Yes, folks....the story of my gallbladder and its recent demise is an epic tale...definitely worthy of the title "saga". Let me thrill you with stories of various narcotic substances, angry nurses, a whole lot of lame daytime television, and of course...no saga could be complete without copious amounts of pus in unexpected places.
I have never had decent digestion. Just a fact of life. If I eat a fatty meal I will have gas pains that resemble a heart attack. On May 18th (yes, this has been happening for more than a month) I had a wonderful (and yet highly fatty meal) with a friend. The next day I was to go to a council on foreign relations meeting in which I would face my abusive ex-boss. My stomach was a wreck and I was convinced that I had had food poisoning and a panic attack at the same time. It took several days of a semi-liquid diet for my system to calm down and I would be able to eat normally. This happened several times over the course of the month. After roller derby on Sunday June 13th, I had had a regrettably high fat meal.....and from there on I was in agony. Except this time the pain could be localized to just under my right breast. I had been thinking that that was were my stomach was, but after looking it up on the internet I realized that the pain was somewhere behind my liver.
I was to go into the doctors on Monday morning for a blood test for something which I had thought was unrelated...and I managed to get ahold of the doctor before I went in to have her look at me and make sure that the blood tests taken would also look at my liver and pancreatic function. My bilirubin tested very high (which measures the amount of bile stuck in your system). She recommended that I have an unltrasound (scheduled for the next morning) and prescribed Loratab. The Loratab worked, a little, but I mainly had a Loratab hangover in addition to the gallbladder pains on Tuesday. Went back into the doctor on Wednesday as the ultrasound was positive for gallstones. I was advised that I needed a CT Scan (Thursday) and to schedule a consult with a surgeon to remove my gallbladder (scheduled for 2 weeks from now). The only problem with this system, is that I knew that I would not be able to survive the pain for that long. I felt pretty ignored by my doctor at this point.....but then again, she doesn't know me personally....she doesn't know that I only go to the doctor when I have a serious serious problem. And it was only when I got to the point of hysterics and threatened to just go the emergency room instead did I feel that they took me seriously. Well....sort of seriously...as they told me to be patient and prescribed stronger pain meds for me.
If you know me, you know that I am stubbornly independent. And even though I had lots of friends and well wishers who were willing to help me out, I couldn't let myself really ask for help. When I managed to get home on Wednesday, I realized that I needed help. I shouldn't have been driving....and I haven't since then. I also didn't want people to see me.....because when I wasn't at the doctor's I was bedridden with the pain. My parents drove up on Thursday, and Jimmy and his friends took me to get my CT scan. Friday I couldn't take it anymore and went to the emergency room. Pretty much since then I have been dependent on my family or a variety of nurses to help me with the most menial of tasks. It has been incredibly humbling....but I am also very grateful that these amazing people in my life were willing to help me when I needed it.
When I got into the emergency room they gave me morphine. Now I am not sure how a normal person would want to take these drugs recreationally just because when they gave me morphine I felt normal for the first time in two weeks. That's how much pain I was in....morphine made me feel like my average everyday self. I'm currently on Percocet now that I am back from the hospital....so I have a low level of strung out-ness going on. But morphine was my drug of choice over the weekend. I am not sure if I want to know how he knows, but my brother told me the street value of some of the narcotics I currently have in my medicine cabinet. It is a little tempting.....but I will probably flush the leftovers.
Dirty, Dirty, Dirty
Before they managed to find a bed for me on Friday night in the hospital, I had to take a variety of blood and urine tests. My urine was the color of maple syrup....or as the ER nurse said when she thought that I was out of hearing range "dirty, dirty, dirty". For some reason the third "dirty" really irks me. Two "dirty"s I can understand, but three? Geez. The only good thing that has come from my strangely colored urine is that fact that I was finally taken seriously as to being sick. While I was in the hospital they gave me antibiotics through my IV, and this morning I took my last pill of it. Of course, antibiotics just ravage your system and I think that I have a full body case of thrush....so that has required another set of pills.
Reverse Potty Training
The nurses had to measure my pee. They had this thing they called "the hat" which was like a measuring cup that covered up half of the toilet bowl. Everytime I peed I had to leave it there until a nurse could note it in my chart and dump it. After my procedures all of my bodily functions became of importance....a nurse would say hello and then ask if I had farted yet this morning. After a while you revert back to being 3 and proudly come out of the bathroom announcing that you peed in the potty like a good girl. I was probably a bit too excited about my first bowel movement in over a week.
Nothing Happens on a Holiday Weekend
I talked with surgeons and nurses and doctors over the weekend, but they just kept me doped up and scheduled procedures for Monday and Tuesday. On Monday I had an ERCP, which stands for Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. Basically what they had to do was stick a tube down my throat into my stomach and then into my small intestine. From there they go through the pancreas to the common bile duct between the gall bladder and the liver. Then this little basket thing comes out and they grab out all of the gallstones that are impacted. The doctor was expecting to find one stone, instead he found many....and alot of pus. You could tell that he was really worried about not only the amount of stones but the infection that they were trapping inside....guess whose antibiotics got doubled after that?
General Anesthesia- Double Take
After finding the pus in my bile duct, there was no question about having my gallbladder removed, which happened Tuesday morning. The surgical nurse came in just before 7am and told me that they were going to come and get me for surgery at 10am. Which meant that I had time for a short visit from Libby and a shower, right? Nope. For once they came early and I was rushed to the OR by 8am. The surgery was a success but I would never ever recommend that someone go under general anesthesia twice within a 24-hour period. As the nurses are trying to wake you up they are yelling in your ear, telling you to breathe deeper, etc....and then they seem to forget that you are there and start talking about their personal lives. The hospital folks kept telling me that gallbladder surgery was an outpatient deal.....they must be fucking crazy. I could not have done that on an out-patient basis. Granted I was more than ready to go home on Wednesday, but pain-wise I could have been in the hospital easily for another day.
The Giving of the Name
Jokingly before I found out how sick I really was, I decided to name my gallbladder and associated stones after my ex-boss and his minions. This was mainly due to the fact that I would like to say that he was thrown away in the hazardous materials wastebasket. The more I learned about this though, the naming seemed to have more meaning. One of the doctors told me that I should have been systematically sicker than the symptoms I was showing. He thought that I was really resilient...and just as that whole situation at the MEC folded out....I showed great resiliency in dealing with something that was making me emotionally and physically ill as well.
I look like I've been beaten up. My arms are all red and spotty from the eight gazillion times they had to take my blood pressure. I have a beautiful bruise that looks like a Rorschach diagram on my arm from where we accidentally tugged on the IV. And of course the healing scars from the laproscopic surgery. I have four holes in my abdomen. I've taken the dressing off of one, but the three on my waist are still there. I'm a little scared about the one on my belly button.....it freaks me out that they put a camera through there. The other issue with recovery is that I had no idea how much I use my abdominal muscles on a regular basis. I can get in and out of chairs fairly decently due to the huge increase of leg muscle that I have acquired since running.....leaning back or down is enough to paralyze me in pain.
Each day I am getting a little better. I would like to start up my normal routine on Monday, but I am not sure if I will be able to do that. The hardest part of this process is to find the patience in myself to allow me to heal.