Henry let out an anguished screech as I tried to move him into a good position on the couch. I was hoping he’d let me apply a warm compress to the bandaged surgery incision on his tummy.
“I’m sorry Henry,” I said, gently scratching him behind the ear. His crying sent a shock of empathy pain through my gut. But it was more than empathy. The previous day I’d accidently yanked my gastrostomy tube while washing my car, then aggravated the injury by lifting some heavy boxes that needed to be put away. Luckily, the tube didn’t come completely out, (that would have required a trip to the ER), but I tore the tissue where the tube enters my stomach. You’d think I’d be more careful, since I’ve been living with the hazards of this feeding tube for more than five years, but I was so nervous about Henry coming home after surgery, I wasn’t thinking about myself.
When I pictured Henry’s eleven-pound body being cut open, memories of my own exploratory abdominal surgery flooded me. Waking up afterward was horrific. As the anesthesia wore off, the pain set in. That was when I learned that nearly all movement involved my abdomen in one way or another. The slightest twist or turn sent searing pain through my body. Simple breathing hurt, and a cough or sneeze felt like being stabbed with a sword. Now, Henry was going through the same thing and I didn’t know how to comfort him.
When Don and I picked Henry up from the hospital on Sunday, the surgery nurse carefully explained the aftercare instructions. We’d been through this with Dixie three times, so I thought I knew what to expect. She had to wear an E-collar, aka “the Cone of Shame,” to prevent her from chewing the stitches out, and we limited her activity for 2-3 weeks. I started to read the instructions for Henry, and the first thing I saw was “Henry must be confined to a crate for 8 weeks.” EIGHT WEEKS?? Could this be right? Yes, the nurse explained, it’s critical that we strictly limit his activity for the full 8 weeks so the incisions can heal fully. The splenectomy and gastrectomy must have really torn him up inside.
The nurse also said we must keep him on a short leash to take him outside to pee and poo. We have two steps on our front porch that lead to the back yard, so we’ll need to pick him up each time. Normally I can manage this, but since my stomach tube got yanked, it’s hard to pick anything up without having a lot of pain. How was I going to help Henry? Don will help when he’s home, but Henry will be in my care most of the day. I suddenly felt useless and worried about Henry getting hurt. What if I drop him? What if he hates being in the crate and cries? What if I’m a bad mommy and he doesn’t heal properly?
Don could see I was overwhelmed and scared, and assured me that we’ll figure this out. All of us, including Henry, will adjust to the changes, and we’ll be fine.
He’s right, of course. Henry is doing well. He’s eating and pooping, and with a little cheese, he takes his medicine. He doesn’t mind being in the crate during the day, but at night, he cries to be on the bed with us. The danger with that is that he could jump off while we’re sleeping and hurt himself. So, last night I slept in the living room, and he was content to sleep on the floor next to me. We’re learning and managing.
Now we’re waiting for the biopsy results…