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.

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