Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Missed Deadline

I missed it.  The deadline.
As hard as I tried to meet it, my body simply would not cooperate. 
Why I thought I could rush my recovery is something I now am pondering. 
 It has only been one week since my surgery.  Monday a week ago. 
 Last Tuesday was one of the most physically painful days of my life - next to labor. 
But with labor, there was a prize at the end.  
This pain birthed little jagged stone fragments from a 9 mm kidney stone that my urologist broke up with a laser on Monday. I spent Wednesday pounding water, and languishing in bed on Vicodin which did little to relieve the pain.  
And still that deadline loomed. I had to make it back to school by Friday.
 I called the doctor and begged him to remove the stent from my right ureter so that I could return to school.  
"You see," I explained,  "I have this deadline to meet."
 Reluctantly, he agreed. However it was a lot sooner than he would prefer.  By about two weeks. He cautioned me that I would likely experience some pain.  I doubted the pain could be any worse than it was with the stent. 
So Thursday, I pulled myself up and dressed. Even slapped on some makeup with the intent of going directly from the doctor's office to school.  Wrong. 
 The pain I experienced after the stent removal was excruciating. My husband drove me back home and I popped 2 Vicodins and writhed in pain.  Friday was almost here and I was still in pain. 
 Everyone told me to let it go.  To stay home and recover.  That is what extensions are for.
But how could I? 
 I don't miss deadlines.  
And I don't let my students miss deadlines.  
I still thought I'd make it Friday. Until Friday morning. Then I thought that maybe I could make it by Friday afternoon. 
 Letting that deadline go was almost as painful as passing the kidney stones.
So I missed the deadline. 
A deadline I set. Months ago. I pounded that deadline into the heads my students.  
I posted it on my bulletin board and wrote it on my white board. 
And I missed it. Not them.  Me.
Schedules are very important to me.  I rule my life by them.  Rehearsal schedules. Syllabi. Calendars. 
I pride myself in their accuracy. I feel immense satisfaction when I can put a little check mark next to a date and task that was scheduled - done. 
Schedules  provide a road map that when followed ensure that the destination will be met.  
Schedules carve out time to accomplish tasks.  
In my world, I am lost without a schedule. 
A missed deadline wreaks havoc on a schedule.
Now, I have to alter my schedule and make up for the missed deadline.
 I have to find time to do what should have happened on Friday.

There is much for me to learn from this experience.  
Lesson Learned.  You cannot rush your recovery from surgery. 
Lesson Learned. You should not rush your recovery from surgery.
Lesson Learned. Listen to your doctor. 
Lesson Learned. Listen to your body. 
Lesson Learned.  Sometimes, we get thrown off our schedule.  That's when we need to be flexible.
Lesson Learned.  Missing a deadline is not the worst thing in the world.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

February's Lessons

I've been away from this for a while.  February has been one of those months.  A strange convergence of various medical issues left me, for the most part,  in bed.  Pretty sick.  Felt lousy. No, I felt like I was going to die. That is not an exaggeration.

 A sinus infection kicked off the month just before my birthday. Plans canceled, I took my antibiotic and  pushed on with what could only be described as sinuses that felt like they were on fire. Refusing to give in to my burning sinuses,  I drug myself to rehearsal and class ignoring the deep, rumbling cough  and fatigue that o'erwhelmed me.  Chest Xray. Diagnosis - Pneumonia.  Further tests - Dehydration. Fever. Aches. Chills.  Kidney infection. CT Scan.  A 9 mm kidney stone obstructing my right ureter. And, by the way, both kidneys look like a kidney stone quarry.  Multiple stones of varying sizes just waiting their turn to make my life miserable.
I've had a long history of kidney stones.  This may be my twentieth or so.  I've lost count. They started when I was eighteen. I gave birth to both of my children and both times ended up back in the hospital the next week giving birth again - to stones.

Suffice it to say, I do not take calcium supplements.

So there I was, back in my old urologist's office - feeling strangely at home.  A little emotional even.  I'd arrived there after a slight detour to another doctor whose bedside manner was too gruff for my liking and whose schedule could not fit me in for lithotripsy for a month.  I've had lithotripsy before - twice to be exact.  The idea that I would have to walk around with pain in my right flank and a whopping 9 mm stone stuck in my ureter for a month did not sit well with me.
So I returned to the familiar world of my former urologist - who, upon looking at my Xray on Friday, scheduled me for surgery on Monday.  Boom. Done. Handled. I wanted to hug him.

Sitting in the examining room, I thought about the rocky road that had led me to his office.  And I thought about how important it is to be your own health advocate.

 Lesson learned.  All doctors are not equal.  You need to be assertive. Question.  Push.  Don't be brushed aside. Don't be passive.
And if your gut tells you that this isn't the doctor for you - find a different doctor.

I have been blessed with mostly good health.  This is, after all, not cancer. They're kidney stones.  But they can lead to complications - including the infection I had that was, apparently, the cause of my fever, chills, and aches.

Lesson learned.  Pay attention to your body. I thought maybe I had the flu. So did the nurse practitioner I saw first.  I thought the chills and body aches were being caused by the pneumonia.

Lesson learned.  Pay attention to fevers and body ache.  The nurse practitioner would not have given me a urine test had I not asked if I was dehydrated.  This led to the discovery of my infection which led to me wondering what could be causing the infection - which led me to insist that they check for a kidney stone. Why? Because of my health history.

Lesson learned.  Pay attention to your health history.

I battled my own denial.  Am I being overly cautious? Am I being a hypochondriac? Am I imagining that I feel this pain in my right kidney?  I must have taken fifteen hot baths to relieve my body ache and to stop me from shivering uncontrollably with the chills - but was I really that sick?

Lesson learned.  When in doubt - check it out. The urologist told me I had dodged a bullet. Could have been septic which is life threatening.  This was no joke.

It would be cavalier of me not to reflect on the lessons of this past month.  I am, honestly, a bit mad at myself for not checking for the kidney stone sooner.  The nurse practitioner said that they match the tests to the symptoms.

Lesson learned.  Tell your doctor all of your symptoms.

I have been forced to face my own limitations.  I have a demanding job and I work long hours.  I need to face the facts that my own driving desire for perfection is hazardous to my health.   And I am responsible for taking care of myself.

Lesson learned. Do not ignore your own health.

I have written about denial before.  In fact I have written an entire memoir about the disastrous consequences of denial.   I believe that a human being's capacity for denial is possibly as strong as the capacity for love.  In fact the two are often confused. The Greeks knew this - hence the corner stone of all tragedy, Oedipus.

 As a wise counselor once told me,  "You say, I'm not drowning. I'm swimming."

Lesson learned.  Face the truth of your life. Own it.
Denial can be deadly.