Life. Any questions?
It’s amazing how quickly life can turn in a moment’s notice and of course, little to no warning.
I had forgotten how quickly you’re headed down the path of “just another day” and things take an unexpected turn.
This was my story.
Two weeks I was in Atlanta on business travel. A week like every other week except waking up sick Tuesday morning but nothing I couldn’t push through, right? And I did.
By lunch, it was so bad I didn’t have lunch. Not a good sign. I check into my hotel early due to feeling so lousy. I never do that.
I laid down for just a minute mid afternoon. Again, I never do that.
Two hours later, I get up to visit Sun Trust Park, the Atlanta Braves new stadium.
Why is that a big deal? Well, I’ve been inside every single current major league baseball park and since Atlanta opened a new park, I HAD to update my current streak.
And obviously this was a big deal considering how sick I was at the time and didn’t even know it yet. I absolutely loved the new park but was so sick I left by the end of the 6th inning. UGH!
Tuesday night I could not have been in more pain and was up every second that night. I’ve had food poisoning but this felt different and far worse.
I woke up the next morning, exhausted but after a shower and some movement, I felt a little better (all things considered, right?)
I had to check out of my hotel and was flying home early this afternoon. I could do this right? So, of course I did a training on Wednesday.
I made it to the airport hoping to catch an earlier flight when in fact the country was completely clear except South Florida which, of course, is where my plane was coming. So, I not only was unable to catch an earlier flight but my original flight took off two hours late. Again, of course.
Wednesday night I was up every second of that night as well in brutal pain. WHAT is going on?!?!?
When I finally made it to the doctor and after extensive tests on Thursday and Friday, my liver was inflamed and my gallbladder was severely infected and needed to be removed quickly.
Here, on the road, I was passing gallstones. Lovely. Unbelievable.
I haven’t been admitted in a hospital for 28 years and it would be my home for the next four days.
After getting my gallbladder removed over the weekend, I found out 10% end up with gallstones in their bile duct and since I was an over-achiever, of course I had to be in that limited percentile. So, that procedure was the very next day.
What an unbelievable seven day stretch for me which started on the road of all places.
Here are 8 Difficult Lessons I Learned From An Unexpected Hospital Visit and Emergency Surgery
1. Physical Pain Stops Life In Its Tracks
I know how to “do the road” routine but when you hit a certain level of physical pain, life just stops especially knowing what I know now.
My routine was dramatically thrown off the moment pain hit that was way beyond the “suck it up buttercup” and required something more of me than to keep pushing through it.
My pace was dramatically altered and therefore so were my results which was very difficult for me.
I was quickly reminded how physical pain just stops life and business as usual.
2. It’s Not What You Think
Originally with stomach pain and aches, you think flu. But when it increased and as much as I travel, I thought it was food poisoning.
Then when it just wouldn’t end and I came home from traveling, the doctor began running tests and my liver was inflamed.
This led to checking my liver and pancreas which led to discovering I had an incredibly infected gallbladder that had to be removed quickly.
Then I had gallstones in my bile duct which only happens 10% or less of the time.
This just reminded me how often where you start out thinking “this is it”only leads you down a path but is rarely it in the beginning.
3. I Had to Become a Patient Patient
For most people, patience is sold separately. And for someone who hadn’t been in a hospital bed for over 28 years, I was now putting a difficult word in “patient” with another challenging reference of the same word.
I’m the go getter not the down and outer and now I’m confined to a hospital bed. This is NOT what I had planned.
To me, being patient is a challenge enough but to have to be patient as a patient in the hospital with everything else going on was more than I had expected.
Now, life has not gone the way I had planned for at least two plus decades now for me and even though most of it was self-inflicted, it’s still difficult. But it did teach me more patience than I had as a young high achiever and seemingly more than the average person.
There were a couple of times when some close friends who visited specifically mentioned the patience I was demonstrating at a very challenging time and reflecting back, I’m proud of this specific growth area in my life.
This specific challenge proved I still have a ton of ways to grow in this key character area of my life.
It’s rare I just have no idea what’s going on or what’s going to happen next but I found myself in this place day after day and it was paralyzing.
4. Challenged by Lack of Sleep and Eating
I was thankful for the hospital this time and the constant attention but it was no place to get rest ironically enough. If I accomplished a cat nap, I was a happy camper but it took a toll on me day after day and night after night.
They needed to monitor me consistently to confirm any changes to my gallbladder bursting but what I desperately needed was rest which eluded me every single hour in the hospital.
And since I was having a ton of tests and a couple of surgeries, eating was the 1st thing taken off my menu. Literally. Chicken broth was the luxury until the last morning. I was already weak from the surgery and tests but living off chicken broth and water was something I had to get used to. Tough way to get my girlish figure back for sure!
I just couldn’t wait to sleep for more than just a few hours and to eat something, anything was going to be a monumental moment.
5. Things are NOT Going to Get Done and Are Going to Have to Wait
This was one of the hardest lessons for me. From the little things of having a lunch with a friend to my weekend plans to not traveling to Philadelphia next week would be on hold.
Then what about the podcast? I made a promise from the start never to miss a weekly episode.
And now I can’t drive or travel for a week and unable to run or workout for a month. Wait, I didn’t sign up for this part of the program!
But it’s part of the package for me, like it or not.
6. Time Can Go Backwards
Time is always moving forward to me and often times, feels like my biggest enemy. I’m always fighting it.
With my travel schedule, 5 kids, busy sports weekends, and church, time is my most valuable asset.
But not when you’re really sick and in the hospital. The second hand can actually be suspended for minutes at a time.
One day specifically was on Monday, June 11th. I had my gallbladder removed the day before and was still in a ton of pain. They needed to go back in for the “buy one surgery, get one free”deal to remove gallstones out of my bile duct.
The earliest they could do the surgery was 3:30pm which meant a complete fast from any food or drink from midnight on. This would be one… long…. day.
My pain was high, my energy and spirits were low and there was that blasted clock just messing with me.
7. The Amount of Sick, Struggling People
The doctors suggested I take walks to encourage the healing in my abdomen area so I would take my IV pole, and head out for a cruise down the hospital hallways. The results were sad and depressing. So many very sick, overweight, people who were just existing.
My heart went out for them. I found the only thing I could do was smile and wave. I was amazed how often they would engage back with a smile and give me a look of “keep going, don’t become like me” look in their eyes.
It made me stop and just wonder what their day to day life is really like.
What got them tot his point? What does an average day look like in their world? Will things get any better for them?
I’m not usually around the “down and out” so this opened up my heart in a way it’s not been opened in a long time.
I don’t spend a lot of time in this mental place but God used it to move my heart and open up a level of compassion and empathy that hadn’t been touched in this way in quite awhile.
8. How Grateful I am for My Health
This whole experience has just reminded me how grateful I truly am for my health. I have my health issues and maybe more than others and often self-inflicted but the reality is I am healthy and this brief pit stop was literally a painful reminder of the gift of our health.
There are few things more we take for granted than our health and this was a painful reminder (literally) what a gift of being healthy is for me.
I know I have a lot of adjustments ahead of me with no gallbladder, a fatty liver, and a harder recover than planned but so thankful I’m on the other side and my health is on my side.
In the End…
This isn’t a normal post for me but in light of this last two weeks, it’s real and I thought others could be reminded of the difficult lessons I recently learned the hard way.