Take Care of Your Own Self First: My Personal Journey

Breathe. Believe. Receive.  “Everyone has limits, and there will be days when you feel that you just can’t do it anymore…Sometimes you need to stop achieving and start receiving. Know that real strength comes from knowing your limits and asking for help.”  Leeza Gibbons


With the help of your prayers I am sure, I survived last week’s efforts to open a pyloric stenosis with some success and no complications other than a lingering stabbing pain in my front and back which will go away after about five weeks. Fixing the duodenal bulb defect may or may not be necessary in the future, and if so, it will need to be laparoscopic or even open abdominal surgery “to cut the whole thing out,” said the doctor as I cringed.   Here’s to hoping that it can be avoided.

I have been on a liquid/baby food diet for months now to faithfully aid in the healing process and with the hope that my complete cooperation will help avoid further surgery. I have two more weeks before I go back to get the results of everything but the doctor seemed very happy even though I was on consciousness-altering IV meds.

A few of you have told me that all the medical stuff is too complicated to understand–so far–so let me try to explain it all for you.

Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area in August, 2017.  While we did not flood, thanks be to God, I had to take care of Someone at home with a terminal neurologic disease, lots of special needs rescue dogs AND help rescuers all over the area who had been flooded out and their animals needed to be placed and moved ASAP.  There was tons of pressure to do things fast to save lives. People were calling, just desperate for help, but the added stress on top of my own level of severe stress was extraordinary.

I had had a vague pain in my right side for awhile–it was deep inside my body just above my waist–but during Harvey the pain became unrelenting.  I remember collapsing once and telling Someone that I felt like I was dying but I didn’t know why. Eventually, I picked myself up and kept going.  Lives were on the line.

I did call my PCP and he called in a few different medicines to try to help but I found that keeping two ice packs pressed hard on that spot–even laying on top of the ice for more pressure or binding it to my abdomen–was the only real relief I could get. Yes, the PCP recommended going to see an internist but there was no time and it was very difficult to get around.  Saving lives was all that mattered to me. I thought my own “life” could wait and by thinking that way, I almost lost it!

LESSON LEARNED: There is a reason airlines tell you to put your oxygen mask on first–before you help anyone else.  You have to take care of yourself to be able to help others.

Things got worse after the storm passed.  Solid food wouldn’t stay down and I found myself getting weaker and the pain was getting worse.  I still didn’t give myself time to find out what was wrong.  Then, last May, a little more than eight months after Harvey, I almost died.  I felt a volcano erupting from deep inside myself one Sunday afternoon.  Within hours, I had lost more than half of my blood volume and my sight, which returned once I was laying down and stabilized. Every half hour or so, the blood was coming up and down which really confused me as I tried to figure out what could be going on.

I remember asking to be put in the tub at home just to contain the mess–while I was figuring out what was happening–before I went to the ER.  (Silly me took photos of it all and texted them to my friend, a nurse, to ask if she thought I had a problem that I could not handle.  She just about became unglued that I hadn’t called 911 yet!) From the ER, I was put right into the ICU.

At first I refused surgery and transfusions.  From Sunday to Tuesday, I was kept alive by three IV’s in my arms and the Grace of God.  Then a person who worked in the ICU whispered in my ear, “You don’t want to ‘do’ your family like this, ” he said.  He continued to tell me of a young husband who recently refused help like I was doing, whose heart then gave out and his wife had to bury him.  I was heading down that road and in fact, I would wind up having an NDE the next morning.  I came back to see about a dozen people in gowns and masks surrounding me.

I finally agreed to exploratory tests and procedures and ultimately OK’d fixing whatever was wrong. It would turn out to be an unknown ulcer in my small intestines that ate through the duodenal (small intestines) wall all the way to a blood vessel.  The doctor said when he got into my small intestine, the blood vessel was continuing to rhythmically spurt blood and I would have died had he not fixed it.

After surgery, the nurses tried two different times to get me on my feet and I slipped through their arms right to the floor like a wet noodle.  I could not stand up.  I had no blood pressure or strength.  I had written, “No Transfusions,” on my forearm before I got to the ER with a Sharpie but the nurses explained that I was still at high risk for heart failure never mind not being able to recover if I didn’t take blood transfusions. I prayed about this and just bit my bottom lip and decided to accept packed red blood cells as a gift from God.  As the blood was running into me for hours and hours, I just kept repeating, “Jesus, I trust in You” to quell any anxiety I was having. I want to thank anyone who has donated blood–ever. You saved my life.

Fast forward.  

After a week in the ICU and step-down floors (lessening levels of care), I kept having a pain in my back especially on the right side.  I think this problem existed the entire last year but the PCP thought the pain was a kidney infection–the duodenal bulb and kidney pain are about in the same area.  Since tests showed that I had an HAI or hospital-acquired infection from a hospital mess-up, I spent from August to January, 2019 going through a bunch of tests and scans and being treated in the hospital outpatient transfusion center to get rid of that infection that was resistant to oral antibiotics.  The pain in my back would lessen for awhile–I wasn’t eating much during that treatment–but then it would get worse again.

When the pain would not fully go away and yet the HAI tests were negative finally, light dawned on my marble head this summer and I went back to the surgeon who “fixed” me in the hospital.  Maybe, just maybe, something was wrong from the surgery?

At first, the doctor said, “What happened last year is old news.  It is all healed.  The pain in your back is just orthopedic. I’ll get you a referral.”  Nope, I thought, not so fast.  I asked for, really insisted, for more (ugh) tests. I knew that “deep inside” pain from last year and it wasn’t orthopedic.


To his surprise, when the doctor did a colonoscopy and endoscopy* in June, 2019 (*sending a lighted scope down your throat), he found that he could not go through my stomach to the small intestine–or the opening that allows food to go from your stomach to your intestines, the pylorus–to see how the repair of the ulcer was doing.

The end of the small intestine that meets the stomach–the duodenal bulb–was deformed from scar tissue from the ulcer repair–and the hole to allow anything to leave my stomach was almost closed. Every time, post surgery, I would try to eat, my stomach became like concrete and I couldn’t keep a lot down.  (Ice cream, applesauce, McD’s egg patties and Boost Breeze–a clear juice-like nutritional drink with protein that I was first given at the hospital–have been my dietary staples for over a year.)

After five to six weeks of being on a quadruple dose of anti-acid meds and a few other meds, the doc went in to open the pylorus–the hole that allows food to go into your intestines.  They have a bag of different tools to try from balloons to stretch it open to botox to keep it open and other methods before resorting to cutting out the section of your stomach and intestines–ouch.  I did not know what I would wake up to but even without my glasses, I could see that the doctor was happy. The pylorus is open about 60% now, even though I have to stick to my same boring diet of no solid foods–hoping that it continues to open even more with time.

One More Issue to Deal With

In the meantime, two of of three medical issues I’ve had are hopefully falling behind me. I still am facing a decision of what to do about the mass in my belly that they found doing all of the tests for my intestines.

It is hopefully still encapsulated–surrounded by a wall of tissue–but on a May, 2019 PET scan, it reacted to the dye which means it could contain cancer.  (They cannot biopsy it, as they can can with some masses, or if it is cancer, it would spread. It has to be taken out whole or left in and then I have to deal with the consequences of either decision.)

The hospital is currently having another radiologist read the PET scan then I have to go to another surgeon (hopefully with another approach than the major cancer giant in the Houston area which was gruesome) in a few weeks to discuss the results and risks of both leaving it–or having it taken out.  The cancer giant said that his surgery would require four teams of doctors, huge incisions and a long recovery time.  I just don’t think I want to go through all of that but with lots of prayers and God’s Grace maybe I won’t have to.

I’ll write more about the Rescue Ranch dogs soon.  They are on their best behavior and so many days in the past weeks, I have relied on those Whoppers and burgers, tubs and bones that you have sent–and I have been and continue to be soooo grateful for your compassion and caring. I just didn’t want you to worry about me since some of you knew that I was going in to the hospital.

Sending lots of love and always Hugs from the Herd!



Bitty Bits tried out the diaper and suspenders sent to us by handicappedpets.com


Incontinent after being maimed by a mentally-challenged teenager, he also lost his tail in a prior accident, so the diapers didn’t stay up/on.  Instead, we opt for expressing him (pressing on his bladder) and using lots of pee pads.

Bits is not feeling well right now.  He is still eating but he is having to be syringed water and milk.  He has lost most of his vision from a eye disease that affects Chihuahuas and little dogs but he is still lovable.  Until God calls, we will love and cherish every minute with him.


Even dogs in wheelchairs, or carts, can have fun!  Bunny and a little dog we saved and since adopted out–Penny–loved to play tug!  Penny was dumped at a shelter on her first birthday after her owner found out at her vet that she had mange.  The medicine that was dropped off at the shelter with her worked in just two weeks and we then had a proper birthday party for her before she went to her new home.

The Rescue Ranch is about trying to do the right thing morally for animals who experienced so much wrong at the hands of people.  We want the dogs to know love–and that they have a home and a good life–before God calls them.


We sang “Happy Birthday” to Penny and the whole gang was ready to have a taste of Penny’s first birthday cake!  Bunny is next to her on the junior bed, my beloved Poppy’s apricot tail is in the middle and Girl, the Texas Pearl and Someone are on the right.  So many others’ photos I’ll save for another time.


Penny was such a great dog!  I considered calling her owner to tell her that the mange had cleared up so Penny could go “home,” but after mulling over how her owner literally dumped her at a shelter and on her first birthday, I decided that Penny should have a new home with unconditional love.




To Help the Rescue Ranch Dogs…Please.

*If you would like to send something on the Rescue Ranch 2019 Wish List, please go to our amazon quick link: http://a.co/5Gay7Cf

*If you would like to help with via the Go Fund Me link (for medicine, food), please go to: https://www.gofundme.com/f/rescue-ranch-holiday-blessings-2018

*E-Gift cards and amazon credits should go to: a.rescue.volunteer@gmail.com

*And if you would rather use the postal system or send something, our Mailing Address is:

Rescue Ranch

4057 Riley Fuzzel Road

Unit 500-130  (make sure this is on anything you mail please)

Spring, TX   77386

Be sure to include an email address if you can with anything you mail or send.  If you can’t, if you want to know that it arrived, please send a separate email to: a.rescue.volunteer@gmail.com

Please remember that…Any and ALL gift cards to any restaurants, stores, fast food, etc. are ALL WELCOME!  We will make sure that they benefit the many dogs at the RR!!

Thank you for caring.  Especially for caring!