Friday, June 14, 2013

That One Time I Had Emergency Surgery

How do I start this? When a man and a woman love each other very much and their adoption is taking a long time, sometimes they decide to try the old-fashioned route. And sometimes it doesn't go as planned.

In December, we had filled out the paperwork allowing us a concurrent family building option if we so chose. (Yes, you have to get approval to get pregnant if you are adopting).  Looking at the list this spring and realizing how long it would take for IC to reach our family, we figured we had a good window. And so we thought we'd just see what happened. 

In May I woke up early one morning to a positive pregnancy test. I would tell you I was super excited except I was really just very skeptical. Nervous. E wanted to be excited but saw how I was tentative. A few days (and a few more positive tests later) I called to set up a doctor's appointment. But as soon as I had set it up I had some weird symptoms and called back with questions. Those symptoms sent me into a week of blood tests. At the end, we confirmed I was pregnant and officially set up an appointment a week later for an early ultrasound.

one of the many blood draws

June 3, the day of the appointment, was also the first day of Kids Club. For those who don't know, Kids Club is the busiest week of the year in my job. I figured I would get in and get good news early and head to work. But unfortunately that appointment didn't go as planned. The ultrasound tech was so nice as she scanned and scanned silently.

"I'm not seeing anything," she tried to say as calmly as possible.

The doctor came in and asked for more blood tests. All he could say is that "it wasn't good."

I went in to give blood for the 3rd time in two weeks, tears streaming down my face.  The woman doing the draw asked me, "Is that ok?"  I knew she was talking about the nature of the way she was taking my blood but all I could think is there was absolutely nothing ok about what was going on here. The pregnancy I thought I was going to have wasn't going to happen.  It hadn't been said but it had been implied. And she's worried about my discomfort from giving blood.

After blood tests, all we knew was we needed to keep testing. They should have been able to see something with my levels as high as they were but they were hopeful it was just a miscarriage. At this point this was the best option possible. I prayed for miracles but didn't know what that meant.

the blood draws continue

In between I was living the busiest week of my work life. Tests and ultrasounds every other morning. Evenings filled with laughter and cheers and hundreds of children learning about Jesus.  Somehow vacillating between these two very different things sometimes made it better.  Very few people at church knew the tough stuff.  My coworkers did because I couldn't pull myself enough together the first few hours to fake it. But they loved me and prayed me through and, for the most part, I just got to do my job and dance with kids and hear them marvel at the beauty of the bible.  Lots of people kept asking, "You look tired. I bet you are so ready for this week to be over." And in my head, all I could think was, "You have no. idea."

the in between time, Captain Jess, captain of the Lil Mateys
I wasn't supposed to do the Friday blood draw. My doc was convinced I was miscarrying "normally." But my smart, savvy friend called me and suggested I ask for one more draw on Friday to really make sure my hormone levels were dropping.  I went in on Friday, asking for prayers and truly believing they were going to be answered.  My levels were going to be dropping. This was finally going to be over.

I got a call a few hours later that requested I come in for the 3rd ultrasound that week.  I grabbed Eric and we headed back to the waiting room of doom.  They pulled me in and after several moments, they found what we hoped they never would: a pregnancy. In my fallopian tube.

"But I've looked at the risk factors. I don't have any risk factors."
"You don't. And some people who get lung cancer have no risk factors. Sometimes you're just unlucky."

For those who do not know, I should probably mention at this point ectopic pregnancies are not good.  They account for about 3 out of every 1,000 pregnancies. They are never viable. They are often dangerous.  They can burst and cause a need for emergency surgery and send the patient into shock from blood loss.  But regardless, there's never a happy ending to an ectopic pregnancy.

We were given several treatment options and I was desperate to avoid surgery. With my hormone levels as high as they were, I was told there was a 60-70% chance a drug called methotrexate would work.  Methotrexate is a drug used for cancer treatment, among other things. It's given via injection in very small doses to try to shrink cells in ectopic pregnancies.  We were given quite a few instructions and sent over to the hospital to the infusion center. Several hours and episodes of HGTV's Extreme Houses later, I went back to work.  To the final day of Kids Club.

me, sitting in the infusion center watching TV and chillaxin
I was able to get through the night but methotrexate causes exhaustion and nausea. The weekend was tired and sad.  But I was so hopeful that the drug would work, despite all the odds being against me all week, and I would get to put this all behind me soon.  So after a weekend of vomiting and sleeping and barely moving (and doing work on Sunday), I went to my blood draw on Tuesday and headed in for a regular day of work.

(Cue laugh track)

We had just finished a book discussion with our interns on Sensing Jesus, a book about humanity and humility in ministry. I got a call. It was my doctor. Not his nurse. This is never, ever a good sign.  The blood levels weren't at 7,000 any more.  They were nearing 10,000.

"We can draw again on Thursday. They could be going down then."
"Am I just pushing my luck? Is it time to consent to surgery?"
"Yes, let me call you back."

I had time to walk in and tell my coworkers I was headed to surgery before my doc called again. We set up a surgical consult with a doctor in his practice. I was to be there in two hours so after my coworkers prayed for me, I agreed to head home, meet Eric there, and mentally prepare for surgery that afternoon or the next morning. I called my mom.  I texted my friend.  And I grabbed my bag and said goodbye to my coworker with tears in my eyes.  But as I turned to leave, all the blood felt like it had drained from my body.  I couldn't move. I felt hot and bad and my belly was very, very full.  I asked my coworker to grab the other Crossing Kids staff.

They came rushing back and I couldn't stop crying. We moved me to they foyer where I sat on the couch and proceeded to throw up and dry heave as loud as humanly possible, making a scene for everyone who walked in to church that morning. Phone calls went out to my doctor, my husband, and finally, to 911.   My coworkers held me up, held my hair back, and held cold towels to my hot-as-fire head. All I could say was, "I'm so, so sorry" and "This really, really sucks."

Eric showed up. Then the ambulance. I desperately wanted to go in his car.  I fought it. But as I tried to stand up, I fell and things went black. They strapped me to the ambulance bed and in I went. I could see coworkers from the church all around and if I weren't so very sick I would have been embarrassed.

I got even sicker in the ambulance and was given 2 IVs of super cold fluids, Zofran (because I was having more lovely vomiting), and perhaps an anti-anxiety med. I finally got to the hospital, where I became the focus of the moment for a while. 

The hours all run together but my doc eventually got there and tried to assess me. I could barely stand her touch, my abdomen was so distended.  She was certain my tube had burst but I tried to convince her otherwise. After a cat scan, we knew for sure: 

I had internal bleeding.
 I needed surgery immediately (no waiting 8 hours for food from morning to exit my system). 
There was no saving my fallopian tube.

All the things I had prayed for vanished. They weren't possible. The miracle at this point was just getting through.  I had lots of visitors and even got to see my parents before I went in to surgery.  I tried to be in good spirits. My family prayed with me, and the doctors stood near.  And they whisked me into the OR for an emergency laparoscopic surgery.

Turns out 2 liters of IV fluid makes you super cold. So they wrapped me in warm blankets in pre-op. Warm blankets for the win!
Forty minutes later, I woke up shaking and tired and crying. And alone. Thanks, anesthesia. According to sources, surgery went well.  Fast. And my doc thought I could go home. But I just couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't ready. So they admitted me and took me up to a surgical recovery floor.

My dad had to go home but my mom and hubs stayed with me overnight. Between the three of us we probably slept approximately 15 minutes. I kid. More like 45.

As it turns out, they take your vitals every 15-30 minutes in the hospital. And mine weren't so great. So they set off an alarm each time.

By the 4:00 blood draw, my blood pressure was at 82/39 and my hemoglobin was at 7.9. People who know say this is bad.  And so my doc ordered a transfusion.

And that's the story of how I became a Cullen.

I love me some blood.  Perked me up right quick, I tell ya.

The Cullen-like blood sucking happened all morning. Two units later, I quite literally felt like a different person. Before: could barely keep my eyes open. After: eyes can stay open.

My view all day Wednesday. Hospital has more channels than home. Gotta see the positives when they come.
I got lots of visitors. Wonderful friends, family, coworkers, and the sweet, sweet woman who runs our infant loss and miscarriage support group at my church.  She gave me forget-me-nots. I cried. My dad cried. My mom cried. We all cried.

But after a day of resting and a walking trip to the elevator (my first time to walk in 24 hours), I finally was given clearance to go home. I said goodbye to my wonderful nursing staff (shout out to my nurse friends--you guys do amazing, amazing, unsung-hero work) and off I went.

On the way home!

That was Wednesday. I have been home ever since, surrounded by friends and family and Gilmore girls and beautiful bouquets.

Beautiful gifts from beautiful people

I don't have a pretty bow to wrap this up. My work is covering for me this week as I do my best to physically and emotionally and spiritually work toward recovery.  The body of Christ has been amazing.  I've had people to laugh with and cry with. I have more food than I can begin to eat. I have received texts and bible verses and phone calls.  And most of all prayers. So, so many prayers.

I don't know how this will all play out. Another post for that, maybe.  I am sad. Really, really sad.  I didn't expect to lose part of me. Or this pregnancy. But here I am.

When I first got home on Monday morning, almost two weeks ago now, I didn't know what to do with this news. I put on Youtube and listened to a few songs over and over again.  But mostly, I just cried and talked to my Jesus and resonated with this:

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.
(underlining mine)

I have a lot of healing to do. We don't know what our family will look like. But I pray the same prayer I prayed at the beginning: that my faith would deepen in my precious savior, that others' faith would deepen from seeing this experience and seeing God so close to our family, and that Eric and I would increase in unity.  You can pray, too.  That God would be glorified in the dark.
...Jesus is my life...


  1. Wow, Jess. I hope you are feeling better and know that I'm thinking of you. I hope you got wonderful care at Boone:)

    1. Shannon, so funny. They were shooting a commercial in the room next to mine as I recovered and I SO wished you would have been next door. But yes, I got great care:).

  2. I am so sorry for your lost. I just started to follow you on instagram and nosily wondered about your surgical appt. So sorry to be nosy now. Lost pregnancies are confusing and so hard. I am glad that you have a strong support network around you. I 100% recommend Mark Grant for any future OBGYN needs. He will get your loss and will call this baby who died this month a real baby, and that was a helpful thing in my experience. Such a very sad thing and such a truthful post. It helps me to understand others' losses so I can react in more compassionate ways, so your writing is therapeutic for others, too.

    1. Bethany, As God would have it, Dr. Grant was my doctor from the beginning. I've already been so blessed by him and I know if we get to have another pregnancy I'll be blessed to have him in my corner again. I know you've dealt with this confusion and loss before. Thanks for thinking of me.

  3. *hugs* Chase and I have been thinking about you guys! Let us know what we can do for you!

    Katie (and Chase) D.

  4. Jess - I'm so sorry for the loss of your precious little soul. God will be glorified and others will be brought to him because of your strength to share your story. I will be praying for you and Eric...healing physically and spiritually.

    Zach and Diane

  5. Oh Jess, I'm so sorry for your loss and all you've been through. When I miscarried, I literally bathed myself in the song You Are Still Holy by Kim Hill. You can hear it on youtube - I pray it helps you heal as it did me. Praying for you!

  6. Jess - God IS being glorified through your baby! YOU are making it so! I know that your baby is playing in Heaven with my two precious ones that are waiting for me there...

  7. I'm so sorry for your loss Jess and Eric. You are in my heart and prayers. Your witness is a true inspiration.

  8. Thanks for sharing and being vulnerable with this part of your life, Jess. Even though we've never actually met, I have been blessed by your posts and have been eagerly following your adoption process story. As someone who wants to adopt in the future, your blog gives me comfort to "know" someone else who has gone through the process. Praying for your recovery and for your and Eric's hearts as you process this.

  9. Wow I'm so sorry to hear this. You and Eric are in my prayers. Your reliance on God and desire to glorify Him through this is amazing.

  10. I'm so sorry to hear about this.I can feel the presence of the Lord in your story. I'll be praying for you!!