Monday, July 04, 2011

Home Again After Surgery

Lilies in my garden. Because of the hot weather, all my flowers have been blooming with gusto.

I've been back home here at my house since Friday afternoon. Everyone is telling me, nurses and doctors and everyone else, that I look and sound good, that I am doing extremely well, faster than average on the recovery, mind and body both ahead of the curve. As this is all very very new to me, I am taking everyone's word for it, and am glad for the positive feedback. In truth, I am surprising myself with all this; but then, I had no real expectations, as it's all a new experience.

They told me going into the hospital that I would be there from four to seven days; in fact, I left on the fourth day after surgery, after having spent only four nights in my hospital room. So that's pretty great. And as I write this, I was in surgery exactly one week ago; so that's pretty good, so far!

I know that I would not be doing this well without all the lovingkindness, support, good wishes, prayers, good thoughts, distance energy work, and so forth, that all of my family and friends have been sending my way. I am grateful beyond what words can contain right now. All I can really say is THANK YOU—and please keep the thoughts and prayers coming for awhile, as I still need them.

Labyrinth Prayers (new art made after returning home from the hospital)

Even though I am ahead of the curve on recovery, I still tire easily and often. So I won't be online all that much, and if takes awhile for me to answer a phone call or email, no worries. Everything is very day-to-day, hour-to-hour, and I must take it slow and careful.

That's the most important news. Now for some short summaries of the past week—amazingly, it's exactly a week ago, as I write this down, that I was being operated on in the surgical theatre. (I am keeping a journal of this experience, but it's ongoing, and not very coherent, so consider these as summaries.)

I'm told the surgery went well, by my sister and my other friend who were with me. I have no memories between when they put the epidural in my back—epidural for pain management during and after this abdominal surgery—and when I woke up in my hospital room; no other memories of pre-op, none from post-op. I just woke in what was to become my room for four more days. And I'm just fine with these lacunae: no things that I might really want to forget later.

So the surgery went well. My next goal is to heal from the current incision and wound, then continue to lose weight, gain strength, recover my energy (now that the malfunctioning colon that has been sapping my energy for decades is gone!), and so on. Meanwhile, I'll keep writing music, keep making art, keep writing.

I have a long incision right through my belly button, running from top of groin to a few inches above belly button. To the right and above that I have a stoma of small intenstine protruding from my belly wall, covered by an ostomy bag into which I will be going to the bathroom for the foreseeable future. (There might ensue a long series of Really Bad and Tasteless Jokes, which I will spare you from.) It will be an interesting scar someday.

So, I've survived thus far. I have another major, high-risk operation to go through, for them to construct an ileal pouch out of the base of my small intestine, then close the stoma, reattach everything inside again, and after that heals, I'll be internally integral again, and can get on with my life. That's the long-term plan.

I do not have an overall time table for the long term, and will not for awhile. The next phase of operations will begin when the doctors decide I'm ready for it, which will depend on my overall recovery and health and strength, and how much weight I can now lose. I am determined to make this all happen sooner rather than later.

Surgery itself causes some weight loss, and my appetite is still pretty small. Between eating smaller portions, and getting more exercise as I begin to recover and feel my strength return, I hope the weight loss segment of the program will be smooth and successful.

I brought in some of my own artwork to put up in my hospital room, for healing, and as a reminder of beauty, and what else really matters.

The nurses and NAs and doctors who visited me in my hospital room and helped me through things were all spectacular. The nurses especially, among whom three in particular are People Of Extraordinary Merit. I'd give them medals if I could. Yesterday was my first home nursing visit, and that also went very well; she too was impressed with how far I'd come in one week. I will be getting home nursing visits two or three times a week for the next few weeks.

I go back up to the surgical clinic in the hospital in Madison in a week or so for a follow-up with my surgeon and his team, during which it is planned that they'll remove the surgical staples, and let the incision heal on its own thereafter. My goal is to the get to the point where the incision is free of pain enough so that I can resume more normal physical movement, including bending over which I can't do yet, and taking walks for exercise. A few days after the staples come out, I believe I'll be much further down that road.

I was on my feet, standing and walking, less than 24 hours after awakening from anaesthesia. I walked three or four times a day while in the hospital, down to a quiet lounge and back, a little more each day. At home, I have only gone out to look at the garden once (which needs weeding!), but I am walking loops around the house several times a day. I'm also doing my breathing exercises, which help stave off my past tendencies towards pneumonia—it's all been great so far, so no worries.

I think that's enough news for now. Once again, THANK YOU for the love and support from friends and family. I couldn't take this ride without my "village" to help take care of me throughout the journey.

Blessings & Light & Love for the Highest Good of All Concerned. So mote it be!

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Blogger Glenn Ingersoll said...

I was looking forward to your post-surgery update, Art.

Good to hear that's over and healing is the new work. It's work, and it's good work.

My husband, K, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer spring of 2010. He had surgery that necessitated an ostomy bag, an eventuality he dreaded terribly but once it was something he had to do he bore up under the requirements of it pretty darn well. I couldn't help much - but I did get him one thing that made the toilet process easier - one of those kneeling pads gardeners use. Maybe you already have one?

K had the ostomy reversed late last year. He's doing well. Wish you well, too.

11:51 PM  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Well I’m pleased to see that all went well. I was thinking over the weekend that you must have had your operation but I’d lost track of exactly when you’d said it was due. I’m certainly with you on the not needing to remember what went on and thank you for not posting photos of the staples (if my wife wants to see stuff like that I’m sure there will be photos out there). I didn’t realise that weight was a big problem with you. You’ve probably mentioned it but I can only take in so much. Probably not much you can do about that until you can exercise and there’s no need to rush that.

2:04 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...


Thanks. I'm going to allow myself to "diary" a bit more than usual, here, regarding the surgery and recovery. It's all still arts-related, as I've said before, as the surgery itself is a reminder to let go of what doesn't help me in life anymore, and to focus on what does: which is the creative work.

Thanks for the story about K. I'm glad he's doing well. I'm not at the point where the bag has become routine, and otherwise not in my face all the time, but that's where I want to eventually get, mentally. It's a work in progress. The technical toilet tip (ooh, alliteration!) is handy, thanks.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Jim, thanks for the note. The weight has been an issue for years, not a morbid problem but an ongoing one—but then, the chronic illness had been sapping my energy for years, too. That might now all change. They always tell you to expect to lose some weight after surgery, because you aren't eating real food for awhile—which has happened. I have some plans for the long term, and some guidance from the dietician and other folks they've assigned to my case. I will be getting more and bitter tips, I'm sure, as I proceed.

9:21 AM  

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