I Might Starve to Death!!!: Bev’s Story Part 2

a6c9c5_0ff01005bb474d74ab25dd48d2ed317dThe next test was a catscan. That was pretty easy. No needles, no rotating table and it was definitely quicker than the mylogram. Back to the room I went. Next they needed another mylogram. Great! No food again! Now, if I had thought that the first mylogram was long and uncomfortable, it was surely a piece of cake compared to the second one. The radiologist had put a dye in my spinal column for the first one, but it had stopped about half way down. So this time he put the dye in the bottom of my spine, turned the table upside down and then took the pictures from the other end. There I was, lead apron on, straps around my ankles and this table stood me on my head so the dye could run south. I remember thinking, it really doesn’t matter whether I have a tumor or not because I’m going to slide off this silly table with my feet still in the straps and land in a heap on my head! “Ok, Mrs. Janssen, are you ready to start?” Yes, I lied, but my head kept saying, just hurry up, these straps are killing my ankles! This had to be the most uncomfortable thing I had ever done in my entire life. To make matters worse, some nurses in a room nearby were popping popcorn and I had to lay there and smell it cooking, as hungry as I was! Lord, I prayed, I sure could use a handful of that popcorn and could you give it to me right about NOW?! Finally the photographers were satisfied and they took me back to my room. I must have looked a little frazzled because I could see concern in Greg’s eyes when he asked me how I was doing. I’m hungry, I replied, and I want popcorn. He must have thought, oh that’s just great…she’s flipped out for sure.

The doctors came in again and we were told that they wanted to operate immediately. They told Greg that if they didn’t try to remove the tumor at once that he could lose both his wife and his baby. Some choice! Greg and I agreed that now was the time to call my parents. We hadn’t wanted to worry them before but now we needed to let them know what was going on with me. He called my sister, Barbara, and she began to assemble the troops! She is a very strong Christian and was certainly the right kind of person to have near at a time like this. My brother, who lived further south, was also notified to come a running. My Mom and Dad had a two and a half hour drive to get to the hospital which, I’m sure, wasn’t a very pleasant trip. After all, they really hadn’t planned on this family gathering. During all this hurried telephoning and bad news bearing my OB GYB doctor came in to check on my baby. He took one look at Greg and wrote out a prescription for Valium, gave it to Greg and told him to go down to the pharmacy, fill it and take one right away. (We often laugh at how unusual it is for an OB to prescribe medication for the patient’s husband)! All this was going on while I was on another gurney ride…this time to the operating room. I remember singing about 500 choruses of ‘Jesus Loves Me’ in my mind along the way.

The nurses were very nice to me and kept trying to make conversation so I would stay calm. The Neurosurgeon had told me that the operation would take place with me sitting up and just leaning over my huge stomach. That will work, I thought. (I obviously couldn’t lie flat on my stomach which is the usual position for a lamanectomy). Luckily, I was put to sleep before any of the uncomfortable positioning began. Thank God for anesthesia!

I remember waking up in I.C.U. and immediately started asking about my baby. The nurse quickly assured me that all was well. I could hear the fetal monitor, wrapped around my middle, thwapping steadily away. Thank you, Lord. Actually right after the surgery, I didn’t feel too badly at all. My husband and family had all gathered together, and came into the room, two at a time, to say hello to me. They were all very relieved to see that I was bright eyed and bushy tailed and could even offer a brief smile. Ignorance is bliss they say, beside that the anesthesia had not yet worn off. Would you believe I wasn’t even hungry? At least I had forgotten about food and my empty tummy for awhile.

Several hours passed and the anesthesia wore off…RATS! The nurse sitting at the foot of my bed said “you can have your pain shot now.” I thought, doesn’t she realize that I’m pregnant? Pregnant women are not supposed to even take aspirin! So I said, I’m ok…thinking I could tough it out. As time passed, the nurse kept asking, “are you sure you don’t want your show now?” She assured me that they gave demerol to women in labor, to help with the pain, and that is was safe for my baby. About the third time she asked, I decided that it really hurt too much and I wasn’t as brave as I thought. She also told me that it wasn’t good for me to be in so much pain as it was causing unnecessary stress to my baby. I very soon learned what demerol heaven was all about and at the time could only say, thank you, Lord, for strong drugs.


The day after my surgery was Greg’s and my fifth wedding anniversary. Last year on our anniversary, we weren’t getting along very well, so even though I was in intensive care, it was a much happier day for us. I decided that day to show off, to Greg, how I could hold my arms straight up and keep them there for awhile. The right arm was no problem, but when I tried to hold my left arm up it immediately dropped down and my hand smacked me in the face like a dead weight. Because they had cut into the spinal cord on the right side my left arm was numb from the shoulder down, but at least I could move it. Now if I could just keep from ‘cold-cocking’ myself I would be ok!

My family and friends were so supportive through all this and they kept my spirits up as well as my determination. A couple of instances occurred while I was in ICU mainly involving my sister, Barbara. I remember her comments about the carelessness of some of the attendants by leaving a bag of hair lying around in my room. Can you guess who’s hair it was? Again, ignorance is bliss and I was spared knowing just how much hair they had really cut off my head. I guess a good phrase to use here would be, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

I spent eleven days in Intensive Care before I was finally transferred. I wanted to take every machine that beeped or buzzed or popped and throw it into the nearest incinerator. Whoever said that you could go into the hospital for a rest, was crazy! I felt like a pincushion. I had to have so many shots that they couldn’t put them in my hips anymore, so they started putting them in the tops of my thighs. Always before, I would faint when ever I had an injection, but now I had reached the point where I thought the needle was my best friend.

The day I was to leave ICU I was scheduled for an appointment with the physical medicine doctor. Appointments with this doctor were so difficult to obtain that the nurses assured me I would not want to miss this one. Missing would mean that I probably wouldn’t have any therapy during my hospital stay. I wasn’t too sure how I was going to see this doctor since his office was clear across the street from the hospital. “Don’t worry,” the nurse said, “we have a tunnel system that goes under the streets and takes you right into the other building.” No problem, I thought. I can do this. The nurse put me into a wheelchair and Barbara, the nurse and I started off toward the tunnel. You’ve heard of the “Long, Long Trailer?” Well, this was the Long, Long Tunnel! Thank God, my sister had brought along a wet towel and some water for me to drink.

When the doctor saw me, he took one look and said, “you don’t look like you were up to coming over here today.” My sister, being the good Christian she is, refrained herself from decking him! She had felt all along that I shouldn’t be up and doing so much traveling about. Luckily, the doctor said that I could begin my therapy as soon as I was in a regular room. Anyway, they sent me back through the tunnel into my new ward. If the going had been tough, the getting back was even tougher. I was so grateful for the wet towel that my sister had, thoughtfully, brought along.
Now, just add to my discomfort, as I was getting into my bed, my sister noticed that there was no egg crate mattress on the bed. (An egg crate is a soft, spongy mattress that helps keep the pressure more evenly distributed if you have to be in bed for a long period of time). So, I had to sit and wait until they ordered an egg crate, which seemed to take forever, and then they had to remake the bed. I remember praying, oh Lord, please just let me get into my bed and lie down. I am so tired of being in this chair. When they finally got me into bed and almost settled, we realized that the egg crate I was sitting on was wet! My sister immediately insisted that the mattress be changed. She said, “you can’t lie on a wet mattress!” I was thinking, yes I can. Any bed will do right now, even a wet one!

So it was out of bed again, while the nurse got another egg crate mattress and remade my bed. Seemingly an eternity later, when I finally got back into bed, I thought, I am not getting out of this bed, no matter what! There had been too many tunnels, too many long rides, and too many wet mattresses too many times in and out of bed and my pain level was extremely high. By that time I was more than ready for my pain medication…AND A REST!

It was while I was in that ward that I started back on the road to recovery. I began to walk around a little and that seemed to help my spirits a lot to be up and about. It was also nice to be inundated with flowers, good wishes and prayers. The support from my husband, family and friends and my faith in the Lord made a big difference in my daily progress. One evening, my husband, mom, dad and sister were all playing catch with the ‘nerf’ balls that I used for physical therapy during the day. It was after dinner and visiting hours and we were all laughing and having so much fun. The nurse came in all upset and said, “if you people don’t quiet down I’m going to ask you all to leave.” Then she added, “remember, there are sick people in this hospital!” (To this day I have to keep reminding myself that I am a sick person, I suppose I need to start acting like one). Eventually all my family left for the day and I laid back and thanked God for all the fun we had. It really helped me to look forward to tomorrow.

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