Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Breast Saga

Let me take you back in time a bit to the last week in August of this year.

It began as a ho-hum August week, but there were a few events on the horizon about which I was excited. That Thursday my book club was meeting to discuss Dogwood by Chris Fabry, a book I absolutely love; you should read it. Jessica & Heath were coming to town for their last visit as a family of two, & we all had plans to go out Friday night (& by "go out" I mean eat dinner with our parents, which is what "go out" means when you're married & in your thirties). I was perhaps most excited about Saturday, as it was the last day in August (which is always worth celebrating), & several friends & family were coming to my house that afternoon for a baby shower for Jessica. Oh, & also, it was the opening Saturday of college football. LSU was set to play their season opener against TCU in Cowboys Stadium, & I was eager to resume my on again, off again relationship with Kirk Herbstreit. We have our issues, what with his Ohio State love & anti-SEC bias, but come fall, Kirk & I are always happy to see each other after the long, hot months of off-season separation.

That Tuesday I drove to Delta Community College & taught my classes as usual. Now, let me just warn you, the remainder of this post may fall squarely in the TMI category . . . you've been forewarned  (for my older readers, TMI = too much information). I debated whether or not to blog about this, but as my internal debate raged, what began as an inconvenience snowballed into a somewhat serious health issue. Were I to opt not to blog about this, I'd have little to nothing about which to blog since it has consumed my life the past two weeks.

So, now you're really curious, right? As I was saying, I taught my speech classes at Delta & returned home Tuesday. All day Tuesday & Wednesday I was certain I was suffering from a blocked milk duct, which is not uncommon for nursing mothers. When I had the chance, I did all the things they say to do to resolve this issue before it escalates; I nursed Henry constantly Wednesday, I took hot baths, etc. I wanted the issue resolved before it interfered with my book club meeting; I hadn't missed a meeting & was not about to miss the discussion of Dogwood over a pesky milk duct.  I went to church Wednesday evening & on the drive home, I knew things were not progressing well. I felt bad, & I was in increasing pain.

Around three am Thursday morning, Henry had had enough of the situation & decided he would no longer nurse on the affected side . . . that's when I knew I was in serious trouble. I slept maybe two hours that night & called my doctor's office the moment they opened Thursday morning to have them call me in a prescription for the antibiotics that, as I understood, would cure the case of mastitis from which I was certain I was suffering. 

If mastitis is a new word for you, just google it. If you've suffered from mastitis in the past, may the Lord bless you & keep you. I left my kids with my mother-in-law (MIL), who regularly keeps them on Thursday while I teach, drove to the college, hobbled to my classroom door, & posted a piece of paper announcing the cancellation of that day's class. I then drove myself to the pharmacy, eager to get my hands on the drugs. I was still clinging to a sliver of hope that after a dose or two of antibiotics, I'd be able to make it to my book club meeting that evening. In hindsight, I realize my naivety.

I made it back to my house with the drugs. My kind MIL offered to take Reagan for the rest of the day, & Henry & I fell into bed to await the relief I was praying the drugs would bring. Henry steadfastly refused to nurse the affected side, which I knew was problematic since everything I read online regarding mastitis said to "nurse the affected side often" in order to resolve the problem. If I haven't mentioned this, my parents currently have their house up for sale (you should buy it, it's awesome . . . ), & my mom was coming over Thursday afternoon while the house was being shown to a potential buyer. At some point I texted her to ask if she could come over a bit earlier because I needed help. Help with Henry, help making it to the bathroom . . . you name it, I needed help doing it.

I was a complete wreck when she arrived. I have a fairly high pain tolerance, I think, but I was miserable. There were tears. I knew there would be no book club for me that evening, & I didn't even care. My goals shifted to Saturday, hoping the antibiotics would work their magic & allow me to enjoy Jessica's baby shower & the opening day of college football.

Friday dawned & the situation remained unchanged. I called my doctor's office to request that Dr. Sheppard's nurse call me back, only to learn my mother had made me an appointment for that afternoon. The nurse practitioner I saw said that, yes, I had a most horrific case of mastitis (there may've been some audible gasping) & that if things did not improve over the weekend to alert the on-call doctor who could prescribe me some stronger antibiotics. 

Saturday morning I  convinced myself that things were a little better. I did not want to switch to stronger meds because that would mean I couldn't nurse Henry, an undesirable scenario in which he would take formula & I would constantly have to pump milk, only to throw it out. This is known as "pump & dump" in the OB world. I showered & dressed - make-up & all - & attempted to mingle & not appear near death's door during the baby shower. The moment my house was empty of the shower guests I jumped into the bathtub, still convinced I was ailing from a blocked duct that had become infected, which is classic mastitis.

Sunday & Monday there was some improvement. On Sunday morning, Henry ended his nursing strike on the affected side, & I thought we were on the road to recovery. I was not 100% by Tuesday morning, but I wasn't about to again cancel my classes at Delta after giving my students the usual beginning of semester spiel about class being an obligation, etc., etc. What I discovered Tuesday morning when I rose to shower & prepare to go teach was alarming; that's as much detail as I'll divulge. In everything I read about mastitis, there were warnings to resolve the situation before an abscess developed. It is rare that a case of mastitis results in an abscess, but let me assure you, it's not impossible.

My mom arrived to keep the kids & I let her know we'd be returning to the doctor. I drove to Delta, making two phone calls on the way. The first was to schedule me an appointment to see the nurse practitioner I'd seen Friday; the second was to make Henry an appointment to see his pediatrician since, amid all the mastitis, he'd developed a cough. Sigh.

I taught my first class at Delta but had to cancel my second class in order to make it to my doctor's appointment. I left a note on the door telling my students I regrettably had to cancel class again (as if they care), to check online for an assignment, & that I'd see them Thursday. Ha. You'd think I'd learn to stop making plans.

Long story short, the nurse practitioner called Dr. Sheppard, who immediately admitted me to the hospital. I'd be receiving intravenous antibiotics, but would still be able to nurse Henry, which meant, of course, he'd stay with me in the hospital, which meant, of course, so would my mom. It's hard to handle an infant with an IV line in your arm.

As soon as I was settled in my room that afternoon, my mom & Trey left with Henry en route to the pediatrician's office to investigate his cough, which we suspected he'd picked up from his sister.  Meanwhile, I'd requested to talk with the lactation nurse on staff at the hospital. She is a wonderful woman who was so kind & supportive during my stay. She told me that she felt I should keep giving Henry milk from the affected side, even if I had to pump it until the situation improved, & Dr. Sheppard  later concurred when she saw me.  

After the lactation nurse left my room, I called my mom in a bit of a panic worrying about Henry being exposed to whatever it was that had caused my infection. Henry was put on an antibiotic that should cover his cough & any additional rot to which I may've inadvertently exposed him. You can imagine how I was feeling about my mothering skills at this point. Henry's doctor, a kind man named Gary Stanley, called me later that day to allay my fears. I was emotional & exhausted & may've ended the phone call with, "I love you." 

So, for two days I sat in a hospital bed while antibiotics were pumped into my veins. They brought in one of those clear baby bins they use for newborns, & Henry rotated from it, to my bed, to the foldout chair in which my mom (attempted) to sleep a bit at night. It was odd to again see Henry in the little bed for newborns:

By Wednesday afternoon, after twenty-four hours on the drip, I was concerned that I wasn't improving as quickly as one might expect with antibiotics surging through their veins. I wasn't running fever, & hadn't for days, & Dr. Sheppard told me my bloodwork was beautiful - - white count good, no sign of infection in my blood, which meant no infection in my milk. So, kudos to my body for containing the beast. On Thursday morning, Dr. Sheppard came to deliver the news that I was being released. So, that was exciting news. She also told me that my cultures indicated that the staph that caused my infection was unresponsive to all of the antibiotics I'd been taking, meaning the two days in the hospital did me little good, which I'd already begun to suspect. That was less exciting news. She prescribed me an antibiotic that would, finally, do battle with the infection that plagued me, &, because God is good, it is the same medicine Dr. Stanley had prescribed for Henry on Tuesday before anyone knew of my exact diagnosis.

I don't want to speak too soon, but I appear to be on the mend. I am still nursing Henry, something I thought I'd have to give up at many points in the past week or so. I am homebound for at least another week, meaning, of course, my beloved speech students will be doing more online assignments this week. I think by now they may've realized my absence from class isn't as exciting as it may seem, & that they do less work when they simply show up to class & doze while I lecture.

I am so over being ill. I remain bummed about missing book club, as Dogwood is a book I need to discuss, & I regret that the only memories of Jessica's baby shower I have are clouded by a fog of pain. I did take a few pics:

Not too shabby photography for someone on the verge of hospitalization.  

In the weeks prior to the baby shower I made some home improvements (by which I mean buying stuff at Target & ordering things from Pottery Barn Kids) that I'll share in an upcoming blog. You know you can't wait!

I am ready to resume everyday life, welcoming the challenges I once bemoaned, like keeping the house clean, always running out of Reagan's milk, or the logistics of taking two kids to Target. Real life will have to wait a bit longer though, as I am under doctor's orders to remain braless for another week, which limits me to my house (or Wal-Mart). 

To those who've prayed for me, thank you. Please continue to do so. To those who were unaware of my health crisis, please feel free to add me to your prayer list, & if you're aware of any such contest, you've my permission to nominate me for 2013's Nursing Mother of the Year. As I mentioned, I considered not blogging about this, but I want it on the record so that one day, if Henry is angry with me, I can say, Remember that time I was hospitalized because I was attempting to provide you with the best nutritional start to life possible? 

In retrospect, I don't believe I was ever suffering from a blocked milk duct that caused an infection. I think I was infected from the get go, something that nursing mothers are more prone to suffer because, as the nurse practitioner told me, if something comes out, something can get in. Poetic, I know.

Since I feel like I've reached the end of a long speech, I must now thank my MIL, who entertained Reagan while I was hospitalized, Trey, who also cared for Reagan at home in my absence & who will pick up the tab for my hospital stay, & my mother, without whom I don't know where I, & my kids, would be. Reagan also deserves a mention, as she's been nothing but wonderful during this ordeal despite the upheaval in her life (though I think Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood streaming on Netflix deserves an honorable mention for Reagan's admirable behavior). 

I've had some low moments - - some low, ugly crying fat tears moments - - but I try & bring myself back to the positives, such as modern medicine, family that's near & always there when I need them, & my two beautiful, healthy kids. And an LSU team that appears to have pieced together something resembling a viable offense. And Kirk.        


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