‘Everyone disappeared. Quickly I became ‘old news’ and no one cared anymore. Everyone except my family.’: Woman becomes septic after having gallstones, is now tube fed but ‘appreciates what I have instead of focusing on what I’ve lost’

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“It’s hard to believe how drastically and quickly my life completely changed. One day my life was picturesque and the next thing I know I’m waking up in the SICU with tubes, wires, and cords connected everywhere on my body.

It all started when I had an emergency C-section because my daughter was breech on May 23, 2017. The delivery went fine and we warmly welcomed our baby girl into our family. Everything seemed perfect. My husband and I owned our own small business which was thriving. We were living in a beautiful rented farm house and were looking to purchase our own home. We were finally financially sound and we were happy and looking forward to our future. But this ideal life didn’t last long.

Three weeks after our daughter was born I started having severe chest pains and nausea. I told my husband, ‘I am having chest pains and I think I need to go to the ER.’ We weren’t too concerned. My husband drove me to the hospital where they found I had gallstones and  needed to have my gallbladder removed. The doctors and nurses didn’t seem concerned at all. They said, ‘No worries, this is just run of the mill gallstones.’ They gave me some IV medication and after a while I was feeling better. They sent me home with instructions to call Monday to schedule a surgery to get my gallbladder removed. This was on a weekend, father’s day to be exact, so they didn’t have any surgeons available to perform the surgery that day. They sent me home and told me to call back on Monday.

Later that afternoon, the pain and nausea came back ten fold. My husband had gone back to work and I was home alone with my newborn daughter. I started feeling so sick I had to place my daughter in her bassinet while I hung over the toilet with uncontrollable vomiting. I called my husband and said, ‘You have to come back immediately, something is seriously wrong!’ When he got home we had to wait for our friend to get there to watch our baby, but I was so sick and scared I said, ‘We have to go now and leave the baby!’ It made me feel like a terrible mother, leaving my newborn unattended for a short time. But that’s how imminent it was.

We rushed back to the hospital and I was admitted right away. That’s when things went black and I only remember bits and pieces of what happened. I know I was transferred to one of the best hospitals in Wisconsin where they weren’t even sure what was wrong with me until it was too late. The next thing I really remember is waking up four weeks later in the SICU. I was rushed into emergency surgery because I became septic. I’ve had so many open abdomen surgeries since I’ve lost count. I woke up in the surgical intensive care unit with giant mittens on my hands, IVs everywhere; in my arms, neck, and legs. I had a tracheotomy tube in my throat and was unable to talk. I couldn’t move at all. I was terrified and didn’t know what had happened.

Courtesy of Rachel Meyer

A gallstone had traveled down to my pancreatic duct and got caught inside. This caused my pancreas to necrotize and die. Once your pancreas  it releases caustic pancreatic fluid which eats away at any organ it touches. My pancreas wreaked havoc on my internal organs, causing several fistulas to form.

The one thing I didn’t notice right away when I woke up from my medically induced coma was the massive, gaping hole in my stomach. You could see my internal organs and these massive fistulas. I was horrified and confused. I had no idea what was going on or how this had happened. Before this, I didn’t even know something so horrible could happen to a person. Doctors told me, ‘You shouldn’t have survived. Every complication that could happen, happened. Everything went wrong.’

Courtesy of Rachel Meyer

Over the next year, tubes and drains came and went. My tracheotomy was removed and I slowly got my speech back. But my overall health stayed the same. I still had a massive hole in my abdomen. I became severely depressed and anxious. I felt hopeless. No doctor had really ever seen anything like this and there was no treatment or surgery to make it better. They told me, ‘You should just be happy you are alive,’ even though I had no quality of life. Thank goodness my family was such a huge support for me. Especially my husband and my mother. They never left my side in the beginning and they still haven’t. Medically, the only hope I had is my fistulas healing on their own.

Courtesy of Rachel Meyer

The following summer in August of 2018, I underwent a series of bowel resection surgeries to try and close the giant hole and to try and reconnect what was left of my digestive tract. We ended up doing a skin flap where they take skin and veins from one area of the body and use it to cover another area creating a hernia.

Most of these surgeries were a success. My abdomen is mostly closed and my digestive tract is in one piece, although small. Due to all the resection surgeries I am now missing my gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, large intestine, and most of my small intestine. This has left me with severe short bowel syndrome (SBS). Because of my SBS and my remaining fistulas I am not allowed to eat or drink anything and I get my nutrition through an IV, which I will have to use for the rest of my life. It’s been over two years since I’ve had a bite of food or a sip of anything but water for when I take my meds.

Courtesy of Rachel Meyer

I was always a huge foodie, so not being able to eat has been extremely hard. I just want to cook a meal for my family or go out to dinner with my husband. My lowest point was when I had a major surgery get cancelled a few days before it was scheduled because they realized I was too ill. I lost all hope and just cried for days. That’s when it hit me that I would never be normal again and this was going to be the rest of my life.

Everyone except my family disappeared. My friends showed support when I first got ill, but I quickly became ‘old news’ and no one cared anymore. No one visited or called or even sent a message to see how I was doing. I don’t know what I would have done without my family. There has definitely been some dark days and even darker thoughts but as time has gone by I’ve realized that I need to appreciate what I still have instead of focusing on what I’ve lost.

Courtesy of Rachel Meyer

I have my mind and ambition to get stronger. I have an amazing support system in my family. I have a loving and devoted husband who has been by my side since day one, and I have my beautiful baby girl who keeps me motivated to get as well as I can because I need to be here for her.

They say, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ If that’s the case, I’m Captain Marvel.”

Courtesy of Rachel Meyer

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rachel Meyer of Boltonsville, WI. You can follow her journey on Instagram and check out her GoFundMe. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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