On January 23rd, 2015, my husband and I had dinner. It was a regular friday night, we had had take-out from our favorite Thai place. We were talking about whether I had taken the laundry out of the dryer, or still needed to. “You know, we need more excitement in our lives, if it’s Friday night, and we are talking about laundry.” I, of course thought about going out, having fun, a little bedroom action- whatever. Five minutes later, I was on the floor in excruciating pain. It was like a hot flash, and instead of the cramps that usually make me curl up, this was as if I was going to burst any time.
An ER ride to OHSU, about five shots of dilaudid, and a CT scan later, the doctors told me what I had begun to suspect. That the stricture in my stomach had burst. They operated on me there and then. After five hours of washing me out and sowing me back together, I went into septic shock, with a heart rate of about 180 per minute. So, I was brought back to the ICU. Two days later, when I had recovered, round two.
I spent about a week in the hospital, and equipped with a wound vac, I was discharged home.
The wound vac is like a little vacuum cleaner: Your incision wound is packed with a blackish sponge, covered with plastic, and a little tube connects the wound to the machine. The machine pretty much sucks out any discharge. The container on the side collects the fluid and once it’s full, you exchange it. “Pretty nifty,” I thought- instead of staples, that leave a nasty scar, this thing will make sure everything is clean and in order (you can see my priorities here).
The vac allows you to be fairly mobile- you make sure it’s charged, put it in the satchel they give you for it, and there you go. I had gained 15 pounds in water weight and was eager to walk that off, so I was pretty pleased with this solution. I soon discovered that the vac was one noisy sucker. It gurgled, it heaved, it almost belched. Or that’s what it sounded like. We called him Ruelpser- the German word for someone who burps a lot.
The wound care nurses at Good Samaritan changed my dressing three times a week, and it was them, who soon pointed out that something was off. I was tired, had night sweats, but then, again, on Friday, February 13th, my husband noticed a foul smell at dinner. It turned out to be my vac, full of grinch-green pus. After I had changed the container, it filled up again within ten minutes. Then, my dressing broke through. Yes, it was a mess that would have rivaled any horror movie. Except that I was the monster. By the time we were in the ER, I had gone through 3 canisters, each with a volume of 500ml. It turned out that there was a new infection, and that there was a new hole in my jejunum. I needed surgery, and I needed it now. The surgeon couldn’t tell me whether I would wake up with a pouch or not. Happy Valentine’s Day!