Sunday, November 15, 2009

Adventures of an Anal Abscess, or two.

This story is not for the weak. If you can't handle hearing about blood, surgical procedures, pus, poop, and butts....then please stop reading right now. But if you're interested in knowing why I've been whining all over Twitter and Facebook for the past, oh, year and a on. So many of you have asked about what is going on with me. It was difficult to just give you a straight up answer. So here you go. It's a long story. I'd tell you to pack a lunch, but you're not going to want to eat while reading this. Trust me.

One day back in 2008, it was probably May, I was lying in bed on my back. I moved a certain way, and noticed a pinching sensation in the inner part of my right buttock. (First sentence, and we're already discussing butts!) It wasn't too painful, so I figured I had pulled a muscle or something and went to sleep. The next night, I felt it again. Then the next night. And the next. Each time just telling myself it's nothing. But after about a week, as I was lying there....feeling it hit me that something wasn't right. You don't feel a pinching sensation in the inner part of your right buttock for a week. It's not normal. Then I began to worry, but only a little. I went to sleep.

The next day I took a shower. I decided that maybe I should try and feel if anything was out of the ordinary down there. So I did. And something was out of the ordinary. I felt a lump. A small hard lump under the surface of my skin, pretty close to my.....bum hole. But it wasn't close to the surface, like a boil would be. You could tell it was deep. When I pushed on it, it felt like it was larger than it seemed...because of the sensation it caused when pushing on it. It was now time to Google.

I try not to call on Dr. Google when I'm having symptoms. Dr. Google usually leaves me with fears of the worst when I call on him. But I did it anyway. I'm glad I did, because Dr. Google. taught me a lot about this problem that was developing inside of my derriere that I had never heard of before. A problem I'd deal with for at least over a year. After much research, I knew what I had was an abscess. There are different kinds, with different names, such as anal abscess, anorectal abscess, perianal abscess, rectal abscess....I wasn't sure which one I had, or if there's even a difference, but I knew I had one of those.

I learned much about these abscesses. Here's what I learned. They usually happen in men. Great. I happen to be a lady, so that made me feel quite special right off the bat. I also learned that they can be caused by foreign objects cutting or tearing the inside of the rectum. Oh wonderful, I thought. What will the doctor assume I've been doing in my spare time? Well then I learned that sometimes they just happen, and there's no explanation. I went with that one. I also learned that the only way to get rid of this thing was to have a surgeon cut it open and drain it. Antibiotics won't touch it, because it's not connected to a blood supply or something. The infection is completely sealed off and medicine won't clear it out. This is why it must be drained. Yikes. This wasn't going to be an easy fix. I read on and learned that after you have it drained, it must be packed with gauzey stuff and the infection must heal from the inside out.

Well that sounded like so much fun, that I decided to take the wait and see approach before seeing a doctor. The next day, it grew a little bigger. A day later, it was much bigger. Another day later, there was an obvious lump on my butt. The next day, it was so big, I wasn't sure if going #2 would be an option anymore. SO I found a doctor, made the appointment, and off I went.

With no insurance, and $50-$70 a pop, I saw this doctor 3 times. First of all, can I tell you how embarrassing it is to lie on a table, spread your cheeks, and let a doctor look around there? Yeah. Little did I know I'd have to do this about a thousand more times in the next 18 months. So anyway, he looked at it. He was confused. I mentioned abscess to him. He still seemed confused. He sent me home with an antibiotic. I didn't tell him Dr. Google said antibiotics don't work, but I figured he was the one with all the degrees. I got my meds and went home. An hour later, a sudden high fever began. Also at this point, I could no longer sit...even in the comfiest of chairs.

The next day I went back to the doctor. He looked again "Oh, it looks like it hasn't gotten any bigger," he says. I was shocked. Had he not noticed it looked like there was now a banana implanted under my skin? Well that's what it felt like anyway. He gave me an even stronger antibiotic, some pain meds, and sent me home again. Got my meds, fever got worse.

Even with the pain meds, the pain was horrible. I lied on the couch. Chills, sweating, stuff. I went back again the next day. Dr. Doofus then decides that maybe the antibiotics aren't working, and that I should see a surgeon about cutting it open to drain. So Dr. Google was proving to be right after all.

A few days later, I went to this surgeon's office. Here is where I learned that when you are scheduled to see a surgeon in his office, that you can be there all day. Surgeons do surgery. They do surgery all day sometimes. Unfortunately this surgeon had lots of surgeries that morning, and I sat....well, leaned, for a good hour in the lobby. I was in so much pain. There was so much crying. People stared. But finally he returned from surgery and they called me in. He looked at it and immediately decided to cut me right then and there in the mini surgery room in his office. First came the numbing shot. The shot that caused me to stop breathing, because never in my whole life have a felt something so painful. Needs aren't supposed to go there. They're just not. I couldn't inhale. Tears were streaming down my face, but I couldn't inhale. The nurse kept yelling "breathe!" but I couldn't do it. Finally I let out some sort of scream/cry/demonic sounding something, and I just freaked out. Oh I'm crying just typing this out now. Ok, so they calmed me down a little as we waited for the numbing to take effect.

Then he cut me. What I felt next wasn't pain....but it was disgusting. Hot, oozing goo began to run down my leg. It felt as if someone was pouring hot soup on me. Lots of hot soup. It just kept pouring out. But what's even grosser, is that it smelled like.....death? It smelled like road kill that's been on the side of the road in July for about 3 days. Don't get mad....I warned you!

He put a drain tube inside of me, the nurse cleaned me up, I paid my $100 office visit fee, and then I sat down in a chair and waited for Craig to pick me up. Yes, I was sitting! Oh I felt wonderful. Traumatized, but wonderful! After a few days, the drain tube would be taken out and I would be back to normal.

Yeah, not quite. Drain tube was taken out, the wound healed over, but about a week later, something else happened. Another spot had broken open and started to drain. First I went back to the surgeon. He looked at it, and in a snotty tone told me that that's not where he cut me and he had no clue what it was. He made it pretty clear that it was something totally different and he was not going to deal with it. Confused, and feeling pretty stupid, I left. Then I saw Dr. Doofus again, thinking maybe he'd help me. Yeah, no. He acted the same way the surgeon did.

So I went home to Dr. Google again. Dr. Google is so nice. He may try to scare you into thinking you're going to die from a nose bleed, but at least he doesn't humiliate you. Dr. Google taught me a few more things about these abscesses. Sometimes, they come back. And most of the time, they cause a sinus tract to grown inside....called a fistula. A fistula forms when the infection has nowhere to go. It's the body's way of getting rid of the toxic soup goo.

At this point, I decided to just invest in latex gloves, lots of gauze squares, and large maxi pads.....and just live with it. I was out of money. No insurance. I couldn't afford to let doctors continue to take my money and tell me that they just don't know what is wrong. So I prayed and just lived with it.

Some days it hurt a little, but mostly it was just a small bother. Some days there was lots of drainage. Some days none. But I never had a day where I didn't have gauze shoved between my cheeks. I just lived this way for a little over a year. I knew I'd have to get it taken care of at some point, but I tried not to think of that. Dr. Google had told me that fistulas can only be cured through surgery. I needed insurance first.

I bought some insurance and told myself that I'll get it checked out in a few months. I think I waited 6. Actually, what caused me to finally go to a doctor (a new doctor) was that I was feeling like something just wasn't right. I couldn't stay awake. I was so tired. And I could also feel the lymph nodes in my arm pits. Time to just do it.

The new doctor was great. So supportive and understanding, and so shocked that I felt I had to live that way for so long. He referred me to a different surgeon. So off I went. She talked to me about the problem, looked at it, and told me I probably had tunnels forming inside of me....and that immediate surgery was the only way to go. We scheduled surgery for about a week later. It was to be quick, easy, and out-patient.

The surgery was anything but easy. She had me lay on my stomach, in a jack-knife position, the table pointed and poking into my gut, and my butt up in the air. I was also awake during this surgery, because of the position I was laying in. After a more painful than usual spinal block (I had 2 before this) it was 45 minutes of misery. I couldn't stop wiggling. SO uncomfortable.

Recovery sucked. Sitz baths 3 times a day, 20 minutes each, and after every bowl movement. Oh, bowel movements. Let's talk about those. See....she left a hole with packing in it so that the infection would heal from the inside out. But after going #2, I couldn't wipe, because the packing would pull out. It was less than an inch from the bum hole. So I had to shower each time I pooped. So I was pretty much stuck at home. The stitches hurt. I was sore. I still couldn't sit at all. I stayed in bed all day and all night. My back began to hurt. One night, I bent over to pick something out, and my back completely went out. I was alone, it was about midnight, and after I finally made it to my bed, I just stayed there for the rest the night in excruciating pain. I couldn't move an inch. Thankfully it slowly got better.

This was also a very lonely time. Unfortunately, I live far away from all my closest friends. There weren't many visitors. There wasn't family support. Life was happily moving along around me while I was in a bed. I can't explain how I felt, really. It was a very dark time. I felt like I was trying to call out for help, but no one was listening. No one understood how traumatic this really was. It was outpatient....simple.....but this wasn't my arm, or a foot. This was an area of the body that nobody really talks about. This whole ordeal was so traumatic psychologically. And I had no one to talk to about any of it.

A week later, the surgeon took the packing out of me. Ow. Two weeks later, she removed the stitches. Ever had a stitch > < this close to your anus? More excruciating pain. I walked to my van, shut the door, and cried in the parking lot for a good 10 minutes. I also prayed to God that nobody would ever have to touch me there again. Surely this had to be the end. I couldn't take much more.

Six weeks later.....there's a pinchy feeling in my right buttock. Three days later, I'm admitted into Mercy Memorial hospital with a high fever, and a lump the size of an egg inside of my butt.

Five days they kept me there on iv with antibiotics. Every four hours, a poor new nurse would have to look at my butt. I never slept longer than 2 hours at a time. I was constantly interrupted by vital sign checks or obnoxious beeping iv pumps. Also, I felt like nobody in that hospital knew what was going on. Nurses would ask ME what was going on. I had no clue. I was never seen by a doctor. My surgeon had not yet visited me. I felt so lost. I'd send a nurse away to check with my doctor, and she'd never come back.

On the night of day three, it was about 4am and I woke up because a nurse came into the room. It was then I noticed that familiar feeling of hot goo running down my leg. At first I thought I peed. But then it hit me. I felt the wetness in the bed....I smelled my hand. The smell of know....road killl on a hot July afternoon? I informed the nurse in my room that I was exploding. Soon there were like four people in my room trying to help me with this. It was all over. All over me. All over my bed. The odor filled the room. It was worse than the first time. I thought I would puke. God bless the nurses who had to deal with that. Seriously. They can't possibly be paid enough to deal with......that. I showered. It oozed. But man....oh MAN....did I feel so much better. No more pain. No more fever. But I still had 2 more days in the hospital before my surgery.

They moved me to a private room because my shower broke. I was also in isolation.....apparently they thought I had a history of MRSA. I told them I didn't, but nobody at that hospital listens. Oh well, I wasn't going to argue. Privacy is nice. But Sunday, I started to feel anxious. Not just the normal every day anxious....but I felt like it was invading my body in a way I had never felt. I felt shaky. I also felt like I couldn't take a something heavy was on my chest. My heart was beating hard and fast like I had just exercised. I paced the room, trying to take deep breaths, but I couldn't. I put a pad down on a chair in the corner and sat there for a minute. I felt a little better. I could feel cool air hitting my face when I sat there. I sat there still for over an hour.

I went back to bed, still having this feeling like I was losing control of my mind. The nurse offered me meds. I declined. I was calm enough to go to sleep. So I did. For a few minutes...because it was time for vital sign checks again. I went back to sleep. For a few more minutes. Shift change. New nurse woke me up. I went back to sleep. For a few minutes. IV pump beeping for no good reason. I went back to sleep. For a few minutes. IV pump beeping for no good reason. I went back to sleep. For a few mintues. IV pump beeping for no good reason. This wasn't helping the anxiety. You know what else didn't help? Looking down at my wrist where my iv was and seeing blood. It's now 2am and nurse lady is going to put a new iv in me. Nurse lady has never successfully put an iv in someone. So she called for help. I was about to be a guinea pig. Not a good time for this to be happening. I was so not happy. She hurt me bad. The head nurse had to finish it. Finally, I went to sleep, praying to God that this surgery would somehow happen sooner than Tuesday so I could get the heck out.

The next day was much better. It was Monday. One more day of this and I'd be free, I hoped. Friends visited again. Thank God for them. Seriously. I cannot explain how much it meant when they came to see me. It was better than Christmas and birthdays. It was like winning the lottery. What a sucky, lonely place....and what awesome friends I have.

The next day, they woke me up and told me that someone else's surgery was canceled, so I get to go early. YES! I was originally scheduled for 4pm. I was excited to not have to wait that long. I was going to go without food or water for 18 hours. That's no fun. So off to surgery I went! This surgery was so much better. I got to lay on my back. The spinal block barely hurt at all. They gave me something that made me sleepy. I slept through the whole thing. They wheeled me into recovery, where I immediately puked my brains out, but after that I felt like a million bucks.

The surgeon left the gaping hole open this time and packed it. I was told that it would have to be changed twice a day. I was also told that my insurance would only cover a home nurse once a day. I was also informed that I could not pay one of these nurses to come out a second time each day. So what was I supposed to do? Nobody knew. Nobody cared. Nobody helped me figure that one out. I was frustrated, but not surprised.

I went back to my room, and I was going to be discharged soon. But first I had to hold food and drink down, and show them that I could pee. It sounds funny, but seriously, I couldn't pee the first time I tried. It was bizarre. So after 3 hours of no vomiting and some pee, they let me go.

I was home. I was in my bed. MY BED. I love my bed. I was happy.

The next day, my nurse came to change my packing. It hurt, but wasn't the worst thing. She didn't understand how the hospital would just let me go and not help me figure out the nurse/packing situation. She tried getting a hold of my surgeon's office for me for the next few days. They never got back with her. I was supposed to have surgical supplies called in as a prescription. They never did. I had to send Craig to a medical supply store with a shopping list.

That brings us to today, 4 days post-op. My surgeon finally got back with my nurse, and told her that I have to be packed and unpacked twice a day. No exceptions. That only meant one thing....that I'd have to do it myself. this world could I ask to do such a thing for me? "Um, hi. Would you come over here and pull bloody gauze out of a gaping hole near my anus, and then stuff it again for me? Every night? Thanks. I owe you one."

I sent Craig to Meijer to buy me a giant mirror. I was going to need to see what I was doing. I asked the nurse lots of questions that morning, so that I knew exactly what I needed to do to do this the right way. But all day long, I was a nervous wreck about it. What if I took the old packing out and couldn't get the new one in? What if it hurt really bad? What if I didn't do it the right way and germs got in there? What is it really going to feel like when I stick a gloved finger inside of my body where it doesn't belong? If you're wondering why my husband isn't helping me with this task, well, just mention "long-bloody-q- tip-in-gaping-hole" and watch him crash on the couch because he no longer has the strength to stand.

The time came to do this thing. So as bravely as I could, I gathered all the supplies I would need: packing strips, iodine, saline wash, gloves, gauze pads, towels, and my new large mirror. Now, I can't go into detail about how I had to contort my body to be able to see and feel (at the same time) anything, but I figured out a way. Carefully I pulled it out the old packing out of me. Weird, slightly painful, but not too bad. Now, for the hard part. This is the part where not only do I have to shove gauze strips into my body, but I actually have to stick my finger into my body, to push it all the way in. And then when I can't reach, I must maneuver an extra long q tip to shove it even farther. I tried. It wasn't working. It was hurting. I was literally feeling the inside of my body. THE INSIDE. Fat, or muscle, something. I felt it. You're not supposed to feel the inside of your body. I wanted to throw up. But I kept trying. I finally got it all shoved in. I don't know how far it went up. Probably not far enough. But it was all in. I un-pretzeled myself and collapsed on the floor, on my iodine stained towel, staring at my iodine stained gloved hands, and just began to sob.

So now, I sit here, just a few hours later, writing this story. I guess I just feel like that by someday telling it, people will understand that this was more than just a butt surgery. There is just so much more. So much worry. So much mental CRAP that comes along with it. So much missing out on life. Loneliness. Tears. Feeling stranded. Feeling....sad. My constant Twitter and Facebook whines aren't just me being whiny, looking for attention. No. That's just my way of reaching out to the normal world and trying to stay sane through this horrible ordeal. It's not over yet. I still have 4 more days until I see a doctor. I get to try this again 3 more times before then. I'm assuming it will get easier. I'm praying it will. I'm also praying that she tells me on Wednesday that I no longer have to pack/unpack the wound. I'm also praying, constantly, that this will be the last time, ever, EVER, that I have to go through this.

Now I'm going to go to bed. Obviously, this story is not over yet. So prayers are appreciated.


Lisa said...

o christie, i'm sooo sorry!! i know that was hard for you to share and i can't imagine how hard it is for you to go through all this....i can't believe you have to do your own wound care! i'm praying for you and will see you soon (how's tomorrow sound?)! also, i think pus, poop and butts would be a great hardcore band name ;)

Christopher said...

I literally am going through this almost exact same situation. I spent 6 months being told I had colitis and internal hemorrhoids, and only got the official diagnosis 1.5 weeks ago. Yes about the isolation, yes about feeling like a gross monster, yes about the pain and then the release of the draining. Thank you for writing this. Thank you so much.

Christie said...

I am so sorry, Christopher! You are welcome. I try to be open and transparent about my struggles because that's what I wanted others to do for me when I was going through stuff. It has been awhile since this happened and I'm happy to report it has not returned. I will be praying that everything goes well for you and that your doctor/surgeon can fix it for good.

LosAnggraito said...

Hi Christie. I was laughing and crying simultaneously reading your post, what a brave, amazing human being you are. The thing is, I'm literally about to go down the same Rollercoaster ride you're on... and I'm TERRIFIED. I had an anal fissure out of the blue about a week ago, and unfortunately it became infected. Now I can feel an abscess growing and I've been having fever/chills every night for the past few days. I'm scared to get the abscess drained only to go through the same horrible ordeal you went through. I know if I hold out too long it can lead to very serious complications. I've dealt with a nasty thrombosed hemorrhoid about 8 months ago which I conquered through natural remedies at home, but this is unlike anything I've faced. Going under the knife terrifies me more than anything else in the world. Any words of encouragement? :'(

Christie said...

Hi LosAnggraito!

Thank you so much for your kind words. I am so sorry you are going through this! Here is some encouragement. Surgery is the best thing. I started out with terrible doctors, and that's why my ordeal was so terrible. Once I found a good dr and surgeon, it wasn't that bad. But you need to be seen right away. You don't want the infection to spread into your blood stream. The sooner you take care of it, the better it will be. The newer treatments for this are not barbaric at all. You won't have to go through what my first silly surgeon put me through! Feel free to friend me on Facebook and keep me updated on how it goes.