Incorrect Diagnosis, Surgery…and Resulting PTSD + Long-term Health Anxiety

Incorrect Diagnosis, Surgery…and Resulting PTSD + Long-term Health Anxiety
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While most people probably wouldn’t share this with the masses, it’s my opinion that if we all talked about this stuff openly, maybe more people wouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when they need it. So, here goes…

I had surgery last Friday to repair my old umbilical hernia, which ripped open during my last pregnancy. I was pretty nervous before the procedure, but still insisted they not give me a sedative. I definitely wanted to be wide awake during the procedure in case someone in the room uttered the word, “Oops…”

Anyway, everything went okay except for the spinal. The nurse anesthetist put the needle in the wrong place on the first go-round and I kept telling her it was wrong because I felt a sharp pain to the left of her fingers. She also said she had “no fluid” there. She finally gave up and had to try it again. When she put in in the second time, I felt cold, fiery fingers (not sure how else to describe it) shooting through my left leg. I’m telling you, that was NOT a pleasant sensation. She finally got it right and the anesthesiologist assured me all was well and that no permanent damage was done.

The surgery took a little over an hour. They found two holes and repaired both. I was very glad that I decided against general anesthesia or a sedative because, despite my nerves, it was interesting to listen to the dialogue in the operating room, most of which had absolutely nothing to do with my operation, but was just co-workers shooting the bull. At least it was entertaining.

In the recovery room, I was getting anxious to nurse Mason because, while we tried to train him on a bottle last week, he wasn’t taking to it well and I knew Richard was dealing with a frustrated, hungry baby by that time. Richard, Ali, Max and Mason were waiting for me in the waiting room. I knew I could be moved to another room as soon as the spinal wore off. So, I lay there in the recovery room, willing the feeling to come back to my legs. The spinal I had from a previous c-section had worn off within an hour. But, this one was higher and would take a bit longer. (And, as the nurse explained, when you’re pregnant, you have about double your blood volume, so the fluid is replaced faster and, thus, the spinal wears off faster.) After an hour, when I still had no feeling in my legs, I started to get nervous. At two hours, I could just barely move the toes on my left foot. I was pretty scared, but glad I had at least some movement. Had the needle hit something bad? And, Mason must have been starving by that time! I was getting so anxious that the nurses let Ali bring Mason into the recovery room so I could feed him. Boy, he was one happy baby after that! And, the nurses were all cooing at him. He enjoyed that, too.

After three hours, I finally had enough movement back for them to move me to another room. I was quite relieved. Now, if I could just go to the bathroom, I’d know everything was working down there. If you’ve ever had a spinal, you know what I’m talking about! I was able to go and it wasn’t hard at all. Hallelujah! I was discharged to go home.

I felt every bump on they way home and only needed a few pain killers that night and the next day. However, on the second day (Sunday), about half an hour after I ate breakfast, I became very ill. I hadn’t taken any medication since early the night before so it wasn’t that. It hit me instantly, with no warning. I had tingling in my head, and then my head would get heavy and the tingling would move down my abdomen to my bowels and I became very nauseated and had to go to the bathroom again and again. Problem was, I was so sick it took everything I had in me just to get up and go to the bathroom. It was coming in waves, almost like labor, and I was able to time the best times to get up and run to the bathroom.

I immediately thought “infection!” But, I wasn’t running a fever. We ruled out the medication, of course, and finally decided it must be food poisoning. The cream I’d had in my coffee must have been bad. We’d had it in a cooler at the hotel where we stayed the night before my surgery. But, don’t they leave those little creamers out in restaurants for days on end? Could that really be it? I was very worried, still thinking it was an infection coming on, since the area where my spinal had been was still very sore. The more I worried, the worse I felt, and I finally started praying and trying to talk myself out of what my body was doing, like a silent pep talk. “Okay, you’re going to be fine. You do NOT have a fever. Just let it work its way through your system. You’re going to be fine!” It started to work and, after four hours, I was starting to feel better. The waves got further apart and finally stopped. Shwew! I was thinking, ‘I am NEVER drinking cream again!”

I ate some crackers and cheese and later some cereal and didn’t have any other problems at all that night…until about 3:00 a.m. I woke up and another wave was coming and I got scared again. And then another one hit and I remembered how I’d talked myself out of it the day before and I was able to do it again…especially after I finally figured out what it was. I was having an anxiety attack!!!

I hadn’t had one in years, not since my ex had our children for visitation long ago. When I had them before, I never had them when the problem was occurring. I always had about a two-day delay. So, when I got sick, it wasn’t immediately apparent what had caused it. The only difference is that my previous panic attacks caused my heart to pound so hard I thought I was having a heart attack. My heart didn’t do that on Sunday.

So, on Monday morning, I thought back over the past few months. As I wrote in last week’s missive, I don’t handle illnesses and injuries well at all. Over the past year, I dealt with a pregnancy that had quite a few complications (possible genetic problems because of my age, borderline diabetes, too much amniotic fluid, Mason being breech for a week, and our desire for a VBAC and all the possible dangers associated with that), the birth, Mason being sick for the first two weeks of his life and us willing him to breathe each precious breath, him being in the Intensive Care Unit, my postpartum blues, Ali breaking her finger, Mason getting sick at two months and me lying awake at night ensuring he could breathe through his congestion, my dentist telling me I might have cancer and me believing I had cancer for four days, me thinking I was pregnant again (Richard’s vasectomy is scheduled for October 26th!), and, finally, the surgery. I guess it’s a wonder I wasn’t carted away in a Twinkie Mobile weeks ago!

Anyway, when my body reacts to stress in such a way that it brings the entire family to a standstill like it did on Sunday, it’s time to get some help. And, I know when I’m at my limit and I’m not afraid to ASK for help! I have a doctor appointment tomorrow. I’ll let you know what he says.

My belly button is feeling much better today (I’m writing this on Tuesday). I decided on Monday that enough was enough and that nobody was going to get injured or ill for the next several weeks and that was final! On Monday night, I sliced two fingers wide open on a piece of metal. Murphy’s Law… Richard ran to the drugstore for butterfly bandages while I held my my hands over my head (I avoid stitches at all costs). I might lose the tip of my index finger, and it kinda hurts to type, but it beats the heck out of a spinal, it ain’t cancer, and I’m not pregnant! So, I’ll be just fine. 😉

UPDATE:
I’m getting tons of supportive emails from you guys and gals and you have no idea how much they mean to me. All the support is a huge boost!! 🙂

I went to the doctor this morning. Before I went, I typed up a list of everything we’ve been going through the past few months, along with my feelings. I knew if I told the doctor about it out loud, I’d start crying.

Anyway, he diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is a result of us being told Mason might die of a heart defect and his subsequent hospitalization when he was 12 days old. I guess I didn’t handle it as well as I thought I did. Since that time, I have had an increasingly unrealistic fear of and anxiety about any illness or injury. While some people with PTSD relive the original event over and over in their minds, I’ve actually been afraid to dwell on what we went through with Mason but have instead focused my energies on anxiety about every family member’s health.

The PTSD has led to anxiety and depression. I’ll write more about the symptoms of these, mine in particular, next week, in case it can help someone else who might not be feeling quite like themselves, too. I had depression 12 years ago, during my first marriage. I was on Paxil for four years while married to my alcoholic ex-husband and was weaned off it the month my divorce was final. Funny how that worked out… 😉

Anyway, now that I’ve looked at my list of symptoms, it’s really quite clear what has been happening to me and I wish I’d called the doctor about this last month because then I’d already feel better. He prescribed Paxil (which is what I took years ago) but it won’t work right away. The good news is it doesn’t have any side effects for me, isn’t a tranquilizer (I couldn’t deal with feeling like a zombie), and I can continue to nurse Mason while I take it. 🙂

ANOTHER UPDATE: JULY, 2016

Mason is 10 years old now. Aside from a minor heart murmur, he’s extremely healthy. I stopped taking Paxil several years ago. It wasn’t helping  with the health anxiety/PTSD symptoms and the new side-effects (severe heart palpitations) were not acceptable. I was in therapy for two years, and learned some coping techniques. It still amazes me that one or two incidents in one’s life can profoundly affect them for the rest of their lives. I’m MUCH better today. I will always have health anxiety to a certain extent but I have learned how to live with it, and how to NOT let it affect me on a daily basis. How? I avoid articles and TV shows about health issues. I don’t Google health issues. My husband takes our children to doctor and dentist appointments. I no longer go to any medical appointments unless they’re absolutely necessary because I had another bad experience two years ago. (A lump that ended up being nothing at all destroyed four months of my life. I have good insurance and that led to numerous unnecessary tests and, even after they said it was nothing, they wanted to do even more tests just to further confirm it was nothing.) I no longer trust doctors or hospitals. I haven’t been back to a doctor since and I am totally okay with that. I also have the support of my family in my decision. I lead a healthy lifestyle and, hopefully, genetics are on my side. I would prefer that a real medical issue kill me someday…not stress.

Hugs to all!
Ang

P.S. Mason was a VBAC baby (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). I had to fire a doctor and even find a new hospital in order to birth him naturally! Read about my experience, and those of others, in my book, DON’T CUT ME AGAIN! True Stories About Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).

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