Sunday, September 29, 2013

Scar management

So now that I've had all of these medical procedures (haha), I'm going to be left with some scars. Before getting my stitches out, I looked up different types of scar management options. Vitamin E oil got VERY mixed reviews. When I went to get my stitches out the other day, they tried to sell me a small container of vitamin E cream for $18. I didn't feel the value was very good at ALL, so I decided to go with an option I found online at well.ca- silicone strips. 

 These strips seemed to come pretty highly recommended, especially for post-op scars. They also came highly recommended for older scars. I'm going to try them out for a few weeks then report back on how my scar looks. 

The box comes with 5 sheets of silicone that can be cut to size. Here is one of the sheets. It has air bubbles in it. It didn't when I first opened the package a day ago, but when I took it out of the package to put it on, my hands were wet, so perhaps my wet hands caused the bumps/bubbles. 



These strips are applied to the scar/properly healed wound and they remain there for 7 days. They apparently will stay on in the shower. Each of these 5 sheets are 10 x 18 cm (or 4 x 7 in). The good thing is that these sheets can be cut to size, which is what I did in the picture below. I trimmed off a small rectangular strip long enough to cover my scar and that was it. 


Scar therapy via theses silicon strips doesn't come cheap, though. The box of 5 sheets cost me $99.99. As someone who is prone to keloid-y scar formations, I'm hoping that these Mepiform silicon strips/sheets will do the trick for my scar revision scar. When my fistula removal scar has healed up, the steri strips fall off, and the stitches dissolve, I'll be using them on my arm too. 

These strips are flesh coloured! Unfortunately, not the colour of my flesh! Haha. But I won't be showing my stomach all over the place (especially at this time of the year) and I really don't care if they are visible on my arm either.

Will post an update of my stomach scar before scar therapy and with regular updates. 

Stay tuned. 

Kidney walk 2013

Yesterday was the kidney walk. Thankfully we were blessed with a beautiful day (hot, in fact) which made the walk all the more easy. 

My team consisted of my fellow former dialyzor, now kidney recipient friend Sadia, and Sadia's lovely friend Zahrah. 

When we all arrived, we received our t-shirts, survival kits, and signs. On the sticky signs, we would write who we were walking for. This is what I wrote. 

I don't know what the correlation is (if any), but ever since I got my fistula revised, my right knee has been especially angry. For this reason, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to complete the full 5km. There was a 2km option available as well, and I contemplated it, but we ended up walking the full 5km. 

This is team "Nephro Flow" (lame, I know", with Zahrah on the left, me in the centre, and Sadz on the right. 



We headed off on our walk and ran into many friends along the way. This is a pic of Julie and I-she's been my long time transplant coordinator and close friend. She's lovely :)


We set off on our walk. In spite of my knee feeling a bit touchy, it held up for the entire 5km and I was pretty pleased about that :) 

It was a great walk, and I'm proud to say that the three of us raised $1765. Not bad for 3 people who started fundraising only a month or so before the event whereas some have been fundraising for twice as long!

This is myself, Tiffany (physiotherapy asstn), and Sadz

And of course, the two kidney recipients. 

And no better way to end the walk than to have some lunch with friends. 



T'was a good time and a good cause, and I hope to raise even more funds next year!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I'm just me. Minus the bionic arm.

As the title of this post would suggest, I had my fistula removed/reversed on Monday :)
Before getting into the OR, the anesthesiologist gave me a nerve block. He used an ultrasound machine to locate the nerves of my arm and injected them to make my arm numb. I will say-not one of my favourite experiences!

After that, the anesthesiologist that was in the actual OR with me kept asking me to lift my arm up and down. It got more and more difficult as time passed. 

After that when I got to the OR, I was lying down and started to get scared. I could still feel my arm and was afraid that I'd be able to feel the doctor cut my arm the same way i felt the plastic surgeon cut my stomach a few weeks back. So, there was one nurse there who took on "tear wiping" duty. She dried my tears and kept me calm. Around then I heard the anesthesiologist say she was going to give me some medication to relax me. The nurse then came around and touched my fingers and asked if I could feel anything. I couldn't. She asked if I could move my arm. I couldn't. I was glad-I really didn't want to even begin to feel ANYTHING!

The doctor came in and a curtain/drape was put over my head/face-I guess to prevent me from watching/seeing the surgery and or my own blood and gore from my arm. The whole thing took about an hour. I dosed off a couple of times. When it was over, the doctor and surgical nurse (not my tear drying nurse) wrapped my arm in a tensor bandage and sent me to recovery. When I got there, after about 30 minutes, I noticed that my left arm was hanging off of the bed and I had no idea! I had to use my right arm to pick up my left arm and put it back on the bed. It felt sooo weird. 

I gotta say, though. My experience in the recovery room was annoying to say the least. Those of us who have spent a lot of time in the hospital have all had a moment (or two) like this. The nurse was treating me like I was a dialysis patient when I'm not. From the "I brought you apple juice instead of orange juice because I know orange juice is not good for your kidney" to "the medication they have you to make you relax may last longer in your system because your kidneys cannot filter them out like someone who's kidney function is normal" comments. After a while, I just nodded and said "uh huh", as I had just had a medical procedure and was tired of repeatedly saying "that doesn't apply to me for X, Y, and Z reasons". Ah well-bless her heart. 

Finally, I went to recovery room number 2 and was able to get dressed with the help of my nurse. I went home with a sling. 

My arm stayed numb until late Monday evening and the feeling has now come back. Good because I can move my arm, but bad because now I can feel pain! Nothing a little extra strength Tylenol can't fix :) Raising my hand in certain ways, for example, sitting with my arms up at a computer, washing my face, taking a shower, tying my hair up, ect..these continue to be a struggle for now. I hope the pain will subside soon. Thankfully I'm able to blog from my phone while keeping my arm straight...since I'm lying almost completely horizontal in bed hehe. 

The info I was given in recovery for aftercare was based on someone who has just gotten a fistula put in, and therefore doesn't necessarily apply to me. I called the vascular coordinator, but her voicemail message indicates that she's away performing her civil duties as a citizen of this country lol (jury duty). She did give me a few tips, but I would have loved to speak to her again and get some confirmation/reassurance. Oh well-I'll play it by ear and, more importantly, play it safe. 

I have stitches, but they are of the dissolvable variety, so I won't have to go back and get those removed.  

There's always a question about whether or not one should remove their fistula after transplant. I know my girl Sadia, who recently had a transplant, has decided not to. It's a valid argument, since at any time, heaven forbid, one's transplanted kidney could fail and dialysis would be needed again. If that happens to Sadia, well, her access is still right there. If that happens to me, I'll have to have a line put in my chest. 

For me, I did think about this quite a bit-even before receiving my transplant. Let's face it-the reason I wanted it removed is because I didn't like the way it looked-plain and simple. I want to wear short sleeved shirts out in public, at work, and at the gym without feeling self conscious about it. If something should happen in the future and I need dialysis again *knocks on wooden bed post with non-fistula removed arm*, then I suppose I'll need to have a line put in until something else can be figured out-perhaps another fistula? A graft, I dunno. Hopefully, this isn't something I'll have to worry about for an extremely long time (hopefully, not at all!). That said, having your fistula removed is not a decision to be taken lightly. Infact, some doctors will discourage it. Others won't. Others will only allow it if they are confident with your prognosis as it relates to your kidney. As always, this is a decision to be discussed with your doctor and your family.

Up next, a shopping trip. Tank tops, tube tops, sun dresses, short sleeves...all of that. Haha. Well, it's getting cold outside. Maybe in the near future I'll have a warm and tropical destination in the near future. Who knows? So until then, my newly constructed, no longer bionic arm may need to wait :) Do/will the cons outweigh the pros? As someone who used to love and always wear short sleeves ect, and as someone who loves going to the gym and pumping iron, yep! 

I still have the bandage on my arm. I kind of look forward to removing it and seeing what my new battle scar(s) will look like :) 


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I'm really bright-I promise!

I'm kinda down and out right now. 

When I started working for my current employer, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life career wise. I had taken chef training previously, but with health issues and problems with my joints, I knew that working in a hot kitchen and standing on my feet for hours and hours at a time wouldn't be the best for me physically. So, I did the responsible thing- I went back to school. 

I took HR. I finished. Not only did I finish, I graduated with honours. I even took the extra step of going on to write the national knowledge exam (and pass it) while taking a full course load. 

So what's the problem?

I can't get a job to save my life. 

It seems like all of my friends that i went to college with have gotten jobs in their chosen HR fields. Not me though. 

Just the other day I celebrated my 10 year anniversary with my current employer. For almost the last 2 years I've been applying for HR roles non stop, but out of the tons and tons of positions I've applied for, I've only gotten two interviews-one over the phone and one in person. 

The most common feedback that I get is that the person who was hired had more experience than me-namely HR experience.

This feedback is very difficult for me. I'm very educated, I'm sharp, I'm quick, and I'm smart. The problem is: I don't have hands-on HR experience. The problem is this: I have no idea how to obtain HR experience if no one will take a chance on me. 

I've applied outside of the company. Part time positions, full time positions, anything. But no call backs. 

I have a mentor who works in recruiting. She has reviewed my résumé and has made a few minor changes with me. Even with these changes, I still can't manage to get my foot in the door. 

I got lucky and had a hr manager from another department within my organization contact me. She and I had been in contact before because I emailed her and have her my national knowledge exam study notes. She invited me to apply for a coordinator role on her team. I applied for the role and spoke to her on the phone. I didn't make it past the phone interview. 

It's very discouraging. I almost feel like giving up. My luck doesn't seem to be very good. At all. In several facets of life.

I'm networking, I'm getting in people's faces, ect. What makes it worse is the fact that I REALLY dislike what I'm doing right now job wise, and I don't have the ability to just quit. Aside from that being irresponsible, it's not going to work out well, especially when it comes to my employer and my medical benefits.  

I don't know what to do anymore. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Guess what? I've been revised!

As you may remember if you're a long time reader of my blog (or someone who has delved deep into my past posts), back in 2006, I somehow ended up with a perforated colon. 

The day I woke up with that severe stomach pain and the few days that followed were probably some of the worst pain I've ever been through. Then...the days that followed were painful too. When the surgeon on call came into my room in the ER and told me what was going to happen...it just didn't click-I still had no idea what was in store. The pain was so severe and the painkillers were so ineffective; at that point it didn't matter what he said or what needed to be done. I just hoped to would get done-and fast. And it was. I woke up. I felt amazing. Then it hit me...I'm wearing a colostomy bag. 

The fear of not knowing whether or not I'd have to wear this bag on my stomach forever was crippling and real. "I'll have to wear this forever" I thought. "With my luck...I'll have to wear this forever".  As I tried to cope with this while in the hospital, the time to remove my staples from the incision the surgeon had to make to remove the damaged part of my colon drew near. My lovely nurse that day removed just one staple and declared that my wound had not healed properly yet-it was too soon. So, she didn't remove them. 

The very next day, a Sunday, another doctor that I hadn't met before declared that it was time to remove my staples. I told her that the nurse yesterday said that it was too early for me. No-they must come out. Today. 

A few hours later, it became painfully clear that yesterday's nurse was right. It was too early. My wound opened the second the last staple was removed. I didn't bleed, but I did look down and saw directly into my stomach. I was horrified. The nurse who removed the staples was too. Not knowing what to say, she exclaimed "what did you do?!" to me, her tone accusatory. Yes, I used my two heavily IV'd hands to rip my stomach open, of course. She scurried off to get the same doctor. When the doctor arrived, she looked at my wound from afar. She hid her nerves and distress well. She ordered the nurse to pack the wound with gauze, as re-stapling the wound at this point would create a pocket/empty gap/space in my stomach. This could lead to infection. 

So every day, up until discharge and after I was discharged, a nurse would come, clean my wound, repack it, and bandaged it back up. This allowed the wound to heal from the inside out. After 6-7 weeks, the wound had finally healed. A year later, I took a picture of my scar. I hate it. I am actually surprised that I had the courage to share this pic in a post back in 2008. 

Why me is what I thought. I was thankful that I didn't need the colostomy indefinitely-it was reversed 6 months after the initial surgery. But that said, I had to be left with the scars like the one above. The smaller scars here and there I could deal with, but I was very unhappy with the scar from my bellybutton down. 

In the years that passed, I saw one plastic surgeon. He said he'd fix my scar once I stopped using prednisone and mmf. Impossible-I have lupus. I need to be on immunosuppressants. I saw another plastic surgeon. Well, the student doctor. She said this was cosmetic and I'd have to pay for it. I told her that this was caused by doctor's error. The doctor who ordered my staples out should have known that those who are on prednisone heal slowly and my staples should have been in longer.The  student doctor said she'd include in the letter that she would send to OHIP asking them to cover the costs that the scar was due to a "complication from surgery". Right. She advised me that my surgery almost certainly wouldn't be covered.  She didn't even bother discussing possible pricing, nor did the actual doctor even bother speaking to me or coming in to see me. I got dressed. In tears. And left. 

After contacting the hospital expressing my concerns, I was in no certain terms told "Sorry, no dice. Sometimes people who go through medical issues look for someone to blame. We hope we can still provide you care in the future". 

I drafted a response to that email in anger. How dare you try to psychoanalyze me via email?  

I still have the angry email. The angry, unsent email. 

It became clear to me that if I was going to get this scar fixed, I'd have to pay for it myself. I went to my family doctor and had him refer me to a plastic surgeon. He went to school with a plastic surgeon, so he referred me there. 

A few weeks later, I went to see the plastic surgeon. He was very kind. He quoted me a price that I thought was fair, as I expected to pay much, much more. 

So, on Saturday September 14, I went back to the plastic surgeon and had my scar revised. The whole thing took maybe 20-25 minutes-not long. There were a few painful bits where sufficient freezing/numbing wasn't done and I could feel the scalpel cut me open.  I didn't move, but I did yelp out in pain as i stared at the ceiling while the tears streamed out of my eyes, down my face, and past my ears. Other than a few of those occasions-smooth sailing. And those situations were quickly rectified. 

It has been 3 days since the scar revision. I'm still pretty sore. I have a tensor bandage wrapped around my stomach. I keep it there all the time except when I'm taking a shower. The bleeding had pretty well stopped when I removed my tensor bandage and the gauze the following day. Now I only have the tensor bandage there, as well as the stitches and the steri strips. My stomach is understandably swollen right now. I expect it to be pretty swollen for a few weeks, and for the swelling to continuously go down over the next few months. 


Kinda gross cuz it's bloody-I know. Sorry. 


The stitches are to come out in 2 weeks. I made an appointment to have them come out, but I later realized that I made the appointment 2 days shy of 2 full weeks. 

Guess what?

I'm rescheduling. 

I want my FULL 2 weeks, if not a couple MORE days. Not less. Not going down that road again. 

The doctor showed me the scar right after he stitched it up. It looks hugely better. No more division down the middle of my belly button down, leaving bumps of fat on each side. It's smooth and even. I can't wait for full healing to take place so I can see the final result. My surgeon said that the left over scar may need some injections in the future. This is probably due to the fact that a keloid-y scar may result. I'm game. 

So that's my scar revision. What sucks is that I can't go to the gym for a while. But it's absolutely for the greater good. 



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Kidney Walk!

On Saturday September 28, I'll be doing the kidney walk here in Toronto. I've never done it before, but with it being 18 months since I've received my kidney transplant, I think it's fitting that I do the walk!

The funds being raised will used to help create a better future for those suffering with kidney disease. My obvious hope is a future with no kidney disease. No dialysis. No paying hundreds of dollars to pay for dialysis when you go on vacation. No being stuck to a machine. 

I've never done anything like this before, but I hope those of you who read my blog and have followed my candid journey of ups and downs will be able to spare a few dollars, if even a buck or two, and sponsor me for my walk! 

Here's the link. Xo

Thank you!
 
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