Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Didn't Even Get To Count Backwards

Nurse: "Hey there, how are you feeling?"
Me: "I didn't even get to count backwards..."

That's the first thing I remember after waking up from the anesthesia. And I'm not lying, I at that point, I was really bummed that they never asked me to count backwards. But it didn't matter for long, because I began to come to and realized that my surgery was over, and I was on my way to physically returning to "normal".

But, that's the end of the story. We've got a lot to cover before that.

This story goes all the way back to 2004.
In February of 2004 - FIVE years ago - I become involved with a group of guys who started an inline hockey league here in Indianapolis. I hadn't played serious hockey in years, and I was happy about gettin
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g back into shape, and playing a sport that I loved. We played for six months, all the way into August. We cleaned out a ice rink on the southside of Indianapolis, and played on the concrete under a real rink. We had boards and benches, and it all worked out perfectly.

Sometime during those six months, the pain began.
It was just something minor, on my left side, lower abdomen. Just a little pinch. Nothing serious, and it didn't happen all the time. It was most painful right after playing hockey, and would normally go away after a few hours. Randomly, it would flare up here and there, but nothing common.

Post hockey, the pain seemed to go away. I eventually just assumed it was to be attributed to me being out of shape, and it was my old body telling me that I needed to work out more.

The first physical sign was in late 2004. I was still working at Kerasotes, and I remember going to the bathroom, when I noticed that there was some kind of bulge in my groin area. Nothing big, and it didn't really hurt, but it was only on one side, and it was kind of awkward. In my personal denial, I once again chalked it up to being out of shape, and convinced myself that I needed to exercise more and it would "melt" away - like the fat in my stomach I was trying to get rid of.

2004 and was the last year that I was physically "active" at my job. Once I left Kerasotes and went to Republic Theatres - I was basically in a desk job, which required very little standing. Aside from getting change for my employees, or the occasional shift time on Box Office, I didn't do much standing. Even when I ran the booth, we had a chair upstairs, so I had plenty of time to sit down. After the hockey incident, and the pain, I had kind of given up any physical activities for a while.

2005 went by with just the occasional flare-up of pain, but nothing serious or noteworthy.

The came 2006. The year when everything changed for the worse in my life.
It was March of 2006, and I remember waking up in bed one morning with a serious pain in my groin. I reached my hand down and felt myself, but didn't feel anything out of the ordinary. Then, I stood up to go to the bathroom, and gravity took over the insides of my body, and I felt "something" inside of my "move" - OR - "slide" downward through my groin area. I freaked out. It obviously was NOT normal, and it hurt badly. After going to the bathroom, I laid back down, and could once again feel my insides (which I have since learned were my intestines...) "slide" back around inside of me, and upon my personal examination, I seemed to be back to normal.

The odd thing, after the first time, it didn't happen every time. I don't know if things got "mixed up" inside of me, and gravity couldn't always pull it down, or what, but sometimes I would be "normal" and other times I would have a large bulging mass in my groin. It was not a fun time.

To top matters off, things with Kristen were well on their road to demise. We hadn't been having sex for some time, so it wasn't something she ever knew about, saw, or felt. Sadly, that's definitely a bad thing - because with her personality, she would have forced me to go to the doctor - despite my hatred/fear of them. And I probably would have had this fixed in March of 2006.

Instead, I kept it all to myself, and ultimately screwed myself over.

While married, I was on Kristen's insurance, and she worked for an insurance company - so from what I remember her benefits rocked, or so I was told. Kristen and I split up in April of 2006, and by June of 2006, I could tell that something was seriously wrong with the inside of my body. Despite Kristen and I's hatred towards each other at the time - I reached out with a small amount of hope. I sent her a text message in June that said, "By any chance, am I still on your insurance? If so, I need help." She was kind enough to respond, but her response was "No, I took you off a while ago." Fair enough. Once she knew she was going to file the divorce paperwork, why would she leave her soon to be ex-husband on her insurance plan? I don't blame her for it, it was all just some seriously bad timing in life. Had Kristen and I not been so unhappy together, and fighting so often, and been devoid of all sexual contact - then it's probable to assume that this would have been resolved in 2006, and would have been paid for by insurance.

But, that's not how the cards of my life played out. Instead, I was in a bad marriage and it ended in a way that prevented me from getting it fixed at that time. So, I was forced to move on in life, and live with the pain. I call 2006, "The Year of Naproxin Sodium". It was the painkiller of choice at that time. Despite the pain, after my divorce, I was attempting to get healthier and back in shape, so in April, May and June, Jason and I were going out and playing a lot of basketball (until his move out of the state). Yes, it hurt, but somewhere in the denial of my own mind, I thought that maybe if I lost weight, this whole thing would go away. I was dumb, and I can admit it. To make matters worse, I decided to begin using a weight-loss pill, and I bought a lot of them. It was around this time - July/August of 2006, that I noticed the bulge was growing in size and getting more painful. One day, when I was taking the weight-loss pills, I decided to read the box, at which point it informed me - the reader - not to use the product if there was a family history of hernias (among other things). At this point, I had no idea if there was any hernia history in my family - but I began doing my own personal research into hernias, along with Sports Hernias, which is how this whole thing began. Sports hernias are very common amongst hockey players, so there's no real telling when this whole thing was set into motion. It could have been many, many years ago in high school - who knows? I immediately discontinued using the pills. 2006 went on, and so did the pain.

2007 was "The Year of Advil". After so many months of using Naproxin Sodium, I was up well over 10,00mgs a day. They basically became candy to me, and I needed that many for my body to even function daily. So, I finally switched over to Advil, which I could get by with roughly six Extra Strength Advil a day. Over the course of the year, that number got larger and larger.

February 15th of 2007 was the first day I made any public knowledge of my situation.
I believe I finally broke down and told my parents a day or two beforehand, and then finally blogged about it on the 15th - almost two years ago. I remember that day vividly, as I was working at Fazetron-STTV, and standing in the lobby of my store, while talking to Jason on the phone. He had read my blog, and called me, and I broke down crying on the phone to him. He was the first friend I opened up to about the situation. A number of other friends asked about it, but I told them I didn't want to talk about it until after it was resolved. In some ways, I've been writing this blog since that day - in my head. I honestly never planned on it taking this long to get myself fixed. I was wrong.

The biggest issue was the fact that in my research, I learned that Insurance Companies consider hernias a "pre-existing" condition, therefore they won't cover it if it was present before my insurance coverage started - this is why being on Kristen's Insurance, while the bulge was small, was my only hope of getting any insurance company to pay for it. I remember in late 2007, my friend Matt had hernia surgery, and it was a fiasco with him, because our insurance company for the movie theatre tried to claim it was "pre-existing" and they didn't want to pay it. I remember him telling me about the battle that it took to get them to pay. This scared me, and made me realize that I really had no chance of getting anyone else to pay for it.

2008 became known as "The Year of Acetaminophen". 500mg tablets of Extra Strength Tylenol became my best friends. I'd take six in the morning, six in the afternoon, and six in the evening by the end of the year. That's 9,000mgs of acetaminophen each day.

Yes, I can admit that I have a problem. I have been addicted to painkillers for a long, long time. They make the pain go away, and that's all I wanted and needed. That's going to be the next phase of my life, is trying to make sure I can get myself off painkillers, and convince myself that I don't need them anymore. But, that's a different battle for a different day - and I'm getting off on a tangent again.

January to September of 2008 were life as "normal" - still at the theatre, still without insurance, still in pain - but I was still at my sit behind a desk job, walk around whenever I felt the need to. It helped keep the pain to a minimal, and I was able to survive. Then came the wonderful news that I was being let go from my job, which ultimately led me to employment at The Spot. And while I love my job so much, it's a complete change from what I used to do. This job requires me to stand for long periods of time, and be constantly moving. Within just the first few months of working there, I noticed that the bulge in my groin was getting larger and larger and more and more painful.

New Year's Eve of 2009 was the day that forced everything to change. I went to work at 6pm, and didn't get home until 6:30am. I take a nap, and then when I woke up I climbed into a nice, hot bath. I was sore. I was in pain. An insanely intense and unbearable amount of pain. I could barely walk, but not because of my feet - because of my groin. It was a very dark time in my life, one of the darkest I can remember. I laid in the bathtub, crying, wondering why this had to happen to me. As pathetic as it makes me sound, I laid in that bathtub, on New Year's Day, and wished that I could end my life. I was in so much pain, and was so tired of suffering, that I wished for the easy way out. Like I said, it was the darkest part of my life in many, many years. Many "bad" thoughts flooded through my brain. All the failures of my life piled up. My failed marriage, losing my job, relying on my parents for financial help, etc... I felt like there was nothing good left in my life. It was dark inside my head that day. I was sad. I was depressed. I was in pain. I hated my life. I loathed my life. I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out the easiest way to actually take my life. It was a dark day.

The good news was that eventually I grew up. I cried my eyes out. I stopped feeling sorry for myself. And I decided that I needed to do something intelligent and stop thinking all of these moronic and horrible thoughts. It was a Cowardly Hour of my life, that I'm ashamed to admit happened. Luckily, I never came anywhere near actually attempting anything. It was all foolish thoughts in my head, and eventually common sense kicked me in the butt and told me I was being an idiot.

For the first time that I can ever remember, I actually fulfilled my New Year's Resolution. Because sitting in that warm water on New Year's Day, I told myself that I would get this situation resolved in 2009.

I think it was a couple of days into 2009 that I talked to my parents about everything, and we began discussing options. A few days later, I made my appointment with St. Vincent's - which wasn't going to be until March 9th. After more talking with my parents, we decided that instead of going somewhere that was based on income, we should look into somewhere that specialized in this type of surgery, so that we knew what we were getting into. Instead of getting a "cheap" doctor who is working for small amount of money, we decided to find someone who did this regularly and knew exactly what they were doing.

We settled on the Hernia Center Plus.
We made my first doctor's appointment for January 28th. A LOT sooner than St. Vincent's. Then, January 28th came, and Indianapolis was hit with a wonderful BLIZZARD. My car was trapped at work from the night before - which was okay since my parents were picking me up, but when I called the office - they said that there was no guarantee that the Doctor was going to make it in that day. So, we rescheduled. The schedule was full the following Tuesday, which made my appointment on February 11th. Then, my surgery should have been on the 17th - however, the doctor was going to be out of town, so we had to wait an extra week. That brings us to Today.

Amazingly, I slept well last night.
I fell asleep around 2:00am - which was a bummer, since I missed some texts, specifically the one from Brittany. I woke up at 9:00am, which began a long three hour wait in my apartment, until my parents picked me up. Then, the LONGEST day of my life began. It seemed like all I did was wait. The surgery was scheduled for 12:45pm. I got there before 12:30pm, and waited in the waiting room until almost 1:00pm, when they finally took me to the first room. I got naked and then sat around for what seemed like a half hour (it was probably 10 minutes), before I was taken to another room, where I laid in a bed, got some shots, and then had an IV stuck into my hand. Yes, the back of my hand! It felt like a sword being shoved under my skin - it was painful. Whatever nice fluids were pumped into my body pretty much numbed the right side of me, which was weird, because I could freely move my left arm, but my right arm didn't want to co-operate very well. After lying there forever, and I seriously mean forever, I had a number of nurses come and introduce themselves to me, and tell me I was okay - I think everyone knew how nervous I was.

I laid in that bed for a while. Bored. Lots of thoughts rushing through my head. Thinking about lots of the things and people in my life right now. Anything positive that would keep my mind off of the fact that I was going to be cut open and messed with. Finally, the Doc showed up. We talked for a minute, and then he was gone. Then I finally started moving - I watched the ceiling tiles one by one, while I felt my heart rate begin to go back up - I tried to divert my thoughts back to happier things, but then we entered the surgical room. and despite my contacts being out - I could clearly see the large table with huge lights hanging above it.

I remember being lifted from the moving bed, onto the surgery table.
I remember looking up at the lights.
I remember someone telling me they were going to put something in my nose to help me breath.

Nurse: "Hey there, how are you feeling?"
Me: "I didn't even get to count backwards..."

I don't remember the anesthesia at all. I don't know when it happened. My last surgery in 2001 - they put the ask over my face and asked me to count backwards from 20. I remember saying 19, and that's it. This time - BAM. Wake up. No counting.

Nurse: "We don't really do that here."
Me: "Really? That sucks, I really wanted to count backwards."
Nurse: "I'm sorry..."

And then I dropped it. It was no more. It was over. Probably because I really needed to get up and go to the bathroom. Amazingly, I was awake and alert when I got up. I felt good, I felt fine. I made it to the bathroom - no problems. I got dressed - no problems. I could not get my contacts in, so I just waited until I got home and put in two brand new ones.

I honestly felt good most of the night. I wasn't in too much pain, at first. Over time, it became obvious to me that whatever wonderful numbing stuff they used on my groin - it faded away over time. As the night went on, it hurt more and more to move. Luckily, I get the pleasure of taking Vicodin! Yippy! They seem to help, and I'm sticking to the 2 pills per four hours requirement, even though near the end of the third hour, I'm in pretty significant pain.

I had done some DVD work for Jason McNear, so he swung by after he got off work, and talked to me while I finished it up and made him a second copy. McNear had previously had this surgery, so we got to talk about it a lot, and he told me what his recovery was like.

Later on, my Parents came back over. They bought me a thermometer, because I'm supposed to call the doctor if I ever get a temperature over 100 degrees. Luckily, I feel fine, although my last temp was 97.0 - which is a little low. Oh well, I feel just fine. My parents hung out for a little while, and we had a good talk.

Some friends had texts waiting for me when I got home.
Some new I would be home around 5pm, so I got texts from them almost right at 5pm.
Around 6pm, I sent out a mass text to my friends, letting them know that I was alive and well. I got a lot of responses from people, and some of my closer friends and I carried on some longer conversations. Zach called me and we talked for a while. He's thinking about stopping by tomorrow night after work. Sarah and I had a couple of long texts, she's been really helpful and supportive over the past few days. Jim called and said that he and Jae are planning on bringing over some pizza tomorrow night. Mike and I had a lot of conversations, and he kept offering to bring various food items over to me, but I told him to just go out and enjoy Tuesday Night at The Fox - where we all typically hang out on Tuesday nights. I think Mike might stop by at some point tomorrow too.

Troy, Dave, and Justin all left nice supportive messages on my blog. And Jason called me last night.

I'm blessed. I really am. I've got amazing Parents who have helped me through all of this. I've got some great Friends who have been super supportive, and are all willing to do a number of nice things for me, while I'll immobile. I'm blessed.

And now I'm on my road to recovery. In 2004, I weight 170lbs. Today I weighed in at 205lbs. I don't know if the hernia is entirely to blame - but I know it's prevented me from working out on a regular basis. It's made almost all physical activities painful. Hopefully, in six weeks, I can begin to start exercising and working out again - and with any luck, drop my weight back down to 170. I wasn't happy at 170 when I was there, but I will be happier there than where I am at.

Today is the start of a new life for me. Less pain. Better positive mental attitude.

My Five Year Long Ordeal of Pain is coming to a close. The finish line is in sight, and I can't wait to get there. Life is beginning to look up again. And after some of the texts I exchanged today - I think I have a lot to look forward to in the future.

1 comment:

Eric Scott Sheldon said...

Shane, I am glad to hear that you are recovering! Thank you for being so open and honest. I will be continuing to keep you in my prayers.