I suppose I will just continue where I left off in my last blog, My Wonky Ribs and Neurectomy, where I talked about my thoracic rib appointments. In that blog, I didn’t necessarily discuss anything but thoracic issues. The rest, well, is just as chaotic.
In the coming days, I will be trying to catch you up on my life, my Crohn’s, my body and surgeries, and, everything else going on. So try to bear with me as I try to give you the highlights. There is just so much going on, it was better to break up the blog posts and separate the issues.
After my first surgery, you will remember I suffered from three infections, three emergency room visits, one abscess drainage and stitches that were rejected and pushed out of my body.
During this time, I was blown off by the surgeons for my infections and I overheard conversations about myself that led me to file a complaint. I was then scheduled to see a separate surgeon, to get a second opinion because the clicking and popping sensation with my slipping rib was still present.
Now, my first surgeon always stated in his notes that he did not “appreciate” my rib popping. In those terms, he means that he does not feel it, but I believe there was a little ‘attitude’ from him with his choice of verbiage. This surgeon even went so far as to go behind my back during anesthesia and say that he “wasn’t going to perform the procedure I wanted”. I knew I had a slipped rib, I wanted to fix the problem. I knew and in the end, I was right.
Other doctors had put in their notes that they could feel my rib clicking, that they noticed my rib swelling, my discomfort, etc. Doctors had felt it. Nurses had felt it. I’ve had ultrasound tech’s feel it. I even let the VA clerk’s that I know feel it. I would show anyone as long as it meant someone could validate my pain and help me heal.
When I went in to see the second surgeon, I had to go through my whole spiel about my rib history.
There was no moment that I can remember it first happening.
I do not remember any rib injury.
I just remember my lower ribs toward my left side back had been tender and swollen. They are significantly thicker or wider than my right side. That was the initial problem.
Later, the rib clicking began and it became Priority Number 1.
I don’t know how to explain the feeling it gives me other than it was like my stomach was sinking and rising at the same time, it sends a shudder through you. It’s sudden, uncontrollable, uncomfortable, and not something you want to live with forever. It was exhausting trying to prevent it from happening, but you can’t. If you have ever had a fractured a rib or anything of the like, then you understand this pain.
I had been living with this for about 2 years.
Once my new doctor heard my background and felt my ribs for herself, she could ‘appreciate’ my issues. She felt the bone on bone grinding, the popping slipped rib, and we were set to schedule a rib plating or rib fixation surgery. We scheduled it for 1 week out with a CT scan before that. That appointment got moved to the following week, but it is baffling the care you get when someone believes you.
If my first round of surgeons had listened to me, I could have avoided surgery number one and I would still have feeling in my left side. This is something I will have to live with forever, left-sided chest/stomach numbness. For no reason.
To think that she was scheduling me an appointment within a week when I had been going through problems for years, it validated all of the time that I have put into healing myself.
I knew something was wrong and I voiced that complaint many many times. It wasn’t until this new surgeon that I felt like I was being heard. In these situations, I have learned to self-advocate and trust my instincts and body. I knew what was wrong and I refused to be blown off.
I am becoming well known in the surgery clinic and the rest of the VA for that matter. Having six surgeries in the last 18 months is not something you see very often. I visit a lot of clinics.
After three hand surgeries and going in for my second rib surgery, the surgery suite knows me all too well. I go in and get ready for surgery like a pro, I know the drill.
Unlike my first rib surgery, I was told I would have to stay the night in the hospital, so I prepared a bag and things to bring with me. I was not looking forward to the day ahead. I remembered my previous surgery and recovery and I dreaded the weeks to come.
It wasn’t until I woke up from surgery that I was given good news. I remember waking up and the first thing I asked was “Did they find it?”
Yes, they found it.
And they fixed it.
I could have cried from happiness.
I was told when they opened me up, there was a clear rib fracture visible. My costochondral area had a dislocation that was causing my popping; I had a slipped rib just like I had said from the get-go.
They put a titanium plate over the disconnect to reconnect the ribs with a few screws, a few internal stitches, and superglue to close the wound.
And then, more good news, I was told that the surgery went so well that I was going to get to go home that day, too, as long as I felt okay. You best believe I told them I felt fantastic with that news and I was ready to be discharged as soon as possible!
Instead of four incisions, I left with only one since they did not collapse my lung again. The only thing that has been positive from my first surgery was that it slightly helped this surgery. Having no feeling in my left thoracic area meant less to no pain with the second surgery. I left the hospital without even taking any pain medication with me.
I was a completely different person after this surgery compared to my first. I had less pain, fewer incisions, and less healing I suppose. My chest wall was still tight and there was still some pain, to be fair, but it was nothing compared to the neurectomy.
In hindsight, I should have fought harder for a second opinion before surgery number one. The neurectomy never should have happened because it did not help any of my rib problems.
Now, I am left with five scars versus one, no feeling on my left side for the rest of my life, and, a titanium rib plate in place. All of this when the rib fracture could have been treated correctly in the beginning.
It is now almost 9 weeks post-op from my last surgery, the rib plating, and I have another surgery added to the list. I had a perianal abscess drained, but I will get to that in another post.
It has been a little over two months since my rib plating now and I’m getting more movement each day. In the beginning, I was using a pillow to help me drive and even taking pillows with me to jury duty – yes, that is still happening. I do still need a pillow behind me when I sit or things like that but I am slowly recovering. Slowly, emphasis on that.
I do find that a day of dancing will need days of recovery. My chest wall is still improving, but the doctor told me that my muscle was moved to put the plate in and I may have to deal with this chest tightness forever, although it may go away with time.
I do know that my body has changed, too. Not only do I look like Wolverine got ahold of me with all of these scars, but my chest wall also gained 2″ around, changing my measurements and size. I cannot wear a bra or tank top or anything that rubs on that top incision under my breast. I cannot wear cinch waisted dresses that rub on any of the incisions on my waist. They are forever sensitive and irritate with friction.
I can also no longer touch my toes bending over. I could put my palms on the ground before, but bending over has been the hardest task post-op. You should see me putting on pants, its a whole ordeal. Even diffusing my curly hair upside down has been a no-go until recently. Laughing, coughing, and sneezing are the worst on my ribs.
In my one month follow up with my surgeon, we agreed that I did not need to come back to the clinic unless there was another issue or problem. No more appointments. I have never been told that by a doctor in my five years of dealing with these kinds of things. It was like a weight was lifted off of me.
Now, I am just continuing to heal and testing my limits with my rib. Let’s hope this is the end of my rib problems.
The next few blog posts will update you on my ganglion cyst tetralogy and my Crohn’s disease journey. Please stay tuned for those.
Until next time, for me, It Could Be Worse.
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Stelara Self-Injection #2 & Rib Pain