Thursday, May 1

Where to Begin? A Summary of Recent Events

I admittedly wait long periods of time between my posts recently, and the farther apart they are, the more overwhelming it is to try and sit down and write out the most current events. I thought that was just due to trying to remember what happened, the farther in the past it goes. Now I think it's also more about how time keeps moving, more things keep happening, the list of items to blog about and update grows longer and - recently - weightier.

My last post was about getting ready for "Plan B," an upgrade to my PTBD biliary drain - to do angioplasty of the bile ducts with a balloon and open up one of the main ones that has serious scar tissue narrowing. I had that procedure done at the beginning of April.

Here I am, ready to go... little did we know it would be about six more hours wait ;)

I came out of it with a French drain tube doubled in size. The doctor exchanged the 8 gauge drain tube I had to a 16 gauge. Wooey, the first look I got under that bandage made me grateful I'm not a wound care nurse, but much more capable, not as easily grossed-out people are in that profession! :)

I was in a groggy state for a day and a half afterward, but it was so good to be home!
That means it has been a whole month with this larger PTBD, and unfortunately, no changes. I tried capping the drain on two different occasions, following doctor instructions. It went well overall; right now it's capped. I was losing way too many electrolytes in the fluid output of the drain, so I had to. I'm still battling those low levels of magnesium and potassium, as well as working really hard (it's not easy, for some reason!) to keep drinking water and other wholesome beverages, and eat good meals. It's a bummer that there were no changes to my lab numbers after this larger drain; even when the drain bag was attached, my bilirubin was still up at 19. Yikes. And the jaundice has stayed the same, and itching has returned WORSE. Ah if I could pick pain or itching, I'd choose pain. Itching is slow torture!

As I mentioned, there haven't been significant or really even noteable changes, improvements, to my lab numbers. This is the reason for my next big piece of news...

I'm glad we got this news the week of Easter. It made everything easier. I cherish the Hope of and in the Resurrection.
Always - Only - Jesus.

I've been referred to the University for another liver transplant.


One of my liver doctors sent over the referral, and I'm just awaiting their call one of these days to set up all those crazy pre-transplant evaluation appointments. It's possibly going to be a busy summer... if only it will be full of things like swimming lessons and dance classes with my Victory bear, rather than doctor appointments and uncomfortable procedures?? I will keep hoping and believing.
It's something that's come up in conversation numerous times since about four years ago when my team started noticing that the PSC (primary sclerosing cholangitis) may have recurred. But it was never so definite or concrete as now.

This is a picture of the imaging from my second-to-last procedure, when the first drain was "installed." They got it in and were able to inject dye to illuminate the ducts (the darkened, tree root looking things).
There should be so many more, especially on the left...

That is one mass of sharp, irritating to my skin blue stitches. And one big drain! I flush it with saline like this once or twice a day.

Just for the record, heading into another twelve hour surgery is not what makes me take so many deep breaths, and need time to process these developments, and soak in the Word and worship to be fueled up for those inevitable Mind Monsters. It's not that that scares me. This time I would be heading into a transplant not as a light-hearted teenager, but as a wife and mom to a toddler. I want to be here for them. Always. And a waiting list of approximately, at all times, 17,000 people needing a new liver, versus only the 6,000 per year that receive one... well, do the math. (Source)
Of course this is a fear that I don't dive in too deep to, because my heart and that Holy Spirit voice thankfully always tug me back to earth and say, "but Emily, BUT GOD. This may look daunting, BUT GOD. He can do anything, and He wouldn't have brought you this far to leave you or let you be done living now."

So anyway, that's the biggest news I had. My days are so full of joy and memory making, it's not derailed me too much, just mostly made me live all the more intentionally to soak up the everyday moments. Hobby Lobby had this painted sign I wanted to get for my living room at one time (coincidentally, it's not there anymore). It said, "There is always always ALWAYS something to be thankful for." How true that is!

I had a glorious nap last week, later than usual, and woke up to a gorgeous sunset...

A couple Sundays ago, we took a short drive to the Peninsula and found a secret children's garden. Dreamy looking mature trees, and little fairy gardens someone's made. Miss V was on the hunt for Peter Rabbit :)

The Secret Garden
Momma and Miss V made it to Costco all by ourselves the other day! What a fun time and a big accomplishment :)

I experienced a huge glimmer of hopeful progress the other day. My eyes became more and more white throughout the day, and by evening they were whiter than they'd been since Christmas! Unfortunately back to very golden the next day, but that event sure was encouraging. Looking for more of those in days and weeks to come!

We always enjoy the beautiful garden at the clinic. What beautiful flowers and trees we get to appreciate because someone works very hard at planting and tending.

I've been marveling at God's grace and sustaining me to be able to keep up with Miss V around the house, and I'm on a baking roll this week as well! V and I made grain-free "puffy oven pancakes" on Monday, and I whipped up a batch of sugar cookie dough from a gluten free Hodgson Mills mix. We never got to make Christmas cookies.... or football/Superbowl cookies... Valentine cookies... or shamrock cookies... or Easter cookies. Despite me getting everything including the appropriate cookie cutters out on the counter, every time I've been too tired. Well we are going to make our Easter/spring cookies, no such thing as too late :)
Late last night I couldn't sleep and made coconut flour blueberry scones. (Yep we're still very much gluten free around here. We added back grains last year when I needed to put on weight desperately. Phasing them out again little by little, because all three of us do better without.)
Then today I made a rhubarb crisp, grain free, vegan, refined sugar free, with local rhubarb from a farm down the road. Delish! I have missed baking very much, and can't believe how much I've been able to do including cleaning up afterward, doing multiple loads of dishes and laundry each day, hanging with Miss V and watching a movie a day and doing crafts with her. Every day I have strength and energy to keep up and make life fun in my home, I am SO thrilled and grateful!

Speaking of energy levels and miracles...
Another hurdle I'm in process of jumping is some wonky blood and bleeding issues. My exhaustion level didn't fade enough once I capped my drain last week, and I had a hunch about not just electrolytes but also my blood counts. Sure enough, my doctor reported back to me that my Hemoglobin was at 8 and Hematocrit 26. My Prothrombin time and INR (both indicators of the time it takes for your blood to clot) are double what they should be. I actually had to wait a few hours while I was infused with three units of Plasma before my procedure earlier this month, because my numbers were past their cut off for a safe procedure.
It has to do with the challenges my liver is fighting through, and the state of sickness it is in; PT and INR rise. Not much you can do, I am now taking Vitamin K but really I just need healing! I'm really starting to feel it and noticing that it's not really improving.
Oh more blood drama! It's been almost a full year since my intense war against Autoimmune Thrombocytopenia ended and [I believe] God healed me and put that nasty disease into remission forever! But I'll never forget those trips to the ER hanging on as I was on the verge of passing out and my skin was so white and cold.
I got my blood drawn yesterday evening to check Hemoglobin, Hematocrit, and to do a Type and cross for a blood transfusion. It's inevitable that I'll need one within a week (actually, it's been a week since my labs were drawn last and my doctor informed me of the electrolyte and blood situation and my need for a transfusion.) but the Infusion Center where they do blood is so booked up, I can't get in until Monday. I do NOT want to end up in a critical situation ever again due to low red blood cells, so I figured checking today would be a good idea, we'll see where my numbers are at (knowing I'm still having bleeding issues - dumb gut ulcers!) and if needed, the team will go ahead and put me in the hospital for a short stay to receive a blood transfusion that way. I'd much rather give up a weekend day doing that then have to rush to the ER late Sunday night because the numbers got out of control.
Please say a prayer for clear results and a great plan of action. And as always, a blood match for me that's clean and healthy!

I think that is the summary of the major things going on. It's been a busy month - anyone else feel like April just FLEW by? But I am excited for May; it's my "happy month." :)
I will celebrate thirteen years since my liver transplant on Cinco de Mayo the 5th, my third Mother's Day on the 10th, and my 30th birthday at the end of the month! It's a good life. Never let go of your vision or your fight.

And don't take life or yourself too seriously! ;)

Right?? :)
Interesting to me, my hair is getting back to its curly, wavy state. It was like this before my liver transplant in high school, and changed to being mostly straight when I was pregnant with Miss V. Now, the curls returneth!
Here is a group of statements I wrote out to myself last week when things were feeling overwhelming, lonely and anxious. A declaration:

"I choose to live.
I choose to keep moving.
I choose to take one day at a time.
I choose to not quit.
I choose to trust Jesus.
I choose to believe the enduring, unfailing promises of God.
I choose to look high and low, far and wide, to find any joy I can find in the most difficult of days.
I choose to hope.
I choose to stay in the fight.
I choose to be fully present in the moments for myself, my daughter, and my husband.
I choose to thank God in every moment.
I choose life.
I choose joy."

And here is a beautiful prayer I discovered; I've heard and read parts of it before, but wanted to see it in its entirety. I want to print it out and carry it in my purse with me to remind me of these truths.

St Patrick's Breastplate

Christ be with me, Christ within me
Christ behind me, Christ before me
Christ beside me, Christ to win me
Christ to comfort me and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger
Christ in hearts of all that love me
Christ in mouth of friend or stranger.
(390-461 A.D.)

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