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From My Life...

Cyst Operation (2001.04.11)

For over the past two months I have been bedridden recovering from an operation. It was an operation to remove a pilonidal cyst. If any of you know what that is you know what I’ve been going through, if not, I’ll explain.

A pilonidal cyst is a cyst formed by “an infolding of skin in which hair continues to grow” in the “crease between the buttocks.” Apparently the most common surgery for this is to remove the flesh in the area to remove the cyst. Then they leave the wound open so that scar tissue will grow which will prevent the cyst from returning.

I went into surgery Wednesday morning, January 31st, 2001. When I came out, I had an open wound 10 centimeters long by 4 centimeters wide by 4 centimeters deep. Grab a ruler and visualize it.

It’s been ten weeks later and I still have an open wound (now only 7x1x1cm). I still can’t lay on my back easily or for very long. I still can’t sit for very long (without getting sore). And my bandage still needs to be changed twice a day. But I’m better than I’ve been for the past two months.

Of all the time after my surgery, the first day was the absolute worst. Waking up from the operation, barely being able to open my eyes, in pain, and nauseous as hell from the anesthesia. It was outpatient surgery so as soon as they thought I was well enough to go home (they even had me sitting in a chair!, I just got a huge hunk of flesh cut out from my rear and they put me in a chair!), they sent me home (Judy drove me to and from the hospital and she’s been a great help and a great wife ever since). I vomited when I first awoke from the anesthesia, and I vomited again when I got home—both from the pain and the nauseous feeling from the anesthesia.

It wasn’t until the following Friday that I saw a doctor (not the same one but one of this associates) again and had my bandage changed for the first time. That hurt so bad. The bandage (and packing inside the open wound) had to be removed. The wound had to be cleaned. And then new packing put in with a bandage (gauze and tape) covering it. The doctor said that this would have to be done twice a day (that pain twice a day!?), and at first he acted like Judy would have to be doing this. Not only is Judy not a nurse and had no experience with anything like this, but I’m queasy when it comes to health stuff like open wounds and such, and I know that I wouldn’t want to look at my open wound and I wouldn’t want to put her through that either.

Well the doctor set us up with a home healthcare agency, and by Saturday (after having to make several phone calls to find out who our healthcare agency would be and when somebody would come) we got our first visit from a home healthcare nurse. (I should make it known now that, after surgery, they did give me a prescription for pain pills. Judy got the pills the very first day after dropping me off at home, and I took them as much as I could during those first few days. However, while they did help the pain some, they countered my making me woozy and nauseous. So I either suffered terrible pain, or some pain and feel nauseous. But when it came time for the bandage change, the pain-killing effect disappeared leaving me both in terrible pain and nauseous. After a couple of visits the home health nurse suggested a different type of pain medicine. Judy called the doctor for it and they gave us a prescription. This new medicine had the same effect, only it didn’t make me so nauseous and it actually did help with the pain during the bandage changes.)

So things continued like that for the first month. Twice a day bandage changes (along with the pain pills I would also hold two of Judy’s hand weights—what was usually used for exercise was now helping me to bear-down against the pain), not being able to lie on my back (which, when I couldn’t do anything else but lie down, began to become real tiring of only being able to lie on my stomach or left or right side), and an extremely difficult time going to the bathroom (“number 2” obviously). During this time Judy was the best wife there could ever be. She wasn’t working at the time so she was home all day to help take care of me. Making meals (my whole life was in that bed), bringing me juice, renting me movies, etc.

(Oh yeah, it should also be mentioned, now that I think about it, that I’ve since had to cut my hair. For the first few weeks I couldn’t shower. This, plus the surgery having my hair bunched up in a hair net, plus doing nothing buy lying down, all eventually lead to my hair turning—not just into knots—but clumps. My long hair (the length of my back) had been transformed into large ratty clumps of hair hanging from my head. After a few weeks when the doctor said that it’s now OK to shower before putting on the new bandages, I tried to recover my long hair in the shower. I tried conditioners, hair-untanglers, everything. But nothing worked and in time, Judy had to bring the scissors to my hair and cut out all the clumps. Now my hair only hangs to my shoulders.)

Before I went into surgery, way back when when we first saw the doctor and he said the cyst would have to be cut out, the doctor said that it would take about six weeks for me to recover. By the end of February when whe saw him (doctor visits every other week) he said it could be another whole month. I had only expected to be out of work (and life) for six weeks, and now I would be out for two whole months. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I could work from home (which I tried a couple of times to work on the computer lying in bed; sure, the bed rolls up to our computer table quite nice, but have you ever tried to type and use a mouse while lying on your stomach? not so easy), and it wouldn’t have been so terrible if the company I was working for wasn’t being bought out by another company (Judy had to drive down to work a couple of times to get forms for me to fill out for the work transition).

Then there was the money. Judy wasn’t working the first month of my recovery. Neither was I, but we had enough from savings to last. By March, having found out that I would be out of work for at least another month, Judy had to get a job. So she went to work for a temp agency. Sure temp jobs are mostly easy and boring jobs (I know, I temped for about two years once), but it’s money. But it’s not enough money. Sure it’s enough to pay for rent and the basic needs, but I’ve got credit card debts and car and insurance payments. We knew we would need more money, we knew we would need my salary. Two months of me out of work would hurt us.

(Speaking about Judy getting a job in March, she eventually had to get two jobs: one working during the day for money, and the other one changing my bandage twice a day. Looks like the home health nurses only come twice a day for so long or as needed (I guess mostly because of how much it costs). So during the twice day nurse changes, the nurse began to show Judy how to do the bandage changes. In time Judy was changing my bandage twice a day (with the exception of the nurse coming Monday and Thursday mornings to make sure that the wound is still healthy and to order more supplies).)

But it’s an open wound. We did what people suggested to help it heal quicker (take vitamins (Judy got me to take once-a-day-multivitamins with her for the longest time now) and eat lots of protein—even protein drinks), but the wound seems to have it’s own timetable of when to heal. When my step-mom Karen (who began her career as a nurse) found out how much they cut out of me, even she said it would take a long time to heal. Well anyways, the healing did go fast (the nurse who came everyday informed us of this) between mid-February through late-March, but then it began to slow down.

Now we come to the end of March in this story. Another visit to the doctor—with the wound down from 10x4x4cm to 7x1x1cm—and he says that it will be another three weeks or so before the wound is closed (just closed and not all healing done and over with... it seems like every time we would visit the doctor he would say that it would take another three weeks or so). Well, having only one income is not enough to pay for all the bills, and the doctor had said that it was OK for me to get back to my life; so... April 2nd I returned to work (the week or two before I began practicing sitting during the day, and the weekend before I practiced driving again (it had been two months)).

So now comes April. April 2nd I went into work again. Unlike at home where when my wound would begin to get sore from sitting too long I would be able to lie down; at work I couldn’t lie down and so I had to keep switching between sitting (lots of soreness), kneeling (medium soreness), and standing (just a little soreness). Even at lunch I would have to stand while eating to reduce the soreness.

I’m now in the second week of working again. I still can’t work a full day (get too sore and I still have a half-hour drive home, plus the nurse usually comes late on Mondays and Thursdays), and I still stand to eat lunch; but at least I can sit for longer than I could last week, and at least the wound is starting to heal again (ever so slowly though).

Hopefully, I will be fully healed by the end of the month. Summer movies are coming, I haven’t updated my site in so long, I really miss lying on my back, and I really really miss going out and having fun with Judy.

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