Saturday, August 18, 2012
My Little Hospital Adventure!
Last Monday afternoon, after enjoying another great "brown-bag" lunch at work (lunch consisting of my normal fare: a processed-turkey sandwich, some baby-cut carrots, etc.), I started experience an unusual amount of intestinal gas. By that evening, the gas had moved into my lower abdomen and was causing a great deal of pain. By midnight, Wifey convinced me that it was time to visit one of our local ERs. So, by 1AM Tuesday morning, there I was, stretched out on a cold ER gurney, still in a great deal of pain, where a handful of ER techs poked, proded and pricked my swollen body to their liking. Over two hours later, an ER doctor came into my "stall" and told me that I was experiencing acute pancreatitis. Wonderful, I thought; now that this pain has a name, how about giving me some relief from it? After he left, a nurse returned and pumped a few CCs of antacid into my veins. Now, I do know what heartburn, etc. feels like and this sensation was definitely not heartburn. So, after about another half-hour, I told the ER staff that the pain was still there. And it wasn't too much longer until one of the nurses introduced my body to about 50 CCs of Demerol. This was one fine medical invention that the nurse liberally pumped into me. In less time than it takes to remember my home phone number, I was so dizzy that I could not even open my eyes without causing the ceiling to spin wildly. Wifey was seated not more than 3 feet to my left. But as she talked to me, she sounded like she was a hundred feet away. And when I was actually able to create some coherent vocalizations, all I remember saying was "I don't like Demerol." Oh, do I need to add that for the first time since that previous afternoon I was "feelin no pain"?
By 4AM, I was admitted to the hospital and for the next 2.5 days, I lived in the "geratrics" wing of St. Mary's hospital, just a few feet away from the oncology ward. As far as I could tell (from when my IV-tree buddy and me took our little walks around the third floor) i was the youngest patient on that floor. My roommate was a 72-year old former school bus driver who had been in-and-out of the hospital since January. Charlie the school bus driver was so weak that he could not get out of bed or even back in on his own. And when he did stand up, his BP would drop from something like 110/70 to a scary 80/38! Wednesday morning, Charile's doctor told him that he was going to give him some new meds to help increase his energy level as well as to raise his BP.
Each morning around 6:30 a gastro-intestinal doctor told me about my gall bladder being the cause of the pancreatitis. She stressed during each visit that it needed to come out within the next six weeks. Tuesday morning my GP said that he wanted to wait for the results of the ultra-sounds (which occured later that morning) before pinning the blame on my poor gall bladder. Wednesday morning, my GP returned to say that the ultra-sounds showed that I was blessed with a "slushy" gall bladder (which is what a 2004 ultra-sound also revealed). He went on to say that since there were no stones, he wanted to prescribe one more test which would have to happen once my pancreas had calmed down (which is going to happen the morning of Aug. 31). He added that because the pancreas was surrounded by intestinal gases, its condition could not be effectively-analyzed via those ultra-sound images. Thursday morning the GI doctor said that even though the most-recent blood samples showed a slight increase in pancreatic enzymes, it was nothing to get excited about. So she said that I could be leaving the hospital as soon as noon that day.
Even though Charlie's condition was obviously more-serious than mine, ironically he had more freedom than I did; I was not allowed to eat or drink ANYTHING from the time I went into the ER until breakfast-time Wednesday morning (even though one of the night-nurses stuck me a cup of delicious ice chips late Tuesday night!). However, Charlie could have anything he wanted for his meals. But because he was struggling with staying awake and lucid, he hardly ate anything. While the nurses gave Charlie access to oxygen, he wasn't tethered to both an IV tree and a vitals-monitoring device like I was. Too many times, I had to call the nurses' station to complain that the IV monitor was beeping; most of the time it was malfunctioning because I bent my arm and therefore constricted the flow of the magical fluids. It would also beep when it was time for a refill. Every 4-6 hours (depending on how much fluids the hospital staff surmised I needed) a new bag of lactose was hooked up to that noisy contraption. And just about every 4-6 hours I had to make a trip to the bathroom! Sure glad that IV tree was on wheels! Woot! Something else that was on that IV tree was a small pump full of Demerol (have I mentioned that Demerol is nasty stuff?). The nurses told me that whenever I pushed this little button, I would be blessed with 5 CCs of pain-killer. They also explained that the computerized pump would not allow me to have more than 15-20 CCs per hour, just in case I happened to "lay on" the button a bit too much. So, from Tuesday morning until about 9 that night, I pushed that button off and on. But from 9PM on, the pain was basically gone (for which I am very thankful!).
Now to continue with my hosptial diet: Wednedsay morning, I was allowed plain-liquids: hot chicken broth (hot water flavored with chicken boullion cubes), apple/cranberry juice, frozen orange juice (not sure if it was intentionally frozen for my benefit) and jello. And I could drink as much water as I wanted as well as even a can of Sprite with each meal! That was my menu for all three meals on Wednesday. But because my pancreas did not act up after eating that wonderful food, they allowed me pancakes, cereal (with fat-free milk) and decaf instant coffee for Thursday's breakfast. By the way, decaf coffee is just hot brown water; I had not ingested any caffeine from early Monday morning until Friday morning when I endulge myself with a cup of REAL coffee! Three cheers for Folger's Coiombian! I don't think I have gone that long without caffeine (from Folgers or otherwise) since I was in high school!
Right after breakfast on Thursday my day-nurse said that it looked like I could be discharged at noon. Now that was good news! But she cautioned that once I left the hospital, I was still to be on a low-fat diet. My GP didn't visit me that morning, but he did send one of his associates. This doctor concurred with my GP that the out-patient gall-bladder test (he told me the exact title of it but I really wasn't listening well enough to remember it) still needed to be implemented. Around 10AM, the discharge nurse brought my discharge papers on which I signed that I was allowed to leave at noon. And here is where I must confess that I've been a bad out-patient of St. Mary's hospital: the discharge papers said that I could return to work on Monday the 20th. Wifey and I were back home here on Merry Lane by 1PM and I was at the MFA in Freeburg around 2PM and did not get home until after 6PM. I washed windows from 6:30 to nearly noon on Friday and then went to my "other" job at our church and worked there until almost 5. Yes, I was pretty tired last night, but I went to bed about 9:30 and stayed there until 6 this morning. By 7:30, I was back at church where I worked until noon.
So what to think about all this? The test scheduled in my GP's office for the 31st seems to be the pivotal point in the life of my slush-producing gall bladder. Since 2004, I've talked to some people who no longer have a gall bladder and most have said that the out-patient procedure is quick and relatively-painless. But a handful have said that the after-effects were infections and digestive problems. Now I don't want either of those, that is for sure! So if this test reveals that I can keep that ol' gall bladder for awhile longer, what should I decide to do? I definitely don't want to spend another 2+ days in the hospital nursing an inflamed pancreas! It most-definitely will be a serious prayer issue.