Written on April 2, 2021, a year later and it's still difficult to process through this time in my life as I sit to write this.
April 2, 2020
The pandemic is in full swing. Everything is shut down. I was almost 2 months postpartum, 7 weeks and 2 days to be exact.
I had been in so much pain during the recovery from my c section. I had chest pain and had spent months feeling like I couldn’t breathe due to my respiratory infection. I had double pneumonia. I had pain in my upper stomach area, but it was horrible in my shoulder and back. I could hardly lift Stella. I was in tears, still throwing up. I didn’t understand why HG hadn’t stopped after the pregnancy. I was struggling to say the least. My PPD and PPA was full swing. The world felt out of control and totally unstable and I was stressed about what I just brought a brand new soul into the world with all the p(l)andemic crisis going on.
My body was failing. I had moments when I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I was scared. The pain, the puking, the not being able catch my breath. When I went in for my 6 week postpartum check, my OB suggested that I might be having aftermath problems from HG, and perhaps it was my gallbladder, so she referred me to a gastroenterologist.
He turned out being a super nice doctor. He listened to what I had been through, felt around belly and suspected a couple things going on and sent me for an ultrasound, among some other tests. A week had gone by when I got in for my ultrasound. I was a wreck driving myself to the appointment. Tears forcing their way down my cheeks as I worked to breathe through pain. The tech could barely get through my ultrasound. My pain level was intolerable, I could barely move. She wouldn’t say what she saw on the ultrasound, but said with a very concerned look on her face, “I’m stopping this now, and going to get the doctor to look at this. “ I waited for what felt like forever, and they both came back and said I would need surgery. I needed it immediately.
However, insurance would need to be worked out. I was instructed to wait for a call. The call came a couple hours later while I was sitting at home, nursing Stella.
Insurance was going to decline the surgery, because of new Covid policies that basically stated gallbladder surgery isn’t essential and unless I’m dying they won’t cover it. My doctor said he would work on it and call me back. Seriously, this gastro doc was really advocating for me and I appreciated it, because I was in no shape to do it myself at the time. He told me it was an emergency and was worried if I didn’t get it that it would become life or death situation and there was no reason to let it get to that point.
He called back, disappointed, stating there wasn’t anything he could say to have insurance cover me, so the plan was then to wait it out. He gave me symptoms to look for and keep an eye on and said if any of this happens; get right to the ER, because I’m fearful that you won’t make it much longer through this without it becoming an emergency situation.
Some time passed and it indeed did get worse. So much worse. I couldn’t stop throwing up. I had diarrhea, I couldn’t catch my breath not just form the recovering from pneumonia, but from the overwhelming pain. It was after midnight the night I went in to the ER on April 2nd. I was passing out and then would come to and sob, because I was terrified to go to the hospital.
I was already dealing with PPD/PPA.
I was still in pain from my csection and dealing with postpartum bleeding.
I was scared to leave my new baby.
I was scared to go alone to the hospital because they wouldn’t allow anyone in but me.
I was then scared what if Covid really is as bad as they’re making it out to be and I get it?
What if I die?
My anxiety was spiraling.My pain had totally taken over my body. I was sweating through my clothes.
My husband woke up our 15 year old to keep an eye on the baby and 3 year old Clara. I was seriously scared that this might be the last time I see my children. What if? It crossed my mind so many times as I drug my heels about going to the ER, but knowing I had to go.
Gallbaldder surgery shouldn’t be so scary. But now it was. For me, in that state of mind I was in, in a pandemic, with a new baby, recovering from a very traumatic pregnancy and birth, only just starting to heal from pneumonia, and a doctor’s warning that this could be life or death. I was angry, too, with how insurance and the medical industry was classifying who and what was essential.
I was passing in out of consciousness in the car drive there. I barely remember seeing my husband as he drove off and I woke up with the nurse wheeling me in to the ER. I wasn’t coherent when they put me in the wheelchair. But now it was like shock had set in. I had pain but felt mentally numb and confused.
They immediately started pumping me with high does pain meds. I was still coming and going consciously from the pain and infection. The pain meds weren’t even touching the pain I was in. All the doctors and nurses were in bunny suits, gloves on, masks on with face shields over the masks, some with goggles on. I could barely understand them when they talked to me. I couldn’t identify a single face. They ran tests and confirmed I had a severe infection going through my body, and infection in my liver, too. There were hundreds of gallstones, so many that it’d be impossible to get them all out, and my gallbladder was a couple hours, estimated by the ER doc, from “blowing up.” He was pissed with the covid policies and insurance, too.
After a few more rounds of pain meds, I was able to talk through the pain. My breasts were getting engorged. So a nurse brought me a pump. She was very kind to me. She stayed with me to try to talk with me, small talk about baby, and anything that wasn’t stressful, just surface talk, and she worked to get my mind off everything. I was so thankful for her kindness and it did help. It wasn’t easy. I sat there pumping milk, tears down my face as milk let down and I missed my baby, but I was also in pain and throwing up.
She put her hand over mine and said, “You’re a strong momma, you’re going to be okay. I’m sorry you have to go through this without anyone here for you, but I can see you’re a fighter. You’ll be home with your baby before you know it. “
They wheeled me up to a room where I’d be prepped for surgery. The surgeon talked with me. She told me all the options and what would happen. She explained the severity of the infection and state of my organs. There was no putting it off, because my organs would begin to fail if the infection was left any longer.
She knew I wanted to be home with my baby as soon as possible. She told me they typically keep patients overnight for observation, but with covid policies they’d have to release me as soon as I am wheeled out of surgery. As much as I wanted to be with my baby and family, I also was in disbelief that patients were not getting the aftercare they needed. They wanted me out of the hospital within 30 minutes of being wheeled out form surgery. I wasn’t even coming to yet.
A young make nurse kept trying to get me to wake up and put my shoes on and call for my ride. I was still under anesthesia and feeling heavily sedated. My husband wasn’t picking up his phone. After an hour, they started getting very upset that I wasn’t gone yet. “It’s new Covid hospital policy. You can’t be here. Who else can get you?” I was groggy and really wasn’t sure what to tell them at that point.
Another 15 minutes went by and my husband finally answered his phone. He wasn’t happy. He seemed upset that there was a rush to get me out, because he was busy with working from home, something he wasn’t used to yet, and managing a new baby with our other 2 kids. He was exhausted and grumpy. It made me feel like shit that he wasn’t more compassionate towards me, but looking back I put myself in his shoes and see how exhausted he was as well with taking everything on while I was down and then having the hospital down his throat to come get me.
Another hour later he was there to pick me up. He seemed rushed and irritable, which upset me, which then upset him more. I wasn’t happy with him either, because I had tried calling him numerous times before I went in for the surgery and he didn’t answer the phone. I felt very alone, and at the time it felt like he didn’t care what I was going through, when in reality he was overworked and stressed out. It wasn’t a highlight moment for us. Dealing with so much for a year at that point, the emergency gallbladder surgery I think was just like, well how many other things are going to go wrong kind of feeling; along with all the new adjustments with the baby and life during a worldwide crisis.
It took a few months to feel like I had recovered from gallbladder surgery. I started physical therapy because I was having a lot of dysfunction from the csection and gallbladder surgery. I still have tender spots where the scars are, even a year later; sometimes I get spasms or cramps where the scars are, too. I did about three months of physical therapy, only to get kicked out because I wouldn’t wear a mask. My therapist told me it would take about a year of PT, but I got about 3 months. So a year later, here I am. I practice some of the things I learned, and I’m holding up pretty well, I think. Sure there are things that need work, but I’m holding my own.
Hell, I even started roller skating and a week ago I took my first roller derby class. I’m going to keep working on my healing journey, and I’m going to keep working to improve my physical strength, no matter what that timeline looks like.
But seriously, after that experience with fucked up covid policies, all I can say is fuck the p(l)andemic. Okay, I can say a lot more, but that sums it up.
It’s been a year. A year ago I was hanging by a thread, at my worst emotionally and physically. I had a baby during a pandemic. I had a lifesaving surgery, alone. I had just come out of a horrendous high risk pregnancy, pneumonia, and recovering from a C-section. A year ago I was a whole different person. A year ago I was fighting for my life. I couldn’t see past the present moment. Everything was day by day, hell hour by hour. I honestly felt hopeless and couldn’t even imagine what a year ahead would look like.
I cannot believe it’s been a year. It’s starting to feel like a lifetime ago with the changes that I’ve seen physically, emotionally, and with all the chaos in the world. A year later, I am so thankful to be here after surviving through so much. I’m going to live my life and do the things I love, pandemic be damned, restrictions be damned, I will live my life. I will fight always. And I won’t forget how strong I am. I swear it’s so hard to recognize how strong we really can be in the moment when we feel our weakest.
Everything Allison Attitude 2020