Two weeks ago, on Saturday, I got an attack of abdominal cramps. This is actually something I had gotten used to over the past year or so, and I thought they were attributed to something I had eaten. I would start to get a growing pain in my upper right quadrant and it would be pretty intense for about 20 minutes or so and then subside as if nothing had happened. However, this time was different. The pain did not subside as quickly as before and I felt pretty bad the rest of the evening.
The next morning I was feeling better, but then started feeling progressively worse throughout the day. After lunch we went to pick out a Christmas tree, and on the way home, I started feeling nauseous and thought I would have to pull over. I managed to get the tree set up and the lights on. But later I wasn’t able to participate in the decorating. I did end up vomiting and was in bed the rest of the evening. I couldn’t get into a comfortable position and ended up sleeping sitting up in the recliner.
Over the next two days I continued to have cramps and vomiting. I tried to manage the pain with acetaminophen and ease my belly with tea and a little food. But my digestive system had shut down and I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. I didn’t feel like eating and all I wanted to do was sleep, though it would not come easily.
By Wednesday, my symptoms were still not much improved though my acetaminophen therapy was managing the pain for the most part. My wife, who had been taking such great care of me this whole time, finally put her foot down and took me to Urgent Care. After they listened to my symptoms and progress over the last few days and poked around my belly, the doctor refunded our money and sent us over to the ER. He said there are some tests they could do, but they couldn’t do all the tests I would need.
In the ER, they gave me morphine which was a blessing. I was able to relax and rest a bit. They did blood work and a CT scan and found that my white cells were elevated (from an infection that’ I’ve been fighting), but the numbers on my pancreas and liver were otherwise OK and they didn’t find any other obvious causes for my pain. The doctor rattled off a litany of possible causes, many of which sounded pretty scary. They admitted me and kept me comfortable throughout the night on some stronger pain medicine, Dilaudid.
I had an ultrasound the next day which revealed 20-30 gallstones. This revealed a lot about the symptoms I’ve been having. Apparently, all those abdominal cramps I had been having over the past year, were really me passing gall stones. However, this time the stone irritated my pancreas and duodenum and caused pancreatitis. We talked about the options and decided to go ahead remove my gallbladder. The surgery was scheduled for that night (Thursday).
The surgery went really well, despite the concern that they may have to open me up further if anything else was found inside. They removed it laparoscopically, which means they only had to make 4 small incisions. I was asleep a split-second after the anesthesiologist explained what was going to happen and I woke up, seemingly, a second after that, feeling like there was something stuck in my throat.
I spent the night in uneasy sleep, needing regular pain management into the next day. However, wanting to be discharged, I was a good patient, doing my breathing exercises and walking around so that my pain meds could be switched to Percocet and I could go home.
I was committed to staying on the Percocet only as long as I needed it. I stepped it down Sunday and took my last one on Tuesday. I faithfully took my antibiotics and took the last one this morning. I am so looking forward to my food tasting good again and not having a yucky tummy.
There are a lot of things that being sick has made me appreciate:
My wife. I shudder to think what would have happened to me if she had not been there to take care of me and insist I go see the doctor. I love you so much, Sweetie, and I plan to make you glad you decided to keep me alive.
The hospital staff. As much as I dislike and distrust our healthcare system in general, the real people who do the caring work of making us healthy again are amazing and I can’t thank them enough for everything then did for me while I was in the hospital.
Universal Healthcare. You see, I am between jobs and don’t have health insurance, having decided to save the money by not adding me to my wife’s plan, anticipating having a job soon. I have had insurance my entire life and have never had to use it except for some very minor things. I have contributed a lot of money to premiums over the years, but during this small window of time, that didn’t matter…I wasn’t covered and that forced me to stall the decision to go to the doctor. Had we had universal healthcare in this country, this would not have been a concern and I would not have had to suffer as long. It was hard to decide to go deeply into debt in order to be healthy again. As hard as it will be, we will manage it, but I grieve for those who must decide to forego healthcare because they can’t manage the expense.
The taste of food. During my recovery, while on antibiotics, the foods I normally enjoy have tasted very bland and I had to be careful what I ate because I knew I wouldn’t be able to digest it properly without the healthy flora in my belly. Now that I’m done, I’m looking forward to tomorrow when it is out of my system and I can start enjoying those foods that I love once again.
A working digestive system. Ever since this started my whole digestive system has been on the fritz, whether due to fighting an infection or enduring an antibiotic regimen. It has slowly gotten back to normal and I am grateful for that.
The support of friends. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, support, prayers, and messages of concern I’ve received over the past week. I know that it made a lot of difference in my attitude and will to recover quickly. Thank you all.