pain is stigmatized 

Back a few months ago my husband and I decided we’re going to move to Thailand for a year with our one year old son. We would live in the same neighborhood as my brother-in-law, his wife and their two daughters. They’ve lived there for 8 years.

Let me recap a few things that happened over this last year. My son was born last September. My perfect little happy guy. It was two weeks past the due date so my doctor called me in to be induced. NOT A PART OF THE BIRTH PLAN. In fact, nothing went to plan. We were supposed to go Labor Day to be induced but my INCREDIBLE doctor said to stay home, there was an unusual number of women suddenly coming to the birthing center to have their babies! Naturally, I was upset but my husband helped me keep my spirits up. It had been a rather agonizing two week waiting period. It was so hot and humid out I couldn’t even go outside to take a walk, the only thing that helped discomfort and anxiety. I gained half of the 65 pounds in the last 2-3 months. So humid. I had a complication in the 9th month where I had an abscess on my my lower back, sending shooting pain to my tailbone. The abscess was 6 inches long and didn’t surface for a week — a week of pain and investigating the cause of the pain. We thought the baby was positioned funny or that I may have had a pylonidal cyst. Well it was so bad one day I was feeling nauseous and dizzy so I had to call up me cousin to come take me to the ER. I couldn’t sit. Could only lay on my sides. Abscesses are painful. They tried to drain it but it wasn’t far along enough in the process to be drained; nothing to drain. I’m there in the ER laying on my side on the table and a surgeon is basically looking at my butt trying to figure out what to do with this and ease some pain meanwhile there is a baby in the next bed crying so loud and so much I burst into tears. Then they were done examining and poking and we had to wait to be released and that baby was still crying so much. It was terrible. I just walked away and made the nurse come find me when they were ready. We got in trouble for that I guess. They sent me home with non-aspirin pain meds, antibiotics, so much gauze, bandages and tape. No way would I have let my husband see or touch this embarrassing and strange thing that was going on. I tended to the wound myself. It was grotesque which definitely didn’t help. I’m a very clean person and this isn’t the Civil War era so wth! My doctor said some weird and crazy shiz happens to your body when you’re pregnant. Of course my immediate concern was, “What about my baby?” The doctor said it could have been from a hair follicle, an in-grown hair, or a sweat gland that blocked up. Well eff me. She assured me that the baby was fine in his own little sac, not absorbing any of this. After 3-4 days of antibiotics, after already 5 days of pain, the abscess started to run its course (an overall 2+ week project). Yes please. I’d love to nurse two slits, gaping wounds near my tailbone hard to reach location while I’m 9 months pregnant and 50+ pounds heavier. The pain stopped when the antibiotics kicked in. Oh ya though, pain meds while pregnant. That’s a tough one. You don’t get the “good stuff”. I still had two slits each a few inches long to take care of and no one understood. How do I said the word abscess without sounding gross? Or I was too embarrassed to say what really was going on. Or what I really think is that I was afraid to say I was in pain because people don’t understand how to cope with and support others in pain. It’s stigmatized. This crucial basic human need is negatively stigmatized.

Then we get sent to the hospital like 7am two weeks post due date and I was having minor contractions that I couldn’t feel, then got induced, no pain meds, no problem at that point. It took forever for things to move along, by dinner time the contractions were bad enough that my husband was like you need pain meds and I said ok becsuse I couldn’t grasp level of pain or what was really going on since I was in some preggo coma. Then next morning at like 3am still trying to dilate more than 6cm. We tried every position, pushing, meds, everything. No food for a very long time! The little guy’s heart beat slowed down once overnight then again at 1pm on day two his heart beat dropped drastically and we went in for emergency c-section. Was going to have to have one any way because he was sunny side up and refusing to turn. It was pretty scary being rushed in but the whole damn thing was over in 3 minutes and he was out and in my arms in a couple of minutes. Whyyyy was I just in pre-labor for 30 hours? Recovering from a c-section is hellish and takes a long time. Yes, you can (maybe) exercise and stuff after 3-4 months rest but it took pretty much a year for me to feel better and capable, or even able to engage lower bandhas. Whenever my now toddler is playing or I’m holding him and he kicks my lower stomach a painful almost numb feeling shoots through my lower belly. I mean I just carry on but it’s nothing to think lightly of and I wouldn’t blame anyone for complaining about that obnoxious discomfort.

Pain is so stigmatized. This was the kicker. My husband was sick the following March, so about 6 months after my son was born. He just stopped smoking and was sick with a common cold for a couple of weeks. Then he seemed ok, he said he always coughs a lot after a cold because of his asthma. By week four of this catastrophe he seemed to have flu like symptoms so he stayed downstairs in the guest room not to get the little guy and I sick. Our son could get his flu shot at 6 months old but he wasn’t quite there yet but so close, so we limited any exposure just in case. He was working a lot and getting ready for some major holidays and the new spring menu. Too busy for me to even notice his symptoms beyond coughing. One day my husband said he had a pain by his right ribs so we went to the urgent care, 3 minute drive down the street. By the time we got there the pain was unbearable. So unbearable that the urgent care center didn’t have strong enough meds. He got admitted to the local hospital. He had pneumonia, no flu, but severe infection in the fluid around his lung. He essentially had an abscess in the pleura space around his lung near the lateral side of the apex. Right away they drained it with a big needle through his back, next day tried again but the fluid was too thick, put in some chest tubes to drain out the side, pumped him with antibiotics, they recognized he had beta hemolytic strep which was the infected fluid, then by day 4 he had a thoracotomy, a surgery to cut open his side from scapula to ribs and scrape out infected material. Well guess what, that didn’t work! 6 more days battling this strep fluid around his lungs, all the while he had two chest tubes in and a zombie from all pain meds. Tried enzymes to break up the material, a painful process to close the tubes, let the enzymes work then release the clamps so fluid could leave via the tubes…into a bucket. You know how it is to get answers from hospital staff.. eye roll. If you don’t, hope you don’t have to find out. Your loved one looks like he’s dying and you’re repeatedly asking about his progress and no one will answer you! I had one day where I left and drove for a few, got a cheeseburger, ew. I didn’t know what to do that day. Move him to a better hospital? How can I make my demands for more information heard?! I had been sleeping in the lounge at night and my little 6 month old boy was home with his grandmothers. I had to choose between my 6 month old and sick husband. Not easy. Tried sleeping at home one night but it didn’t work. I called my mother up to come over and I went to the hospital asap. My husband needed an advocate! One night sleeping in the lounge I got up to go check on him in the middle of the night and he was having a skin reaction to one of the antibiotics they injected in his arm. They got the antidote to fix it. An antidote. Glad I got up to check.

All he could think about was getting back to work and all work was thinking about was when is he getting back. People take sickness and pain too lightly. 6-8 more weeks of recovery at home. Rather immobile and skinny from not eating much. This experience changed the way we look at things. Helped clarify priorities and lead us to the decision to do something we want and not make work = life. Life = life. Let’s go to Thailand.

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