Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Eve of Surgery #24

It is the eve before my 24th surgery and today has not been so great a day. I'm hoping that it is not a precursor to how my surgery is going to go.

So my phone is fried, dead, kaput. It just suddenly stopped working when we got to the hotel. So this has made me super upset because now I'll be out of touch with the world and my friends for almost a week! Getting me stressed out like this the night before surgery is not a good thing so I'm trying to just say, "oh well," and let that be it. They didn't even give me a loaner phone! So now I'm going to have to use my mom's phone to text people how the surgery went and how I'm doing. Shitty.

This surgery is going to be another big surgery. It is my 24th surgery and the 5th one on my neck. I am very scared and nervous because it is my neck, ya know? AND there has never been a successful neck surgery in the past. So I lay here, in the hotel room in bed nervous as all hell, my tummy flipping inside and upside down and negative thoughts racing through my head. Oh please, if there is a God and He loves me, let this be the most successful surgery yet to be for me. And please, if it isn't too much to ask, don't let it be too painful when I wake.

So for all you friends and followers out there, I will be out of touch completely for about a week so this is my last post and you will not hear from me on Facebook because I will not have access to the internet since my phone died. If you want to know how my surgery went, FB message me by tonight or tomorrow morning, early, your phone number and i will text you how the surgery went when I wake up.

I hate this feeling of fear, nervousness, stress and excitement. It is too much for one body to handle. Especially a broken body like mine. How do I conquer these emotions? You'd think after all these surgeries I'd have learned to be a confident gladiator with them all and take in the anesthesiology like a champ. But I haven't and I don't. Is it because of my struggle with my faith? Or is it for some other unknown reason? Well, for whatever reason (s) I am not yet the conquering gladiator of my fearful emotions.

Well, good night my friends and followers. May you have a better week than me. And if you can, sneak in a prayer for me before you go to bed at night. Some all mighty power just might hear all of you and give me a successful surgery and easy week.

All my love.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Homemade Cards from the Larkin Kids

I went to college with Kristen and Jon Larkin and became very good friends with them. Since I have been hurt, I have begun hanging out with them a lot over at their house either playing games or watching movies. And many of those times it has been with their three lovely children, Aiden, the youngest, Morgan, the middle child and only girl, and Riley, the oldest boy. They are absolutely sweethearts to me. And I love Jon and Kristen dearly and their children.

anyway, the reason for this post is that the three kids, Aiden, Morgan and Riley each made me a little homemade card for my upcoming surgery. They were adorable and so darling. And they gave me those precious little kid hugs. I just adore them. I adore that whole family.

So thank you Larkin's. You are near and dear to my heart.

(outside of Morgan's card)

(Inside of Morgan's card)

(Aiden's Card)

(Riley's card)

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Shout Out To My Mom

I know I've written about my mother before but I just wanted to give another shout out to my mom again for all that she has done, put up with, and sacrificed for.

She is practically a nurse anymore and could go back to school to be a nurse and pass with flying colors if she wanted to because of her practice with me. I mean, just yesterday she removed a Jackson Pratt (JP) Drain from my leg and let me tell you, those are not always the easiest things to remove because they are so far down into the skin and wound. The tube isn't just barely stuck in there, it probably went 8 inches down into my wound so she had to keep pulling and pulling and she did it wonderfully. She was gentle and it didn't hurt too bad. What an amazing mom!

And on top of that she has to decide what topical medicines to apply on to any breakdowns that cause open wounds in my grafts. She reminds me to take my blood sugar before every meal. She also gives me all my medicine, how much and when they should be taken. I mean she really is practically a nurse. And she is always there when I have my surgeries and always there at the hospital during my time there. She usually gets to the hospital around 10am when visiting hours open and leaves around 8:30 when visiting hours are over. So she sacrifices her job to be there and she sacrifices good rest in order to be there all day with me, even if i'm just sleeping.

So here's a big, loving shout out to you mom for all your sacrifices and neverending love. I love you with all my heart and i thank you from the bottom of my soul for all that you do for me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Feverishly Cross Stitching

Well it's 5 more days until my next surgery, Round 2 of this procedure. I'm starting to get those nervous and anxious feelings again. Everything just went so well this last surgery that I fear everything's going to go wrong on this next one to even things out.

so to pass my time I have been feverishly cross stitching because 1) it's calming and 2) i gotta get things ready for the bazaar in November and I'm not near ready. Here a just a couple recently completed projects (these are christmas ornaments):

I've completed quite a bit more but those are just a few. Right now I've switched things up a bit and instead of working on christmas ornaments, i'm working on book marks. I think they're going to turn out really cute. And they seem to go by pretty fast so I think I will get a lot done before I go back into surgery.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Successful Number 23!

Round 1 Success!!! Everything went smoothly, which is just unheard of with me. So I'm very happy. I just hope Round 2 of this procuedure goes just as smoothly if not better, if that's possible. So now i'm laid up with a JP drain coming out of my leg:

Looks like it hurts, eh? well yes it does. it's pretty sore.

Here is the actual flap of skin that the doc cut out, thinned out and stitched back down. Doesn't look like a lot but it really is. this piece of skin will then be completely cut off and placed on my neck next week for the second round of this procedure.

I had quite the welcoming when I made it to the Burn Center. Everyone was like, "Hey Sarah! We've been waiting for you!" I had several of the old nurses who originally took care of me come in to say hello so that was really cool. They made me feel like the princess of the burn center :)

And it was quite the surprise when the doctor came in to see me the next morning and said, "How do you feel about going home today?" I was like, "umm...okay!" One of the nurses, Wendy (she calls me her sweet pea) was not very happy about it though cause she had me as her patient for that day and there I was, leaving already!

Well, 7 more days till the second surgery of this procedure. I'm feeling pretty good rightnow, except for being sore and in a little bit of pain.

Hallelujiah for a successful surgery!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Eve of Surgery

Well, it is the eve before my first of two surgeries. I am goin' ta be in lotsa pain tomorrow and i'm not looking forward to it. I just wanted to say good night to you all before i turn in and won't be able to blog for a few days, until I get home. Then I'll just turn right back around to make the drive back down and go for another round of surgery. But I am scared right now and very nervous. I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight. I don't know how I have ever slept in the past before surgery. Oh sweet sleep, please come to me....and my dear followers, I will write again as soon as I come home. Wish me luck and I'll need all the prayers I can get.

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed. I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

After 22 Surgeries, It All Still Gets To Me.

well I went OUT last night and it was really good for me, especially during this stressful time right before surgery. I went out to dinner and a movie with a girlfriend that works with my dad actually. We went to chinese, had great conversation and some laughs and then went to go see The Other Guys at the movie theater where we had some more great laughs. it was really a great movie. But most of all, it made me laugh which was really good for my soul right now. To just not worry about anything for 3 hours. It was really great.

But here I am, the very next day and my stomach is all upset filled with nervousness, stress, anxiety and excitement. I've gone through 22 surgeries and I still get these feelings everytime! See, I'm all used to all the prep stuff but it's when the nurses and anesthiologist comes into my room to take me away to the operating room that my tummy turns upside down. Of course, the anesthiologist gives me some nice drugs to calm me down before we head out and that helps a lot. But then suddenly it's like all those calming drugs he gives me beforehand like disappear cause when they lay me down on the operating table and put th eoxygen mask over my face that I really start to get nervous and my heart races. And then the infamous words..."Now some happy juice Sarah and we'll see you in a few hours." oh God, when am i gonna....and i'm gone before I can even finish my sentence which is intended to be "when am i gonna fall asleep?" But I'm out like a light before I can hardly get the sentence out in my head. I absolutely HATE the anticipation of falling asleep. Not knowing exactly when you fall asleep gives me the great anxiety. Oh and then waking up in such pain! AND usually finding out that there was some kind of complication or something or other. For once, I just want to go to the operating room with a calm tummy and heart and just let myself fall asleep and wake up with minimal pain and to hear these words, "the surgery was an absolute success Sarah dear."

Monday, August 16, 2010

A letter to Jack White

Dear Jack,

My name is Sarah Watterson and I am, I swear to you, your biggest fan....#1. I'm crazy about you and your music. I've been crazy about you and your music for 10 years now. I think you're just incedibly amazing and inspiring. It was because of you, you know, that I went vinyl. I hope you're proud of me for that :)

You have always been the constant in my life. Through a terrible break-up, both my grandparents dying, the scariness of moving to NYC, when i brokedown and had to come home and now this accident, where I was burned terribly and almost died. You have been there, always. Whenever I go into surgery I always listen to you beforehand to calm me down. true story. but you have never left me like others have in my life. you've always been there with your music to help me through whatever situation. And I want to thank you for that.

but mostly, in my writing this, I want to tell you that i want you to come visit me in the hospital. I'd rather you come to la Grande so I can fix myself up and look nice for you :) but when i really think about it, I think I would most benefit from your visit if you came to the hospital one of these times. You know Taylor Lautner visited Nienie Nielson, another burn victim? So i think it's time for you to pay your dues to your number 1 fan. As my friend Carly has said, I think it would be good for your Karma if you did :) I would absolutely die if you visited me. I'd be semi-upset that i would look so terrible for my first meeting with you (cause you don't always look your best in a hospital) but i would soon get over that. Just to be in your private presence I would never forget it and always be grateful for it.

So if you have the time, i know you're done touring right now, I would be eternally thankful if you came to the hospital to see me. BTW, I'm the one you sent your drumsticks and guitar picks to. yup, that's me! I will be in the hospital for a few days starting Aug 20, 2010 and then will return Aug 30th to be in the hospital for at least 5 days. Any one of those times is fine :)

Once again, I love you jack and i love your music. You're absolutely incredible in my eyes.

All my love, Sarahbeth Watterson

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dixie Mountain Camping

Here are some pictures from when we went camping at Dixie Mountain Campground. it was so nice to get out of town and just be free of any stress or anxiety. It was just chill and relaxed. it was a good rest up before my surgery.

our campground....nothing's set up yet.

picking hucklberries

cooking hotdogs for dinner

Friday, August 13, 2010

How This Next Procedure Works

So I received an email from my reconstructive doctor (my main doctor) and finally found out how exactly this next procedure is going to work in two stages. Here is a copy of part of the email he sent so you can read his exact words of what he is going to do:

The way this works is in two stages. The first stage is a procedure that takes about 4 hours and is actually lifting the flap up carefully and thinning it out so it is not so bulky on your neck. I will then put the flap back down with a drain under it. I will keep you for a night or two so I can keep an eye on the flap and make sure it all lives without a problem. Then I will send you home for a few weeks. During this time the flap will grow bigger diameter blood vessels and be a healthier flap. When you come back in a few weeks we will lift the flap up again but this time we will also cut the blood vessels to the flap and reconnect them to the vessels in your neck and remove the scarred tissue and replace it with the thin flap of skin from your leg.

Sounds complicated eh? Also sounds very painful for me lol. Doctors are amazing, especially those that do reconstructive work like my dear Dr. Vangelisti. He also said in the email that he is really looking forward to doing this procedure and thinks it's really going to help. I sure hope he's right and I sure hope I get through both surgeries without any complications, as I am prone to have. But I have complete trust in Dr. V. I just don't trust my body to do what he wants lol.

so that's that. Now we all know exactly what's going on. I pray this works.

p.s. here is a pic of how the center of my neck looks now (pre-5th surgery, nasty scars) and then we'll see how it looks after!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Lesson From Michael J. Fox

I was watching Racheal Ray and Michael J. Fox was the guest on and he said something so profound I just had to write it down in my blog:

"However well you plan out your life and whatever courses you take and whatever degrees you get, your life is really going to get most interesting when it goes off the rails, when it blows up and something happens that you didn't expect - you have some loss or some misadventure," he explains. "If you're open to what happens next and you don't try to do something to change it - you just kind of accept it for what it is - you're going to learn something and your life will improve."

How true is that? Such a wonderful lesson from someone whose life did go off the rails and who did learn something from it so that his life could improve despite the Parkinson's Disease that has seized his body. Well my life also went off the rails and blew up in my face but I just haven't been able to open up to what has happened in my life and accept it for what it is. Instead I haven't been able to accept what happened to me. I planned my life to be an actor and singer whether on film or Broadway and I tried it, but something unexpected happened and life blew up in my face and I have suffered ultimately with the loss of that life, of that plan. But Michael is saying that life gets most interesting when it derails and something happens that you didn't expect - "you have some loss or misadventure." I have never really thought of my life, as it is now - derailed - as interesting. I have suffered emotional and physical pain and the loss of what used to be an interesting and exciting life. What I have now, I don't think is interesting. But perhaps, if I could just take his advice and accept my life for what it is now, I may learn something and in consequence of that, my life will improve.

Well that is precisely what I am trying to do - accept my life for what it is now. But that would mean accepting my scars and that is very difficult for me to do because it is those scars that have caused me to cry and not recognize myself when I look in the mirror. How can I accept something that causes me great pain? How can I accept the loss of a life that I planned my whole life for? But that is exactly what Michael J. Fox is asking me to do. And I trust what he says because his life was derailed when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. And he was also an actor, like myself. But Michael was able to accept what happened to him and his life improved. I mean, he went back to doing acting, even though his roles are usually guest appearances but he is DOING it! And that's what matters most. That gives me hope that maybe, with the graces of the good doctors I have, that I too will be able to return to acting. But I may also have to accept that life has blown up in my face, derailed, and taken a different direction and THAT is something I don't know if I'll ever be able to accept. However, if I don't accept it, how will I ever be able to move on, learn something from it, and ultimately improve my life from what it is now? To accept what happened to me and be open to it is the only way to improve my life. Michael is so right.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I have PTSD - Post Trauma Stress Disorder. For those of you who don't know exactly what PTSD is (from the DSM-IV definition):

309.81 DSM-IV Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following have been present:

(1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others (2) the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

B. The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in one (or more) of the following ways:

(1) recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions.
(2) recurrent distressing dreams of the event.
(3) acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated).
(4) intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
(5) physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following:

(1) efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
(2) efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
(3) inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
(4) markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
(5) feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
(6) restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
(7) sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:

(1) difficulty falling or staying asleep
(2) irritability or outbursts of anger
(3) difficulty concentrating
(4) hypervigilance
(5) exaggerated startle response

E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than one month.

F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

How do I deal with it you might ask? I go to a lot of therapy and I try to do a lot of relaxing things like my cross stitching and reading. It is very hard to deal with. I have many of the symptoms listed above in the DSM's criteria for PTSD.

For Criteria A: I experience the event firsthand...I was burned 45% of my body entirely in 3rd degree burns.

For Criteria B: I have intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event. I also have the physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event. The external cue in question is fire, sometimes hot things on my skin like a hot shower is difficult to endure. Having a campfire is difficult for me to be near so I usually sit farther away from it. Also sirens set off both a psychological and physiological reactivity in me.

For Criteria C: I do avoid talking about the accident. I don't like talking about it. I also have amnesia of the event so I am unable to recall the events of the accident. I have a diminished interest or participation in significant activities and I have a sense of a shortened life such as not being able to have the normal things in life that other people have like marriage and children.

For Criteria D: I do sometimes have sudden outburts of anger or irritability and extreme difficulty concentrating.

For Criteria E: This has definitely lasted for more than one month.

For Criteria F: This has also definitely caused significant distress and impairement in social functioning. I have a hard time going out and I have a hard seeing people, which is why I didn't go to my reunion after all and why I always, ALWAYS get nervous going to go see even the friends that I have already seen.

So as you can see, I'm kind of messed up and I need a lot of help from my friends and family to get through this. I also need a lot of help from my blog followers so don't be afraid to leave a comment on anything. It helps me a lot to read what you have to say. I want to inspire you and show you that your life, compared to mine, is not all that bad and the little things you think are the end of the world, aren't, compared to what I'm going through. So don't hesitate to say something. I need and love to read what you have to say in response to something I've written, especially if it has opened your eyes or inspired you in some way because that is the goal of my blog.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Breakdown Kind of Day

Yesterday I had a really hard day. You know, a break down kind of day. Lots of crying, lots of questions asked inside my heart and head. Sometimes I have these days where everything just hits me: the accident and the pain and suffering that has come with it, how my life has changed because of it. And yesterday was one of those days.

I just don't understand how an ALL LOVING God let something so horrible happen to someone and it didn't just happen to me, it happened to my family too. My poor mother had to find me engulfed in flames, literally burning to death and then my poor father had to stay with me till the paramedics got there and see my burned off skin AND THEN my poor ENTIRE family, including my brothers, waited by my bedside day after day, night after night while I was in a coma, just waiting for me to wake up and feeling so helpless. Why would He do such a terrible thing and if He didn't do it, how could He LET it happen? I am struggling with my faith as you well know, for those of you who are following my blog and for those of you who are just joining in, I am struggling with my faith.

I am reading a book right now called, "The Case for Faith" by Lee Strobel. A couple friends have actually independently told me to read it. So I am and I have come across a chapter that has really struck me. The writer, who is a journalist, is interviewing a philospher named Peter John Kreeft about the subject, "Since Evil and Suffering Exist, a Loving God Cannot." In an example, Kreeft explains how he remembers when one of his daughters was trying to threadle a needle in Brownies and kept pricking herself in the fingers, sometimes making her bleed. He says his first instinct was to go to her but he held back knowing that she could do it on her own eventually, and finally she did. He then says something that I had to highlight, "That time the pain was a good thing for her. I was wise enough to have foreseen it was good for her. Now, certainly God is much wiser than i was with my daughter. So it's at least possible that God is wise enough to foresee that we need some pain for reasons which we may not understand but which he foresees as being necessary to some eventual good. Therefore, he's not being evil by allowing that pain to exist." He also goes on to say, "Certainly there are times when God allows suffering and deprives us of the lesser good of pleasure in order to help us toward the greater good of moral and spiritual education."

This I have never considered before. That possibly I took on this suffering, as Mother Theresa says, because He knew I could handle it and also because He could foresee that was neccessary to some eventual good in my life. I find that argument to be very interesting. But still yet, I struggle that couldn't there have been a better way to show me suffering without almost killing me and scarring me in places I cannot hide?

I think this book is going to be very good for me. Thank you friends, you know who you are, for recommending it. But back to my breakdown....

It was a crying day that's for sure. I stood looking in the mirror in my room and just stared at the person staring back at me, cause the person staring back at me was just that...a person i didn't recognize. It wasn't me. I watched tears run down her burned cheeks and form streams down a scarred face that I didn't recognize as mine. What I saw was not my face. The only thing I recnognized were my eyes. And I just kept looking at myself, crying. My heart actually hurt. I was mourning physical attributes I lost. And I know that's not what matters in a person. But when you look in the mirror and don't even recognize yourself, it's hard to see how it can't matter when faces are the first thing we see in people and yours is messed up. Finally I couldn't take it anymore and curled up on the floor cursing my accident and even sometimes, cursing any higher power there might be if there is one for letting this happen to me. What am I supposed to do now? What was the purpose of what happened to me? If I'm supposed to help people, how do I go about doing that when I can't even help myself? How could He hurt my family?!! How DARE He hurt them! What were they supposed to get out of all of this?

So that was my breakdown yesterday. I am anxious for this next surgery. 17 more days. I hope all goes successfully and I hope it looks great. I hope it corrects a lot of facial ailments that I have such as my lower lip and my right eye. The doctor suspects so, but will probably still have to do some kind of extra reconstruction on them. Oh how this whole accident has tested my patience in a BIG way. And my faith. Will I be able to find my faith again? or will I go through my whole life struggling with the questions that I have? Or will I find it and be brought ultimately closer to God? I sure hope it is the latter because the former leaves my soul very alone.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My First Burn Picnic

I went to a Burn Picnic hosted by the Portland Firefighters this weekend and I had a blast! I have to admit though, that as we got to the park and were walking up to the site of the picnic I started to get a little nervous about seeing all these people. But as soon as I spotted Helen, my OT in the burn Center, I caught her attention and she made me feel at ease at once. I settled in and began a fantastic conversation with an old therapist I had when I was at RIO (Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon), her husband, another OT from the Burn Center and Scott, another burn survivor. I had a fantastic time just chatting away with these people, especially with Julie (the RIO therapist) and her husband and Scott. So great in fact, that we were engrossed in conversation for like an hour and at the end, Julie and I exchanged information and have already begun to email back and forth.

But I met many other burn survivors while I was there and it was really good for me to be around other survivors. There was only maybe one that was burned worse than me. I was probably the worst burned there. But I was ok with that. It was also a small crowd but I enjoyed all three hours that it lasted. I cannot explain to you the almost immediate bonding that occurs between two survivors, particularly survivors of the same pain and suffering. And I got to experience it several times as I met several new burn survivors and saw old friends who were burn survivors as well. It is as though there is an immediate understanding of the pain and suffering each has had to go through and KNOWING that pain and suffering personally so you can relate to the other's. You almost feel at ease deep in your heart around them because you KNOW absolutely they are not judging you for they have gone through or are going through either exactly or similar experiences as you. You feel at ease with your scars because you are around others who share your scars with you.

So all in all, it was a great experience for me and I'm so thankful to my parents for taking me and I'm so happy they both went. I think it was good for them too because there were other caretakers there too for them to relate to. Thank you Portland Firefighters for hosting such a wonderful event.