Expect the Unexpected

If there’s one thing my mister and I have learned in our 7.5 years of marriage, it’s that very thing: Expect the Unexpected.  Life in the LaRosa household is rarely predictable, and when it becomes calm and smooth sailing, we normally know that is the calm before a very large storm.  This time was no different.

Things have been going pretty smoothly for Eddie and myself.  We are both working, bills are paid and we still have money to have fun, we are planning to start a family in the very near future… this calm never lasts for long.  On Friday March 10, I stopped by Eddie’s work to see him, and he asked if I thought he should go to the hospital, as he shoved his finger in my face.  Now one thing you need to know about my mister is that he never EVER suggests going to the hospital, unless it’s serious.  The only other time, in fact, that he’s suggested going, he ended up having a life threatening condition called Necrotizing Fasciitis.  He could have died had he not gone.  He knows his body.

So as I’m looking at his finger, I’m seeing that it’s discolored and looking bluish/purple, and when I very lightly touched it, he nearly screamed in pain.  He had complained about a week prior that his last two fingers were kind of cold and tingly, but that’s not honestly out of the ordinary, considering he has some neuropathy issues from his cervical fusion a few years back.  But when it started changing color, he knew it wasn’t just normal.  So out to the local ER we went.  As we waited to be examined and see the doctor, the color began to get darker and more “dusky” as they called it.  They ran labs and a few other tests, listened to his pulse on a doppler, and determined he likely needed someone more specialized in hand surgery.  They weren’t sure, but believed he had a blockage of some sort.  The nearest hand surgery team was in Springfield, about 80 miles away, and we were given permission to drive ourselves there and had already been accepted by the plastic surgery/hand team, led by Dr. Nada Berry.  surgery 05  Once we got to the ER at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, we were examined by a regular physician and his residents, and then someone from Dr. Berry’s team came to do an examination.  Her preliminary assessment was that he had all the symptoms of something called Hypothenar Hammer Syndrome.  It occurs sometimes in people who do a lot of work with their hands, such as mechanics, construction workers, etc.  and can be caused by excessive banging with the hand, that then leads to a blockage.  The only catch is that typically this happens to someone in their 40s-50s, and even then, only rarely.  In fact, this was such a rare thing that pretty much every resident in the ER was coming in to his room to learn about him.  In fact, he even was asked by the head resident if he could present a case study about him for teaching purposes.  Kinda cool… I guess!

So the plastics physician was pretty confident that he had a blockage due to what his symptoms were, but they were unsure if it was due to an aneurysm or a clot, but at any rate, surgery was in his future and we were being admitted.  Ironically, we were admitted to the Ortho floor, because that is where they had an available bed, which is normally why Eddie is in the hospital in the first place!  Once settled in his room, we met with the vascular team, who would be doing an angiogram later that evening to get a clear picture of the blockage and see if there were any others.  For this, they go in through the groin and send a little catheter/wire up through the body, through the heart, and then down his arm… and they found exactly what they expected: a blockage.  Basically, you have an ulnar and a radial artery that sends blood down your arms and to your hand.  His ulnar artery was completely blocked and no blood flow was getting through.  He also had a couple small clots by his fingers in his hand, all of which would need to be removed.  They likely would need to use part of an artery from his leg to graft into the affected area of the hand/wrist.  Surgery was scheduled for Sunday March 12.

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After about 6 hours, start to finish, Eddie was out of surgery!  Dr. Berry met with me and shared that he had a huge blockage in his ulnar artery, around 3″ in length, total, was pulled from the wrist.  Additionally, he had two smaller clots by the fingers that they removed too.  As planned, they did the graft from the leg.  Her main concern right now was making sure he didn’t have vascular disease elsewhere in his body, since he is so young for the hammer syndrome to happen.  She would be ordering tests to look at his legs and heart for additional blockages.

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Thankfully, all testing for clots elsewhere came back negative, but meanwhile, Eddie’s leg began to hurt quite a bit where they took the graft.  It became super swollen, so much so that his wound began opening because of the pressure.  It was determined that he had developed a hematoma (collection of fluid/blood under the surface) and the only way to get rid of one that large would be to go in for another surgery.  Eddie didn’t mind though, as he was in so much pain because of it, that he wanted that thing out of there!  It likely developed because he was on blood thinners for his wrist problem, but then they allowed that other gunk to pool and collect under the skin from the other wound.  So, on Thursday March 16, Eddie went in for his second surgery this hospital stay (Surgery 17 total!).  Thankfully this surgery was much quicker and they placed two drains to hopefully help with the fluid.

Our remaining days in the hospital were spent simply waiting.  Eddie had to have frequent checks of his hand right after that surgery, to be sure the blood flow was restored and continued to be, and all was well there.  Before he could go home, they wanted his INR (how thick/thin his blood is) to be between 2-3.  This can be a lengthy process to bridge from IV blood thinner to oral blood thinner, and it was taking forEVER.  We also found out that his hemoglobin was low, so over the weekend of the 18-19 (can’t remember which day!), he had to get two units of blood.  Because of this, it made his INR drop lower than it had been, and we were getting frustrated!  I had to return to work on Monday March 20, and I hated to leave Springfield without Eddie (I had stayed there since he was admitted).

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Ultimately, I headed home alone on Sunday March 19, but thankfully not for long!  On Tuesday March 21, Eddie was able to discharge!  His INR didn’t quite get to the level they wanted it to, but they were willing to send him home on injection thinners and the oral thinners until he was bridged over and at the therapeutic level for his INR.

Recovery for him has been rough this go-round though.  Having a bum hand on one side and a bum leg on the other makes caring for yourself a little difficult!  He’s also been in a lot of pain, which obviously makes things worse.  But there is certainly no place like home!  On Thursday March 23, we had a little scare though, as Eddie was feeling lightheaded, dizzy, off-balance, double vision, and pounding headache.  His mom took him to the ER just in case, to make sure nothing was wrong.  Being on the blood thinner and with his symptoms, of course they want to rule out a brain bleed.  But happily, everything was totally normal–even the INR finally!

It will be a slow road to recovery, and we will be following up with Anticoagulation Management Services (AMS) for at least a year, as they monitor his progress with the blood thinners and check him out to see if he has any kind of clotting disorder that we don’t know about.  But we will get there… we always do!

Many people have asked if they can do anything to help.  And I know a lot of times people say “let me know if I can help” but then so often, you never ask them for help because you don’t want to be burden on other people.  But the best thing that can be done to help us is one of three things (because Eddie will have missed a full month of work without pay): Food (meals or gift cards for groceries would be the most helpful.  Eddie’s not able to lift anything with his hand, so he’s stuck with only using his non-dominant hand.  Finger foods/snacks are easiest for him, as he’s not super coordinated with his right hand!); Gas (in the form of cards or PayPal would be super helpful.  He will have to travel back and forth from Springfield for several months as he heals, in addition to the transportation to Urbana to see the blood doctor for at least a year); Donations (I realize I just recently was posting about wanting to raise money for our IVF journey.  That can wait if we need it to–right now we need to just meet our basic needs financially, until Eddie is able to go back to work and we have steady income rolling in again.  The easiest way to donate would be to send through paypal to teale.larosa@gmail.com I realize some may think it’s tacky to ask for these things, but as I mentioned, so many have asked how they could help; Honestly THIS is how you can help).

Thank you to everyone for all your love and prayers of the past couple of weeks.  It’s been a roller coaster of a ride, but as long as my mister is next to me, the ride is always a little more bearable.

Long Time Gone

It has been quite some time since I’ve written–I had to go back now and check to see when the last time actually was–February.  And here we are in July.  So what’s been going on?

We were lucky enough to travel to Florida twice this year already.  The first time was just for a long weekend for a friend’s wedding, which was lovely (but the drive was NOT).  The second time was for our family vacation to Anna Maria Island.  It was a very pretty place, and somewhere on the Gulf where I had not actually been, so it was nice to travel somewhere new.  Later this month we have to take a long drive again, but this time to Colorado.  I have a conference to attend for my Thirty-one business, and Eddie always comes along for the ride.  This will be my third year going, and I’m excited to see what’s in store.  After this trip though, we will be saving our pennies, as we have one more trip planned at the end of the year for a good friend’s wedding–in Cancun!  We’ve never been out of the country, which reminds me… passports… and we opted to have this trip be our anniversary/birthday/Christmas present to one another.  We are “experience” people and would rather go places and experience things instead of have actual possessions anyway, so not getting the physical gifts on those holidays is not really a big deal to us.  We will have the memories!

Eddie had a double osteotomy last summer and is still healing from the second one.  For those who don’t know, they cut a chunk of bone out of each of his thighs, essentially breaking them each, then put a plate in and wait for the break to heal.  One of the breaks is still there (how he walks around I have no idea) but it is slowly getting better.  Once it’s healed up, two more surgeries will be in the works to remove the plates, as they are causing a lot of pain and discomfort in being there.  Hopefully once the plates are out he will have more relief from the daily pain he is in.  He is the toughest person I know and I don’t know how he does it.  No other choice though, so just have to keep plugging along and live the life you have!

Despite his surgeries, he’s still done great maintaining his weight loss from the sleeve surgery in February 2013.  Over 2 years post-op and he still maintains a 200+ pound weight loss!  At his lowest he was around 160, but he is more comfortable hovering around 190, which is what he’s maintained. I’m so proud of him!  I, however, have struggled with re-gain.  I could blame it on a number of things in my personal life, but the bottom line is that I stopped following my bariatric diet plan, and when you do that, you gain weight.  I lost my Poppy, I had a stressful year afterwards, I had a giant tumor pop up in my breast and had to have surgery to have it removed (no cancer!), and a host of other stressful things happened that I couldn’t control, so I let my eating get out of control too.  I am working hard now though to get back on track and lose what I gained in the last year (60 pounds), and then hopefully some beyond that.  My initial goal though is to take off what I had gained back.  It seems that no one really talks about re-losing the weight after a post-op gain.  I’ve gone to support groups to seek motivation from others who may have done it, but those people aren’t there.  I’m sure they exist, but they’re not around to be motivation… so I will be my own motivation, and I will then go to those support groups after I’ve succeeded so that I can be the motivation for someone that might be going through this too.

I guess there’s not a whole lot more going on right now, just mostly same old same old… plugging along and rolling with the punches!

Lt. Dan, You Got New Legs!

Those that know me personally, or have known me online for awhile know that my husband has some seriously jacked knees.  Prior to this summer, he’s had 6 knee surgeries (3 on each), two of those he’s had since I’ve known him.  He’s been told that he could use new knees, but is far too young at only 28.  In the past, he’s also been told that he needed a reconstructive surgery on his bones to correct misalignment from years of walking on them in the condition they’re in.

The hitch was that he weighed almost 400 pounds.  He needed to be fixed, but due to his weight, no one would fix him, because as a 400 pound severe diabetic smoker, his odds for a successful recovery were slim.

Well, fast forward a year and a half, and my husband is now a 160 pound healthy non-smoker!  He’s still too young to get replacements, but my second favorite man in the world, Dr. Romanelli of the Orthopedic Center of Illinois in Springfield is working on fixing him!

We went to see him in May, a couple years after seeing him initially. Within a week, Eddie was scheduled for an osteotomy. On June 3, he went under the knife at St John’s in Springfield. The whole experience went off without a hitch. Surgery went very well, and after an overnight stay we were on our way! Recovery was slow at first, he had to use crutches and wear an immobilizing brace for over a month, but slowly he was able to use it more and more. He is now healed enough to not have to wear his brace or use the crutches. He has less pain in his “new” leg than in his old one.

For those that didn’t choose to google osteotomy, essentially they take a pizza slice of bone out of his leg then break the bone to straighten it, put in a plate and screws, then wait for it to heal. And about two months after surgery, he is healed enough to schedule surgery number two!

Hopefully in the next month Eddie will get scheduled for his right leg osteotomy then he will have two new legs!!! 2014 will end on a great note!!!

Baby-Making Step One

Eddie and I went to see Dr Fay in reproductive medicine today for our consultation. I didn’t know what to expect exactly, but I imagined there would be a review of our history and questions about sex. Other than that, I didn’t really know what it would be like. So, as is common with me, I want to share my journey so that others going through it will be less afraid to share theirs.

So first we met with the doctor. She reviewed the packet of information we had sent in ahead of time regarding our health history, weight loss, past menstrual information, etc. she then gave us an overview of what to expect from here on out. She explained that we would begin with a number of diagnostic tests. For Eddie, that would involve the collection of a “specimen”. Specimen being semen. If his swimmers check out, then his testing is done. If not, he will need further testing. Lucky for him, our clinic allows him to collect at home and bring it in as long as it’s delivered within an hour. For me, testing will begin with blood work and a vaginal ultrasound. These things have to be timed with certain days in the cycle. I am currently during my projected ovulation time. I am testing daily with the at-home ovulation tests. If I do end up seeing a positive ovulation test, then one week after that I will go in to get blood work to check progesterone. It will tell them how well I ovulate. Next, I have to contact them on day 2-4 of my next period for more blood work. They’re checking gobs of stuff here, which is basically just screening me for infertility factors so they get a clear picture of what we are working with. After that, at about day 10 of my next cycle, I will go in for a vaginal ultrasound. Essentially they’re gonna use a wand internally to check out my ovaries and uterus to see if there is evidence of polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, or any masses or anything that is present that shouldn’t be. Once all those results are back, they will also schedule me for an X-ray procedure of my Fallopian tubes (HSG) to see if they are opening properly. They will inject a little catheter into my cervix and shoot dye in so the doctor can see if they’re functioning normally.

So the doctor gave us alllll that information first, then her nurse practitioner Teresa came in to sort of recap, give more details, and get us scheduled for a couple things. She also gave us information about some genetic testing they do, specifically for cystic fibrosis so that they can be prepared ahead of pregnancy if our chances of having a child with any kind of risks exist. Once we met with Teresa, then we met with Sarah, who deals with insurance coverage. Thankfully Eddie and I have great coverage for infertility treatment. We have to get a pre-auth, but then we are covered for for most stuff for a year until needing to be authorized again. My insurance is an 80/20 plan which means after my deductible is met, I only have to pay 20 percent of the bill, with a max out of pocket for medical of $3000 per year. My prescription coverage also has a max of $2500 a year, so if I need fertility meds that is the most we will have to pay. So essentially $5500 in a year’s time max for us. Our insurance also requires three failed attempts at artificial insemination before we can try IVF. But that’s further down the road, and we will cross that bridge if and when we get there.

It’s exciting to have the ball rolling with this. I was nervous initially but am more at ease with things now and am hoping to get a good picture of where our fertility stands so that we can have a little munchkin of our own running around here one day soon!

Oh Baby

Caution: This entry talks about our sex life and things that go along with having a baby.  If that’s something you could do without, don’t read.

Eddie and I have been trying to have a child since about 3 months after we got married.  So, about 4.5 years, with the exception of about 9 months’ time before/after my bariatric surgery when I was on the pill.  We were never exceptionally rigid with timing, we just didn’t prevent.  We weren’t a couple that was like “DAY 14 CHOP CHOP” but we are a fairly healthy, active married couple, so take that for what it’s worth.

I have yet to have a positive pregnancy test.  Prior to my bariatric surgery, my cycle was fairly irregular.  I would have months when I didn’t get a period, and then I would have weeks where I would practically hemorrhage and contemplate going to the emergency room.  (You were warned)  After surgery, when I decided to go off the pill, I held my breath that things would regulate since I was nearly 120 pounds lighter.  And they did!  I use an app to track periods/ovulation and my cycle is around 25 days now.  Even with that knowledge though, and making sure we do the deed during predicted ovulation days, we haven’t had any luck.

I used to be on the fence about whether or not I would want to see a fertility specialist.  I worried that if I found out something was wrong with me, I would feel like less of a woman, or a failure somehow, or that if Eddie had problems with his fertility that he would feel less of a man.  I thought that it was better to just try our best, and if it happened it happened, and if not, then it wasn’t meant to be.  I kind of go back and forth between dying to be a mom, and then realizing the type of luxuries that child-free life affords.  We have nieces and nephews we love dearly, and sometimes I wonder if that is enough.  But then I have times when I feel like it isn’t enough, that I want someone else to join our family.

A few of my friends have been open about their fertility struggles, and at times, that seems scary–I’ve seen those needles some of you have to inject meds with!  But on the other hand, it’s helpful to know that they are sharing their journey openly.  Fertility and sex in general seems like some big secret that no one talks about.  But let’s face it, I’m in a committed, married relationship, and I have sex with my husband.  Whether that sex is simply recreational or with a purpose of having a child, it happens, and why do we need to be so hush hush about it?

So, yesterday I had my annual visit with my gynecologist at Carle, Dr. Spain (love her!).  She was so supportive about the weight I had lost, and I was really comfortable discussing with her the fact that Eddie and I would like to have a child, but it hasn’t happened for us yet.  She educated me about the medical definition of infertility (if you have been trying a year or more with no pregnancy, you are deemed “infertile”), and educated me about what the first steps at examining our fertility would be.  First, track periods (I’m already doing this).  Next, she recommends getting an ovulation tracker at the drug store to see if I am in fact ovulating.  That will help in knowing if and where a problem may lie.  If I’m not ovulating, we can go from there and try to use medication to stimulate ovulation.  If I am ovulating, then we see why Eddie’s swimmers aren’t a fan of my egg.  Next, she gave me a referral to reproductive medicine.  We will go on July 9 to see Dr. Fay at Carle (who I have heard really good things about).  We will get a packet of info beforehand to fill out so that she has the dirt on our history and we can go from there to see what the next steps are.

Just as I was very open on here about our bariatric surgery, I have discussed with Eddie the plan to be open on here about our fertility struggles.  If those friends of mine hadn’t shared their struggles, it may not have given me the courage to speak up to my doctor, so hopefully sharing my journey with others can do the same for someone else.  Additionally, this is an easy way to reach a lot of people–family, friends, etc.  So please don’t be offended if you read about something on here that we haven’t discussed with you personally.  It doesn’t mean that we aren’t willing to talk about it on an individual level with you, but it just means that this is the easiest way to share with the most amount of people at once.

If any of you reading have gone through this and would like to share your journey with me, I’d love to listen.  Feel free to comment, or message me on facebook, or email me at teale.larosa@gmail.com and I’d love to chat!

Long time no see!

I haven’t blogged in quite some time, so I have a few minutes and am going to try to do a quick catch-up.

Eddie and I both celebrated one year post op since the beginning of the year.  He celebrated his in February, and I celebrated mine in April.  It’s hard to believe a year has gone by already since our surgeries.  We both agree that we would definitely make the same decision if we had to do it all over again.  It has definitely been worth it.  Eddie has been at his goal weight (and then some) since September 2013, and has even lost a little since then.  He’s been working to stabilize at a weight that is comfortable to him, which has ranged anywhere from 160-180.

Since the first of the year I personally have been struggling to maintain my focus.  Right after the first of the year, my Poppy was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and passed away about a month after receiving that diagnosis.  That whirlwind was really tough to deal with at the time, and continues to be difficult to deal with daily as I try to tie up loose ends regarding my parents’ estate.  Thankfully they left me with not many ends to tie up, but of course there are some, as that goes with the territory of someone passing away.  Since about the first of the year I would say that I “relapsed” when it came to using food to cope.  I didn’t completely go back to my “old ways”, but I really struggled to maintain my daily routine with food, exercise, and just my whole health in general.  I let my gym membership lapse without renewing, eating out became more frequent and grocery shopping less frequent, and mentally I felt sad a lot of the time.  Add to that two vacations, where people typically splurge, and I was really struggling.  I was dreading going to my one-year appointment with the dietitian and surgeon because I felt embarrassed that I had not made more progress.  In fact, in all honesty, I had gained about 20 pounds back since the first of the year.

Meeting with the dietitian and being open with her was actually helpful to me.  We made a plan for me to get back on track, and I am going to re-apply for my gym membership by the end of the week (which is today!), as well as start attending my weekly Zumba classes again locally.  In addition, I am getting back to recording my food with myfitnesspal.  Even if it’s not a “good” food day, I need to record it and stay accountable.  Thankfully, she is going to email with me about once a week to check in on me, which is so lovely of her to do, and is above and beyond what she would have to do in her job.

I recently purchased a necklace that says “Find joy in the journey” and I feel like I really need to remember that.  It’s not about getting to the end result, but it’s about enjoying the process of getting there as well.  Doing things I’ve never been able to do before, enjoying life as a healthier version of myself, and just enjoying the journey, wherever that may take me.

On the Other Side

Today a very big thing happened.  Eddie is officially on the other side.  What I mean by that is that he no longer has a number he is reaching towards in his weight loss.  He is there.  He is past there, actually!

This morning he weighed in at 193 pounds, which is within his healthy weight range according to the doctor.  I believe his range is 189-194, and he is THERE!  It’s unbelievable!  Seven months, twenty-five days.  About 175 pounds.  I can’t think of any other words to describe it other than UNBELIEVABLE!

So much has changed.  As he gets ready to celebrate his 28th birthday on Thursday, I think back to where he was at his last birthday.  Nearly 400 pounds, uncontrolled diabetes (even taking 4+ injections of insulin a day), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, likely sleep apnea, tired all the time, depressed a lot of the time, just simply surviving instead of actually LIVING.  And here we are now, he’s no longer diabetic, no longer has to take medication for high blood pressure, no longer snores, has energy to do things around the house and in the yard, has a more positive mood and outlook, and motivated to live life to its fullest!  

Surgery has been one of the best things to happen to him and I could not be more proud at his progress!  He is truly the poster child for the surgery.  He’s had no complications, has done what he has supposed to, and has been wildly successful.  I’m so proud.  SO PROUD.  

You have done an amazing job baby, and you’re such an inspiration!  I look forward to many more healthy years together!!!