Thursday, July 06, 2017
I had a complication with my surgery that I have not spoken publicly about. The first six weeks after my surgery were really some of the hardest days I've ever lived through. It's kind of a long story but it's too amazing not to tell!
When my pacemaker was initially put in, it was down deep, under a muscle. I had a scar but it was completely smooth to the touch and I really forgot that I had a pacemaker 99% of the time.
Flash forward to my replacement surgery on May 9th by a new heart doctor. Because of the urgent nature of the surgery, I did not speak to him about the procedure before going in. I met with him once weeks before but he was irritated with me for not getting the surgery the next day so our conversation was brief. On that day, he did not tell me that he was going to put the pacemaker in a different place! He certainly did not tell me he was going to put it so close under my skin that it stuck up and you could see the outline of it and even feel a button on top of it. (Gross, I know!)
Because of this, I was in excruciating pain after the surgery. The nerve endings around the pacemaker absolutely went wild. I could not walk, sit, lay down or breathe without being in pain. I didn't sleep for weeks. I didn't discover the reason until two weeks in because I was too queasy to look at it, I thought it was just the normal pain of healing. When I finally felt under the bandage and realized the device was sticking up, I almost couldn't breathe. Even now it makes my heart race just to type that, it was so horrible. The only way I can describe the pain is that it felt like I had an IV inserted in a place that was painful. I wanted to rip the device out of my body. I won't go into it, but I had horrifying thoughts about it.
Four weeks in, I saw the wound care nurse and told her how miserable I was and she said that different doctors put them in different places and she hated that I was in so much pain. Then she said the words I did not want to hear. She said, "Well this device is good for 14 years so he will not want you to be in pain that long. Every once in a while, we do have to go in and move the device. I'm making you an appointment for the end of August and you can tell him then if you need to have a second surgery."
All I could think of was the horrible experience I had the day of my surgery. It took seven hours to get an IV in me and get the surgery done. I did not want to go through that again! We drove home with me crying and asking Mike what to do and trying not to think about it or breathe or move so it wouldn't hurt as bad. I lived every day in limbo, not knowing what to do but miserable.
Then two weeks ago, I went to my friend's cabin. We had a wonderful time but it seemed like the pain escalated. She has a big SUV you step up into and it hurt me to get in and out. Her beds are the most comfy ever but I did not sleep the whole time. I was in so much pain and trying not to take pain pills but taking one every so often to just drift off to sleep. Then I would move and wake up and moan all night. I decided while at the cabin that I just could not live with the pain. Six weeks had gone by with no relief so I decided to schedule the surgery for this week, the first week of July.
Now comes the good part! I came home that weekend and went to church and there is a couple that prays for me when I need it. I told them what was happening and they prayed exactly the words I needed to hear. I sat back down on the pew and put my hand inside my shirt and felt it sticking up and it was pricking me to the point of almost having to go to the car and lay down. It felt like I was being shocked repeatedly.
Then...something wonderful happened. Wednesday of that week, I was in the kitchen with Mike and I said, "Mike!!!!! I just realized I haven't been in pain for two days!" He said, "What???" I said, "Yes! I absolutely have forgotten all about it!" We were both amazed and happy but I will be honest, I was still going to get the surgery. The thought of it sticking up was just tearing me to pieces! Seeing it through my skin was so disconcerting. I even had some shirts I could no longer wear. The pain was better on some days but would come and go. I laid in bed one night and said, "God, you are going to have to heal me. I cannot take this sticking up and I cannot live with this pain for 14 years. I know you have not brought me this far to leave me. I am giving it to you and letting go of the worry." And I did. I let it go. I made peace with having surgery or Him healing me. It would be up to Him to decide.
The next week, I was dropping off Caroline at work and I randomly put my hand in my shirt to feel the scar, as I had been doing often, and it was completely smooth. I screamed! I put my mirror down and looked at it in the mirror and you could not see it at all. There is a little bit of a shadow but you cannot see the outline of it or anything and it feels exactly as it did before. To be honest, if this had not happened to me, I probably would be skeptical about it, even though I know what a mighty God I serve, but I'm telling you, it is as flat as before. I feel it all day long now to make sure it still is and I still can't believe it. I cried my way out of the parking lot that day and called my family to let them know and they all cried too!
Slowly but surely I've gained more strength every day since. Last Monday, I woke up feeling refreshed and back to my old self. I attacked my house and this week I'm attacking my to do list. I am still a little weak and get winded quickly but praise God, for the most part, I'm not in pain. I'm having some shoulder pain which I had for years after my last surgery but Mike works on it for me. I can sleep again and have a peaceful rest.
All I can say is God blows my mind! I'm living in a state of thankfulness for all He has done for me.
I'll end this long story by saying we are still negotiating with the hospital on the cost of the surgery. I have a big stack of bills on my desk but we haven't paid any of them yet. The money donated ($8K) by my friends and listeners is still set aside and we will apply it to what we owe as soon as we figure out what that amount is. I found out today that the discounts we were promised were not applied so we are working with a financial counselor to get the final cost. Right now it's quite a bit more than we thought it would be but I am hoping we can get the cost down. It really doesn't worry me, God has brought me this far and will work it out for me.
I'm working my way through the list of donors and sending thank you e-mails, crying, reading their notes to me on each donation, saying they are praying for me and wishing me well. I should have sent them sooner but the last seven weeks, I was in so much pain, my life kind of fell apart around me. I faked it a lot of the time, taping podcasts and posting on Instagram and talking in our group and going about my life but my family and Tiffany will tell you, I couldn't even have a meal without moaning. I was miserable! I am just so glad to be through it all. I have experienced chronic pain before, after my last surgery, but this was a new level of horror.
The thing that has kept me going through it all, other than the grace and peace of God, is my family and friends, both local and online. I've received so many cards and messages and kindness from so many people. I thank God for the life I've been given. He's been talking to me about how I can repay people for their kindness and I feel Him urging me to give things away like classes and content and my life, as much as I can. I have plans to do just that!
I want to end this by saying that this trial has brought me to a new place in my relationship with God and my husband. It has increased my faith and trust in God in a way that is indescribable. As far as Mike goes, we have been married almost 26 years and I have always had a great relationship with him, but I've never known kindness from him like I have from him these past eight weeks. I have complained and carried on and he has held me, literally, mentally and emotionally. Even today, he text me the longest texts giving me scripture and wisdom to carry me through what I have to do. I could not have gotten through any of this without him. Really, I feel like I have fallen in love with him all over again. My Mom and sister have been wonderful and my dearest friends have kept in touch, asking me how I am and telling me they are praying for me daily. I could go on and on but I'll hush now and dry my tears from writing this and let you get back to your life!
Thank you for taking time to read this and for being in my life. God bless you and if you ever need a miracle, I would love to pray for you. Just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will even call you on the phone and pray with you. It's the least I can do after all God has done for me! If you don't know Him, or if you've lost faith somewhere along the way, I hope this encourages you to talk to Him. He's waiting with open arms and loves you so much.