Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Hospital Adventure

Modern medicine is a wonderful thing. The red tape is annoying, the cost is ridiculous in many cases, but without it I would be dead or dying right now. Instead I am available to type this blog in the comfort of my own home.


Sunday night I had the worst pain I can remember. It felt like transition in labor, but without the end. Normally I avoid doctors for a number of reasons that would make their own post. I also happen to be a bit cheap frugal with an intense dislike of lines. The only way you could drag me to a waiting room is to convince me that I will be dead before my doctor's office opens the next morning. Sunday night I asked my husband to pack my toddler and baby in the car and take me to the ER. Not so eloquently, but that was the gist.

It felt like the worst gallstone attack I'd had and since I had no gallbladder anymore.... I had thoughts of surgery complications going through my head. Perhaps something was nicked, or septic or, well, we've been watching a lot of Scrubs lately. I got dropped off to wait while Bug looked for a babysitter.

I didn't have to wait too long before I got a bed. They ran a bunch of tests. (They overlooked an elevated liver... something.) They discharged me with the instructions to follow up with my physician and see a GI. Super duper helpful.


Monday I saw my doctor who suspected an errant stone had blocked a bile duct. But the GI he recommended couldn't see me until the 23rd. That so wasn't going to work for me. Meanwhile everything I put in my stomach came up. (Including Sunday night's dinner, long after it should have been digested, and the tiniest sips of water. I was worried about dehydration. My kids were thankfully at a friend's house, but I was concerned about my milk supply drying up as well as dying.

My doctor said he could admit me to the hospital if I would prefer. Based on the ER doctor's statements I was worried that they wouldn't be able to do the tests. Now I see how ridiculous that idea is, but I wasn't thinking clearly at the time. My doctor assured me that they could get them done, possibly quicker than if I tried to run around town, and I could have an IV while I waited. I never thought I'd welcome an IV, but there you have it.

He told me to go back to the ER and I would be admitted from there. Four hours later I'm sitting in the ER, no IV, reddish urine, sure I'm going to die AND be out another $200 copay. We decided to leave. As we were discussing what we owed, the nurse said that if I wanted to stay a bed had just opened that I could have. I admit to having a flash of guilt, then I took it. While it was a line jump, I still don't feel too bad about it. If I hadn't taken it I might not be here right now. Cases like mine are what ERs were designed for, in my opinion.

I was taken back and given my IV. Then they proceeded to ignore me for a while. Sometime early Tuesday they finally took me up to a room where they ignored me some more. The nurse would come in every few hours and dope me up. One of them got irritated that I kept asking when the doctor would be by. He was quite rude and had he been a waiter, would not have received a tip. (An aside: Morphine is not all it's cracked up to be. Pain was omnipresent no matter hope doped up I was.)

After being told that my procedure would be at 5:30, a 12-year-old orderly finally took me down around 6:30. I repressed the urge to behave like a crotchety octogenarian. The anesthesiologist came in and explained that they were running behind, but that that didn't mater to him. Again I repressed the urge to snidely comment that I was glad that he was not inconvenienced by the delay that had me in agony and worried for my life. (The morphine had apparently been cutting the pain somewhat as it had gotten really bad after they cut me off at 4:00 that evening.)
Apparently ice chips were too dangerous for me to ingest.
They offered these instead. Nothing quenches thirst and relieves a
dry throat like a slightly moist Q-tip. But please, keep making me talk.

I was taken in for my procedure a little after 7:00. Next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room with the nurses telling me how pretty my jaundice was. No joke. Apparently serious liver illness is hot on me. Then the 12-year-old came by to take me to my room. He proceeded to tell me how cool my surgery was. They removed a rock and he got to watch it. It was awesome. I'm thrilled to know that I can provide such quality entertainment and look good doing it.

The story gets much less interesting from there. I went up to my room and dozed. Drugs, nurses, food, eventual discharge without being told much of anything. Standard crap. The floor doctor told me he couldn't tell me anything, the nurses said they didn't know anything; I just decided to make an appointment with the doctor who did my procedure when I left.

I still don't know all the details, I'll ask for more info later. I do know that they removed a large stone from my bile duct, I don't have Barrett's esophagus, and I am alive. The pain that I had in the weeks leading up to my surgery and after my surgery is mostly gone. I'm glad that it got taken care of. I knew something was wrong. I just wish my surgeon had listened to me. I don't think what I was feeling was normal and I suspect that if she had done the dye test she could have found and removed the stone during my surgery, sparing me this past week.
Me and my discharge nurse. Bye bye poorly placed IV.

I've been home since last Wednesday night and my strength is returning. This post has been difficult to write due to its length, my fatigue and the backlog of things I've had to catch up on. My kids and husband missed me and I've concentrated on them this past week. My baby has rebuilt my/his milk supply and things are getting back to normal.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Cholecystectomy: At One Week

I have to say that my recovery from having my gallbladder removed has picked up. Those first few days I rather regretted having the darn thing removed. I suppose I just bought into the thought that since the scars will be small that must mean the surgery was somehow less than surgery.

The truth is, surgery is surgery. When you have an organ removed your body will likely need time to recover. Sure there may be people who recover faster than normal. Some people may indeed be able to resume normal activities within a couple of days. But I'm coming to believe that they are the exception, not the rule.

Being a research oriented type of person I decided to see if the World Wide Web had any info to be gleaned about recovering from gallbladder surgery. Triple W, I've spent enough time with it to have earned the use of a nickname, didn't let me down.

By reading through a  bunch of posts on a message board I found out that I fit into a rather large group of people. It seemed a common story that a patient was led to believe that being cut open and having an organ removed was no more notable than having, say, a mole removed. It seems a bit ridiculous when I say it like that, but I fell for it.

Many people were told that everything would be back to normal within a couple of days of having surgery. Some by doctors, some by lucky former gallbladder owners that apparently have the healing power of Wolverine. They all were worried that something was wrong with them.

Having felt the same way I understand. All manner of horrible thoughts ran through my head. But having read the words of so many people who went through the exact same thing as me I realized that my recovery was quite normal. I just wasn't going to be one of the easy healers.

That is okay. Because despite all of my concern I am healing. In fact, at this point I have moments where I forget that just seven days ago I underwent major surgery to remove one of my organs. I still have pain, but it is not constant. At rest I don't notice it. Much of the time is could be better classified as discomfort.

Of course I still have moments of painful pain. Very often precipitated by one of my children being in contact with me. Sometimes it stings. I attribute that to the fact that my nursling is very warm and where our bodies meet there is prolonged contact with sweat. And there is the itching. Lots of itching. But I try to see that as my body healing and it doesn't get to me. Much.

All in all I believe my recovery is coming along nicely. I have my followup appointment tomorrow where I hope to get a few questions answered and reassurance that everything is fine. I'll let you know how it turns out.


Here are the other posts in this series:
Part 1: My Cholecystectomy: Scheduled

Part 2: My Cholecystectomy: The Hospital & First Day

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My Cholecystectomy: Beginning to Heal

It is Sunday, four days after my gallbladder was removed, and I am starting to feel better. There is still pain, of course, but it is noticeably better than yesterday. I quit taking the acetaminophen yesterday because it wasn't helping.
One of the abdominal incision after the glue came off.

I'm hoping that my recovery will pick up now. My kids need a functional mommy, my husband needs a functional wife and my home needs a functional housekeeper. Tomorrow marks the end of the PTO Bug took. So, ready or not, here I come. I hope.


It seems to look much better.
Here are the other posts in this series:
Part 1: My Cholecystectomy: Scheduled

Part 2: My Cholecystectomy: The Hospital & First Day

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My Cholecystectomy: 2 Days Later

I am not doing as well as I had hoped. My decision Wednesday night was to wake up feeling 90% on Thursday morning. It didn't happen. It also didn't happen Friday morning.

Acetaminophen is considered to be a safe painkiller while pregnant and breastfeeding. I believe that is because it lacks an active ingredient. I don't feel that it makes a dent in the pain. To be fair, the pain is not overwhelming. The problem is the type of pain. It is the pain of damage.

We all know there are different types of pain. Some is good, like muscle soreness after a workout or the release into a deep stretch. Some pain can hurt a lot but not be troublesome because it is transient, like a stubbed toe or tension headache. But some pain comes from damage. And that is a type of pain that bothers me. Because I never know how bad the damage is.

I have four small incisions. They don't look like much to me. In fact, I feel like a baby complaining because it look like it should be no big deal. But the truth is they hurt. And itch. And every time my baby kicks or bucks against my abdomen I am terrified that more damage is being done.

Part of me forgets that I had major surgery. All surgery where you are put under general anesthesia is major. I was sliced open, gas was pumped into me, part of my body was cut out and the dangling bits were reattached. It's a big deal.

The second worry I have is that the problem wasn't fixed. I had an idea that this surgery would fix all my abdominal pain. While I realize that I am still healing, I don't think that prayer will be realized. The sensation on having my stomach inflated is still there. It is painful and worrisome. Thoughts about my family members lost to cancers of the pancreas and stomach keep surfacing, no matter how ridiculous I feel thinking them.

Right now the truth is that I am disheartened and frightened. I don't want to live the rest of my life in pain. Neither do I want my life to be cut short. All I can do right now is pray that tomorrow will be better.
My belly button, again.


Here are the other posts in this series:
Part 1: My Cholecystectomy: Scheduled

Part 2: My Cholecystectomy: The Hospital & First Day

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Cholecystectomy: The Hospital & First Day

I had surgery earlier today to remove my gallbladder and everything went well. I had decided years ago, after my knee surgery, that I wouldn't have surgery again because the intubation hurt my throat so much. In fact I remember my throat being in worse pain than my knees. Of course, my gallbladder was so troublesome that I decided to, ahem,  reverse my position.

The nurses were nice, as was the anesthesiologist. They seemed happy to answer my never ending questions. Even though they believed that I would probably not remember asking them. (For the record, they were wrong about that. Clearly, I do remember.)

My memory is actually pretty good about my pre-op meetings. They gave me a nice little shot of something to relax me. It was lovely. A wonderful tipsy little feeling. I could have done with a little more of that. :-)

Then I  remember waking up and feeling unable to breathe well. I was not happy about that. A nurse came by and said something and I told her that I couldn't breathe. She told me that I could and I was. Then the told me some machine readouts that I didn't care about. I must admit that I felt indignant that she kept asking me questions and trying to cram ice chips down my throat while I was clearly struggling to breathe. Even though I realized that I was breathing I felt like I couldn't do it well and was trying to concentrate on taking even, deep breaths. I most certainly did not feel like talking to that unsympathetic woman.

Then she started talking to another nurse about discharging me. Part of me felt certain that she was crazy. I couldn't breathe or swallow well, I was weak and dizzy from the drugs, and she wanted me to leave? I wasn't even certain that I agreed that this should be an outpatient procedure. Despite my internal protestations I was handed off to another nurse.
One of the three incisions arcing across my abdomen.

She got me dressed and packed into a wheelchair with blankets around me. I felt very much like my grandpa looked in his later years. Feeble and a bit disoriented. Talking was not easy. People kept telling me things that I was sure I wouldn't remember. When I asked the nurse if she could tell my husband instead of me she, rather disdainfully, told me that of course they were going to do that because I wouldn't remember anything. Guess I showed her. (Feel free to insert a raspberry here if you like.)

Then my husband came up with our two lovely littles and people were once again talking. I was a bit irritated that they still wanted to talk to me because I didn't want to think, much less talk. But finally it was done and I was brought downstairs, packed in my car with my souvenir blankets (score!) and we came home.

After coming home I visited the bathroom and went upstairs to nap. There is just something so wonderful about getting to sleep when you are tired. My daughter kept me up the night before my surgery and apparently being under anesthesia is not the same as sleeping. I was just as tired coming out of surgery as I was going in.

After I got up from my nap I was better rested, but quite sore. I decided to breastfeed my baby. I would have done it before my nap but I remember the nurses talking about the Demerol I was given before I woke up as bad for my baby. Since I didn't have the energy to look it up I decided to just sleep it off a bit. I knew I had enough donor milk to see him through. (Turns out Demerol is safer than the Lortab I was prescribed.)

I won't go into how I was displeased that they had given me something that they felt would be bad to breastfeed while on, since the official line from them is to wait 48 hours after anesthesia to breastfeed. This is false info based on a fear of being sued, I would guess.

I decided not to fill my prescription. The Lortab would probably be safe but I don't want to take the chance. I seem to have a high tolerance for pain, anyway. I've just been taking over-the-counter acetaminophen and have been all right, if not happy. At least the pain lets me know that I have limits.

The rest of the day consisted of me sitting in my chair with my baby who was ecstatic to get his booby back. He wiggled and squirmed and smiled. Then someone brought us a chicken pot pie and made my day. We went for a walk around the block, to avoid pneumonia, and decided to go to bed early.

Goodnight.
My belly button.

Apparently this didn't publish last night. I guess I didn't click the button, perhaps?

Here are the other parts to this series:


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Cholecystectomy: Scheduled

I have my gallbladder removal surgery scheduled. Roughly 8 hours from now I will no longer have a gallbladder. I pray that this will solve many of the issues I've been dealing with for a while. I'll document my recovery here.


Here are the other posts in this series:
Part 2: My Cholecystectomy: The Hospital & First Day