(16-08-26) Outliers

Today marked my 40th Hyperbaric Oxygen (HBO) therapy.  I strolled in at my usual time (8:55 AM), threw on a hospital gown and disposable foot booties, placed all my stuff in a black plastic bin, and walked into the main room to greet the faces who have become part of my daily routine for almost two months now.

“Which chamber am i going in today?”

Lori, my favorite, is the first to respond.  “Actually, go in Exam Room 1.  Dr. Walsh wants to hook you up to the Luna.”

“Luna” is the brand  name for this fancy machine that does something called a fluorescence vascular angiography.  Through my port, they send this dye into my body, and the Luna monitors the oxygen and blood moving around a particular area.  In my case, they are looking at my right breast area because they’re trying to assess a number of things:

(1) Is the HBO therapy working?  In other words, is adequate oxygen and blood circulating around the areas where I have/had surgical wounds reopening involuntarily, stitches, staph infection, and tissue necrosis?

(2) Is tissue necrosis still a problem?

Fluorescence Vascular Angiography 001.jpg

In this first image, you have X-ray vision into my right breast.  The red-then-yellow-then-green circle in the middle is my nipple.  Underneath and to the left is the second incision that was done on the breast – when they had to swap out the expander for smaller and smaller implants, but they couldn’t use the original incision area because it was so damaged by radiation and infected by staph.  The big blob of red on the right side is the problem area – the source of all my recent infections, surgeries, and hospital stays.  I don’t know what all the colors mean, but red indicates inflammation, and blue indicates oxygen flow.  Not surprisingly, there is inflammation by the second incision because they just took out my stitches this morning, and of course there is a TON of inflammation surrounding the problem area.

The Luna machine continues to capture images of the area for 1.5-4 minutes.  The purpose is to watch and see if oxygen and blood are moving around in that area.  As far as colors go, there are three things to watch for:

(1) Blue indicates oxygen is moving through the area of inflammation.
(2) Red indicates oxygen is not getting in to the area of inflammation, which means the HBO therapy isn’t working.
(3) Black indicates tissue necrosis.

Remember these three things.

You’ve already seen one image, taken 53 seconds after the dye went into my body.  This upcoming one captures an image about 1.25 minutes after that.

Fluorescence Vascular Angiography 002.jpg

When Nurse Pat showed me these results and explained the implications, i said to her,”Okay, I’m probably going to start crying any moment now.  I’ll try to keep them in, but the longer we stand here, the harder it’s going to be for me to hold back.”

“You can cry,” she replied.

“Okay, good, because I’ve already started.” And then she hugged me.


(16-08-12) Surgery #3

With all that is going on regarding me losing my job, hiring a lawyer, and having my story hit the news, I neglected to update all of you on one teeny, tiny detail: I am back in the hospital.

Yesterday, I had my third surgery procedure, where a number of things were done. First, Dr. Walsh swapped out my expander (left side) for an implant, which she also lifted to match the positioning of my right implant (radiation has moved the right expander up higher). Next, she swapped out my right implant for a smaller one … and then an even smaller one … and then an even SMALLER one. Finally, with the smallest size possible, she was able to close the radiated incision – although she did need to take some fat from my thigh to make it work (fat grafting, it’s called). This *should* be the last surgery for awhile.

Prior to my arrival, I had assumed that since I was reporting to the “Same Day Surgery” department, I would be in and out the same day. Um…no. I was in too much pain last night to move much without people assisting me; plus, I had to be placed back on IV antibiotics. On the bright side, I had a lovely time hallucinating this morning from IV pain meds on an empty stomach. Good times.

Even though Dr. Walsh suggested I stay one more night, i will be leaving this afternoon – under strict instructions not to do ANY activity whatsoever for the next several days, to take my oral antibiotics every five hours on the dot, and to wait 4-6 weeks before going back to the gym. Yes, Dr. Walsh.  Done, Dr. Walsh. Whatever you say, Dr. Walsh. Just let me out of here.

(16-08-04) Cyst

Dr. Gunia is not at all concerned about the lump underneath my left armpit. Based on the symptoms (color, pain, and closeness to the surface of my skin), she ruled out “tumor” AND “infected lymph node.” Instead, she said it is an epidermal cyst … and if warm compresses don’t succeed in eliminating it over time, she said it can easily be removed during any of the surgeries I will have in the upcoming future.

“This is normal,” she said.

Who knew I would ever feel so happy to be called normal?

(16-08-02) Surgery Postponed

I saw Dr. Walsh yesterday and today, and she reluctantly agreed to postpone my surgery. While I still have a nickel-sized area of dead tissue along my scar line, she acknowledged that it doesn’t look as bad as it did last week.

“You understand that there is only about a 5% chance that new, healthy skin is growing underneath that area, right?”

I do…but hey – I have been the exception, the minority, the rare percentage at EVERY TURN of this journey. Maybe this time it will actually work in my favor.