Tuesday, August 23, 2005

how ESC's digestive system became angry 

Because Sloth asked, and because it's got to be one of the few stories I haven't blogged yet.

So allow me to take you waaaay back when I was a young and naive (virginal!) first year graduate student. It was January, on a cold and rainy Friday night (it might not have been rainy). I had settled down into my typical Friday night routine: a DiGiorno personal pizza, a rental movie, and a fuzzy dog curled up on the couch with me (told you! virginal!).

Not to long after I finished the pizza, my stomach started to hurt. Not in a nauseous kind of way, but in a someone-gently-probing-lower-intestines-with-a-knife kind of way.

After 15 minutes, the probing was not so gentle. Searing pain shot through my gut. I ran in the bathroom and tried to throw up. It didn't help. I tried to poop. It didn't help. Eventually, I ended up curled up in a fetal position on my bed, clutching my stomach and trying to decide what to do. This was definately not a usual "oh it's nothing" kind of pain. By this time, it was 2am. There was no way I could drive myself to a hospital.

I called another girl in my class who lived in the same apartment complex. She was home with her *cough* MARRIED *cough* boyfriend and was still awake, and cheerfully (yes, cheerfully...she was weird) agreed to take me to the emergency room.

At the hospital, I was given an anti-nausea IV, even though I explained to them that I WASN'T nauseous. But the drugs were gooood...very relaaaaaaaaaaxing.....and eventually the pain went away. I was told it was probably "just gas," and was given more wonderful anti-nausea medicine...in suppository form.

The next week passed without incident (except that Sunday, when I was goofing around with Sadie in my living room and landed badly on my left index finger, breaking it. It was the only bone I've ever broken in my life. It swelled up huge and purple. So...yeah, I ended up in the emergency room again, twice in one weekend!)

But soon enough, the pain started up again. It happened whenever I ate. This is when I started having those suppository conversations with myself.

note: I already get at least 10 hits a week for people looking for things like "suppository fun." this post is going to dominate the suppository fetish google searchs for the next year. SUPPOSITORIES! FOR FUN AND PROFIT!

I went to student health, but the NP was stumped. I got tested for mono, pregnancy, a gyno exam, blood drawn...nothing was conclusive. Except that my liver enzymes were elevated. After my 3rd visit, I finally broke down in tears, because I was so tired of the pain, and the only thing I had eaten for the previous 2 weeks that would NOT make me curl into the fetal position of pain was cream of wheat. Everything else hurt. And I was convinced it was something really scary. like cancer. Remember, this is less than a year after my brother's death. I was a 12 out of 10 on the freaked out scale.

Finally, an actual doctor came and poked and prodded me. So far all the pain had been concentrated in my lower abdomen. but when she started poking at my ribcage on my upper right side...OW!

She immediately ordered an ultrasound, which showed what she suspected: gall stones.

I was quickly scheduled for surgery...in two weeks. Another two weeks of cream of wheat...yayyy....

(seriously, I couldn't eat ANYTHING. I risked an english muffin while watching the super bowl and cried for an hour)

What had them all worried (yeah, so worried I had to wait IN PAIN for a lousy two weeks...bastards) was my liver enzymes. They were elevated. I should have been jaundiced, but I wasn't. Yellow really isn't "my" color. So in addition to taking out my gall bladder, they were going to put a scope down the gall duct to make sure there weren't any stones stuck in there. Because if there were...oooo...bad! My surgery was supposed to be laparoscopic, but if there were STONES IN THE DUCT....THEY WOULD HAVE TO CUT ME WIIIIDE OPEN! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

My mother flew down for the surgery, just as freaked out as I was. After everything that our family had gone through, she didn't think she'd have to be in a hospital with one of her children again so soon.

But the operation went smoothly. There were no stones in my gall duct. So the only reminders of my surgery are a few small scars on my belly.

However, I did spend the night in the hospital for "observation." One snag..they were out of rooms. So spent the night in the recovery room, with all the other post-ops they didn't have rooms for. My bed was between the moaning crying leg amputee, and the screaming woman who kept having fits and ripping out her IV. And as an added bonus, my catheter had been removed. During surgery, I was pumped FULL of fluids...so about every 15 minutes I had to slooowly swing my legs off the bed, get up, grab my IV stand shuffle sloooowly alll the way to the other side of the recovery room, explain to the nurse that I was NOT TRYING TO MAKE A RUN FOR IT (for christ's sake!) and WHERE THE HELL WAS MY NEXT DOSE OF PERCOCET BITCH???? and then carefully sit down on the toilet...and...wait. My abdominal muscles had had holes poked through them and they were in no mood to respond to my commands, no matter HOW badly I had to pee. So I just tried to relax as many muscles as I could account for down there...and hope that my bladder would empty so I could get the maximum amount of rest before I had to repeat the whole painful process again.

That morning, between the bathroom adventures and psychotic bedmates, I had gotten NO SLEEP. I hadn't eaten anything for 48 hours, and for a month before that, only cream of wheat. I was cranky and tired and a little nauseous. And WHAT DOES THIS CRAP SOUTHERN HOSPITAL BRING ME FOR BREAKFAST????

buttered grits and black coffee.


I am a yankee girl. I do NOT EAT GRITS. At least not ones covered with a half inch of melted greasy butter. I touched just the tip of my spoon into the grits and tasted. My stomach rebelled. no way. I drank the OJ provided, but flat out refused to touch the rest of my breakfast. Jesus christ, hadn't these people heard of TOAST??? I was told that I wouldn't be discharged until I ate something. I told them to bring me something else, or I'd wait until lunch.
Lunch was much better - tomato soup and vanilla pudding. MUCH MORE APPROPRIATE FOR MY CONDITON! Idiots.

I was given prescriptions for percocet and more anti-nausea drugs - MORE SUPPOSITORIES FOR MY BUM - and mom took me home, and took care of me for the rest of the week.

Mom made beef stew for dinner the next day and it was the best food I had ever tasted in my WHOLE LIFE!

And two years later, I started noticing that things weren't right down there...I got stomach cramps and painful bathroom experiences, usually soon after eating. Fatty foods and dark leafy greens are the common culprits, though it's not consistant. I tried persuing it, when to my doctor, saw a GI doc, got a colonscopy (so fun! bring your friends!)..and was told that it COULD be IBS. ("but those commercials with the women's bellies said IBS was constipation" "that's the OTHER kind of IBS" "Is there medicine for THIS kind" "no").

So that long rambling story is how I lost my gall bladder, cheeeldren. Maybe next time, our bedtime story will be how I had a bone spur ground off my toe when I was 10. Stay tuned!