Summertime makes all unpleasantness endured throughout the rest of the year worthwhile. I mostly believe that. It is the season that begs all of the bi-peds in the PacNW to leave their man-made shelters and go outside. After my broken toes of early last summer, I felt my giddiness for the imminent summer growing with each passing day as we ticked down the clock on yet another school year. I was twice as determined to tackle this summer with (nearly) reckless abandon and to genuinely leave nothing on our summer to-do list.
No, I’m not talking about chores! I wanted us to go outside! I set the initial guideline that there would be no screen-time (TV, computer, video games, DS, etc) before 8:00 a.m. and if that rule were broken, there would be no a.m. screen-time for the remainder of the summer. It’s amazing how easily kids sleep when they don’t feel the pressure to get up at 6:00 a.m. to watch cartoons. Most mornings since school’s been out, they’ve slept until 9:30 or 10:00 with the only exception Tuesday mornings when they get up by 9:00 to make it to their school library for the two hours each week it is open. They LOVE books. There are way worse things they could love…but I digress. Screen-time ends by 11:00 a.m. regardless of where they are in their favorite Netflix-streamed episode or how well they are doing on their video game. Screens go off, we get dressed and doused in sunscreen and then we leave the house for whatever adventure strikes our fancy for the day.
To celebrate the last day of school, I took the kids to a near-by wildlife preserve for a little easy hike (really more of a walk-about, but it’s listed as a ‘hike’ in the guides). The next day we hit a beach. After that, we alternated exploring nearby trails we hadn’t previously explored or hitting one (all) of the area beaches on the Puget Sound within a five mile radius and throwing in several sunset scooter rides along either the Mukilteo or Everett waterfronts. We’ve been avoiding the lakes due to both potential swimmer’s itch (gross) and the increased likelihood of our car being broken into. It seems the inland parks are where the thugs spend the summer. We even journeyed down to Mt. St. Helens to the APE Caves and went spelunking for the very first time. Who knew hiking in caves was so AWESOME?!? As we scaled 8’ boulders and negotiated stalagmites with our headlamps and torches, the chatter between our ten year olds amplified. These two were lit up! If their imaginations weren’t in overdrive before, we certainly had ignited them now.
We went spelunking on Saturday and Sunday July 5th and 6th. Exactly one week later, I was having an emergency appendectomy at the hospital here in Everett. That was not on our to-do list.
An amazing friend came for five days to help keep an eye on me so my husband could return to work and also to watch the kids. She kept up our planned adventures for the week, including scooter rides, swimming in the Sound, a visit to the local sprinkler park and petting zoo and a few other beaches for good measure. Her stay helped lessen the worry our kids had been feeling over seeing me in the hospital and let them continue with their care-free summer. I rested and tried hard to get off all pain meds as fast as possible.
Complications happen. With me, you can count on them. The day after I came home from the hospital, my nausea started getting worse. I tried to eat a few bites of soup and vomited. The surgeons prescribed me anti-nausea meds that made me feel googly-eyed. My friend started cutting them in half so that I could still knock the nausea down a few pegs without feeling as bizarre. By one week after surgery, I quit prescription pain meds and moved to just Tylenol. I had about two days of feeling sore but nearly human before the nausea got much worse and my pain spiked. I began having cramping around the left side of my ribcage and stabbing pain in the same area extending towards my navel. I also started getting tunnel vision when riding as a passenger in a car and other vision trouble. I went in for my two-week surgical follow-up where they ran another cat scan and more bloodwork. Cat scan was clear, and per several doctors who looked at it, my bloodwork ‘couldn’t be more boringly beautiful’. So why the pain, continued nausea and other issues? I sent a message to my GP. They responded almost immediately and said they wanted to see me right away.
My visit to my doctor’s office was a relief for the most part. They determined my cramping and increased pain were being caused by a flare-up of my 2010 back injury where I have two discs that bulge into the sciatic nerve-root. My position on the operating table coupled with a full week of bed-rest caused the flare, and it would take anti-inflammatory meds and time to get it back in check. I left the office and cried. I had been so worried that whatever was going on would require more surgery and/or that my GP too would say what the surgeons had…that there was no ‘medical’ reason. It still didn’t explain my vision trouble, but I was relieved to have the pain and even nausea figured out and to have a plan for getting me back on track that I didn’t ask. Maybe I forgot? That’s happening a lot these days too. It’s the last piece of the puzzle that we’re trying to put back together.
My research background has been well tested over these last three weeks, as has my patience with the healing process. My husband is exhausted both from worry and from working extra shifts trying to make sure medical expenses aren’t going to sink us. He has noticed something I’ve been struggling with. My memory. I’ve always been very sharp, detailed (OCD-esque) and organized. I’ve also been a list-maker, a compulsive cleaner and someone who easily obsesses over getting things ‘just right’. Right now, I’m lucky if I can hold a train of thought to completion. I get confused easily and, unless I remember to write down why I got up from my icepack or chair, there’s about a 50% chance I’ll just sit right back down and hope I remember again later why I felt the need to get up. Heck, I’ve sat down at least three times over the past few days to write this blog (my posts typically take me a half hour to an hour to write but it seems everywhere I look right now, there are shiny objects to distract me). Turns out, one more complication I have from my surgery is something called POCD or Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction. The good news is that it should resolve itself over time. The bad news is that there is no known treatment for it to help it resolve any faster. In the meantime, I get to be the mushy-brained version of myself that I have become post-surgery and am left trying to come to grips with the fall-out of a small and mostly useless organ suddenly giving up the ghost.
This week, the kids are at summer camp and won’t be back until next Saturday. I feel like there’s a lot I need to be doing, but only have fleeting ideas what those things are, so instead I’m making a list of things that I think might help my brain reset and get back to normal. I have a real urge to go hiking, but won’t do that alone. I feel like the more I move, the better oxygen flow to my brain and hopefully the sooner I can see straight again. I did promise my husband if I went for a walk, I’d take our dog and would only walk around our neighborhood. Since my vision is still funky and I’m easily confused, I won’t be driving anywhere. I also won’t spend any more time on the computer until the kids get home from camp. I owe it to myself to go out in search of my brain. Maybe somewhere in my search, I’ll find where I left summer?


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