I saw one of the registrars who works with Mr Pennington on Tuesday. They’re pleased with the wound, which no longer needs dressing, and the range of movement I’ve got. I asked if I should exercise just until it gets uncomfortable, or push through? Push through, but not to the point of tears. Ok then – onto it.

Speaking of tears, since a few days post-surgery I’ve had excruciating pain in my hip. I’ve cried a lot – very unusual for me – and am only sleeping a couple of hours at a time. The Dr said it’s bursitis in my hip, brought on by the change in how I’m walking. Normally they’d consider a steroid injection but it would slow down my knee’s healing. If it’s still really bad when I go back in 4 weeks, they’ll relook at it.

If I’m still progressing well at my 6 week appointment they assess me for the waiting list to get my left knee done. By May next year I could be the grateful owner of 2 two knees ❤

I must be starting to feel a little bit better; I’ve been finishing off some art journal pages I’ve had lying around. When I can’t be bothered with any art, you know I’m feeling pretty bad! This journal is now so thick it’s hard to get straight scans – they’re not as wonky & unevenly spaced as they appear…

Two steps forward

I’ll try to keep this short but we all know I tend to write a book. After waiting 7 years I finally got my first total knee replacement last Thursday. We planned a spinal block instead of general anaesthetic as it’s their norm. I got very nervous about it but the Anaesthetist was excellent and said we couldn’t risk damaging my vocal cords any further. As it turned out, it was simple and painless.

Surgery wasn’t till midday so Thursday was a write off. I woke up towards the end of the surgery; younger bones are harder to break and drill, so the surgery can take longer. I could hear the staff and feel the surgeon doing things, but without pain. I told the anaesthetist and he quickly put me under a general.

Friday I got up and had a wash, the physios showed me some exercises and got me walking a few steps. One of my staff dropped off some V; bless you Katherine! Saturday I showered myself and started walking up and down the ward. Roger and Tony visited and I went for a walk with them. It wasn’t sore at all but was starting to itch a lot. A Dr had a look and said it seemed ok.

Sunday I was able to walk right round the ward a couple of times, and the surgeon was pleased, but the itch was getting worse. As I was being released the nurse redressed it, as it had bled quite a lot, and we could see welts. Everyone decided I was allergic to the dressing. Sigh… Roger and my bestie of 52 years, Sandra, came and got me. Home, really mobile, but the itch 😑 They’d given me a script for Loratidine but the after hours pharmacies were all closed.

On Monday Tony took me to Hawera to get the script filled. I’ll skip the details but, in trying to get the wound redressed, we saw two pharmacies, my Dr’s surgery, A&E and the new rural health project. They redressed it, after talking with the ortho team in New Plymouth. Late in the day I got a call asking me to go to Base this morning for the ortho team to check on it.

I had a rough night, in tears a couple of times because the itch was so overwhelming. Again, I’ll skip the details but, after a rocky start, the nurse used her intuition and decided to pull the whole thing apart. Turns out I’m not allergic to the dressing, I’m allergic to the steri strips on the wound itself. When she took the steri strips off we found huge welts under them. The nurse and Dr were horrified – no wonder I was so itchy.

I have a new PICO positive pressure bandage and a great deal less itching already. The surgeon had a look and is delighted with how straight my knee is so they’ll check it again next week. So, it’s been rocky, but essentially things are great as I’m already walking with less pain than pre-surgery.

Being an adult means self-care

Self-care. It’s not all yoga, warm baths and getting your nails done with your bff. It can mean harder stuff, like cervical smears (thank goodness I don’t have to anymore), mammograms, exercising even when you don’t want to and a squillion other ‘not so fun’ things. 

A couple of years ago my Dr and I talked about a ‘thing’ on the side of my face. Should we cut it out? Well, maybe, but very near the nerve that controls your face, and also right by my ear so it would sound yuk! We opted to try a topical treatment used for cancer spots. Yeah nah!! It didn’t budge even a millimetre. 

I did what any sensible adult would do. I ignored it. Only now it’s got worse. I can hear my mother saying, “I told you so”.  

Trouble is a few years back I had a lump cut out of the back of my thigh. Five minute job, Cath, you’ll be fine. Except the Dr couldn’t get to the bottom of the lump and, 35 minutes in, had to inject more pain relief so he could keep digging. So, I have good reason to be a sook about it, kind of…


Anyway, just now I have logged onto managemyhealth and made an appointment with my fa Dr to get a referral to a skin specialist so it can be removed. Can anyone recommend a favourite brand of brave pills?


Off to the surgeon

Some specialists are always going to be very formal, “Hi I’m Mr X”. Tomorrow we’re visiting Tony’s vascular surgeon in Waikato. He first operated on Tony in 2012 and has done 7, or is it 8, surgeries since then. We’re on first names basis with Vasu these days!

Tony has peripheral vascular disease. He had a small clot removed in the 1990s and was good until 2012. The first surgery with Vasu was to remove a 20cm clot. He has a ‘fem fem crossover’ so basically an artificial artery that takes blood from his good leg, across his groin, and down into his bad leg ending up in his lower calf. The artificial artery has been cleaned out a couple of times and also replaced.

His bad (left) leg is increasingly painful and swollen, and his good leg is playing copycat unfortunately. They can only fix one leg this way, so there’s not a lot can be done for the right leg. But, as always, we’re hopeful Vasu will have one more trick up his sleeve.

Once ‘we can fix it’ surgeries are no longer an option we’re left with pain relief and eventually amputation either due to complete loss of circulation or if it’s the best option for quality of life. Hopefully that’s a long way off yet. In the meantime we’re looking for better pain control, and perhaps even remedial surgery. Fingers crossed.

This photo is from his 2014 surgery.tonys-hand.jpg

Turning into Darth Vader

A few days after I got out of ICU and HDU my voice became very quiet and husky for no apparent reason. If I try too hard to get real volume, or say a lot at once, or even talk too fast, I can get a bit dizzy. The doctors didn’t seem too concerned and thought it would come right in a few days.

My own Doctor thought it was inflammation from being intubated and said if it wasn’t right by the end of the month I’d need to see a specialist.

When I saw Mr Glenn Farrynt, to get the results of the MRI of my bowel, he strongly recommended more surgery otherwise there is a chance of another obstruction. I wanted to wait until I felt stronger but he said it was much riskier to operate with an obstruction because it makes me so sick.

His only hesitation was my voice; he wanted me to see an ENT urgently to ensure my airway was safe. In the meantime, he set a tentative date of 19 June for exploratory surgery and to fix whatever they found at the same time.

I saw the ENT, Mr Wayne Butt, on June 6. He put a camera up my nose and into my airway – which was as awful as it sounds. I’d said I wouldn’t let them do that, but he was so nice and gentle I didn’t feel I could refuse! My left vocal cord is totally paralysed, which explains my voice. He said even with heavy sedation it is rare to aspirate so he feels my airway can’t be trusted for now, especially as we also don’t know what caused the paralysis but have to assume it was damaged during intubation. He wants to see me again in three months because he’s hopeful my airway will heal on its own. There is nothing they can do it repair it but, if it doesn’t heal, they can improve my voice.

One thing we haven’t explored yet, which might explain a lot, is that since I came out of hospital my left foot sort of thumps down, particularly when I’m tired. I also tend to rest my left hand in my lap some of the time. There’s been some talk of a small stroke, but I didn’t want to explore the possibility. I might need to now, if it explains the vocal cord paralysis.

All I can say is, I have earned every single kilo I have lost. If anyone thinks surgery is an easy way out, I have news for them…

orange jersey



Still recovering

Last time I blogged I was at the end of two weeks at home, recuperating. I’ve been back at work 2 weeks, doing 4 days a week – by the end of Thursday I’m pretty worn out.

I went to see Mr Farrynt, the surgeon last week to get the MRI results. Inconclusive, because my internal plumbing is unusual even for a gastric bypass patient due to justing the surgery to allow for damage from a botched hysterectomy in my late 20s. My Farrynt wants to do exploratory surgery in the next 4-6 weeks and fix whatever he finds at the time. It’ll start off keyhole but probably end up open surgery. I wanted to delay it but he feels it will obstruct again and then he’ll have to operate when I’m really sick, as opposed to just not 100% well…

 The only thing to sort before hand is an urgent referral to ENT. My voice is still hoarse and weak; the surgeon is concerned my airway might be compromised so needs that fixed before they operate.

 The other thing I’m dealing with is that, after intubation & ICU etc, my hair has thinned even more and become sparser. We’ve cut it very short and changed the shape – it’s better but I’ll be very pleased when it recovers. I’ve coloured it for the first time in many years because I just looked so pale and unwell for a while there.

I’m down to 76.8kg, only 1.8kg off my bypass surgeon’s goal for me. I talked to Mr Farrynt and his side kick Amanda about getting down to 70kg as that would make me a standard size 14 (I think). No way! They are happy for me to get to 75kg but not lose any more than that, as they’re cncerned about my general health with all that’s gone on. So I need to learn to eat a little bit more to stop the loss. I could never have imagined that would be a problem for me! I’ll be talking to my dietician in a week anyway, so that’s good timing.

 As most of you know, I am always fiddling with art and craft, blogging etc. Until yesterday, I hadn’t touched my craft stuff since 8 April, which is a LONG time for me. Yesterday I finally put some gesso on a page and did a quick layout. I don’t have a lot of energy yet, but it was good to get messy.



Surgery isn’t all go after all

Tony’s surgery has been postponed to 13 January as there is someone else whose need is more urgent. To ensure Tony doesn’t wait any longer than is absolutely necessary, they are booking him under a different surgeon at Waikato because it saves a week’s delay. We’re disappointed and upset but, having had Mum in and out of hospital for the last 14 years of her life – mucking up waiting lists in all directions, we know how quickly someone else can take precedence. I hope the person who is getting urgent surgery recoveries quickly and starts 2014 feeling a whole lot better than they currently do.

I’m also sad that I’m now not spending Christmas and Sandra’s 50th birthday with her – I was so looking forward to it, and to helping her through a difficult bunch of firsts without her Mum. But, as she knows, I’ll be with her in spirit, as always.