Thursday, July 11, 2013

Life Notes: Current Updates...

I'm getting really tired of saying this, but it's been about a month since I've posted on here and I have a very good reason why. See, I had a bunch of really good posts lined up for the month of June, but right at the beginning of the second week of June, I ended up having to go to the hospital for two weeks. Those of you who have been reading my so called blog for an extended period of time, know about the ongoing health issue I've had for the past couple of years: gall stones. Well, I had another major attack... again. Only THIS time, things played out a little differently. But, let's start at the beginning: Memorial Day weekend.

I don't know how you spent your Memorial day, but I spent it in bed trying to survive a medium level gall stone attack. I couldn't ignore it, but it wasn't bad enough to warrant going to the hospital. I toughed it out and I thought everything was fine. But, I had another attack a couple weeks later, around the 6th of June. I had to go home from work early. Let me tell you that particular commute was NOT fun. Traveling for 2.5 hours while having to throw up on a semi-regular basis is not an experience I would wish on ANYONE. Figuring this attack would pass, I did the typical guy thing and tried to tough it out... for the next 4 days. But, when by 3am on Monday, June 10th came by and I STILL couldn't keep any food down, I had to face facts and go to the hospital. I went to the my local ER at the Elliot, and after running a few tests (including my first ultrasound), the ER doc admitted me saying that I was going to have to get my gall bladder removed.

They gave me some pain and anti-nausea meds and after 4 days of not sleeping, I was finally able to rest. Later on that day, the main doctor spoke to me and told me that my blood work was completely off the map. (For example, one of my blood results, the lipase levels, were at 29K. Normally, it should be at around 7K! That's how messed up my system was!) So, I had to wait a couple of days before they could remove my gallbladder. Of course, since I couldn't eat or drink anything (that would set off another attack), I had to be on IV fluids. Which is great because I had to spend three days watching TV shows filled with food commercials while I couldn't eat. And you wonder why I hate watching commercials.

On Thursday, June 13th, I spoke to the doctors again. My levels were normalizing and they wanted to know if I would consider having bariatric surgery (meaning, stomach stapling or installing a lap band). For reasons that are beyond the scope of this post, I said no. But, I did confirm that I wanted to remove the gall bladder. Now, I was in this same spot about 2 years ago, and the surgeons told me at the time that my weight was an issue. (I was at 491lbs.) I had to lose about 50lbs in order to make the procedure safe. I brought this up to the surgeon I was currently speaking to, and he scoffed at the statement. To quote him, "That's what they say when they don't want to do the surgery."

After he left, I spent a good hour fuming at that statement. I can't believe that I could have resolved this issue TWO YEARS AGO, but didn't because a surgeon didn't feel like doing the operation. Anyway, a few hours later, I was taken down to the surgical floor, spoke to the anesthesiologist, and got ready for the surgery. Then, my surgeon encountered an emergency with another patient and was stuck in the OR. I was sent back to my room. My levels had normalized enough that I was allowed to have some type of food. Chicken broth, jello, and the like. I had ordered my food and was waiting for it to be brought to my room when ANOTHER surgeon came in and asked if I still wanted to do the procedure that day. I said yes. He asked if I had eaten JUST as the food services lady, brought my food. I said no, pointing at the tray. I was then re-cleared for the procedure and brought back down into the recovery/staging area. I was then prepped, wheeled into the OR, and then knocked out. 

A couple of hours later, I woke up back in the recovery area. My mouth was super dry and my brain wouldn't work right. I babbled at the nurse working the recovery room for a little while and then was sent back up to my room where I was told to be careful how I moved because I had a little drainage bulb that was attached into my belly. A couple of hours later, I was visited by the surgeon, who wanted to strangle me. See, what was supposed to be a simple hour long operation turned into an TWO AND A HALF HOUR surgery. Apparently, I had HUNDREDS of gall stones (most the size of a grain of rice) and my gall bladder was a lot bigger than anyone had anticipated. They still were able to remove it, but some of the gall stones slipped out and were still in my system. They were thinking about doing a second procedure, an ERCP, to get the rest of the stones, but given my weight, the procedure had above average risks. They let me sleep on it.

On Friday, I was walking around. I was able to start on more solid foods. They were still checking my blood levels and wanted to keep me for observation. They removed the drainage bulb and given that I was doing so well, we decided that the ERCP was not needed and after a little while I was sent home.

Saturday and Sunday went perfectly fine. I was having normal issues during recuperation, but everything was going fine. Then around 10pm Sunday evening, it happened.

It started with a weird twinge in my stomach. I thought it was a gas bubble or something, and dismissed it. Then my stomach EXPLODED in pain. It felt like someone had lit my stomach on fire and decided to cut me open so they could see the flames. And then the pain spread up my right side to my shoulder. I thought the gall stone pain was bad, but I had apparently built up a tolerance to that because this was like no other pain I've ever felt. I'm not going to front here. I screamed. After what felt like an hour of pain, but was probably only about 2 min, I called 911 and got myself downstairs so the EMTs wouldn't have to climb up to the third floor with a gurney to get me.(In hindsight, I find it really bizarre that I had the presence of mind to do that.) Once they were there, I started begging for help with the pain. The EMT gave me a shot in the arm and it might as well have been water. They brought me BACK to the ER at Elliot, where I was treated again by the same night ER doc.

I was in so much pain, I didn't even register that one of the ER nurses had put in an IV line for fluids and to administer the pain meds. Speaking of which, they had to give me a dose of pain meds (something called Dilaudid) before the pain went away, and once I was re-admitted to the hospital and in my room, a dose of morphine to let me sleep. I was in so much pain, it took THREE doses of pain meds to make it go away!

Monday morning, the doc told me I had passed one of the remaining gall stones. Since my gall bladder wasn't there, my body was reacting differently to the passing which is what caused all that pain. They put me on just IV fluids again (so no eating) so that they could prep me to have that ERCP that we all thought was unnecessary. Boy, were we wrong.

I had the procedure on Tuesday and they kept me for observation for most of Wednesday. I got out Wednesday afternoon and caught a cab back to my apartment. I spent the rest of the week chilling at home, catching up on sleep (despite what you may think, a hospital is not a good place for sleep), and learning how to deal with my new food-phobia. I watched a bunch of tv and just drank a lot of water. By Sunday night, I was feeling worlds better and decided to attempt to go back to work the next Monday (June 24th).

I made it to work and after that my health started stabilizing. As of today, it's been 4 weeks (a whole MONTH) since the surgery, and I'm getting over my fear of food. I've also lost a bit of weight! It's only like 10-12lbs, but I hope to build on that. Until the next post, my dear readers!!

P.S. Sorry for the excessive length of this but it's a lot to cover.


  1. Excessive length is better for this sort of post than a short statement. You were very thorough and informative.

    Sorry you had to deal with all that ridiculous pain and so many surgeries. Yikes! I had no idea gall stones could be so troublesome.

    I'm glad you're doing better. Keep it up!

    1. Thank you, David. I figured that getting the whole story out in one shot would be a good idea, but while I was writing it I was surprised by how much I was actually writing.

      The funny thing is, most people with gallstones don't show symptoms. It's only the "fortunate few" that go through the bad stuff.

      Plans are in motion to boost my health. Future posts will elaborate.