CMP weeks 40 & 41, and Auckland

Playing catch up after spending last weekend in Auckland with my sister Ailsa. The flights were my birthday and Christmas present – we shopped, went to libraries, talked, spent time with family, and had a wonderful time. I bought a bunch of summer clothes and got some real bargains.

CMP pages – Dina Wakley & Dylusions paints, stencils, Simon Says Stamp inkpad.

 

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A trip to Christchurch

I’ve just come back from 5 days in Christchurch, attending the LIANZA 2017 conference. I was able to have dinner out with my brother-in-law Roger one evening as part of a larger group, and pop in to see my stepdaughter Yasmine, her partner Adam and our grandson Rory – it’s just a pity time was so short.

I hadn’t been to Christchurch since pre-quake. It was weird looking round because I can see the damage but, in many ways, can’t identify the changes as I didn’t know the city beforehand. We took a taxi a couple of times and it was interesting to note how careful the taxi drivers are to explain why they have to take the long way round sometimes; I suspect they occasionally get abused about detours which are not their fault.

This was the first time I’ve flown since my surgery. No seat belt extender needed this time. It was also my first test of eating ‘normally’ away from home; not totally successful but not a disaster either. I only felt really sick once, and lost a few hundred grams so the odd food choices did no harm. The worst moment that’s food related? I was sitting with the “cool kids” from Auckland Libraries – a really lovely bunch – and managed to throw my entire lunch down my jeans, over my sneakers and across the floor. They were so nice, they got me to sit still while they cleaned up, then got me some more food…

So, travel post-surgery is perfectly manageable – that’s another thing ticked off the “hmmm, I wonder…” list.

Photos are Lis & I ready for the gala dinner; Sumner Beach, Rory, Roger and I; Rory with his junior dragster; my seat belt on the plane.

Ch ch ch changes…

As you know, I had weight loss surgery a year ago. I weight less than half what I did. I can shop in ‘normal’ stores now. Does my head understand my real size yet? No. They say our heads are usually a year behind, so I still see myself as a lot bigger than I am.

I have always had nice clothes, particularly for work. If someone asked me, I’d have said I wore what I liked. Turns out whilst I did like my clothes, they weren’t actually *me* – as in, they weren’t what I would choose if I had real choice! Clear as mud?

I’m being careful not to shop too much, and to try things then make myself wait and go back if I still want something. Why? Because addiction transfer is a real risk after weight loss surgery and I don’t want a shopping addiction. Same reason I don’t touch alcohol.

But I am trying on a lot of different things and, having lived in trousers for years, it turns out I love dresses, and florals. Who knew? Here are some photos – a combination of ‘trying it on in shops’ selfies and new clothes, some second hand (because nothing I kept from last summer fits, even though stuff was tight and I thought it’d be okay).

I’ve included one photo of something I *thought* would fit, so you can see what I mean. The weird face I’m pulling with the floral t-shirt is because it’s a size 12 Charlo and my head was going “well, that can’t be right”…

 

One year on I’m half the person I was!

A year ago today Ailsa and I were in Wellington and I was recovering from a gastric bypass with Atul Dhabuwala. It’s been a huge year with some major medical dramas, some of them ongoing. Just this morning I received an appointment to see Dr Anderson (the neurologist) as a follow-up to a stroke caused by the lead-up to Aspiration Pneumonia. I have a paralysed vocal cord, which ACC agree is a result of medical misadventure at Base Hospital. It is slowly healing but I sound like Darth Vader! 

In 2010, before we went to Italy for the Legato exhibition, I weighed 139.6kg. I lost 25kg before we left, but slowly regained 22kg. Dad died of a heart attack at 65 years old, and Mum died at 89 having suffered 16 years of ill health related, in part at least, to her weigt. When I discovered I could withdraw my KiwiSaver to fund surgery there was no looking back.

Atul set a goal weight of 75kg for me, based on the average percentage of excess weight people lose. To be a normal BMI I need to be 68kg. I’ve dropped below Atul’s goal; one year on, I have lost 70.2kg and sitting at 69.4kg. So, I am officially half the person I was…

Thanks to my boss Fiona, staff and colleagues, and STDC as a whole, for concern and support. My sister Ailsa for going with me for the surgery and check-ups, for taking me to hospital more than once, for cleaning up and sorting out, and listening. My best friend of 48 years, Sandra, who has cared without fussing, and just recently asked me “are you okay being this thin?” (or words to that effect) and when I said yes, was happy for me and left it at that.

And of course to Tony, who has dealt with a very, very sick wife – he has cleaned up unmentionable messes without complaint when I was at my sickest. He has coped with a shrinking wife, which must feel odd, and smiled patiently as I bought endless rounds of smaller clothes.  

It’s been a hell of a journey and I have truly earned every gram I have lost. If anyone thinks weight-loss surgery is the easy way out I have news for them! It is a battle every day to drink enough, to eat the right things, and to understand my fat brain.

Has it been worth it? Hell yes! I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Have I rewarded myself? Hell yes! I have always wanted an Annah Stretton Flip dress. On Thursday Tony and I went shopping for the day to celebrate his 71st birthday, and enjoyed dinner on the way home.  The photos below tell the story…

 

A stroke, vocal cords & knitting!

It’s a month since I blogged, which tells me all kinds of things. No, I’m not 100% yet. Yes, I’m keeping up well with work, but it takes a toll. Yes, it’s too cold in my home office to spend much time in here!

I went to the Dr after seeing the ENT and she confirmed the stroke diagnosis because I have “foot drop” on the same side as the frozen vocal cord and lazy hand (which has healed already). She’s sending me to a neurologist for a check-up. A month on from the ENT specialist appointment  I keep telling people my voice is healing but, in reality, the improvement is pretty minimal so this is certainly a long husky road.

Over the last couple of months I have edged ever so slowly towards my goal weight of 75kg. I’ve felt okay being 77-78kg but it would have felt like a giant fail if I didn’t meet the surgeon’s goal weight for me. I’ve read about a lot of people who never got there, or regained, and I am determined not to go down that path.

July 2017In the last couple of weeks I have reached my goal weight, which just feels so good. And now, bizarrely, I am losing weight a bit quicker again, and am down to 72.8kg this morning. I was told I’d probably go lower eventually, and suspect I may end up sitting around 70kg.

knittingOn the doing side, it’s too cold to craft much in my office so I have taken up knitting again – something I haven’t done for 25+ years and something I was never that good at. I’ve competed one jersey, the front of another, and am taking a break from the 12ply and big needles to knit a 4ply Merino jersey for a library friend. It’s nice to sit in the lounge in the evenings with Tony and have something to do.

 

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.

 

 

Hospital dramas

It’s more than a month since I blogged or did any art – here’s why.

I’d been doing really well, but suddenly developed severe stomach pain about 5pm, just as Tony got home from Wanganui. By 6pm it was so bad we called the ambulance. Millie took me to Hawera; the Dr suspected a twisted bowel so had me transported to Base on Sunday morning. The surgeon, Mr Hadawi, spoke to Atul Dhabuwalla who thought a piece of bowel might have got trapped in a gap from the surgery, and they arranged for a gastroscopy on Monday 10th May.

Mr Hadawi did the gastroscopy late morning under heavy sedation. Unfortunately the suction unit wasn’t working properly and the nurse didn’t realise. Because of the blockage I had a lot of bile in my stomach and vomited during the procedure. Due to the suction unit not working I got a lot of bile in my lungs. I was went back to the ward but, bizarrely, there’s no handover after gastroscopy so the ward staff were not told what had happened.

My nurse, Siji, noticed my heart rate increasing and oxygen levels dropping; she was keeping a close eye on me because she couldn’t understand why I was deteriorating. Mid to late afternoon the surgeon came to get me for acute bowel surgery just as I started to really go downhill. He kept asking if I felt ok, and I can remember saying yes – tired but ok. He called the peri-arrest team (used when someone is about to have, or just had, a cardiac arrest) and I could hear them talking about tachycardia, intubation, and bag masking. Between Mum’s dramas, and Tony’s ambulance work, I knew exactly what was happening but was so unwell it wasn’t really scary. Just as I was about to say I suddenly didn’t feel well at all, they took over my breathing. Talking to the surgeon later, he said if you’re young and fit your body compensates until suddenly it can’t anymore, which if the point I had reached.

Poor Tony had turned up just as all this was happening. The Dr explained what was happening but he wasn’t allowed to see me. Ailsa and Jim were in New York and the hospital phoned her at 6am to tell her I was in ICU. She rang me most mornings and kept in touch by text throughout.

I woke up the next day in ICU after they took the tube out, and spent the next four days in either ICU or HDU recuperating from severe aspiration pneumonia. The day after they extubated they did x-rays, fluoroscope and CT scans of the bowel but none of it was conclusive. Because of the trauma to my lungs the surgeons felt I couldn’t have surgery for another month or more anyway unless they were forced into it. I spent two weeks in hospital in total, with the Drs saying it would probably take 6 weeks to fully recover.

I’ve had another two weeks at home recovering. I’ve been incredibly tired, am walking slowly, and have very little voice. The Drs think it’s just a reaction to pneumonia and intubation but if it isn’t right after a month they’ll investigate further. I’ve also had a MRI scan at Base and have an appointment with Mr Farrynt on the 18th May to get the results and plan any surgery.

Re the medical mishap that led to the pneumonia; the hospital are investigating all aspects and made some changes straight away.

Weight loss update

When I last blogged about this, on January 14th, I had lost 38kg to date. Yesterday I reached the 50kg milestone, so only another 10kg to go. I’m beginning to wonder if I could be reasonably small boned and 15kg might be a better goal, but I’ll reassess it with the nurse and see what she thinks nearer the time – probably towards the end of March.

In that last post I said I’d bought jeans off the rack at Farmers. This morning I popped down to Wanganui and replaced them with a pair that’s another 2 sizes down. I’m now a 16/18 on the top and an 18 on the bottom. Unheard of…

Here are some update photos. Hardly great shots admittedly but Tony’s not that comfortable using my iPhone!

 

Weight loss update

It’s a few weeks since I updated progress. Following my pre-Christmas trip to Base Hospital I am feeling *much* better. Having lost over 38kg so far, I’m now under 100kg for the first time in a couple of decades and am about the same weight, but not shape, as I was in my mid-to-late 20s.

I went to Farmers and bought jeans off the rack; the first two pairs were too big – unheard of! More importantly I am starting to feel like myself again, and have more like my usual energy back. Instead of going to bed at 7pm like Mum used to, I am staying up till 10pm or later, am crafting in the evenings and generally doing ‘stuff’. I’m also on the exercycle every night and, although being cautious in case of injury, I am increasing both the time and distance a little every night.

I had a couple of phone appointments this week with staff from the weight loss surgery office; they are pleased with how I’m progressing now, having been very concerned about how sick I got. They expect me to keep losing weight for another 9-12 months but at a slower rate as I eat a little more variety and quantity. At this stage I can’t increase the volume, my pouch just won’t let me, but I am trying more foods. I’m managing to drink around 1200mls a day, with only minimal nausea. So, all good finally!

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