Happy new year, everyone! 2021 was a crazy year for us, including the last “hurrah” of a surgery a few days after Christmas! Thank God, the surgery went well, and I’m already back home recovering. It seems like the surgeon did a very good job, especially compared to what I’ve heard about other surgeons here in Ukraine – praise the Lord that we found a good one! We also have received all of the money that we needed for the surgery – thank you to all of you that both prayed for us and gave towards our medical needs!
Warning: The rest of this blog post contains medical details that may make folks a little squeamish. I’m comfortable putting this information out there, as I want y’all to know how to be praying for us. However, if you have trouble with that kind of thing, feel free to skip to “The Road Ahead” at the end.
My surgery adventure
Why I needed surgery
I have had IBS-D since getting COVID-19 in August of 2020. That means I’ve spent a lot of time on the toilet with abdominal pain and cramps, ingesting a lot more imodium than most people see in five years. With all of that time and pressure going to my “undercarriage”, I started to get hemorrhoids, which began to bleed several weeks ago. It was then that I sought the help of my doctor, who was already working with me on controlling the IBS. She recommended that I get in touch with a general surgeon that is a part of her network of doctors.
The surgeon that we found seemed to be a good doctor that we could trust. I got checked out by him and started to follow his recommendations, preparing for surgery on the Wednesday before Christmas. However, I talked to a friend who has had the exact same surgery with the same doctor, and we decided to call it off. That friend of mine has had incredible complications and has had to repeat the surgery four times – he’s scheduled for a fifth soon. This is because of how the doctor botched the operation, leading to several infections and other nastiness that I really don’t want to get into. Please pray for my friend. His name is Ruslan.
All of that to say, we refused to continue treatment and surgery with that doctor, and we found another one, Ruslan’s new doctor in Kyiv. Kyiv is an 8-hour train ride away – it’s the capital city and the largest megalopolis in Ukraine. The equipment that this new doctor has is much more modern and much more expensive than anything you would find in Lviv. The new doctor found two more hemorrhoids that the previous one missed and recommended that I have them removed and have a colonoscopy to confirm my IBS-D diagnosis.
Under the Knife
After we had already celebrated Christmas with the family, Katya and I got on a train and came to Kyiv, where we stayed with a family friend. The train ride was fine, and the day went pretty well, despite me having to fast all day. However, the doctor had given me confusing instructions on how to prepare for the colonoscopy. If you’ve ever had one, you know what you’re supposed to do, but this was my “first rodeo” with this thing, so I had no idea. The doctor literally said, “You need to be in Kyiv by 6:00pm to prepare.” That was the end of it – he gave me no other instructions, and the receptionists forgot to give me the colonoscopy documentation that would’ve informed me about the night of prep ahead of me.
As I had understood about the 6:00pm “preparation”, I showed up with Katya on the doorstep of the clinic at 6:00pm on December 26th, the day after Christmas, which is a holiday. The clinic was closed, and the security guard there told us off with a flavor and color befitting of the “Kiev-city style” (if you’ve ever heard of the New York or Jersey stereotype of folks being mean, think of that times two). That was very discouraging. Even though we live in a big city here, Katya and I are used to the western-Ukrainian culture of civility, and that just made an already-stressful day much harder.
To make matters worse, the doctor wouldn’t answer his phone or texts. When I finally sent him a message saying that I wouldn’t be there for the colonoscopy in the morning, he answered. My reasoning was that I couldn’t come to a colonoscopy if I hadn’t “prepared”, whatever that meant, I didn’t know, and I wasn’t going to randomly go to a pharmacy and try to find the medicines I needed – that’s very dangerous to do here as a foreigner. We finally got our instructions, and I “prepared” (look it up if you’re curious – it’s brutal) that night, barely sleeping for more than 3-4 hours.
The surgery itself went better than could be expected. The staff was joyful and nice, the accommodations were immaculate, and the operation was quick. I had minimal pain that day, though my family says that the anesthesia played with my head a bit. However, there was a lot of confusion about how to pay. Katya had unfortunately slipped away for a little while to get lunch when they woke me up, and I had to deal with billing by myself. The trouble was that the doctor wanted to avoid taxes by having me just do a bank transfer instead of a credit card charge at the hospital cashier. That’s actually really common here – everyone does tax-evasion crap. I’m sorry to call it that on a missionary blog, but it gets SO frustrating! Once I finally had that all figured out, they released me to the waiting room, where Katya and her sister eventually picked me up.
The first night of recovery was spent in Kyiv, as I had a checkup in the morning with the surgeon to see how my caboose was healing. It was far from uneventful… At about 1:00am I got up to go to the bathroom and fell, unconscious. Katya bolted up and ran to help me, hearing the crash as I fell. She got me up, I went to the bathroom, and, while standing over the toilet, lost consciousness again. This time she caught me, though, and helped me back to bed. We figured that there was a number of factors contributing to that…
- The pain of the surgery
- Stress (see the last few paragraphs of “under the knife”)
- Dehydration from the colonoscopy prep
- Weakness from not eating for two full days
- Not getting a good night sleep for at least three days
- The operation itself with all of the stress it puts on your body
Our family doctor confirmed our reasoning. She said to talk to her if that happens again, but it probably won’t now that I’m eating and sleeping (almost) normally.
The next day, we went to the checkup and headed back to Lviv for recovery at home. I’m now on a diet that is supposed to be very easy on my colon – nothing spicy, not a lot of grain, not a lot of fiber, no grease, etc. I wasn’t able to eat a lot of the traditional Ukrainian New Year celebration foods, so my family here made diet versions of them. We have such a cool family here – Katya’s mom and sister are the best!
I’m still feeling very bloated and uncomfortable, unfortunately. I was also prescribed a laxative, which is a very bad thing for someone that already has IBS-D. I didn’t take it the first day, as I already had diarrhea, but I took it the second day and had to go to the bathroom six times in one hour. The discomfort is expounded by the fact that, every time I go, I have to shower and change my dressings. Needless to say, I’m off of the laxative, regardless of what the doctors say. That was torture.
The Road Ahead
The doctors told me that I’m not really supposed to have any intense physical activity for the rest of January. I’m supposed to stay home (including church) for about the next two weeks. I’ll miss church, a seminary session, and going to the gym. I have a checkup that we need to schedule for mid-January in Kyiv (thank you for all that donated towards the travel costs!).
Thank you, thank you, thank you all that prayed, that wrote to us, and that gave funds. We really, really appreciate it. Sorry about all of the details… I know that folks aren’t used to this kind of openness about medical stuff, especially if it affects the colon.
Some other things y’all can pray for:
- My friend Ruslan and his surgeries
- Our church, which is still going through a lot of termoil
- Russia’s troop build up on our eastern border – for wisdom for all three presidents involved (Russia’s, Ukraine’s, and the USA’s), that there wouldn’t be open war
Thanks again. God bless you all!