Thursday, August 28, 2008


This has been the reaction I have gotten from a lot of people when I tell them Justin is in the hospital. Now think of the reaction when I follow that up with, and he just had his large intestine removed on Monday night.

The first 12 hours after surgery were really tough on Justin. I said in the last post that even though they kept upping the dosage of morphine, he wasn't feeling any relief to his pain. In addition, he was itching terribly all over his legs and back and the benedryl they gave him was no relief. So approximately 12 hours after being brought back to his room was when the discovery was made. Justin had a slight allergy to morphine and (maybe it was because of the allergy) it was not helping him with pain at all. He was switched to demerol and was then able to sleep for a couple hours.

Later on Tuesday (less than 24 hours after surgery began) he took his first walk out in the hallway - what a difference the right pain medication makes! Anyone who has had their abdomen cut open knows that moving around is not an easy task. Wednesday, he took 2 walks around the hallways and said he felt better than he had for months, in spite of the pain from the incision which was much better since he was no longer on morphine. He also spent quite a bit of time sitting up in a chair instead of laying in bed. Also yesterday they let him have clear liquids for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Today he was feeling pretty sore though, probably from the moving around he did yesterday. The more he moves around - even though it makes him sore - the better it is for him and his healing. So he went on 3 walks around the hallways today. They also moved him on to full liquids today - which we are happy includes foods with milk (no lactose-free diet!).

We are guessing that he will be coming home on Tuesday, but we won't know for sure when he will be discharged until they come into his room and say he will be going home that day. We do know that he has to be eating normal foods and having his body process them and digest them correctly before he can leave the hospital.

Even after he comes home he will have a few weeks of rest and recovery at home before he will be released by the doctor to go back to work. And the doctor said that he shouldn't do anything strenuous for about 2 months or so post surgery. The lengths Justin goes to in order to avoid doing yard work!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The road to recovery

I just got home from spending all night at the hospital with Justin and am about to go to sleep, but wanted to post an update about what was going on.

We learned yesterday morning that Justin would not be able to have surgery on Tuesday (today) as we had thought due to when the OR was available, when the surgeon was available, etc. Instead we were told that surgery would be sometime yesterday through Thursday and it would have to be in the evening to work around other surgeries and patient visits that the surgeon had. We were finally told around 1 yesterday afternoon that his surgery would be last night and I quickly made sure that I would have subs for my 3 classes today. Since Justin hadn't had anything to drink (but sips of water) since Friday evening and nothing to eat since Thursday afternoon they didn't want to draw out when the surgery would be. Even though he was receiving vitamins through a pick line, the doctor said that is nothing compared to the nourishment you get from food and they couldn't allow him to eat before performing the surgery since they were cleaning out his system. The longer he went before the surgery, the weaker that was going to make his body, and the longer would be his recovery time.

Justin's surgery began around 7pm and finished up around 9:30pm. When the surgeon came to talk to us afterward (me and Justin's dad) he let us know that the surgery went well and in his words "Justin's colon was very, very sick". We headed back up to Justin's room to wait for him there.

He was brought back to the room just after 11pm and was in an incredible amount of pain. They have him on a morphine pump, but they actually had to increase the amount released with each click by 50% in the middle of the night because Justin was hurting so bad. They gave him other pain meds in addition to the pump as well and although he is still in a lot of pain, he is doing much better this morning than he was last night. Both he and I only slept about 10 - 15 minutes at a time throughout the night so after Justin's dad got back to the hospital this morning, I came home to try to get some sleep and will head back to the hospital this afternoon.

Justin has already starting breathing exercises (to work-out his lungs so he doesn't develop pneumonia) and later today they will have him get up out of bed and move to a chair. Even though moving is quite painful, he will recover much faster the more he is able to move around.

I told Justin this morning that I honestly hope this is the worst birthday of his whole entire life.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The update

It is official - Justin will no longer have a colon (large intestine) as of sometime on Tuesday. So far all signs have pointed to ulcerative colitis and not Crohn's disease, but they won't be absolutely certain until they send his colon in for testing (once it is removed, of course). If it is UC, this will be the first of 3 surgeries that Justin will have. The timing of the surgeries will depend on a few factors - how long it takes him to heal, where we are relative to when the baby is coming, etc. If it turns out he does have Crohn's disease, this should be his only surgery.

Although I am worried and nervous believe it or not, Justin is very happy. He can't wait to have the pain and sickness he has been dealing with for the past year and a half over with. We do have confidence in Justin's surgeon and know that he has done this many times so we are praying for him that he will be able to do everything just as he needs to so that Justin can be on the road to recovery.

Tomorrow will be a busy day since I need to make arrangements at the school to have a sub for my first day of classes which is also Tuesday. And I want to be able to spend as much time with Justin at the hospital since he will be pretty drugged up for a few days following the surgery as he recovers. As long as all goes well, he should be coming home either Sept. 1st or 2nd, but out of work an additional 3 weeks or so after that.

I guess we are definitely going to get our fill of hospitals since we had to deal with all the IVF stuff in April and May, Justin was in the hospital last month, now again and having surgery, possibly having surgery again in 3 months (this all depends though) and then the baby is coming the end of January. Wow - aren't we grateful for good health insurance?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Not such a good week

This week was supposed to be a relaxing, get-things-done kind of week. Justin was on vacation starting last Friday and last Thursday was my last day of class for the summer. However, it has not turned out anything like we had planned.

The first 2 weeks after Justin got out of the hospital last month, he was doing pretty great. Feeling way better than he had felt for months. However, just over two weeks ago things changed and he started relapsing again. And as in the past, each relapse seems to be worse than before. He has been running fevers - sometimes as high as 102. His joints (knees especially) have been aching and all around he has just been feeling sick. This time he had a new symptom - nausea and vomiting.

We had thought that just by him taking time off work and being able to rest more without as much stress would help him feel better. Maybe it is better than what it would have been if he were working this week, however he has been steadily getting worse all week.

On Monday we went to see his gastroenterologist and learned that surgery may be the only thing to help him with this disease. He is already on such strong medications and not responding to them. So on Wednesday, we met with a surgeon for a consultation who also said that there weren't really any other medications for him, and for us to consider the surgery option. In fact, one of the drugs Justin has been on is typically used for people after receiving an organ transplant. Apparently, Justin's colon is so sick that they needed to put him on this drug to tell his body not to reject his own colon. The surgeon ordered some tests for Justin for this week to make sure it is just ulcerative colitis and nothing else (like Crohn's disease). In the meantime, if Justin was feeling too sick, he could admitted to the hospital again.

Once we got home from our consultation yesterday, Justin started feeling tons worse and practically slept the rest of the day. Today (after not being able to keep down breakfast), he called the surgeon and asked to be admitted. Since they admitted him today and they are not allowing him to eat in order to rest his system again, he may be staying there for a while to have surgery. And sadly, the hospital where he is now is a bit farther away than where he was last month - this time he is staying where his surgeon can check on him daily.

Things are really up in the air and we are now going day-to-day, not quite sure what the next day will bring. We do know that tomorrow Justin will have one of the tests done that the surgeon ordered to check for Crohn's disease and that after that he will be getting a central line so that he can get full nourishment through IV, which he needs for before and after surgery (assuming that he will be having surgery during this stay).

Beyond that, we don't have all the answers right now. A lot depends on the outcome of the tests that he had yesterday and will have tomorrow. We have no idea how long this hospital stay will be or even if he will be coming home with a colon or not.

What a terrible 31st birthday for Justin this coming Tuesday!

Please keep Justin in your thoughts and prayers as the doctors try to decide what is best for him.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Today is a good day

2 Big Reasons Today is a Good Day:

1) Justin comes home tonight instead of tomorrow night and is on vacation from work until August 25th! We aren't going anywhere special - just planning on relaxing and getting stuff done around the house.

2) Today is the very last day of summer classes! And I made the final exam multiple choice to make it that much easier for me to grade. Now let's hope that I don't get picked for jury duty on Tuesday so that I can spend that time with Justin.

Monday, August 11, 2008

16 weeks and counting ...

Today I had my 16 week appt with my doctor. Things are looking really good and today baby had a heart rate of 153 bpm. I have to admit though, I am going through withdrawals. It has now been 3 and a half weeks since my last ultrasound and I don't get another one for 4 weeks! Ugh! I have been super spoiled when it comes to ultrasounds. Here are the best from each week (I know my mom has been dying for me to post the pics already).

Here is the first ultrasound on the day of embryo transfer. The white swirls in the middle are our two embryos!

The next u/s was 3 weeks later, one week after we were told we were officially pregnant (and therefore almost 6 weeks along). The dark spots showed us that both of our embryos implanted, one had a yolk sack and the other appeared empty.

The next u/s was only a few days later, 6 weeks and 1 day along. The small arrow is pointing to the heartbeat in one of the sacks, the other sack now had a yolk sack.

Another ultrasound at the end of the week 6 showed that both our embryos had heart beats (where the rings are) and also freaked us out because it showed another empty sack - we're glad nothing ever developed with that.

Week 7, day 1 was my first OB visit, where they also wanted to do an ultrasound to verify the pregnancy and the twins. Looking at the picture now, I have to admit that I have no idea what I am looking at! The OB now wanted to see me every week, too, to monitor the twins.

Two days later, week 7 day 3 (our anniversary!), I went back to the fertility clinic where they also did an ultrasound that again showed both heartbeats. I love this next picture, they were able to get one of the babies at a really good angle and you can make out the head and arms!

Week 8 day 2 when I headed to the OB for my second visit was a bit sad - this is when we found out that one of the babies no longer had a heart beat. We decided to focus on the fact that we were still pregnant and this meant an easier pregnancy. Here is our baby that made it where you can make out the head and umbilical cord. Since we were no longer expecting twins, the OB decided she only needed to see me every 4 weeks now.

Week 8 day 3 had me back at the fertility clinic, where they verified that we had indeed lost the heart beat for one of our twins. They didn't give me any pictures of the ultrasound for this one, just pointed out to me the differences between our two little embryos.

Week 9 day 3 and I was back at the fertility clinic again. This was probably the most exciting ultrasound so far, because this is the only time I have seen the baby move! The baby wiggled arms and legs at us (head at the top of the pic, legs at the bottom). Since we were no longer expecting twins and everything looked good, I was told that would be my last visit to the fertility clinic (and no more medications for IVF, yay!).

Week 12 day 5 I did the first trimester genetic pre-screening at my OB, just for another ultrasound. Afterall - it had been about 3 weeks since I had been able to see the baby and I was starting to go through withdrawals. We had also hoped Justin would be able to go to this one, but sadly this was the week he was in the hospital. This is the best pic from that visit. Baby didn't move at all because it was sleeping. You can see it kind of curled up, face down with arms and hands in front of itself.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

lame, lame, lame

This week is the pits so far.

Starting out - Justin is working out of town again this month. Of course, he will be home on the weekends but we really hate having to go Monday through Friday only communicating via cell phones, instant messaging and texts. We have been so super spoiled this year with the lack of travel that it is hard to get back into the swing of things when he is gone like this.

Next - a tropical storm made landfall and went right through Houston. You wouldn't have known it except for the fact that the school where I worked closed down and a lot of offices closed down (not that Justin got to benefit from the fact that his office was closed today).

Don't get me wrong - I didn't want a devastating storm to hit us. But I lived here in 2001 when Tropical Storm Allison flooded a lot of Houston, including most of downtown. The media totally played this one up - like we were going to have another Allison, which dropped 18 inches of rain on Houston's big airport in just a few hours. Another Allison, which made freeways look like rivers (yes - this man is paddling around on the Southwest Freeway back in June of 2001):

I did not want another Allison that ruined so many homes. And I know that my students are super happy that all campuses were closed today so they could stay home for some rain (I say some rain because in this area of town, that is all we got - maybe 2 inches total all day. Maybe). So why do I think it is lame?

This makes more work for me, trying to decide what to cut out of my class since we missed this day. And I think it is lame that Justin had to be out of town and we couldn't relive our newlywed days in Tampa (that first year we were married there were 3 hurricanes that went through the Tampa area) when we got to veg out with movies and snacks and had an excuse to do absolutely nothing.

Most of all I think it is lame that the media tried to freak a pregnant woman out when her husband had to be out of town.


Friday, August 1, 2008

What To Expect

A good friend (Jen) gave me the book, What to Expect When You're Expecting about a month ago. I really like to read every week about how much the baby has grown, what the baby could be doing, etc. And I'm grateful to have something to answer little questions that I might have, or questions I haven't even thought about.

At the same time, I can't help but wish there had been something similar to guide me through the in vitro experience. Of course, I am actually very lucky because another good friend of mine was about 2 steps ahead of me in IVF and we either spoke on the phone or chatted online daily about what we were going through. There were a few times though that something happened that really worried me, and I would call the fertility clinic only to be reassured that what I was experiencing was completely normal.

I'm not sure how many people are interested but since this blog is the closest thing I have to a journal, I really wanted to keep track of info about my IVF experience. A lot of which I wish I had known was really "normal", so I wouldn't have worried as much. (I will preface this by saying that just like every pregnancy is different, I know that everyone's IVF experience is different. These are my experiences which I was told were "normal" and therefore know that I'm not the only one to experience. However this doesn't mean that everyone who goes through IVF will have the same experiences.)

1) The first set of injections that I gave myself were "subcutaneous" injections and were to be given in the stomach area for anywhere from 9 - 12 days (for me it ended up being 11 days). The nurses were great about teaching me how to mix medications for my injections and how to give myself my injections. They didn't tell me that although the injections wouldn't hurt at first, the longer I gave them to myself the more tender I would be. So by day 7 or 8, it began to be difficult to find a good place to stick myself where it wouldn't hurt. At first when it starting hurting, I thought something was wrong with my needle and threw it out (in a sharps container, of course) and got a new one.

2) I knew the first set of injections were to get my body to create as many eggs as possible. I didn't realize that for your body to create a lot of eggs, that meant a lot of swelling/bloating - and I was especially given no warning that it was possible that each of my ovaries would swell up to be bigger than my uterus. Which means that by the time I was done with the first round of injections, none of my regular clothes fit - only pajamas and workout clothes. At least I was as comfortable as possible, but just keep in mind - I don't think a person's ovaries were ever meant to swell up quite that much meaning it was almost impossible to get comfortable.

3) 36 hours before egg retrieval, Justin had to give me an injection of HCG in the back of the hip. This was to tell my body to release the eggs so they could be retrieved by the doctor. Because HCG is the "pregnancy" hormone that makes a lot of people feel sick in the first trimester, I was warned that I may feel really tired, nauseated, etc. But I had no idea how sore my hip would be the day after the shot. It was hard to sit, difficult to walk and even worse trying to get comfortable than it was before.

4) I was super eager for the egg retrieval because to me it meant my ovaries would start shrinking and I would start to feel better. However when the doctor came in and talked to me minutes before the procedure, I was informed that if I was swollen and bloated then it would not go away after the procedure. As it turns out, when they retrieve the eggs, the follicles swell up with fluid. Not only that, but then I had to deal with being sore from all the agitation to my ovaries - even more uncomfortable than before! In fact, I swelled up more after the egg retrieval than I was before. I even called the doctor the day before embryo transfer for them to tell me they expected that and they expected me to look 4 - 5 months pregnant by the time I came in the next morning.

5) I was not told that it was completely normal for it to be painful to use the bathroom after the egg retrieval. I seriously thought something was wrong with me. But as it was explained to me, my ovaries were so tender from everything they had gone through, any movement in my body that changed pressure on my ovaries would be painful. And I had to pee far more often the 2 weeks after egg retrieval than I did for the rest of the first trimester. Too much in my bladder meant too much pressure on my ovaries and it hurt!

6) I knew that as long as IVF was successful and I got pregnant, that I would most likely feel crummy, be tired, nauseated, etc. But I didn't know that I would start feeling super terrible within a week of the embryo transfer. I couldn't sit up for longer than about 15 minutes without feeling light-headed, I couldn't stand up from sitting without getting winded and talk about having trouble going upstairs - it took me a good 5 minutes to breathe normally after very slowly going upstairs. Plus I got super nauseated. I know that for a lot of people these things happen when they get pregnant as their HCG level climbs, but this was seriously just the side effects from IVF. I didn't start feeling the effects of being pregnant until about 3 weeks after embryo transfer (once I started feeling better from IVF).

7) I got about a 3 day break from shots in between the egg retrieval and embryo transfer, but when you do IVF, your body doesn't know to produce the progesterone the way it is supposed to in order to support of pregnancy (something you don't have to worry about when you get pregnant naturally) which means that a few days before embryo transfer I had to start getting injections of progesterone. These were also in the back of the hip, which means that Justin had to give them all to me. I had heard horror stories in the waiting room at the doctor's about the injections - how your hips were so sore you could hardly move, how a lot of people had trouble figuring out where to give the next injection because welts would form, etc. Although I didn't like the injections, they weren't as bad as I thought they would be - in fact even though my hips were getting tender I never felt the soreness that I got from the HCG shot. However, a couple days after the last one I got hives all over my backside. Once again, this was considered normal and the nurse said it was good they took me off of them when they did - because if you develop hives the longer you are on the progesterone, the worse your hives can be. Luckily I only had to deal with the hives for about 2 weeks. And even now - about 7 weeks after I finished the injections, my hips are still sore if I press against where I would get the shots.

Because we were so blessed to have embryos frozen, next time a lot of this I won't have to go through. In fact - only the progesterone injections at the end, but no injections in the stomach, no swollen ovaries, no egg retrieval and the recovery from that. Which means that unlike this time - I won't have to start wearing maternity clothes when I'm not even "officially" pregnant yet!