve let other people feed our family, and I’ve been really good at pouting and being grumpy.

I actually feel embarrassed that people think I’m handling this all so well. I felt so guilty that I actually apologized to Brandon (twice) this weekend for being such a crank. I knew I was in a mood and having a ‘tude, and it was like I just couldn’t get over it. Part of the ‘tude was the frustration over being trapped inside all beautiful, gorgeous fall perfect-for-apple-picking-or-pumpkin-patchin’-festival-going-or-outside-bein’ weekend long with a sick baby (who literally wouldn’t let me put him down), a recovering hubby, and a very energetic 5-year-old.

If you guys only knew…

I hope I’m not the only one out there that feels like this, but in the thick of it all, it certainly feels like I’m a failure. Like I’m a beautiful work of art with a tiny crack that’s threatening to splinter and shatter the whole thing into a million ugly pieces. I mean, dishes piled in the sink, books and toys and shoes scattered all over the floor, picking tomorrow’s clothes out from the clean laundry pile that’s taken up residence on the couch. Walking past the dish towel on the floor because the toddler is just going to pull it down again anyway. Grumbling that the trash is overflowing, and then realizing that I’m the only one who can take it out for the next 6 weeks since he can’t lift it. Resolving to put my big girl pants on and mow the grass myself in practically the same breath that I’m vowing to let it grow, because danggit we’re going thru a season here, people, and if the HOA has something to say about it, then say it!

A mess. I’m a mess yall. This smile and straightened hair is all part of a facade. Please don’t think I have it all together. Don’t look to me and say “such grace” or anything along those lines, because honestly I feel like a flop. There are days when I semi have it together, and moments where I feel encouraged and like I can conquer the world… and then I spill coffee on my shirt on the way to work.

At this point, I’m just asking God to keep Brandon from getting whatever plague the toddler’s daycare friends decided to share with him, and for matching socks for the kids each day. I consider it a bonus if I’m dressed and out the door on time. Because let’s be real, a lot of times, I’m dressed, but I’m not on time. Like that one time – last week – when MY CHILD GOT HIS FIRST TARDY at school. Yep, mom of the year award. I felt like I was branding my child with a scarlet letter when the school secretary handed over a FLORESCENT LIME GREEN tardy pass for him to carry all the way down the hall. Fact: Paxton asked me this morning if he was going to be tardy again, and if I was going to be frustrated about it again. Oops, guess I didn’t hide the fact that I was a little more than irritated that I made my child late for school for the first time ever. Ugh. Mom fail.

I can’t wait for things to be back to normal… whatever that is. I was off to a good start when I threw 3 ingredients in the crockpot and called it dinner. Yep, I was rocking it. Delicious victory was mine…

But on a serious note, through my cranky-feel-like-a-failure moments, I have come to realize that in my own might, I will fail, but if I rely on the Lord, He will certainly do more in and through me than I could ever do on my own. I am reminded of one of my favorite verses:

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

I think I’ve been tired… emotionally, spiritually tired. I whispered weary prayers to the Lord in most waking moments over the last few weeks, but I don’t know that I’ve fully surrendered the battle to Him. I’ve tried so hard to do so much by myself, but He’s there waiting… wanting to bear the load for me. If you’re tired, you should try it. Surrender your burdens to the Lord, and see how he renews your strength. How you will feel refreshed, and like new. In Luke, we’re told to daily take up the cross and follow Him.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Well that’s encouraging! The one who has overcome the world is on our side and wants to carry our burdens. I feel refreshed and renewed and I hope that if you’ve been trying to carry it all on your own – all your family’s worries and burdens – I hope you’ll be able to lay it down.

 

Good News! We’re Home!

home-from-the-hsopitalGood news yall! This afternoon, Brandon was discharged from the hospital! One bowel resection, and 5 days later we are home! We are thrilled to be home! It feels delicious to be with our boys, sitting on our furniture, at our home.

We are trying to manage Brandon’s pain and keeping our fingers crossed that we won’t have to make any return trips to the hospital. Our biggest challenge at this point is keeping the boys from wanting to wrestle daddy, or understanding that daddy can’t pick up Maverick.

The nursing staff was so wonderful to us, and if we’re being honest, we’re both a little nervous about being home, on our own. At this point last year, we were still in the hospital, under the care of medical staff that could help Brandon. Because we were discharged on a Sunday, Brandon’s follow up appointments could not be made for us, so we have to do that tomorrow. We will feel a lot better once we have his post-op visit and follow up clinic appointments scheduled. I’ll also feel better once his pain is lessened a little more.

Thank you all for praying for us over the last week. We have the best friends and family in the world, I’m convinced of it. I’m so grateful to each of you. The phrase “it takes a village” rings in my ears, because each day, I’ve been reminded how much I’m leaning on so many people. There are so many generous people in my life, I pray that I get the opportunity to repay each act of kindness.

11 Things to know about a stay at the hospital

things-to-know-about-a-stay-in-the-hospitalIf you or a family member have never been admitted to the hospital, there are some things you need to know. I mean the usuals apply, like bring your id and your insurance card, and a snack or a bottle of water if you’re not the patient. Leave your valuables at home and remember, you aren’t checking into the Ritz.

Things to know about a stay at the hospital:

  1. Its like hiking, dress in layers. You never know what the temperature will be like in the waiting room of the Emergency Room, or if your thermostat will actually work in your patient room on the floor. To be safe, dress in comfy layers that you can weather the elements in.
  2. The nursing unit has little cups of ice cream, and packets of peanut butter. Don’t be fooled. When you get admitted to a unit, you will want to groan with despair because… hospital food. BUT, don’t fret too much because what you don’t know is that the nurses have a freezer stocked with little cups of ice cream! And they won’t want you to know this, but they have little packets of peanut butter too – perfect for the little graham crackers they give you.
  3. When the rules are in question, just hush. If you’re only supposed to have 2 people back in pre-op, but your mom and dad and wife and aunt all want to be back with you, just quietly sneak each family member in and huddle around his bed murmuring softly and look down at the floor when medical staff pass by. It’s ok. It’s one of those better to ask for forgiveness than permission type scenarios… and if you get in trouble anyways, don’t tell anyone I wrote this post 😉
  4. Don’t not brush your teeth just because you forgot your toothbrush. They have toothbrushes and toothpaste, just ask. Everyone will thank you.
  5. Don’t not shower just because you forgot shower shoes, and Lord have mercy don’t EVER stand on the hospital shower floor barefooted. Pro tip: lay towels down and stand on them, OR wear those sexy blue hospital socks in the shower. No need to catch a fungus for the sake of clean pits.
  6. Find the linen closet. Each nursing unit has a closet stocked with clean towels, sheets, pillow cases and wash cloths. Find this closet and use this stuff. Cover the recliner with a sheet and use 2 pillow cases per pillow. We’re minimizing germs here people.
  7. Bring a little bit of home with you. If you’re going to be there for any length of time, bring things that will make your room feel a little more like home. We bring our essential oils diffuser and diffuse all the same oils we would at home. We like that it smells like home and we sleep easier because of that.
  8. Bring electronics and all the chargers that go with them. Or a book. You’ll be bored. Prepare for that.
  9. Don’t expect to sleep. You won’t. Not for any length of time anyway. Everyone always talks about this but its true. Nurses, nursing assistants, phlebotomy (that’s the lab people), housekeeping, physicians (who for some reason round as a team and then again separately), surgeons, case workers, volunteers, etc. And just as an example, Brandon has had labs drawn at 3am each day. 3am. Ridiculous. Is there not a better time?! Like say, 9:00???
  10. Track everything. I mean errrything. You are your best advocate so be knowledgable about what meds are being given when, and what the plan is. Don’t be afraid to question something if you’re unsure. No one cares as much as you. Trust me.
  11. Don’t think your sense of dignity will stay intact while your here. Just go ahead and prepare yourself to show everybody your everything. If you’ve had a baby, you know what I mean. And everyone who is in the medical profession thinks its cool… meanwhile you’re all like “this is my stuff, yo.” But as a patient, you reach a point where you just give it up. Eh, stuff is stuff, ya know what I mean? Dignity = out the window.

There may be other things I’m forgetting, but in case you end up in the hospital anytime soon, at least you’ll have a list to get you started. The only other thing I can think of is that the nursing staff is there to help you. They will be your biggest advocates (other than yourself) and you will find yourself wanting to talk to them more and more, and find out a little about them, because they’re investing in you. They’ll seem more like friends after a few days, and you’ll know how many kids they have and where they lived before they moved here. They’ll love on your kids when you bring them to visit, and reassure you when scary things happen. You’ll bring them donuts (don’t forget night-shift too!) because you want them to know just how desperately grateful you are to them. Because they’re caring for your most important, your number 1, your best friend, or even your child, and goodness! you just want them to know how much they mean to you! Let them know how much you appreciate them, and tell them thank you, even for the smallest things. You are vulnerable and they are helping bridge that scary place with feeling safe.

I say all this to say… I hope you never, ever have to use this list. Stay out of the hospital, friends, but should you need it, reference this handy dandy highly technical list of things to know about a hospital stay.

Crohn’s Surgery Recovery

The not so fun side of Crohn’s Surgery Recovery

I didn’t post an update yesterday – day 1 post intestinal resection procedure – partly because it was a bit of a rough day, and partly because I ran out of time. I’m going to ask you if I can be frank with you, about this whole Crohn’s mess, but if you’re not cool with that, you might want to skip to the end of this post or just read another one.

Part of me doesn’t want to share this, but the other part wants to expose just some of what its like, the real, raw truth of what its like to recover from major abdominal surgery because of Crohn’s disease.

Brandon woke up yesterday still very much under the effects of the anesthesia from surgery the evening before. I love this man very much and say this in the most loving way possible, but he was a grouch coming out of this surgery! (Love you babe!) Last year when Brandon had the same intestinal resection procedure performed, post surgery he was very romantic, and sweet and had some very funny quips for us. This year, the anesthesia made him very irritable and easily agitated. Not quite as funny, but how can we blame the guy? In lots of pain from having major surgery and getting poked and prodded by medical staff afterwards… yeah I’d be grumpy too.

Around 8:00 or 9:00 yesterday morning, Brandon’s catheter was discontinued along with his pain pump and IV fluids. Once the catheter is removed, the patient is given 6 hours to urinate (sorry yall, told you I was going to be frank with you) or the catheter has to be placed again. Why, might you ask? Well, because the bladder can rupture and after being catheterized, they want to make sure that everything can flow like everything should flow, if you catch my drift. Since his IV fluids were discontinued, and he was on the clock, Brandon began to drink cup after cup of water and juice trying to get enough fluids in his system to make that deadline.

One important thing to note about this whole process is that the anesthesia causes everything to essentially “go to sleep” so the medical staff recommends walking to try and “wake it up.” Close your eyes and imagine a giant clock, ticking off every second, getting louder with every passing hour. This is what we were hearing all day yesterday. Brandon did NOT want to be cathed again. He was such a trooper and walked and walked and walked. And let me just tell you, the man is a machine for having had surgery less than 24 hours prior and getting up out of bed and moving like he did yesterday!

post-crohns-surgery-recovery

The deadline came and went and we were sweating. Brandon still had very little sensation… uh… there, you know, in his bladder, or whatever. He was anxious about possibly being cathed, and was still battling that Mr Grumpy Pants from the anesthesia. (love you babe!) At this point, it is mid-afternoon and after pleading with the nurse, we bought ourselves some more time. Brandon is tired (remember, surgery the afternoon before, and on lots of pain meds!) and sore, and anxious (and irritable), but determined not to have that catheter again. So we walked some more.

bowel-resection-recovery

Then the next deadline passed. More anxiety. (More grouch-a-potumus). More walking. Brandon had to have a bladder scan, which is basically an ultrasound to determine how much urine was in his bladder. If there is too much, a catheter is to be inserted immediately, but because his insides were still sleepy, his levels were ok.

crohns-surgery-recovery

More walking, more drinking, more frustrating trips to the bathroom with nothing, nada, nilch. (Is nilch a word?! Nevermind… no pee-pee senior). Imagine a dial, a grumpy-pants dial, that is being turned up little by little. Hey – yall, I love this man, I do. And I love him even when he’s cranky, but Lawd, I was getting stressed out. I was feeling myself getting more and more anxious, because I was watching my husband get so agitated, and frustrated about something out of his control, and because I didn’t want to watch my husband go through any more pain. He has been through enough. I can’t even write the paragraph I want to, because I don’t want to cry. I’ll write a whole post about that one day, I will.

crohns-srugery-recovery-catheter

It’s 8:00pm at this point and we’ve literally walked miles down these halls… the green bar, yeah, that’s my steps for yesterday. I went for a run in the morning, but it was only a couple of miles so the rest of that is putting in work on these hallways with my determined hubby.

I was desperately praying that Brandon would be able to pee – you know, this is funny stuff… just sayin’ – so he wouldn’t have to endure any more pain. And I was calling on prayer warriors to help us pray. I didn’t want to post anything on facebook about it, because hey, how’s that status going to go over? “Please pray that my husband can pee-pee. Thanks!” Ummmmmmm, k.

Just a short while later, we had success! He eeked out just enough to avoid the catheter, and just enough to open the floodgates, right in time for all-through-the-night-potty-trips. Woohoo!

In all seriousness, though, yesterday was emotionally taxing for us and physically exhausting for Brandon. We were anxious literally the entire day, and the more we thought about it, the more we realized how unfair it was for them to realistically expect that his insides would be waking up from the anesthesia less than 24 hours out.

We had several friends visit yesterday and some got the raw end of the deal because their visit wasn’t quite what they thought it would be. Thank you for understanding that the need to pee-pee came first :) (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Today has been better. He’s trying to figure out what/how much he can eat and has had to walk more to try to wake up the rest of his innards. He’s on a brand new pain regimen that the hospital is trying post surgical procedure and it seems to be helping. Brandon has said that he notices a major difference between last year’s surgery and this year’s.

bowel-surgery-recovery

We’re fairly confident that he will be discharged by the end of the weekend so we’re excited (and nervous) about that. If you want to continue to pray with us, other than praying for continued potty trips, you can pray for no infection, minimal to no pain, and NO RETURN TRIPS TO UNC.

Thanks for reading a post all about having to go potty – yall really are great friends 😉

Post Surgery Update

Post Surgery Update…

Brandon’s surgeon came to see us and give us an update on how he did in surgery. He opened the door to his hospital room already shaking his head and said “I don’t know how people live like that!”

Confused, Joan and I both asked “like what? What do you mean?” And he responded by pulling out a ball point pen from his pocket, showing me the tip of it and said “The opening of his intestines was that big around, as big as the end of the tip of my ball point pen.”

After our shock over that, he went on to tell us that he was able to successfully remove 8 inches of Brandon’s small intestine, and there was NO COLOSTOMY BAG NEEDED!!! Whoooooo! This is us jumping up and down and high-fiving each other and fist pumping and fist bumping and happy dancing and well, you get the picture :)

The other important thing that I asked the surgeon was if he could tell if the Humira injections and the other injection he takes weekly, were working. He said YES! We are thrilled with that news and are praising God for His goodness! This means that this could very well be our last surgery for a loooooooong time, maybe forever!

crohns-post-surgery-recovery

Just got back to his room from recovery

Right now, post surgery, Brandon is recovering and in a lot of pain. He is on oxygen and anti-nausea medications as well as a pain pump that he can push for more pain medication whenever he feels like he needs it. It will be a long night, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel yall! Are yall dancing with me?!?

I can’t wait to tell Brandon all about what his surgeon said tomorrow, and to read him all of your encouraging notes. Please keep them coming, because he is going to be in pain for awhile and it is so uplifting to his soul to hear your kind words.

Sleep well my friends, and keep praying on the 5’s! We love you all!

 

Pre Surgery Update

Pre-surgery-crohnsLast night was a blur and everything happened so quickly that I’m writing this update from my phone since my laptop is in the car. Forgive me (and Siri) if autocorrect creates some interesting dialogue.

Last night brandon began to feel bad and went downhill quickly. I thought he was going to spend a sleepless night in the recliner so I took a half a Benadryl (don’t judge me too much, I was anxious and was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep) and went upstairs to try and sleep. Not much later, Brandon came upstairs and began to get violently ill. After an hour or so of that, he laid down in the bathroom floor and asked me to call his mom.

Fastforward a few hours – past the whirlwind packing and calling Brittney in the middle of the night to help me dress Brandon, pick him up off the bathroom floor, and get him down the stairs – and we were sitting in the Emergency Room in Chapel Hill. After hours of trying to control his pain and nausea, we were finally admitted to a room.

We have spent all night – a long, miserable, sleepless night – trying to get Brandon comfortable. It is now 10:05 (time to pray yall!!!) and we are awaiting transport to go down to pre-op for surgery. Please cover us in prayer over the next few hours. Also, please comment under this post with encouraging verses or comments so I can share them with Brandon.

We love each of you and thank you for keeping up with our story!

Surgery in t-2.5 hours!

Crohn’s Surgery Eve

It’s Crohn’s Surgery Eve…

Tomorrow morning at 11:30 AM my husband will undergo his second bowel resection surgery.

crohns-disease-bowel-resection

Last year’s obligatory pre-op photoshoot :)

For those of you who may not know, a bowel resection is a surgical procedure to remove part of the intestinal tract, the small intestines in his case. He had 18 inches of his small intestine removed last year and it is yet to be known the amount that will be resected tomorrow.

As you can imagine we are very anxious and ready to get it all over with. Brandon has had to undergo a full day of surgery prep today and without going into too many of the flowery details, I will assure you that it has not been any fun. I came home to check on him and to eat lunch  (I know its awful for me to eat in front of him, but honestly, by now, he’s used to it, and it doesn’t seem to phase him) and we giggled over some bad jokes and silly puns. I don’t know if the bad play on words was more to distract from the awful prep he was going through, or to take our minds off of tomorrow.

I took the boys to Paxton’s school fundraiser dinner at Chick fil a by myself because Brandon just couldn’t do it. He is extremely nauseous from the rounds of antibiotics he’s had to take today, and all on an empty stomach, too, because he has not been allowed to eat since yesterday. I’m sure you can figure out what the rest of the prep has looked like. He is pitiful and I hate seeing him go through all of this. I can’t help but cry in the quiet moments when I’m alone. UGH. Emotional mess of a woman, I tell ya!

So many people have asked how they can help and it is so hard to accept help, but I’m going to ask now, and I don’t even feel bad.

I’d like for each of you to join me tomorrow, Wednesday October 7th, at 5 minutes past the top of the hour, every hour, all day long, in prayer for Brandon. So when my eyes pop open at 5:00am, I will pray for Brandon at 5:05a, then again at 6:05a, then again at 7:05, then again at 8:05a, etc. All. Day. Long.

Why 5 after? Because I’m claiming less than a 5 day hospital stay, less than 5 inches of his bowels to be removed, and because… well high-five. Give someone a high-five tomorrow and ask them to pray for Brandon. For 5 minutes 😉

I know he’ll think this is terribly silly – the whole 5’s thing – but I’ve finally gotten up the nerve to ask for help, so I’m going for it.  I’m asking for commitment to pray, not to just say you will, but to stop what you’re doing at 5 past the hour, whenever the clock catches your eye tomorrow. We have an army of friends and family and I know the power of prayer.

Don’t know what to pray for exactly? Be specific. Pray for wisdom and clarity for the surgeons and medical staff involved in his care. Pray for a steady hand and the best possible results. Pray for smooth anesthesia experience. Pray for good pain control. Pray for no nausea. Pray for a private hospital room where he can heal and rest and recuperate without the stress of a roommate. Pray for patient and caring nurses. Pray for our boys… that they would play ball and eat cake and have sleepovers with Mawmaw and think that all is right with the world. Pray that they wouldn’t worry, and that they will find magic in these moments, so that mom and dad can rest easy.

As for me, I’m off to pack our hospital bags… don’t worry, floss is already in there. I woke up at 2:30am 2 nights ago with that very thought, so in the bag it went. Phew, I felt better after knowing I would have floss!

I’ll post updates tomorrow friends! We have to be at the hospital at 9:30 to prep for his 11:30am surgery, but since we’re all meeting at “five after”, I’ll see you then 😉 Until then, you’ll find me stress-eating Twizzlers and Swedish fish.