Postpartum Complications Scene 7: Wound Vacuum, Suspected Bladder Injury, and Kidney Failure

(Scene six is here.)

On Monday, they decide to do another CT scan. The hope is that the scan will come back clear and I will go home that afternoon. I cannot wait to go home and snuggle with Henry and make an exciting cup of decaf coffee and live in maternity leggings and do all the normal postpartum things I expected to do.

But first, two nurses from the wound specialist team come to put a wound vacuum on my opened cesarean incision. They take measurements of how wide and long and deep it is. Then they cut out a sponge that mirrors the size of the wound and begin to stuff it in my incision. It feels like my body is breaking again. I close my eyes and practice the calm breathing I used when I was in labor. Once the sponge is in my wound, the nurses attach it to a machine that continuously sucks my wound shut. The machine hurts too, but I’m too overwhelmed to say anything out loud.

After they’re done setting up my wound vacuum, I am wheeled off to have the CT scan.

I maneuver my unstable body from my hospital bed onto the narrow table. Then I follow the instructions given by the computerized face above the CT scan—the face tells me when to hold my breath and when to let it out. My body slides in and out of the scan as the machine magically takes pictures of the inside of my body. The semi-naturalist in me can’t believe how technological my life has become. I once ate an entire roasted bulb of garlic in college to get over a cold.

Once I return to my hospital room, I begin the long process of waiting to hear the results.

And waiting and waiting. Hospitals are filled with people waiting.

I pester my nurse about when I’m going to know the results. Leaving the hospital today is dependent on these results and I want to leave.

She’s sorry that she has no answers and I know it’s not her fault.

While I’m waiting, one of the doctors I saw during my pregnancy comes in to visit me. She asks me how I’m doing.

Predictably, tears come uncontrollably streaming down my face.

“Oh, let it all out. It’s good to let it all out,” she says as she hugs me.

As we begin talking about how I’m doing physically, I explain how I feel like I cannot pee normally anymore.

She listens carefully and I can tell she’s thinking. Then we look at pictures of Henry on my phone. She loves seeing pictures of him and for a few minutes I forget how sick I am and feel like a new mom.

After she leaves my room, she orders some more tests.

Soon my nurse comes in my room with new IV antibiotics. Why, why, why are they starting me on new medicine? I panic. I do not know why I am getting new medicine, but I do know that no one starts new medicine just before they’re released from the hospital. I can feel myself despair as I mentally adjust to the idea of being at the hospital another night.

Then a flurry of activity erupts in my room. Three nurses begin putting a catheter in me. My pre-childbirth self would be amazed how unremarkable it is to have a catheter placed in you. I hardly even care anymore. I can hear doctors talking about my bladder outside of my room.

The bad news begins to roll in: they explain that they think my bladder might have been punctured during my cesarean. They suspect that the infected fluid inside of my abdomen is urine.

I cannot believe what I’m hearing.

You’re telling me urine is leaking all over my belly?

I feel gross.

“We may need to take x-rays of your bladder and ureters to figure out what is going on,” the doctor continues.

And it gets worse.

“Also, your blood work shows that you’re in kidney failure.”

Kidney failure. I do not have a category for that.

They go on to explain that my antibiotics (really strong antibiotics like vancomycin) and the contrast dye given to me during my initial CT scan must have been too much for my body to handle and now my kidneys are shutting down. I’m introduced to a new doctor who is in charge of looking out for my kidneys. She’s a little late, in my opinion. But I like her approach to my kidney recovery, which is to basically do nothing. Everyone here seems pretty gung-ho about doing stuff to me and I like that her approach is just to take me off of everything that’s filtered through my kidneys and wait for them to recover of their own.

I go through the list of my problems in my mind: urinary infection (the least of my problems), infected cesarean wound, infected internal abscesses throughout my abdomen, potential bladder injury, and kidney failure.

Since when does giving birth cause all of this?

I want to scream.

(Scene eight is here.)

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