Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Best Saturday Ever

Ever since Stephen and I have been married – life has been really crazy. Our first year of marriage was my first year of teaching – enough said. Then, as I concluded my first year, Stephen began PA school. A few short months later, I started teaching a new grade level and began grad school. All of that to say, Saturdays were a day of catch-up – whether it be with laundry, school work, studying, grad school, cleaning, grading papers, grocery shopping, etc. There was always something!

But this past Saturday was different...

Stephen and I slept in until about 10ish – which I never usually sleep in – usually I get up early on a Saturday to get a head start on my never ending to-do list. Then, I made cinnamon rolls (Pillsbury actually made them! I got them from Publix for 25 cents – I am becoming a coupon freak! More on that later maybe…)

We watched the end of game day and some college football. After we ate breakfast, I turned to Stephen and said, “Let’s go to the flea market today.” I added that it was a beautiful day and it would be so nice to spend quality time together (fully anticipating a "no way" response). He agreed – I was a little shocked. It helped that he kind of had a break from school this weekend as he just finished his first clinical and starts his new one tomorrow.

Off we headed to the flea market… I was like a kid on Christmas morning. It has been a long time since I have bought anything for our home. We were only there for a few hours, but I came up with some good buys…

I saw this wrought iron lamp and loved it...

I got it for a mere 12 bucks. It looks pretty plain in the picture, but I still like it a lot. It needs to be re-wired (probably), painted, and a shade – but all of that will be a fraction of the cost of buying a brand new lamp that size.

Then, I found this mirror.

Two sisters were manning the booth. They call their business, “The Vintage Sisters.” One sister sews and the other paints – they refinish furniture, chalk boards, windows, etc. They make all sorts of pillows; some with silhouettes painted on them, some with a chandelier painted on them with diamonds, and others with flowers sewed on - which screams vintage and AWESOME to me. I really loved all their stuff! I wrote my email address on their email list because they send out pictures of new things they complete. Basically, the sisters give you first dibs on their stuff. It is all at a great price too. The other great thing is – the ladies are normal. If I had to meet up with them to get a piece of furniture – it wouldn’t be creepy. Here is their blog, if you are interested: www.2vintage Their blog is not quite as impressive as their booth.

The last and biggest find was two golf clubs. Stephen found a 5 wood and a hybrid for about $100 less than their asking price on EBay. Yes, he came home and jumped on the internet to see just how good of a deal he got! While we watched college football, he sat with his clubs in hand, swinging them in the air. He could not put them down. You would have thought Christmas was in September at our house on Saturday!

Then, Stephen and I cleaned up our house and had the Lexington boys (and their wives, of course) over that evening to watch UK get slaughtered by the Gators. We ordered pizza and hung out. I don’t think I have laughed that much in a long time!

It was the best Saturday ever.

It hit me this weekend that even though I see Stephen a lot, it is not the same as spending time together. Because we have been so busy with the school thing, it is like we have been roommates for the last year or more – which can be a drag at times. It was so nice to feel like a normal, married couple this weekend!

Here's to seven more rotations in PA school! Good luck to Stephen starting his peds clinical tomorrow!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

11 Months...

In 11 months from today, Stephen will be officially done with PA school. While my mom often reminds me not to wish my life away - I want to make it clear that I'm not wishing it away - I am merely wishing that the fast-forward button be pressed YESTERDAY. That's all.

Stephen is half way done with his first clinical rotation. He has been at Elite (where he previously worked before PA school). He has followed Dr. Willers, their foot and ankle specialist, where he got to stitch up patients at the end of each surgery he observed. Then he spent time with Dr. Dovan, the hand specialist, and Joce, my sister and nurse practitioner, for a week each. You are probably thinking: awkward! Believe it or not, Joce and Stephen get along really well. It helps that they are both pretty laid back. The next three weeks will be with Dr. Elrod, who I think Stephen is looking forward to spending time with the most.

School has definitely been less intense since clinicals began or Stephen is beginning to get "senioritis," not sure which one. All I know is the ole debit card has been swiped quite frequently at golf courses lately. He continues to say almost daily that he is behind, but those are words that I have been hearing for 18 months. When he first started school, I would get nervous that that meant he wouldn't pass a test - and freak out! Now I just say, "You can do it!" with a smile and move on with my life. The day I found out about my blood clot and was admitted to the hospital, Stephen started studying for his Pharm final at about 9 pm. I think he studied until 1 or 2 in the morning, and then got very little sleep that night in the hospital. He ended up getting an 81% on the final, the class average being an 80%. Needless to say, I don't waste my time worrying anymore.

During clinicals he has to document most of the patients he sees, complete courses online and such, and prepare a research project that he will present in the spring. He decided this last week to do his research on lateral epicondylitis (a.k.a. tennis elbow). The plan is to research/learn about new treatment options for people with this condition. Very exciting, I know.

When I say 11 months left of PA school that also means only 11 months left of my graduate education. Be prepared to hear loud yelling and ridiculously annoying, high-pitched honking from the Civic on August 5, 2011. It will be us - you can pretend you don't know us for that brief celebration. But don't come knocking on our door when little Jimmy hurt his leg and/or can't read. We will ignore you! Ha! Just kidding!

My grad school took an interesting turn this semester. I persistently tried to get in contact with my advisor for about a week with no luck. Once I got in touch with her, she said that we decided last spring that I wouldn't take any classes this fall. I thought the plan was to take 6 hours during the fall and spring semesters and 1 hour in the summer - which equals 13 hours left. She informed me that our plan was to skip this semester and take 6 hours in the spring and 9 hours over the summer, which equals 15 hours left. Whatever! It wasn't worth arguing. I asked her if there was something I could take this semester. She said one of the classes I needed is offered, but it started the previous Saturday. It only met three times - so I had already missed 1/3 of the class - not an option. They were offering the same class in Knoxville at UT that would be half online and half face-to-face for 2 Saturdays from 8 - 5. I signed up for the class to prevent taking so many hours over the next two semesters. I got an email on Friday informing me that the class was cancelled due to too few students signed-up for it. I am back to zero hours. At least I made an effort to take something AND I don't have to drive to Knoxville now! I’m just hoping I will still graduate in August…

Here's to 11 more months of educational bliss!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Advice: Never Brag On Your Facebook Status!

Or you might get one of these on your wrist…

On the morning of Monday, August 2, I wrote “Can’t wait to be in California in two days!” on my Facebook status. Literally, seven hours later I am lying on a medical table getting an ultra sound on my leg to find out that I have a blood clot. For those of you who don’t know, blood clot equals no flying. [Insert cuss word here.]

A week prior, I started experiencing minor groin pains; thinking it was a pulled muscle. The pain got worse, but improved over the weekend. After I updated my Facebook status, I went to school to work in my classroom, trying to get everything all set-up before leaving for California that Wednesday; my right leg swelled up pretty bad and it did not have the best coloring – kind of purplish.

Stephen joked that my leg looked about the size it did when I ran track. However, he was very concerned and immediately called my sister to get me in at Elite. They decided a Doppler (an ultra sound), to rule out the possibility of a blood clot, was in order. As I left for Elite, I asked Stephen if this would be an all-day affair as I had much to do before leaving for California. His response was: "No, just a couple of hours or so."

Once I got to Elite, everyone could not believe my leg. Joce looked at it for about 10 seconds and sent me off for the Doppler. Her comment as I left: "I will be shocked if it is a blood clot, you are only 24."

Within five to ten minutes of the tech squeezing gel on my leg, she informed me that I had a blood clot in my superficial femoral and common femoral vein (a.k.a. in my groin area). I immediately broke down. The poor lady doing the ultra sound didn't really know what to do. It was pretty clear at that point that California was out of the picture. I think I was more upset about missing our much anticipated trip than the fact that I had a clot in my body. I remember praying: "God, I know you have a plan for my life - but seriously?!?!" I made sure to let Him know I didn't agree with this path.

I called Stephen as soon as I could and he made his way to Baptist. The nurses told me I could go back to my doctor - so I literally walked out of the hospital to meet up with Stephen - which surprised me a little. You would think they wouldn't have allowed me to walk.

Since Elite's forte is not blood clotting, Dr. Elrod called and referred me to a good friend and fellow Titan's doctor, Dr. Williams. We headed to Dr. William's office where we were told he was running behind and would probably have to wait at least an hour to an hour and a half to be seen. They called my name about 15 minutes later and had Stephen and I sit in his personal office. It is nice to know the right people sometimes.

After waiting a little while, Dr. Williams met with us. What an interesting character! He recommended that I be admitted to the hospital for the evening. He also suggested a procedure where a surgeon goes in and unblocks the clot. Dr. Williams felt strongly about trying this surgery because I was young and active. At that point, he had never referred anyone for the procedure with a blood clot in the leg. He immediately took me off birth control – but was convinced it was largely due to my family history (it runs in my dad’s side of the family).

Next thing I know, a wheel chair comes to me. It is funny - I walked all over the place that day - but the second they say, "We are admitting you," they act like your legs have been cut off. In fact, when we were waiting at admitting, I needed to use the restroom. So I got up and the lady at the front desk became all frantic and told me that she would have to follow me to the bathroom. Then, she asked the lady who was doing our paperwork; if I could use their staff restroom (it was closer – it was obvious she didn’t want to get up!). The next thing you know, they come out with a wheel chair ready to take me to my room. If I hadn't tried to get up to use the restroom, I am convinced we would have sat there for another hour.
Note: If you are sick of waiting to be admitted, say you need to go to the bathroom. It speeds up the process.

While being wheeled to my room, I passed about twenty patients who were at least 70 years old. Awesome! Once I was brought to my room, I went to the bathroom that had one of those stools for old people to sit on in the shower and it smelled like urine. I just bawled like a baby (that was one of many tearful moments during that day). Stephen tried to console me. Then, I lay on the bed that all of a sudden made noises and started increasing pressure. I jumped up and had another break down. This was such a traumatic deal due to a time when I was three and cracked my head open needing 37 stitches. Ever since then, I have hated hospitals - everything about them! This was also the first time I had ever had to stay over night in a hospital. I was sitting on Stephen's lap when the nurse came to check me in. She had to be thinking: "Are you 4?"

Within thirty minutes of arriving in my room, I had an IV started, about 15 vials of blood drawn, and a shot in my stomach (Lovenox – for you medical people out there!). They know how to make a person feel special. By the way, the worst part about the hospital is the IV. It bothered me more than anything. They had to put it in on my forearm because they had a hard time finding a vein on the top of my hand. For some reason, it hurt to bend my arm and ached quite a bit.

Because it took us so long to get admitted, we missed the vascular surgeon. Even though we did not make a decision about the surgery, the surgeon already had given specific orders as if I were going to have surgery the following day.

Once I got a shower, I watched the Finale of the Bachlorette with my sister. Then, it was TV off for Stephen to study for his Pharm final the next day. He got a lot of studying in that day - NOT!

I survived the first night. I didn't sleep well at all with my leg aching quite a bit, the bed increasing and releasing pressure every 10 seconds, the anxiety of the whole deal, and the nurse or tech coming in about every two hours. I don't think Stephen slept much either - tossing and turning in a reclining chair.

The next morning, a vascular surgeon, Dr. Keyser, arrived early. He gave us the history of how blood clots have been handled and how they reached the new procedure they have today. It was clearly evident that the procedure was the best option for us. Dr. Keyser explained that without the procedure, I could run into some chronic leg swelling and issues 20-30 years down the line. The surgery included inserting an inferior vena cava filter using a needle through my groin on my left (good) leg. The filter is used to catch any remnants of the clot from the procedure and is left in for about 6 months. Then, flipping me over and feeding a needle up my right leg through the back of my knee to drop medicine on the clot to dissolve it. The procedure would take about 2 hours to complete. He also made it clear that everyone in my family should be tested again for clotting disorders. He said he would be shocked if it was just birth control that created the clot.

Shortly after, Stephen left to take his final. Adam and KB, some best friends of ours, came to keep me company. KB helped me get to the bathroom with my IV. Then, Adam went with me to get a CT scan. He waited with me for about an hour - making me laugh. I really appreciated all the magazines they brought and their support!

Next thing I know, I was making my way to surgery. I waited in the surgery prep room for about an hour. All the personnel in the room couldn't believe I was a "Keyser" patient because he typically has much older clientele. At one point, one of the anesthesiologists turned to his co-worker and said, "Check out this Keyser patient." The co-worker looks straight at me and goes "Where? I don't see one.” They thought it was so funny. I just smiled and probably became extremely red. The anesthesiologist informed me that I would be under general anesthesia for the filter part and then local for the second part of the surgery.

While I was in surgery, a couple of Stephen’s good friends from school, Stacey and Maci, came to the hospital during my surgery to study with him.

Having the surgery was definitely the right call. When they went in, they found that 8 – 10 inches of my vein was completely blocked. When they dropped the first round of medicine on the clot, the fresh clot dissolved. However, 80% of my vein was still narrowed due to scarring and clots I had been building up for months. Once they got the vein all cleaned out, they put in a four inch stent. It is amazing they were able to do all that with only two needle holes in my body and not a single stitch.

When I awoke from the anesthesia, I was shivering and shaking horribly and felt miserable. I was kind of moaning in pain because I felt really sick and had to pee. When I told them I needed to pee (yes, I used the word “pee” – there is no being formal when you aren’t feeling good!) The nurse looked at me and goes: “Just pee - you have a catheter in!” Excuse me, what? I also remember all these people telling me I was going to be okay. They told me I was cold from the OR. They put about five blankets on me and a bear hugger. Amidst all the chaos, Dr. Keyser came up to me and said everything went well and I was going to feel like I got beat up for a while. I thought, “Check – already do!” After a few minutes, I was settled down. Once I was calm, they took about 10 more vials of blood. The nurse that took my blood, however, is a guy that Stephen used to work with at Elite. Not typically the way I like to meet people - but at that time - I don't think I cared too much. Shortly after his shift was over, he went up to my hospital room where Stephen and my sister were waiting. He went up to let them know that I was doing okay. I thought that was very kind of him.

Then, I told a nurse that I was about to sweat. He couldn't believe how many blankets were on me. I still felt very achy and uncomfortable. I thought that was just apart of it. I just had surgery after all. I could hardly stand the pain anymore, so I mentioned to my nurse that I didn't feel well. The next thing I know he is putting Dilaudid into my IV. I instantaneously felt this warmth gradually come all over my body and I felt like I was in heaven. I know why people become addicted to pain killers. When he gave me the medicine, my heart rate went a little too low (in the 40’s). I was a little too relaxed. They asked me to take deep breaths, but that didn't suffice, so they put me on oxygen. It took a long time for the tests to come back, so I waited in the recovery room for a couple of hours. I'll be honest, I didn't really care. I was loving life.

Around 8 o'clock on Tuesday night, I made it back to my room. Joce convinced Stephen that he needed to go home, study, and actually get a good night's rest before his last final. She stayed with me instead.

I was much more relaxed that night and slept as well as expected. I was released from the hospital the following morning after Stephen finished his final exam. To celebrate, we went to Williams Medical Supply and picked up an $80 pair of constriction socks (a little more than normal Ted-Hose) on our way home from the hospital. Ha!

While this was quite an event for me, I am confident in six months I will rarely think about it. I am thankful that it was caught and taken care of properly. I am also very fortunate to have great doctors caring for me. I couldn't have asked for better. The nurses, techs, and all the other medical staff that I came in contact with were so nice and helpful. It was a really positive experience. I also believe now, more than ever, the single most amazing person in my life is Stephen. He was my rock in the hospital while he juggled studying for finals. Huge thanks also to my sister for being my “mom” in the hospital! And last, my hospital fears have definitely been diminished. Maybe God had a plan after all.

Since then, I have been telling people that it was a minor procedure (I was up walking around like nothing had happened less than 24 hours after the surgery.) Then, one day Stephen goes, “Jill, there was nothing minor about what happened. You act like you got a mole removed. Anytime you have surgery where they completely put you under is a big deal. Your vein was completely blocked! They had to give you medicine, so that the remnants of the clot wouldn’t clog up your kidneys. I mean all that is a big deal.” Opps!

I have become a frequent doctor visitor in the last month – which I am realizing is not fun! But I found out that all my blood tests came back negative or within normal range. In other words, I do not have the “clotting gene” or a clotting disorder. My Lupus Anti-Coagulant was also within normal range – which is good for pregnancy sake. That also means I won’t have to take the Lovenox shots when I am pregnant – which is a wonderful thing because they sting! Those tests also mean that I will be off Coumadin in two months! You know it’s bad when you are taking the same medication as your 81 year old grandfather!

However, when I went to a post-op visit with the vascular surgeon, he basically said “Those tests are not always the most accurate.” In other words, I am going to have to watch it for the rest of my life. I also went to my OBGYN who looked at me and said “Pregnancy will sure be fun with you!” That is not what you want to hear! According to both doctors, even though the blood tests came back normal, I will still be watched carefully and have to explain my medical history clearly with any new medical personnel in the future.

My uncle has a good friend who is a doctor. He informed my uncle that clotting due to birth control is more and more common now in girls my age. He said that clotting disorders are not usually passed through the X chromosome – so it is rare that females have it. He is 99.9% sure it was due to birth control. He didn’t forget to mention the whole high risk pregnancy part too. That phrase has haunted me lately!

Regardless, I am doing well and living life as if nothing happened – other than taking a few more meds.

Believe it or not, Monday, August 2 was one of the first times I had ever updated my status on Facebook. Needless to say, I will probably never do it again!