Of Friends and Family
It’s been more than a month since my last post here… When things are going really well or really badly I have a bad habit of going very quiet and still and retreating into myself…. This past month has touched both ends of that spectrum.
In this crazy house of ours we have two dogs; a 13 year old Jack Russel mix and a six year old labrador. Last year the labrador “decided” that the problems we were going to face this year were not enough to keep our life interesting and adventurous. In an effort to add some spice to our humdrum lives, last October, he very kindly developed insulin dependent diabetes! He’s on a twice daily regimen of insulin and that, coupled with very careful blood sugar monitoring and the same amount of exercise and special food each day, has kept him relatively stable and happy this past year. In fact other than a UTI he has experienced no complications from the diabetes.
People tend to say that when it rains, it pours! Last month we noticed the dog was losing weight and was generally unwell. We took him to the vet. He had an ear infection. He got all sorts of meds for it and started feeling better. A couple of days later he went into hypoglycemic shock and collapsed in the kitchen. We brought him to by trying to get him to swallow about half a kilo of honey and rushed him to the vet, who lowered his insulin dose.
And just in case it wasn’t clear before let me add this small interlude to our story here! being 27 weeks pregnant, running around like mad to locate the honey, then sitting on the floor and trying to lift an unconscious labrador’s head to pour said honey in his mouth? Not a fun or recommended pastime!
With the lower insulin dose the dog’s blood sugar skyrocketed and he started being in danger of developing ketoacidosis (not a good or cheap complication to have). I think I spent about two weeks with no sleep, taking blood from the dog’s ear every 30 minutes and calling the vets every two hours 24/7 so we could get him out of immediate danger and onto something that would resemble stability and quality of life. The dog is doing ok now and after more antibiotics, insulin dose tweaking, a drastic food change, steroids and anti-inflammatories he’s back to his stable puppy-on-drugs persona!
*That* was the really good part of the month!! No, no I’m not entirely demented! It really was the really good part of the month!! See the little one and I may have been a little worse for wear with the dog mayhem, but we were both doing absolutely fine! I love my dogs don’t get me wrong, but I like it when the humans do well too…!
The second half of the month I’ve been quiet for hasn’t been quite as good…. The little one is nearing 31 weeks, which is by far more than I could have ever hoped to dream for. She was 1.5 kilos on the last ultrasound and the placenta seems to still have good blood flow with no clots or evidence of bleeding.
My health is a bit of a different story though… About two weeks ago I started having episodes of lower gastrointestinal bleeding. I went to the hospital and was evaluated by the obstetric team and gastroenterology. They put the little one on a monitor immediately and kept her under observation for hours to make sure the bleeding wasn’t putting her in distress. She was as bouncy as ever! My health issues, combined with the pregnancy, mean I need to be on a rather high dose of heparin, a blood thinning drug, to prevent placental clots and clots in my body. So taking that in mind, the doctors said there’s a couple of possibilities re the gastrointestinal bleeding: it may be a side-effect of the heparin itself or it could be that there’s immune related inflammation in the GI tract (which in turn could mean that the underlying disorder is starting to flare, but let’s not even go there). To figure out which of the two is going on right now they need to take a look with a camera, which of course they can’t do without me stopping the heparin for 3-4 days. What is a little problematic here is that If the heparin stops for more than 12 hours at this point the placenta or I could clot. Already a bit of a catch 22.
In the meantime last week, out of nowhere and while we were still trying to figure out how to solve the bleeding issues, I had a gush of clear liquid that soaked my trousers and scared the bejeesus out of my mother, an unfortunate friend who witnessed the event and myself! So again off to the hospital and onto the monitors we went…! The doctors aren’t absolutely sure, but they think the membranes may have ruptured and had a leak. Now, and this is the tricky part, if the membranes are breached at any point the amniotic fluid (and with it the baby itself) is at high risk of infection. As I understand it if they are absolutely sure there’s a leak and said leak continues, the plan is antibiotics and steroids for ten days followed by delivery. In my case it seems the leak healed, which apparently happens in 10% of cases. So the plan for now is vigilance for signs of infection and very frequent blood tests to check for any sneaky infections that may be trying to take hold.
In the middle of all this chaos, my legs started turning a bright purple colour (reminiscent of aubergines I think) when I stand up. Doctors think my lower legs can’t handle the extra blood volume, because the valves have been damaged by old blood clots. To avoid new clots I am to wear the anti-embolism socks 24/7, which in itself is not a big deal, and to do heparin levels tomorrow and increase the dose. How can we increase the blood thinner dose while I’m actively bleeding you may wonder… That’s kind of what I’m wondering too, but it’s a bit of an impossible situation at the moment. Hopefully it won’t stay impossible for long, but for now we’re trying to take it one minute at a time… And laugh. There’s a lot of laughter going on here at the moment!
I was still in my first trimester when we moved from a rental house into our own. I told two good friends and my mother I was pregnant at the time and, since the new house is in a different city, said nothing to other family members and friends. It may have been wrong, but without knowing how this was going to go (not that I do now) and with it being so early in the game still, I didn’t want people who cared about me and who have been through enough with me being ill all these years to constantly worry about my health and safety now too. So I said nothing. The phone got eerily quiet; so quiet that at some point I think I spent a whole day staring at it and trying to will it to ring just so I could talk to another human being about something….anything and distract my mind from all this for a few minutes. It has been a painfully lonely and difficult time.
These past few weeks I finally shared the news with a few close family friends and their response has been so unbelievably positive, I barely know what to say. My godmother will stay with us for a month to help. Family friends are making lists of baby equipment and are trying to get clothes, bibs and prams together from their friends so I don’t have to buy everything. A friend who has three children of her own, a husband and a job offered to come stay with us for a few weeks to help in whatever way we may need. A new friend, an 84 year old lady who has lost both of her children and is ill herself, noticed I put my feet up on a chair while I was talking to her a few weeks ago. She deduced from that that my feet were achy, which they are, and she got one of a neighbour to help her bring a comfy armchair with a footrest to the house so I could rest my feet. When we told her we didn’t want to take her chair away from her, she replied “Years ago when I was very poor and I couldn’t afford a chair, someone lent me one. Now I have one of my own and I can lend it to someone who needs it more than me”.
There are no words for people like that or for the kindness they’ve shown and are continuing to show. If there is one thing I have been trying to learn and feel, it’s that. Interconnectedness, love, support. And being grateful. Constantly. For a good minute, a good hour, another day of life, for warmth and friends and family… Not an easy or pain free “lesson” or one I ever set out to learn, but so far it’s more than worth it…..
And for a rather different bouncier note, that’s a little sneak pic of the (almost) finished and very pink nursery wall….!