Emergency Surgery During COVID (Part 1)
As many know, cystic fibrosis comes with an array of issues that affect more than just the lungs. I have stated this in my last article related to weight gain. Something I really struggle with the most in my life is my GI system.
Since the beginning of the quarantine, I have had to cancel my wedding, put off family planning, and my fiancé has been working from home since March. It has been a true test of our relationship. We have had our moments but, for the most part, it has gone well.
Now I know the whole world is going through the same thing. The problem is, for us CF patients, putting our lives on hold is something we have to do constantly during the course of our lives.
Putting post-surgery life on hold due to COVID
When I had my transplant, it finally felt like the constant putting-life-on-hold moments would slow down a bit for once, especially now that I am not being admitted to the hospital for CF exacerbations every 6-8 weeks. We all know that when life resumes for healthy individuals it most definitely will not for us. We are still going to have to wait and watch as everything unfolds to make sure it is safe for us and many other people with pre-existing conditions to resume our normal daily lives again.
In saying all this, at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, I decided I wasn’t going to sit around and watch the horrible news and get into a state of depression. I decided I’m going to get back in shape and start putting on the muscle that I had when I used to compete in boxing.
Developing an obstruction
From the beginning of April to exactly June 1st, I put on about 20 pounds of muscle. I trained every single day; I even considered training on rest days because it’s hard to take a days rest when I'm so focused on meeting my goal. I was eating right and drinking lots of fluids. Because of how I used to compete in the ring, I had the top trainers and nutritionists to help me gain and work around my CF. I retained all that knowledge and put it into all the training I did this time around.
On June 1st, right after I had eaten dinner, my stomach was not feeling very well. As time passed, I started to have pain. Then more pain. Then even more pain. I knew what it was at this point. It was a bowel obstruction.
I called my team and told them. They said to come into the ER and--unfortunately--I had to come alone. No one could come in with me because of COVID, even to surgery. I lost my mind; I knew this time around I would need surgery. I could feel it. I have had multiple obstruction surgeries. I would rather have another lung transplant. A bowel obstruction is the worst type of pain you can imagine.
I was dropped off at the emergency room. They did the normal IV pain medication to get my pain under control, which was really difficult because of how much tolerance I have to those types of medications. Then they did a CT scan, just to tell me what I already knew... I was obstructed, and pretty bad this time.
Deciding to enter surgery during COVID
The plan was to insert an NG tube, which is a nightmare in its own right, and give me some Gastrografin through the tube to try and break up the obstruction and hopefully pass it. About a day and a half went by and the pain was worse. Almost uncontrollable. My doctor came in my room and asked me my opinion. As much as I don’t want to I knew I needed to. I told him it’s time. Surgery was my only option.
I cannot explain to you the emotions going through my head: the fact that I was about to go through my worst fear and nightmare all alone. I wouldn't have anyone there to hold my hand when I woke up to talk to me and try and keep me calm. I was going to have to battle this without any support by my side, but I had no choice. Here we go.
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