Gallbladder, Part 2: The Medical Drama Continues

Posted: July 23, 2008 in Life Lessons
Tags: , , , , , ,

If you didn’t read Part 1, go here: Gallbladder, Part 1

It was about eight months after my heart tests before I finally found out what was wrong with me. And what a fun time that was…

I was so happy that my heart was not going to give out on me at any moment. It seems silly, but I was a little nervous about the tests, even though I suspected deep down it wasn’t my heart. I have a friend who is a few years older than I am who was having problems with her heart, so it wasn’t unheard of. (Scary.)

The new phase of “mystery disease” began in May 2007. One Sunday afternoon, I was outside with Sophie when suddenly, out of nowhere, I really needed to use the bathroom. I handed Sophie off to my mom and booked it to the bathroom. I felt like someone had reached into my chest right below my sternum and was squeezing my insides for all they were worth. Afterward, I lay on the floor of the bathroom, curled in a fetal position. Then I crawled to the living room and lay flat on my back, trying to concentrate on breathing. I was shaky and had broken out in a cold sweat. After about fifteen minutes, I felt completely fine. I chalked the whole thing up to eating something that didn’t like me.

The next day at work, I described my “attack” to my co-workers, who all agreed it was weird. Then, at almost the same exact time, it happened again. I had to get my supervisor to cover while I rushed to the bathroom. Then I went to the play area in our classroom and sat on the kid sized couch, sweating and shaking. In about ten minutes, the whole episode was over. Now I was really confused. I hadn’t eaten the same thing as the day before. Maybe it was some sort of bug, I told myself. It didn’t happen again for a little while. Then, one night a few weeks later, I woke at about 3 a.m. and felt that horrible sensation below my chest. I ran to the bathroom and then afterward lay on the living room floor rolling around in agony. There was no comfortable position. It felt like I was being squeezed inside out. I woke up my husband and shakily told him what was going on. He asked if I thought I needed the emergency room, and I said no, we couldn’t afford it. He suggested I visit a clinic the next day if I still felt bad. The episode passed and I was able to go back to sleep, but the next day I felt horrible. It was as if someone had stuck a knife in between my shoulder blades and left it there. I reluctantly went to a walk-in clinic. The doctor told me it could be a number of things, but his guess was peptic ulcer. This sounded more random than heart problems, but who was I to argue? I didn’t have a clue!

I took some sample Nexiums home with me and followed the doctor’s advice for peptic ulcers. This involved buying Maalox and avoiding common heartburn foods. The next big attack that stands out in my memory occurred in late September/early October, about 4 months later. I was at work and suddenly felt that pain below my chest at about 3 p.m. I headed resignedly to the bathroom and sat on the floor with my head resting on the cool tub, trying to calm the shakiness and cold sweats. Then I went into an unused room and lay on the floor, breathing. My co-worker, Sharon, came to check on me and I described what was happening. I mentioned, in a shortened version, what had been happening for months.

“That’s your gallbladder,” she said.

“Huh?”

She went on the describe her battle with gallstones, which she had had since her first pregnancy, and all the symptoms/causes of her gallbladder attacks. I listened in disbelief as she described every symptom I had and even relayed a typical attack for her, which sounded exactly like mine. She said she couldn’t eat anything fatty or greasy, or spicy, and that usually about three hours afterward, if she had inadvertently eaten something like that, she would have an attack. She had an ultrasound done during her second pregnancy and it showed she had five gallstones, but she had been unable to have surgery because she has no medical insurance and the attacks weren’t severe enough to make surgery a medical necessity. I was surprised it turned out to be my gallbladder, because I had no idea this could even happen, but I was convinced right away that I had finally found my culprit.

After my group insurance finally kicked in, I found a local doctor and set up an appointment. I explained my problem and said I suspected it was my gallbladder. She set up an ultrasound appointment for me. I had to wait a few days after the ultrasound was done for results. Those technicians give away nothing, do they? My doctor’s office called and said, (I believe these were the nurse’s exact words) “Congratulations. You have a gallstone.”

Congratulations?

Well, at least I knew, finally, what had been going on for almost two years! They sent me an appointment with a surgeon. I called to reschedule because we were shorthanded at work and I couldn’t take the time off. Then, wouldn’t you know it, the day of the rescheduled appointment we had a snow day. I had my daughter home with me, and I didn’t want to drive with her on possibly bad roads. If I had been by myself, I might have done it, but I bit the bullet and rescheduled it again.

This was the dumbest thing I ever did, I believe. I should have just gone to the first appointment and told work to kiss my patootie. But I didn’t, and five days before my appointment I had my worst attack ever. Not only that, but I missed work Friday and Monday because I had…the flu. (That’s right, I didn’t get my flu shot.) That was miserable because my husband and daughter had it too. Then, on Thursday of that week, I woke up at 4 a.m. in the middle of an attack.

Okay, I’m going to be honest here. If you’re at all squeamish about throwing up, I advise you to quit reading, or skip to the happy ending, where I undergo surgery–you know, maybe you should just quit if you’re squeamish. Just trying to help ya out, here.

As my attacks got worse, I found that throwing up seemed to help, because it either got rid of the offending food or, I guess, caused enough havoc on my insides that it sent the stone back to it’s place. So, I had to…and this is awful…make myself throw up. I absolutely, positively will do anything to avoid throwing up, so this tells you how bad the pain was. I threw up just to get rid of it. So on this particular morning, I threw up until I felt like whatever was in there that was causing me misery was out. Then I took a shower and tried to get ready for work. When I got there and went to drop off my daughter, her teacher asked me if she felt all right. We checked her temperature, and, sure enough, it was 101. I found my boss and told her Sophie was running a fever and I was throwing up from a gallbladder attack. She just sent us home. I didn’t eat anything at all that day, Sophie and I basically spent it on the couch. The next morning I again got ready for work and took Sophie with me for a few minutes until my mom could come get her to watch her. At about 9:00 a.m., my mom picked up Sophie. About ten minutes later, I was laying on the floor in a ball of agony. The attack was back…with a vengeance.

A coworker finally convinced my I had to go tell my boss, which I did. As soon as she saw me, she told me to go home. I could barely drive my car, so I’m lucky I only live less than a mile from work. I arrived at home, and all I can say is thank goodness for my mother. I was in pure torturous agony. I couldn’t even lay down. I found minuscule relief kneeling on the floor with my head on the rug. My mom convinced me to call my doctor and see if there was anything they could do. I called and explained I was meeting with the surgeon next week, but I was having a monster of an attack right now. She said she could try to prescribe me hydrocodone and see if that worked. If it didn’t, she advised me to go the the emergency room. In the meantime, while she called in the prescription, I remembered Sharon telling me hot water helped ease her pain. I didn’t feel like taking a shower, but I did have a hot pad from a Pyrex dish. I zapped it in the microwave and lay down with it under my shoulder blades. Finally! I could rest comfortably. My mom ran to the pharmacy to get the meds, and once I took those, I was considerably happier. The pain finally eased enough so I didn’t feel like my entire middle was in a vice grip. I didn’t know what was going to happen when I met with the surgeon in less than a week, but I did know this: whatever she had to do to help me avoid another episode like that, I was more than happy to let her.

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  1. […] The Rest of the Story: Gallbladder, Part 2 […]

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