As you can see from the photo above, a ton of the symptoms of stress overlap symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Therefore, when one gets overly stressed, a person is hit doubly hard with these symptoms. Let me just tell you how true this rings!
I'm an only child, and I'm extremely close to my parents. My mom turned 70 years old March 25th of this year, although you'd never know it by looking at her, talking to her, or watching her walk around. This woman puts me to shame in how fast and effortlessly she walks, and how she works! Her biggest complaint had been back pain. She'd tried various treatments and none helped so elected to have surgery.
I'm not going to lie, surgery scares the beejeezus out of me. When it came to my 70yr old mom, it really scared me! Yes, she had been in fairly good health, but she was 70! Factor in that the surgery was supposed to take around 4 hours and I really didn't like the idea.
They were going to remove her L2-5 and put fake ones in, or something. I really don't remember how/what they were doing once they took those out. They were going to give her a lovely dose of Propofol, then position her on her side. They were making two incisions and going in first through the bottom of her ribs. Once done, they were going to flip her over to her stomach, and make an incision in her back to finish up. They said she'd be inpatient for a couple of days, then come home.
I had such a bad feeling about this surgery. No, make that a horrible feeling of dread concerning this surgery. I normally don't say anything about other people's choice of health care, but I actually begged her on a couple different occassions to not have it done. I told her at her age, just to eat pain pills every 6 hours if she had to, but to please cancel the surgery.
When it became clear that the surgery was going to be a go despite my best efforts, I just kept telling myself that I was being silly. That I was being irrational and allowing my own fears to cloud my better judgement. I kept telling myself she'd be fine. She kept telling me that she'd be fine.
Here's a picture of her taken at my house on Oct. 22nd, exactly one week before she was to have the surgery. *Please ignore my back wall that needs the drywall replaced - but feel free to oogle over my beautiful granddaughter that my mom was snuggling!*
I was insistant that I be at the hospital during her surgery. She had to be there by 6am, so I spent the night before with them at their house. I was so nervous and worried about the surgery that I couldn't sleep that night. Not with taking a Zanaflex and an Ambien. It just wasn't happening. I tossed, and I turned, and I tossed some more. The last time I looked at the clock it was 3:45am. Sometime right after that I must have just dozed off, because the next thing I knew my mom was saying "Amy, it's time to get up". I looked at the clock and it was 4:05am.
My dad and I was sitting with my mom in pre-op, waiting on her to go to surgery. When her surgeon came in, he changed the length of time the surgery would take and now said it should only take around 3.5 hours, that 4 hours would be the very longest. I really liked her surgeon. The first impression was a good one. I guessed him to be around 35-40, and he just immediately instilled a trust into me.
They took mom to surgery, and dad and I headed for the surgery waiting room. We checked in and got our little buzzer (it looked and worked like the ones they hand out at Outback and other similiar restaurants). We were told that when it went off, we were to come to the desk and they'd tell us where to meet the doctor for a post-op conference. Then, we were to go back to the waiting room and when it buzzed again it would mean that she was out of recovery and in her room. We'd turn it in to the desk and they'd give us moms room number.
I had a some-what sense of peace. I finally felt like this all would be ok. As the time reached nearer the 3.5 hour mark, I started getting antsier. At 4 hours, I was really starting to feel nervous and stressed. At 4.5 hours, dad and I were commenting wondering why it was taking so long. About that time, the buzzer wen toff and I felt so relieved! We hustled up to the desk, and the volunteer said "you have a phone call". My heart sank! I looked at my dad, and he said "You talk. I don't understand medical stuff the way you do", so I took the phone. It was a nurse who said she was in the OR with my mom and that it was taking longer than expected but they were just finishing up then had to close. She said mom was doing great though! Once again, I literally felt the tension whoosh out of me.
When we finally had our post-op conference with the doctor, he said that she had done great! He said the extra time was because he had a really hard time getting in through her ribs and that she was really going to be in a lot of pain from it. He said she'd be in recovery for about an hour, then taken to a room. My dad and him joked a little, then we went back to the waiting room.
Two hours later, we finally got the buzz that she was in her room. I was SO happy as we made our way upstairs. We walked into her room, and I felt so sorry for her. Her face was so completely swollen and red. I was relieved though, that she'd made it through the surgery with strong vitals. She was pretty out of it, but had a tray of clear liquids. I fed her and she actually ate pretty good. The next day, she walked the hall twice, and sat up in a chair for about an hour or so, visiting with a lady from her church, and her pastor. She was supposed to come home the next afternoon. Thursday.
My dad wanted me to spend Wednesday night at his house, so I'd there to help him get mom up the steps and into the house when she came home the next day. Then, I was going to stay a few days to help take care of her and the house. He got up around 8am Thursday morning, and showered. He was sitting at the kitchen table getting ready to take his insulin shot, and I was sitting in the living room drinking a cup of coffee. The phone rang. It was 8:40am. It was the hospital. They said that my mom "had taken a turn for the worse, and was just moved to ICU". What?! Are you kidding me?! She was supposed to be coming home ...why in the he!! was she in ICU? As dad quickly got his shot, I called all of my kids and told them I didn't know what happened, but that Grandma was in ICU.
When dad and I walked into the ICU room, a nurse was in there. She explained that my moms bowels had stopped working, which was common after surgery due to the pain meds, but that it had made her vomit and she'd aspirated the vomit. My mom couldn't hardly breathe. They had her on a bi-pap machine. She had a temp of 103.something ...I was in such shock that I don't remember what the *point* something was. Another nurse came in with two ice packs, which they packed under each of her arms. If you stood by her and said her name, she'd open her eyes but for the most part, she was just asleep.
Within an hour of dad and I arriving, my youngest daughter, her boyfriend, and my oldest son had arrived. When I got the call that they were almost to the hospital, I went downstairs to wait on them, to take them to her room. I wanted to talk to them, and warn them that she had an NG tube down her nose, and that she was on the bi-pap machine. I tried to carefully explain exactly what bi-pap was, and told them that even though the machine was kind of loud, not to let it scare them. I was a mess myself, but I knew I had to be strong for them and not let them know that I was actually petrified. Even when my daughter welled up with tears, I held it together!
My oldest son is a combat engineer in the Army Reserves, a team leader for urban breeching and demolition, has one semester of college then the academy and then he'll have his degree in criminal justice and be a cop, and he's an MMA cage fighter. I wasn't worried about him. I was worried about my daughter. When we walked in that room, he stood there looking at my mom from the doorway for about 5 minutes, then I saw the tears well up in his eyes and he left the room. I knew he went to the bathroom to try and pull himself together. He was back in a few minutes. About 10 minutes later, he left the room again. This time I followed him out. He was doing all he could to keep from crying. All he said to me is "I hate that machine!". I told him I was sorry, and that I met them downstairs and explained it to them beforehand, because I didn't want them to be scared. I said "I did my best to prepare you for the machine". He said "Yeah, well it didn't work".
Just a bit later, my son got a call. He walked out of the room then a few minutes later he motioned for me. It was my oldest daughter who lives 1200 miles away. She said "Mom, do I need to buy a plane ticket and come home?" I said "Aww, Nikki, I don't know. Why don't you hold off on that for now?". She said no, I'm on the airline site right now, and I just booked my flight. I'll be in at 7:30pm tonight. Now the only one not there was my youngest son. He was working in NY. He was able to get home Thursday night late.
Here's a picture of my mom on the bi-pap machine:
So she went into ICU on Thursday. Sunday morning around 8:30am my phone rang. It was my dad. His voice was soft and kind of defeated sounding, when he said "Hey Amy, your mom has taken a turn for the worse. They're going to put her on life support. I don't know, it doesn't look very good. They're getting ready to put her on life support right now". I said "Ok dad, we'll be right there". I had just talked to my oldest daughter about 10 minutes prior and she was going to go to church with her Aunt, Uncle and cousins, then she was going to pick me up to go to the hospital with her. I quickly called her, hoping she hadn't arrived at the church yet. She was riding with her Uncle. They were in the parking lot and he handed her his keys and said "GO!". I told her not to back track and pick me up that we were heading out the door.
We live about 45 minutes from the hospital, and we drove so, so fast to get there. Thankfully we didn't wreck or get pulled over! We stepped off the elevator into the ICU waiting room, and my dad and daughter were sitting there. We walked up to them and hadn't been talking to them for more than a few minutes, when the doctor came out and asked us to come with him. He took us to the nurses station and told us "The vent is in place. We have your wife sedated. She's in a medically induced coma. Don't ask me what happens next, because I honestly don't know. Your wife is in very critical condition. We'll do all we can for her, but ultimatel we're not God". I don't know why I took offense to that last statement he made, because it's true. It was all in God's hands. But I did take offense to it at the time and it angered me. I don't know for sure, but I imagine that it was due to the fact that an ICU doc had pretty much just told us that my mom could die. He didn't leave much hope in his statements or his voice. I was more scared than I've ever been in my entire life. Still, I didn't show it. I kept it together. I still hadn't even allowed myself to cry since this all happened.
I knew, from my limited medical background that a lot of times when someone my moms age, who has aspirate pneumonia, is put on a vent they never come off. That they die. I also knew that the longer someone is on a vent, the harder it is to get them off. I was so scared. So emotionless. I felt so damn helpless, that I just didn't know what to do.
The nurses kept telling me that even though my mom couldn't respond or open her eyes, that she could still hear us. I kept telling her that I loved her and I needed her and not to give up. I said "You FIGHT!" and she cracked her eyes open and nodded her head "yes" at me. Then, she started fighting through her sedation. They kept giving her more and more and she still wouldn't calm down. They tried different combinations. She still was so restless. Her arms were restrained so that she wouldn't accidentaly pull the vent out (they had been from the moment the vent was placed). Even with her eyes shut, she'd jerk her arms trying to get them free. She'd thrash her head around, side to side and jerk her legs. I hated it.
Tuesday was the worst. When she'd have her eyes open, she'd try to mouth stuff to me. I couldn't begin to make it out with a vent in her mouth. The nurses had cautioned us to try to keep her from trying to talk, because it could damage her vocal chords. At one point I said "Mom, don't try to talk. It'll hurt your vocal chords and we can't have that because when you get better and get out of here we have to go to church so you can sing with your pretty voice". She looked at me and shook her head "no". It was the first time she'd done that. I said "YES. You're going to get better and get out of here.". She shook her head no at me again. I said "Yes mom, you keep fighting" and she shook her head no then finally closed her eyes again.
I can't begin to tell you how hard that day was. I was beat mentally. My daughter took two photos of mom that day. When I got home that night, I finally felt defeated. I had finally lost my hope. I pulled those two pics up on my computer and sat here looking at them. For the first time, I allowed a couple of tears to run down my face. I still didn't break down and cry, but I did shed a couple of tears. I was just completely mentally done. The more I looked at those photos, the more I was convinced that she was going to die. Especially since it seemed as if she'd lost her will to live too that day. She'd lost her fight.
Here's the two photos of her on the vent:
Looking at this pic still really bothers me. I feel like I could cry right now.
Wednesday morning I awoke early to get around for the hospital. My oldest daughter picked me up, and I suppose she had started to lose hope too from the day before, because on the way to the hosptial she gently made a remark to me about "You know, as much as I don't want to say this, grandma may not get better". I agreed with her and it was a quiet, somber ride to the hospital. We walked down the ICU hall and turned to go into my moms room, and there she was laying on her side ...her arms were not restrained ...and she flipping waved to us!! I couldn't believe my eyes! My dad looked at us and in a cheery voice said "Your mom is a lot better! They might take the vent out!".
The vent came out around noon that day. It was amazing!! Just over 24 hours later, she was sitting up in a chair, with a food tray eating! Here's a picture of her. I still can not believe the difference in her from the picture above, to the picture below in just over a 24 hour time frame!!
That Friday afternoon, after 8 days in ICU and a little over 3 of those days on life support, my mom was moved to a regular floor. That Sunday morning, after a 12 day hospital stay that was supposed to be a 2 day hospital stay, she was released and came home!! I was at her house waiting on her to get home, and stayed last week to help her. She's still weak. She doesn't have good control of her right leg. She came home on 2 liters of O2 24 hours a day, and she still coughs a bit. She fell around 2am this morning, loosing her balance when she tried to flush the toilet. But she's alive. She's home. I'm lucky enough to still have my mom in my life.
I held everything together from October 29th to current, and yesterday my flight or fight reflex finally kicked off. Which, has left me in one of the worst flares I've ever had in my entire life. My neck, back, and shoulders hurt so bad that I can't even describe it. I'm in so much pain, that I'm about to cry. Seriously. I'm absolutely exhausted with fatigue. I have huge knots in my muscles and my head hurts non-stop. Fibro fog is bad. It's taken me literally hours to write this post. I feel like I'm spiraling down a black hole.
Don't ever let anyone tell you that stress does not excaburate Fibro symptoms or bring on flares. My body will challange them!!