In October of 2017 I had my GJtube surgically changed into two separate tubes – a jtube and a gtube – after months of tube trouble due to my severe dysmotility throughout my GI tract. This surgery was insanely painful due to complications brought on due to my EDS, so my recovery was long painful, and during that time I relied on my parents for EVERYTHING. I couldn’t sit up in bed on my own, couldn’t walk, shower, brush my hair, or seemingly do anything else because all of these movements require abdominal contractions/tension and every time that happened I was in excruciating pain.
It was during that time that I began thinking about how lucky I was to have my 24/7 support team who were there for me always, no matter what, no complaining, and I just couldn’t bear the thought of anyone going through this alone, so I decided to be there for every tubie I could. Chronic illnesses are one of those “find out who your real friends are” situations and it can be brutal and shocking seeing who it is who puts the effort in, my goal is to step up and be that person when I can, but also to encourage others to do the same; so two years and lots of work later, over 300 packages have been sent out to first time tubies.
To celebrate this milestone we’ve started a shirt fundraiser to raise money to contribute to Newbie Tubie Care Packages!
Living with chronic illnesses or other conditions that cause one to be unable to eat enough to sustain themselves on their own and cause the need for a feeding tube is incredibly challenging, and that’s a massive understatement. Imagine life without your favorite foods , without the ability to go out for ice cream or coffee or a drink with friends, not sitting around the table and eating thanksgiving with your loved ones, having to come up with options not involving food for social gatherings or first dates, and explaining to people why you aren’t eating or what that little knobby thing on your tummy is.
Feeding tubes require incredible strength and self awareness, they are life changing, but they are nothing to be ashamed of, they are a gift that gives life back to more people than you would ever imagine – young and old, boys and girls, and due to so many different causes or conditions, feeding tubes are so much more than just a life sustaining piece of plastic, so join us in spreading awareness and celebrating year 2 of Newbie Tubies as well as the gift that so many of us are given through feeding tubes – the gift of nutrition, energy, and a life we may not have had without them.
Whether you’re a tubie or not, purchasing a shirt shows your support and love for tubies and contributes to our care package program that sends packages (free of cost) to first time tubies. No matter where your strength comes from, these shirts represent that strength.
We run on donations and these shirts are super cute, so it’s a win-win! You do not have to be a tubie to be Tubie Strong! Purchase a shirt for yourself and wear it proudly, no shame, just strength and power in your self and appreciation for the gifts we often take for granted.
Medical trauma and medical PTSD are two of the most under-identified and misunderstood occurrences in today’s medical system, even in our own developed, educated country. Doctors are supposed to be trustworthy and well intentioned, they even take a vow to do no harm. From day one we are taught to put trust in doctors, nurses, and any other medical professional, trust them with our personal thoughts, habits, and of course our bodies, our minds; hospitals and doctors offices are supposed to be “safe zones” if we need help… but is this always the case?
From my years of battling chronic illnesses I’ve seen TONS of doctors, specialists, nurses, xray techs, med students, etc. and it’s shocking how some of them treat patients. I can give you handfuls of personal experience with negligence, betrayal, false accusations and biases, and personal traumatic experiences brought on by the medical systems, doctors and nurses themselves. I’ve gotten to a point where I have anxiety over new doctors, a true fear of admissions to the hospitals who are said to be there for treatment, help, healing. I’ve been denied medical treatments by insurance agents who don’t even have a degree in medicine or pharmacology, but choose money over my quality of life. There’s so much more to the medical system than the average person imagines, and the impact reaches far beyond the exam table.
To share another perspective, I’ve been given permission to quote the testimony of one of the kindest, most respectful and compassionate fellow “spoonies” that I have gotten to know thanks to online networks that let us find one another with just a hashtag.
So, thank you Nicole, and here we go…
“Ever since I started struggling more and more with my medical trauma and also was recently officially diagnosed with medical PTSD so I wanted to spread awareness about how traumatic this chronic life can be. From doctors treating you badly, to traumatic surgeries or procedures to doctors not believing you to life threatening situations there are unfortunately many possible traumatic parts of being sick and/or disabled and it needs to be talked about more.
Vivid nightmares. Anxiety and panic attacks. Depression. Avoidance. Flashbacks and intrusive memories. Always on guard. Easily startled. Trouble experiencing positive emotions. Loss of interest in things that you enjoy. Trouble sleeping and concentrating. Irritability. Guilt.
These are just some of the things that come along with medical trauma or PTSD.
Unlike with some other types of trauma, for us who are complex chronically ill and/or disabled patients we literally cannot avoid our trauma. We cannot avoid hospitals, doctors, medications, treatments, surgeries, etc. This makes coping with and healing from medical trauma very very challenging. For me even little things like doing my daily line and tube care can bring on flashbacks of sepsis hospitalizations and awake, painful IR procedures and things like new patient appointments can bring on severe anxiety about possibly not being believed. This can cause us to generalize all our trauma and have anxiety and PTSD symptoms around everything medical not just the traumatic event/s. For me I get awful anxiety when I have any kind of medical appointment due to the trauma being brought back through intrusive memories, feeling unsafe and a strong urge to run/get home ASAP, agitation, impatience, feeling like I may literally explode from anxiety and panic and much more.
All trauma, no matter what it is or how severe, is real, valid, important and is deserving of healing, therapy, support, treatment etc.
Medical Trauma and medical PTSD needs more awareness so doctors, nurses, medical professionals etc can be aware that it exists, that is a huge struggle for the patients that deal with it every single day, and learn how to help it and do everything they can to try to prevent it.
We have to strive to make healthcare *Human*Care so that medical trauma and PTSD stops for good and no one else ever has to go through such a horrific condition again! Maybe if medical professionals treated us as actual HUMANS – not just another medical case – many of these traumatic situations could be avoided.”
Time for a Newbie Tubie Update! I am so excited to share that Newbie Tubies has had a huge increase in the number of applications we have received for packages. This is fabulous news, I couldn’t be happier to have this project be so successful and to be able to help so many new tubies adjust to life with feeding tubes.
In all honesty, this huge increase in apps is also a bit overwhelming for me, as a tubie myself, being the one who goes through each application and has to approve or deny each applicant, each fellow tubie… it’s not an easy task! But when I finally get to begin picking out items and pack each package, specialized for each unique, first time tubie, I’m reminded of why this is important work, why I started this project in the first place.
Being able to do this is such a gift, it’s a gift for the tubies who receive the packages, but it also a gift to me and to anyone else who has the chance to experience what it is like to help others go through this strange and misunderstood transition.
Many people have offered support in a multitude of ways, but to share this incredible gift with more people, both tubies & “normal” /healthy people, or donors, I’ve decided to begin offering the opportunity to sponsor a tubie package. I will always take “blind” donations, but if you are interested in knowing where your money is going, or if you want to do the shopping yourself, I am so happy to share this experience with you.
I have applications for new tubies of both genders that range from ages 0-30years and sometimes older.If you’re interested in sponsoring someone close in age to you or your child, I can almost definitely find you an application that fits the bill. I will not be providing any personal information about the tubie, but I will provide a list of that individual’s interests as well as the “Tubie Shopping List” to help guide you in your shopping; you can also add in anything else that would fit in the package and make sense for your tubies age/gender. After you shop, I would add in the tube items that you likely wouldn’t be able to get on your own as well as our tip lists, donor lists, and Newbie Tubie info before shipping it off.
This process is very similar to the angel tree or shoe box gifts you often see around Christmas time, but this is year round and a bit more specific. There will always be tubies in need of support; sadly, the medical system doesn’t always do a great job at preparing children, parents, young adults, etc. about the transition period to tube feeding or what it means long term. A lot can go unsaid which leaves a lot of room for confusion and unnecessary panic.
**With a donation of $25 or more, you are paying for shipping ($14) and helping pay for some of the extra items in the packages. $30-$45 would sponsor the whole package, all supplies and shipping.
***If you donate $25 or more, you can sponsor a package AND get a painting of your choice from the selection in this album, all of which are originals made by me, Positively Rachel’s Art.***
I do, of course, accept monetary donations, as well; monetary donations play a vital role in covering shipping costs– each package costs $13 just to ship! So, whether it be $5 to help me buy a few new mini hand sanitizers or $50 to cover package & shipping (maybe more!), you’re helping make this project happen. For that, I am thankful, and you should feel good for helping others during a hard transitional period in their lives that (most of) you can be glad you won’t ever have to deal with. (knock on wood)
My artwork is where majority of Newbie Tubie funds come from; I sell abstract, acrylic paintings and notecards with prints of my art/photography as well as bags, onesies, shirts, and more with vinyl prints to spread awareness & raise funds! You can order my art through the blog or through private messaging (instagram, facebook, email), and I do take custom orders as well; all of my profits from the art sales go towards what supplies are not donated & shipping costs for Newbie Tubies.
The easiest way to donate or pay for paintings is through paypal (firstname.lastname@example.org), but I do take cash and checks as well.
This is a stellar opportunity to do something really meaningful, to pay it forward.
Help me by sharing this, if you’re a tubie/spoonie or if you’ve received one of my packages, share how the packages helped you, share a bit about the challenges or what you’ve learned in your journey.
Thank you for reading, donating/purchasing, and for supporting both the Newbie Tubie packages and my art.
I never could have imagined needing a feeding tube at 18 years old, and now, at 22 years old, I am still relying on my tube(s) — now I have two tubes and a central line. I’ve had tubes for so long and learned so much that now I’m able to teach others about them! My life took a huge change in direction when my health took a turn for the worst and had my tube placed; suddenly I was experiencing so many changes in my lifestyle and my body. I began to feel like I had zero control over my own body, and everything I had planned for my life, my future, began to slip away with every day, month, year, that my illnesses progressed. My feeding tubes took a little while to get used to, physically and mentally, because they cause bloating, they stick out through certain clothes, and they can leak and be kinda gross…but they also saved my life.
Learning to love your feeding tubes as well as yourself, both your body and your lifestyle, can be a challenge at first…I struggled for a long time to find confidence and acceptance of both my body and my tubes, I still struggle almost every day to pick out a shirt that doesn’t hug my tubes or my central line too tight or pants with a waistline that doesn’t hit my jtube… it’s not easy to feel confident when you feel like you’re the only one who looks like this, the only one with tubes, alone in the journey you’re facing.. my goal is to help others feel less alone.
Here are a few of my tips for adjusting to tube life and learning to accept the tubes as well as all of the way those tubes affect you, your body, and your lifestyle..
1. It can be hard adjusting to tube feeding and not feeling in control of your own body, but you should never feel ashamed of the tubes or the changes they can bring to your body. These tubes keep you alive every day. It may take time to come to accepting this addition to your body, and that’s absolutely okay, totally normal; but always remember that health comes first!
2. You get a feeding tube to restore your body and increase both strength and energy. Feeding tubes may be a bit of a pain, but they are meant to give you your life back,not take it away. Never give up on your dreams or your goals, although everyone’s healing times are different, and we all have different underlying causes/conditions, feeding tubes themselves don’t need to be looked at as a disability or a limitation; in fact, for many, they are the opposite.
3. Trying to eat while you’re a tubie is not anything to be ashamed of, and it does notinvalidate your need for your tubes. Many people (with tubes) have a couple “safe foods” or still drink liquids, some can only suck on a piece of candy here or there, but either way, food or no food, you are still you, and only you know your body. If you can tolerate any oral intake and your doctor is okay with it, attempting to keep your system “awake” even with an occasional, tiny snack can be good and in no way invalidates your need for a tube.
4. Try to stay social! Being so sick and having a surgery like this often leaves one feeling exhausted, worn out both physically and mentally from the pain and inability to care for ones self; when getting out of bed is a painful challenge and showering takes more energy than was stored up for a whole week, it’s easy to get discouraged . Getting dressed and going out takes a ton of energy, but it is so good to get out, it’s too easy to become isolated! Friends will only take rejection so many times before they stop asking to hang out; even just suggesting a movie night or spa day at home is a great option to see friends, make plans, but not use as much energy. Your health comes first, but part of taking care of yourself means taking care of your mental/emotional health too, and having a healthy social life and support network is so important during times like these.
5. Feeling down in the dumps? During recovery and during challenging times throughout your journey it is so easy to slip into a “chronic illness mindset,” which essentially means that to some degree, many have a time of feeling a loss and grievance over a “pre-illness” self, a self that can begin to disappear when illness takes over and we lose some of our abilities to function in the “normal” ways, or in the “normal,” functioning world.
If you sense yourself falling into one of these times, I highly suggest finding a way to remind yourself of your goals, your dreams, yourself. Try creating a vision board, definitely one of my favorite ways to remind myself of where I was before illness and where I want to go now, what I want to do in my future, and all of the things past, present, and future that give me hope and motivation. Just begin by thinking of all of your goals and dreams, even the totally unrealistic ones (being a mermaid, traveling the world in 30 days, learning to fly, etc.), and cut out pictures and words and quotes in bright, bold photos or lettering and then make a collage on cardboard or a tack board, heck put it on your wall if you want! Hang it in a place where you spend the most time and allow it to encourage happy thoughts and positive thinking 🙂
I know people saying “mind over matter” and “just think positively, distract yourself” can be really frustrating or degrading, but positivity really is important if you want to make it through these transition periods and through your journey with chronic illnesses in general.
I plan to continue with more tips soon as well as some personal experiences with tubes, both good and bad 🙂 I am also going to be making a new vision board, and I will post a guide of how I did it when I can 🙂
Thanks for reading, don’t forget to check out the tubie items & artwork in the shop! Every purchase supports the Newbie Tubie Project, enabling us to send out another package & help another tubie adjust to life with tubes.
** i am not a medical professional, just an experienced tubie sharing my experiences as well as those of other tubies who help me compile information to help inform others about what “tubie life” is like and how to make the best of it 🙂 Please consult your physicians before changing any medical treatments/procedures.
The doctors work forYOU. Not the other way around. If a doctor (or a nurse, tech, or anyone else in the medical system) treats you with any less respect or dignity than you deserve, consider finding a new specialist.
No question is a bad question. There are awkward questions and there can be a boatload of questions, but all of them are important. Ask until you’re satisfied, even if the doctor is acting rushed or distracted. Your health and confidence is more important than anything else.
Some surgeons aren’t big talkers – they like to get the job done; make a list of questions and concerns and make sure to ask them the first time you see them pre-op/post-op or during your follow ups, it could be the only time you see them!
Recovery can be even more challenging than surgery itself. Have people who will be around to help you or at least set up some people to come visit and check on you each day. Before surgery, set up a place by your bed or couch where you can keep some essential items so you won’t have to get up and down every time you need something.
Don’t push yourself! There are no “shoulds” with chronic illnesses or tube feeding. If recovery is taking longer than planned, take some time off from school or work if you are able to! Learn that it is okay to say no when your friends want to go out to eat or get drinks late on a Friday night, if you feel cruddy or just don’t want to be around food, it’s okay to stay in or suggest a different plan. No guilt.
Learn to advocate for yourself. It can be hard to really get doctors to understand what you truly feel and then to get what you need to be comfortable. Be persistent and thorough in explaining symptoms and how it affects your life. If you aren’t good at being forward, take a parent, spouse, relative, or friend who can help make sure everything gets covered.
These are just a few of the major tips for getting started with “tube life,” but they’re applicable throughout the journey with feeding tubes and really with any chronic illness. Learning to manage your case, advocate for yourself, and stay on top of appointments/doctors, questions, and treatments both past and present can be a big task, but staying organized and figuring out early on what methods work best for you to manage it all is really beneficial in the long run.
Keep your eyes out for more tips, the next round will be more tubie-specific regarding tube care and what to look out for vs what not to get freaked out over! 🙂
Thanks for reading and I hope it was helpful! If you have questions or suggestions don’t hesitate to comment or message me!
**Happy Feeding Tube Awareness Week! This is the first new post, keep your eyes open this week for more posts including but not limited to : Tips for Tubies, a project update, New tubies: Products to start with and where to get them, more on my personal experiences, and a special video! It’s also a great week to buy a painting or send a donation to Newbie Tubie Care Packages, so click here if you’re interested in more information on that :)**
Next month, in March of 2k18, I will celebrate both my 22nd birthday and my 3 year tube-iversary. In March of 2015 I was in school at UVA where I celebrated my 19th birthday on March 8th and then was admitted to the hospital the next week with a blood infection from my central line, which was keeping me nourished and hydrated at the time. On March 24th I was again admitted to the hospital for surgery to place my first long term feeding tube, a GJ tube that went through my stomach and into my intestine where I get my feeds.
Although I’ve had gastroparesis since high school, I never could have imagined that my case would become so severe, leaving me with a feeding tube(s) that could be part of my life indefinitely, taking me out of school, and changing the way I was able to plan for the future. When I first got my tube, my doctors hoped it would only be for a few months or maybe a year if I was really struggling, but we had no idea that my “flare” was about to become my new normal. Instead of having a few months of worsened symptoms like I had in the past, I waited a year… and then another year… and now another year with no relief.
After I finished my first year of college my health was at an all time low and I wasn’t able to go back to school in the fall. My tubes did help my nutrition, but I never tolerated them well enough to get in as much feed as the doctors wanted me to, never enough to gain a lot of weight back. It’s been three years on medical leave now; my classmates, my friends, will graduate in the spring and I won’t have had another day to be there with them.
My parents and I worked so hard to find answers, anything that would bring even partial relief; our original goal was that I could go back to school, but after a year and a half of incredibly severe symptoms and the addition of 3-4 new diagnoses, our goals became things like, “getting Rachel out of the house more… helping get her able to volunteer or babysit sometimes,” and at my worst times, it’s just “getting Rachel more energy and less pain/nausea so she can get out of bed…” From the Fall of 2015 through Summer of 2016, I saw at least three different specialists who are top in the nation on my conditions. Sadly, there are only a few medications that are used for gastroparesis, most of them not even FDA approved, and they can have nasty side effects.
My last (and current) motility specialist is at the Cleveland Clinic and is considered to be one of the top specialists in the world on gastroparesis and dysmotility conditions. He did extensive testing to find a root cause of my GP and to try to find a treatment option, but what we found out is that my gastroparesis had gotten so bad that the numbers were matched with only one other girl’s testing as the second worst cases in CC records. I actually met the other girl online and have been able to talk to her and compare notes and, sadly, she’s still struggling in huge ways—she could use your thoughts/prayers.
Because my dysmotility (lack of motion, “motility”) has moved into my intestines and almost stopped my colon’s motion (colonic inertia), my options are very limited. I had one viable treatment option that we were told was a long shot at working, but it’s my best/only shot. We have been working for over a year now to get IVIG (IV immunoglobulin therapy) approved, it has been a long and tedious attempt that has involved 3 doctors and multiple infusion centers, lots of disappointment, and plenty of reality checks. There isn’t a great chance of it working, but it’s essentially my last major treatment option, so it’s what we have to keep fighting for.
Last year around this time, a few months before, I started having a lot of trouble with my GJ tube flipping up into my stomach leaving me unable to do feeds. Because it was happening 2/3 times a month, I was getting malnourished and dehydrated and had lost even more weight—my all time low. It was decided that I needed to have a jtube placed, one that goes straight into your intestine, not through the stomach first, but it took us awhile to make that happen.
It took me almost another year to get that surgery done due to my malnutrition and some complications with doctors and finding a surgeon who would take on my case, but on October 18th I had surgery for my new feeding tubes. There were some complications during surgery as well as in the week post-op, and recovery was long and extremely painful. But, during that time I came up with my plan for my new project, Newbie Tubies, and now that has come to life and is such a wonderful part of my life.
My first mini- art show; this is both a pain distraction therapies and my #1 fundraiser for Newbie Tubies.
My first package sent! Now I’ve sent over 20!
I may not have ever been able to imagine my life turning out this way, but I have learned, been inspired, shared my knowledge, and seen things in a new perspective. I couldn’t do it without the support of my family, I’m so, so blessed to have parents who are willing to do anything needed to care for me and help me be comfortable.
Being a tubie is just a part of me now, and I’m more than happy to share all I can about that for Feeding Tube Awareness Week. <3
During recovery from my second tube surgery just 3 months ago, which I admit was long and pretty brutal pain wise, I realized how lucky I am to have such an incredible family support team working around the clock to help make me as comfortable as possible. I know so many people, of all ages, are walking the same journey but don’t have the support system that I do, and because these conditions are so uncommon, most people have never heard of them or have no idea that anyone can require a feeding tube no matter how old they are or how healthy they have been.
Sadly, most of us –myself included– just have to learn from experience, both our own and from online connections to people who are also experienced tubies or caretakers. I’ve had tubes for 3 years now, so I have a lot of first hand experience as well as what I’ve learned from my online community; so, if I can use my experiences and my knowledge to help bridge the gap and make the transition to tube life at all easier, I can’t imagine not doing it.
In December I began looking for small businesses, mostly on Etsy, that would donate tubie products and a few other care items to my cause and throughout the holidays I used my own funds to buy other products that were on sale, some items included were microwave heating pads, cute socks or fuzzy socks, soft throw blankets, journals and motivational books/journals, etc. I have a more detailed list I will share later on 🙂
In January I had enough to begin! I set up an online application and at this point (January 12) I’ve already had 10 applications! I’m so happy to have another way to share my knowledge, advocate, and most importantly, just to help others who are going through the same/similar things I have/am. It is amazing and inspiring and I couldn’t be more excited.
As excited as I am, I just can’t fund it all on my own. I use all of the profits from my paintings (whatever is left after canvas, paint, mediums, etc.) as my main fund, but that’s limited and depends on how much art I can sell. I do have a few other fundraising ideas, but I will also need to find more donors who are willing to help just because they feel that my cause is worth it.
Depending on the products I have on hand and the person (based on age and needs of the tubie), each package has a value of $25-$50, and that is without shipping. Shipping can cost a minimum of $14-$15 but can be as high as $30, again depending on weight and size of items and whether or not they will fit in flat rate boxes.
Right now, I’m still working with some donated items to create each package; right now, it is mostly tubie pads, some self care/pampering items, a handful of heating pads, blankets, and some extra little do-dads. But I’ve made a large dent in my supplies, so I am thinking a bit more about how to acquire some new donors and brainstorming some opportunities to find new products either by donation or for major discount!
I love supporting small businesses and I include a card in every package with the information of each (business) donor so that my newbie tubies will be able to purchase more of any product they find helpful. I also post any business/shops that donate to my instagram, facebook, and blog, which ends up hitting over 3k people, many of whom are facing chronic illnesses and make great customers.
I know I have so many loyal followers who like to support all I do, and I don’t want anyone to feel any pressure to donate when it is not convenient for you; honestly, I’m sure I’ll be posting my amazon lists or shipping needs fairly regularly, so if now is not a good time, please do not feel a need to donate or purchase anything for me!
That said, here are a few ways you all can help right now:
I accept re gifting!
**Did you receive some Christmas gifts that you know you aren’t going to use? Maybe too many of one item? I know many spoonies end up with lots of coloring books and fuzzy socks!
Or do you just have some extra stuff you aren’t sure what to do with? If it’s something someone could love, it’s package sized, and its in good shape, don’t throw it out!
Way too many adult or child coloring books? How about gel pens, markers, crayons, or any other drawing/writing instruments??
Small toys for children, stickers, etc? Common one, too many stuffed animals?
An extra planner? Fuzzy socks or small throws?
I guess you can say that I will be your “goodwill.” Let nothing go to waste or sit around unloved, instead, donate it to a good cause!**
See the lists below for more information about helpful products/items; I will take a lot of small items to save for someone who would love them!
Purchasing a painting
**My art directly benefits my project! You can order my paintings on the blog or by contacting me directly through email or facebook.
Any profit – what I don’t use for paint/canvas/pouring mediums/etc.—goes straight into shipping and shopping for Newbie Tubies!
If you are local, we can meet in person to avoid shipping costs.
The last option is just making a donation. If you want to make a monetary donation that would likely go towards sponsoring shipping for a box (or two!), you can do so through pay pal, send a check, or if you’re local we can work out a time to meet up for a cash donation if you prefer that.
I am also including my amazon wish list, “Newbie Tubies Wish List,” and my Etsy list, that have items, labeled/listed by priority (amazon), that I update based on what I could use at any given time.
If you are local and would like to donate but would rather pick up an item or two at the store when you go, I am including a list of other items as well. They can be dropped off at multiple locations, so please email me and we can make a plan (or if you work with my parents they will take the items as well). 🙂
If you are a small business, or know others with small businesses, and would like to directly donate products, you can contact me at email@example.com about what product you have and how we can best go about shipping/picking it up!
Thank you so much for reading through all of that, if you made it! Below are each of the lists I have talked about; please, feel no pressure, it is just an option for those who have expressed an interest in helping out 🙂
The past two weeks have been even more challenging than my “normal” for both my body and my mind. I had surgery two weeks ago to place a new/additional feeding tube and we ran into some challenges and now I am trying to heal and recover.
I’ve had to spend more time in bed since getting home from my surgery because I’ve been unable to move much on my own. For the first week I couldn’t sit up, stand, walk, sit down, go to the bathroom, brush my hair, or do anything for myself. Being 100% dependent on other people is really hard, regardless of the fact that I was already disabled and very dependent on my parents for so much even prior to surgery.
I have to admit that the first week or so post- surgery is all a blur. There was lots of pain, many doctors, a painful car ride home (or two), a lot of sleeping, medications, ambulance, pain, another ambulance, an awful ER, pain…. But what I do remember is that both of my parents were right there by my side the whole time. There was never any talk of hiring a nurse to do the hard work or asking another family member or close friend to come help so my parents could go back to work. Every day I had at least one if not both of my parents there taking care of me, no complaints or mention of using up their sick days.
For the first many days I slept 20+ hours a day with the help of pain medication, nausea medication, and sedatives, which all together helped make me more comfortable. After my ER trip on Monday/Tuesday I stopped taking the heavy pain medications because they delay gastric emptying so I also stopped sleeping and instead started having major insomnia again. By Wednesday/Thursday I was starting to walk on my own and eventually getting out of bed by myself, too. Although I run out of energy quickly and my pain levels are still severe, every step forward is worth a celebration.
Having such a supportive and involved family made all the difference for me; I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with meds or finding a good nurse or anything because my parents and sister were on 24/7 “Rachel Duty” for as long as I needed them. We also have an incredible community that supports me by sending cards, flowers, and gifts but they also support my parents at work and through facebook and texts/calls of support and well wishes. Being the parents and care takers of a young adult as sick as I am is no easy task and it’s extremely important to have that support.
Surgery is tough, but recovery is hell. Waking up each morning in major pain and knowing it’s not going away isn’t easy on anyone physically or mentally, but each small improvement or sign of progress gives me hope. Life is precious and every day that your body is functional and pain free is a gift; I encourage you to take advantage of every day and live life to the fullest, always follow your heart and do more of what makes you happy. Find joy in every day.
For the past few years, I’ve been very honest and open about my journey with Gastroparesis, it’s been one of the main chronic illness I talk about. So I decided to talk about another pretty major part of my life.
My relationship with chronic pain started when I was 12 years old. It was winter time, and I was doing a indoor winter conditioning camp for softball. During the camp, after a throw my right shoulder started hurting. Turned out, I tore my labrum pretty badly. So at age 13, my first surgery in was done in January and my surgeon cleared me for surgery that following season. I think I was cleared too soon to return to playing softball again because soon it was re-torn. I managed to play through the season, pushing through the awful pain I was eventually placed as a designated hitter. That was my very last season of softball, one of the biggest passions I’ve ever had.
Eventually I couldn’t handle the pain any more and hoped a second surgery at age 17 would fix my problem. But I was wrong. I remember the pain from that surgery being so extreme, I slept in a recliner for weeks. I’ve done so many hours of physical therapy for my shoulder, and it’s never really helped. Unfortunately the 2nd surgery was also unsuccessful.
During a follow up with my Orthopedic Surgeon, I decided to mention to him how I was also having pains in other joints. Hips, jaw, back, knee for the past 2 years. So he ran blood work, and sent me to a Rheumatologist. The doctor I saw, did some tests and gave me a diagnosis of ” fibromyalgia with hyper mobility” then handed me some brochure, and a handful of different medications. Unfortunately there weren’t very many in the area at the time so it was hard to find a good one. My body was so overwhelmed with all the different meds, all it did was make things worse. They upsetted my stomach, or made me extremely tired. So durning my Senior year of high school, was spent doing a lot of sleeping.
For a while I was able to manage, especially the pains in my shoulder. The other pains bothered me, but I was able to push through them. Lately, the chronic pain has been a struggle. I get muscle pains all over; my legs, arms, back. I have instability in my shoulder so it often feels like it’s not sitting in its right place. And at times that can be so painful it’s debatating. Some times it gets very frustrating, but I’ve learned to use certain coping skills when I know I need them. On bad days I’ll try to surround myself with things I like. I’ll listen to my favorite music, go and be outside, etc.
Two different surgeons have told me a 3rd surgery probably wouldn’t help, so I’ve had to accept that in all likelihood this will be a part of my life, for the rest of my life. I know a lot of my friends can relate; they as well have painful illnesses that help them understand. It’s nice being a community that constantly amazes and inspires me. So, because of that, I guess my relationship with chronic pain will continue on as “it’s complicated.”
A great piece by one of my close friends and fellow chronic illness warriors, Sarah! Follow her blog at chronicallywandering.wordpress.com 🙂