Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Strange Indeed

I just saw my new belly button for the first time. What a weird thing... it was one shape a week ago and now it's a different shape. I'm impressed that they made one of my incisions there, though. Way to minimize the scars, Dr. Choi! When he took off the bandages, he asked if I liked "my new umbilical cord?" Took me a minute to realize what he meant. Hello, new belly button.

I also had my staples removed today and all my incisions "look good." I was pleased to hear that my gallbladder's biopsy came back clean. They discovered my inflammation was chronic (as opposed to acute), but no other surprises!

The best news of the day is that I get to take a normal shower tomorrow morning! I am SO excited! :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Unexpected Korean hospital adventures

Oh the adventures I get myself into. If you had asked me 11 days ago what I expected my next week and a half to hold, never in a million years would I have guessed the health expedition that I was about to unknowingly venture upon.

I guess it all began about 4 weeks ago now. I started having stomach issues (see past blog entries) and visited a variety of healthcare providers in search of answers. While my condition persisted, it seemed that the source had been identified (a presumed stomach infection). I was caught completely off guard when my symptoms accelerated a week ago Friday. I could not stop vomiting, had severe stomach cramps, and had a fever. Thankfully, I had two good friends around who took my to the ER right away; there began my Korean hospital adventure.

Almost immediately I surrendered my freedom of mobility and my ability to eat/drink with the insertion of an IV. Doctors ran a million and one tests to isolate the source of my symptoms: urine samples, a battery of blood tests, X rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, liver function tests, physical examinations.... After 15 hours of being poked, prodded, drained, and dyed the doctors were quite sure of my prognosis. They determined that I had an inflamed gallbladder with at least one sizable gallstone. They also found infection in both my gallbladder and my colon. The treatment they proposed? Heavy rounds of antibiotics followed by laparoscopic removal of my gallbladder (4 smaller holes in lieu of a full-abdomen incision). Since Koreans do not typically perform surgery on Sundays, my surgery was scheduled for Monday morning and I spent the next 2 days fasting, receiving visitors, Skype-talking with my nervous (and far away!) family members, and anxiously awaiting the scheduled procedure.

Monday morning at approx. 5:45 am the head nurse came in and got me prepped for surgery (i.e., she put my hair in pigtails so my head could lay flat, changed my shirt into a surgical gown, and confirmed for the umpteenth time that did not have on nail polish or jewelry). About 7:30 my friend Emily arrived to keep me company. By the time I went in for surgery, I had talked to my parents about 5 times, my pastor had arrived, and I had spent about 5 hours on an adrenaline high.

Surgery went well. Evidence #1: my gallbladder on a green platter (yes, it was carried out to my friend in the waiting room). Evidence #2: a bag of gallstones that was waved above my eyes the first time I opened them in the post-op room.

I feel the need to pause the story and describe some of the many random things that I experienced in the hospital. But how does one chronicle a week like the one that I had? For example, every night I was woken up about 4 times: 3 am for an IV change, 4 am to have blood drawn, 5 am to describe my bowel movements the previous day, take my blood pressure, and check my temperature, and 6:30ish to go take X rays downstairs. Why they could not combine some of those tasks and wake me up fewer times, I am still unsure about. None of the nurses spoke English, so I quickly learned important medical terms in Korean and used lots of body language to communicate my needs. My favorite nurse made little whimpering noises whenever she thought something might hurt (even though my first new Korean word was "pain," I appreciated the extra warning). I tried to take walks regularly and loved frequenting the curb outside the hospital. In Korean hospitals, patients can walk their IVs down the block to grab food or out to the street corner for a smoke. Cracks me up!

Jumping back to my recovery timeline: I got out of surgery Monday and was in a ton of pain for the first 18 hours. However, with each subsequent healing day, the pain decreased substantially. Tuesday afternoon I was allowed to eat food for the first time. Thursday I sat up by myself. Friday I was released from the hospital and went to stay with a friend and her family for the weekend. Monday, I went back to work (well, I taught about half the day from a couch). My recovery has supposedly been on the faster end of the spectrum, but I have been a bit shocked at home much time it is taking me to get back on my feet. I have always been one to push myself to recover quickly... patience has never been my strongest virtue. While I get my staples out Wed. afternoon, I know that full recovery is going to take awhile.

Throughout the entire process, I have been overwhelmed by the support of my friends, family, and community. I probably had 40 different visitors in the hospital (many came multiple times). I had a coworker who was also admitted to the hospital around the same timing and we kept each other company most days. My friend Emily spent two nights in my hospital room and acted as my official "other" during the surgery. My room was lined with flowers, cards, stuffed animals, etc. Coworkers helped cover my classes during my absence. Friends and family members called regularly from the states. I got countless texts, emails, and notes encouraging me through the process. All this to say, I am blessed. Thank yous do not do justice to the kindness that was showered on me in the last week and a half.

For fear of being overly verbose, I feel as though this must conclude this epic tale. However, I can't conclude without a final thank you. Thank you to all of you who prayed for me throughout the process. Thank you for those of you who called, wrote, visited, or checked in on me. I am very grateful.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

For the first time in 2 1/2 weeks...

my stomach feels normal. I went to french toast fest at the Pinho's and felt like I could eat real food. I took a walk with Jen. Life is just splendid!

On a more serious note, if you are the praying type, please pray for my friends' new daughter. Little Alina was born 10 weeks premature and has had quite the adventure already in life. My friends update the following site regularly on Alina's progress:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Seoul Inspired

I was feeling a bit restless after 2 weeks of being confined to my home (stupid stomach!), so I went up to Seoul for a day this weekend. It was great to free myself from the bubble that is my TCIS life. I got to see Lauren, do a bit of shopping, and stop at one of my favorite places in Seoul: the 5th floor of Dongdaemun shopping center (otherwise known as the place I find my jewelry supplies in Korea). I wandered the stalls and acquired enough quirky materials to pull together 7 pairs of new earrings (1 is still pending). Check out my newest designs:

First, the simplest (funky materials but easy construction):

Some that were a little more complex (painting and/or balancing required):

Finally, my personal favorite, the most Korean pair of earrings I have made to date. Love the randomness: