Ambulances, surgeries and Thanksgiving …. oh my!

July 31, 2015

Not going to sugarcoat it: this month was the hardest month for me that I think I’ve ever faced, with the exception of when Randy was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. Some of you who follow me on social media got snippets of what was going on, and I got flooded with texts and emails with concern and prayers. I’ve had so many people ask me what in the world happened, so I thought it would just be easier to blog about it.

To put it in a nutshell: I went to 3 different emergency rooms 4 times, spent 9 days admitted to the 3 different hospitals (including USC), had surgery for my gallbladder, had a CT scan and an MRI, had an endoscopy done, took a 2.5 hour ride in an ambulance, lost 11% of my body weight in about 3 weeks, blew 6 veins from IVs … plus we shot two weddings (in Big Bear and in Lytle Creek). A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about my whirlwind week that ended up with me having surgery to remove my gallbladder … but unfortunately the story didn’t end there! So I thought I would blog a “follow-up” to fill y’all in!

A week after my surgery (Thursday the 16th), I was at a family BBQ with some extended family from out of state and I just wasn’t feeling right. I hadn’t been able to eat very much, and eventually I couldn’t stand the pain so we ended back up at the emergency room. They did all kinds of labs plus a CT scan … and they couldn’t find anything wrong except “surgical trauma.” We were sent home with more pain medications, and was told to follow up with my surgeon. I followed up with my surgeon the next day, which was pointless … I won’t get into it, but let’s just say that not all surgeons should be practicing medicine and if you have to have surgery, do NOT agree to a surgeon you’re not comfortable with. I shot Stephanie and Kyle’s wedding in Lytle Creek the day after that, unable to eat or keep even water down. It was ROUGH, not gonna lie!

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By the following Monday, I was in bad shape. I hadn’t eaten anything in days, and I ended up finding another MARVELOUS surgeon through some friends, who agreed to see me the next day. I spent less than 10 minutes in his office, explaining what was going on … and he immediately admitted me to the hospital. They started running tests, and did an MRI … which showed my liver enzymes were 15+ times higher than they were supposed to be, and it also showed an obstruction in my biliary tract (it’s a little thing connected from the liver to the intestines). They thought the surgical clip was put in incorrectly from my surgery, and the concern was that I needed to have complete reconstructive surgery of my biliary tract, which is major and super scary surgery. I was facing being in the hospital for 10-14 days, and a lifetime of issues. To say I was scared would be an understatement; there were moments where I was just praying for God to save my life, so I could go home. Within 12 hours of my MRI, I was being whisked to USC by ambulance to see another amazing surgeon, a hepato-biliary specialist.

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The medical team at USC ordered an endoscopy later that week, and by the grace of God … the obstruction that was there had passed on its own, so the theory is that a missed gallstone just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when they did the MRI (it just HAPPENED to be where the clip is, showing ‘scalloping’ in the biliary tract, causing liver problems). Both of my new surgeons said it was nothing short of a miracle, and that I’m incredibly lucky … So many answered prayers, that’s for sure!!

After not eating anything for so many days and weeks, I was finally able to eat my first “real meal” – I got turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and the tiniest little thing of cranberry sauce ever. It was THANKSGIVING, hospital-style! It was the most delicious thing I ever had; I may have shed a few tears when it was over.

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Just this past Sunday, I finally got to go home after being at USC for 5 days. I’m feeling good now – my liver numbers were just about back to normal when I was discharged, and I’m able to eat again (YAY!). I’m on a special diet now, for the time being … the kids aren’t thrilled about low fat anything after eating 80%-Paleo for the last couple of years … definitely been a big adjustment!

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So that’s the gist of what happened; definitely not something I ever want to go through again and something I’d never wish on anyone. I honestly hope to never have surgery again, and if I do – I’m going to be MUCH more selective on who does it, because this whole thing could of been and should have been avoided. But what matters is: I am HOME, I am HEALTHY and I am so grateful for both.

We have a big wedding tomorrow … and then we are taking the rest of August off from shoots. I’m going to bake with the kids, the kids are performing in the Lion King next week, at some point I’m going to the spa with my best friend, taking a trip up the tram for Sierra’s birthday with our whole family and also to the LA Zoo, we’re taking a family vacation to Sequoia National Park, plus we’re going to get ready for back to school. All of our clients have been so gracious and willing to let us have some much-needed family/down time after this past month; we really do work with the absolute best people in the world.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to offer prayers, and to the amazing people who offered to help my parents with babysitting (and of course, thank you to my mom and dad who totally rearranged everything to help us and keep the kids calm), to those who offered to help me find assistant shooters for the weddings in case I couldn’t be there (especially my dear friend Julie Paisley), and to everyone who sent me get well soon cards for when I got home, and to everyone for just, well, EVERYTHING. Randy and I are so blessed to have such an amazing tribe of clients, friends and colleagues!!!



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  1. […] had thyroid issues for several years, and after my gallbladder surgery screw up in 2015, I developed Hashimotos disease. Hashimotos is an autoimmune disorder where my body is attacking my […]

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I'm Ashley! Family and wedding photographer in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, but I travel all over the country to hang out with the most incredible people. I am obsessed with puppies, extra hot coffee, incredible light and firmly believe that love conquers all.

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