Tag Archives: blood

Does a tumor mean Cancer – Part 2

Christopher Hooper Goss, MD, UWMC is my lung doctor at the University of Washington and was part of the team preparation for my operation.  It was clear to me that this operation was mandatory.  The huge and growing tumor was killing me and it might be cancerous.

I could and did live with the bone on bone left hip problem.  A hip operation is not mandatory.

The growing tumor I hadn’t known about was choking the life out of me.  Quality of life had turned into an existence – an existence squeezed with the tumor that filled my belly.  As a lung patient, I believe the best chance for a good outcome requires my lung doctor involvement.  Luckily, wonderful surgeon and Assistant Professor, University of Washington Medical Center Dr. Urban and her team agreed.

I know Kitsap County has wonderful cancer doctors and professionals.  I have been told by survivors and written about them.

In my patient point of view, however – my lung diseases were primary and meant that my best chance for survival and a good result – was including Dr. Goss, my lung doctor with the operating team.  I believed then and now that his involvement was vital to my waking up after the operation.

Christopher H. Goss, MD and Sherryl Davey, Medical Specialties Center, Scheduling/Appointments UW Medicine

The aftercare machine was large and the University of Washington Medical Hospital nurses regularly changed out the container holding the fluid.  My camera was usually ready whenever I heard the ‘okay, shoot’ from the nurse or technician.

The machine’s tube stuck in my belly pumping the excess fluid away.

To come home the ACTI  V. A. C.  is the device that let me come home after six days at the University Hospital and into the capable hands of the Harrison Home Health Care folks.  Otherwise, I was willing to learn the wet to dry method of wound care and do it myself.

The University of Washington Docs and nurses were universal in their patient interest and I enjoyed listening to the different ideas flow until there was a consensus for treatment.

I have misplaced most of the business cards I had asked for – including for this photo.  The girl here was extraordinary in her care and helpfulness.  Interesting too, she is a shop steward for the local union – a bright girl.


I write this blog for reasons I have stated many times before.  As hard as it is sometimes I have to tell the whole story or I cannot write about them at all.

The fact is there were too many times I had to pull myself into the doorway of my room out to the hall to find someone to help me.  It was hard not to notice all the folks at the end of the hall doing nothing but talking together ignoring the light I had on – time after time.

I progressed quickly into pulling myself and whatever I was attached to into the bathroom.  I could not wait long enough for the light to get someone there to help me and remember feeling surprised that the aides at Harrison are incredible in their zeal to help patients while the U aide folks were different.  Most of the aides I encountered at the U were just the opposite.

One person told me “If you don’t trust me, I can’t help you.”  He wanted me to let go of the bed and hang on to him while he lifted me into the bed. (A rule of thumb…a patient needs to be able to get into and out of the bed before they can go home)  At that point, another person had helped me discover I could get into bed using the other side of the bed and just needed help lifting my legs up at the same time to lessen the left hip pain.

Trouble is, if he dropped me, I was the one to get hurt not him. I could not do it.  Patients need to do for themselves as quickly as possible to heal quickly.   Often times, after a while, a nurse answered my call light…not their job – but I’m grateful they did.   Incidentally, I rarely called for help.

Truth be told, had those folks worked for me, I would have fired every one that refused to do their job and hire folks with empathy and concern for the patient – such as the aides at Harrison.

On the other hand – the flip side of this coin – if wanting to do things for myself makes me a difficult patient…?  I hope not.

This person was wonderful in her care.  The plastic is part of the machine that steadily drew the excess fluid and blood out of my belly.

My left leg was still healing from Lymphedema and traces of the recent bloody waterfall show on my upper legs.  The machine had apparently lost its suction when I strained in the bathroom.

When I stood up and moved, the backed up fluid burst like a waterfall through the opening in my belly.  My hands tried to help the wound close and stem the tide but the bloody fluid burst like a waterfall through my fingers and formed little rivers over the floor.


The portable machine had arrived and the plan was for me to go home the next day.  However, after the bloody waterfall I wouldn’t leave until I knew it would stay in and so I stayed one extra day.   The doctors, nurses and many of the staff are extraordinary, fun caregiver professionals but I wasn’t comfortable about leaving.   The next series of photos show the machine connected in the opening below my staples.

Seeing the gloves go on, I knew the suction tube was ready to be inserted into my belly and the machine turned on.

The tidy row of staples above the opening to be soon filled with the black sponge and suction tube.

Measuring the opening width

…and depth

The black sponge is cut to size and placed inside the open wound with an empty clear tube inside to gather the fluid and run it into a small reservoir on the side of the machine.

The black sponge is inside the wound.

The tube is inside and the plastic type sheet, cut to size will help seal the opening

All finished, the tube and little machine and I were new best friends and almost ready to go home.

More later – Part 3 of 4 next time.

Thanks for reading… Sharon O’Hara

Cellulitis and Lymphedema – Bah Humbug!

Cellulitis/Lymphedema is nasty.  Did I mention it is painful?  Moreover, it takes ‘forever’ to heal – or so it seems.  This time, the weeping sores have spread all the way around my lower left leg.

Seeing the blood on the old pads covering the wounds was new.  The blood was new but I was told by a medical person when I called the office that it meant the skin was healing and not to worry.  Well.  Okay.

I am not worried either that yesterday in the shower hunks of skin sloughed off my leg.  The stinging and burning was harsher than usual but I could not see what my husband was talking about until I saw the photos he took of my leg before he rewrapped it.

The medical person who told me my leg was healing might be wrong.  According to her, I should have healed last week.

Nothing, this time, resembles what has happened with prior cellulitis/lymphedema ‘attacks’.

What have other patients done to help heal cellulitis/lymphedema?  I don’t know what to do next.  What we’ve been doing isn’t working.

Beginning to feel like a monkey swinging off the end of a branch high up on a snag tree in the middle of a windstorm – I know storms abate and wounds heal!

Thanks for reading… Sharon O’Hara


Lymphedema Post Script 2010: Meet John Mulligan, RMT/CLT-LANA


Following is some basic information I wish I had known years ago.  Meet John.  Following is his response to my email asking if he had anything to add to an article he wrote in 2007.  The url is at the end and his comments are fresh this morning, Thursday, 30 December 2010.

“ …  I had a look at your blog of December 22 and you raise an important question: when is lymphedema not lymphedema?

There are two kinds of lymphedema; primary and secondary. Primary lymphedema is something you are born with and secondary is something you acquire. One common cause of secondary lymphedema is the surgical removal of lymph nodes due to cancer.

How can we differentiate lymphedema from other types of swelling? Lymphedema, whether primary or secondary, usually occurs in one limb. The foot or hand of that limb is often involved. If both legs or arms are swelling they are usually different from one another; one is “worse” than the other.

If lower extremity (leg) edema is bilateral (occurring on both sides) and symmetrical (same on both sides) and the feet are involved it is more likely to be edema than lymphedema. This swelling can be caused by pulmonary edema or congestive heart conditions. It is a backing up of fluid throughout the system, so to speak. If there are ulcers occurring as well it is more likely that venous insufficiency is part of the picture, where the blood flow from the legs back to the heart is not working properly. If cardiac or pulmonary insufficiency is part of the problem then compression bandaging could make things worse.

If the problem is chronic venous insufficiency then the bandaging and compression garments will help the ulcers to heal and will help the muscle pump in the calf return the blood supply to the heart properly.

With a wider awareness of lymphedema comes the question of accurate diagnosis. A simple hallmark of lymphedema diagnosis, especially in the legs, is the Stemmer sign; can you pick up the skin of one of your toes with two fingers, pinching the skin? If you cannot then it is more likely that you have lymphedema; if you can pick up a fold of skin on your toe, it is less likely to be lymphedema. Please keep in mind that this is a simple clinical test and not foolproof.

It is important to understand that swollen legs or feet that are associated with COPD are more likely to be something other than lymphedema. A complicating factor is that sometimes these conditions can stress the lymphatic system, causing a mixed lymphedema.

Please see this web page for some information on differential diagnosis of lymphedema:


John Mulligan, RMT/CLT-LANA: Lymphedema Therapy, Education & Consulting

T: (905-687-1828| F: (905) 687-8224 | John@LymphedemaTherapist.com


More later… Sharon O’Hara

Sleep Apnea, Humidifier, Mask and Blood

Speaking of Sleep Apnea and sleeping with a mask – reminds me of another first on the morning some months ago, I awoke feeling liquid inside and around the outside of my mask.

I shook my head, ripped the mask off and turned on the light. Blood was everywhere. Blood smeared and puddled inside my mask, over sheets, pillow, and worse, smeared over a brand new white down cover.

The blood, some dried, looked worse than it was streaked over my face, hands and arms. I felt fine.
I’d been sleeping without the humidifier only for a short time wondering if using it really made a difference.

On my next doctor visit, I told her what happened and she thought the nosebleed could have been because my air passages were too dry. I hooked it up again.

A few days earlier though we’d had a family dinner (Mother’s Day, I think), something stuck me so funny I laughed until my stomach hurt and the back of my head felt like it was splitting in two… a massive headache.
I have had nosebleeds before but never while sleeping, much less wearing a mask covering my nose.

Headaches are awful things other people have…not me…until COPD and Other Stuff give me one when I laugh too hard. No other time…only those rare times something is so funny I laugh until tears roll and stop when the back of my head pounds in pain.

I know other people have had the same experiences – you are not alone, will you talk about it?

More later… Sharon O’Hara