It's been a very interesting couple of weeks, to say the least.
Let me preface this by saying that I have been prone to back spasms for years. They started when I was in my twenties, usually happened during or just before my period, and could be handled by having my back cracked, a hot bath, and plenty of ibuprofren. Most were in my lower back, but sometimes it would be my shoulders. I didn't like them, but they were part of life.
A couple of months ago I started getting different back spasms. These weren't the usual hot, tight, cramping pain of a period-related back spasm. These usually centered just my right shoulder blade, where my bra hits, and were hideous, solid bands of agony. Painkillers didn't touch them, they seemed to have no relation to what was left of my monthly cycle, and a hot bath only helped to a certain extent. The first one, which started just after midnight, was so bad it woke me up, and left me literally sobbing in the bathtub, half-convinced I was having a heart attack.
It passed, I felt fine, and like an ass I figured it was just a muscle spasm and went on my merry way.
Well. Two Fridays ago I had lunch (an Amy's Southwestern burrito), and within minutes of finishing the pain started. I immediately removed my bra, took four ibuprofen, and tried lying down in the supply room at the office. Nothing much helped, and by the time I was ready to leave I was in a serious amount of pain. I was due at a friend's house to watch movies, and since she's an EMT and her mother's a retired nurse, I told them about the pain. They gave me a wonderful liniment that helped, Tracy noticed a knotted muscle just under my right shoulder blade, and between that and a massaging chair, I felt a lot better by the time I left.
The next day the pain was back, only worse. And worse. And worse. By Saturday afternoon I was writhing on the kitchen floor, howling in agony and praying for relief. I finally called my doctor, who told me to head to the ER because it sounded like kidney stones. I went to the local hospital, was given a shot of morphine and a CT scan, and told there was no kidney stone, it was probably just a muscle spasm, and sent on my way.
I slept most of Sunday.
Monday I went to work, still a bit achy and tired, and was fine...until I went to the bathroom and saw that my eyes had turned yellow.
I immediately went to my doctor's urgent care. They saw me immediately, took blood and urine samples, and told me a) I had been having a gallstone attack, and b) I was off work for the next two days, no arguments. They also scheduled an ultrasound for the next day and told me to come back on Wednesday for more bloodwork. The ultrasound showed that yes, I'd had a gallstone pass, and yes, there were still stones in my gallbladder, and when the Wednesday bloodwork showed that my pancreas was now involved, I was ordered to the ER at our regional medical center and told that I was to stay until admitted, no arguments.
I griped, but didn't argue. This is why I'm sitting here writing this, not in the ICU or possibly dead.
Friends, I had a condition called gallbladder pancreatitis. This condition results when a gallstone blocks the duct emptying from the liver, stomach, and pancreas, and the pancreas reacts by going into overdrive and producing about 1000x as many enzymes as it needs to. This is a serious, serious condition, and the only treatment is immediate removal of the gallbladder after the pancreatic enzymes are back in the normal range. In my case it took a day in the ER on an IV line, no food or drink by mouth at all, before this happened.
So. I had my gallbladder out on Friday, spent Friday night and all of Saturday in the hospital, and was discharged after more tests and a clean set of labs on Sunday morning. I'm now on a no-fat diet, low fat foods to be reintroduced gradually over the next couple of weeks, with my current diet based primarily on lean meats, fish, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Red meat will become a rare treat, ditto pizza. I *may* be allowed to go back to whole milk cheeses in small quantities, but not immediately. Junk food is out, permanently, unless there is absolutely no alternative (at a convention or on the road and there's nothing but a McDonald's for the next ten miles...and then, have the salad). My life and my eating have been forcibly changed, and it will probably add years to my life because I'll no longer have the luxury of eating processed, fatty crap.
I ducked a bullet here, boys and girls. I really did. Still trying to decide if I should take action against the local hospital that didn't notice the gallstones on the CT scan (or inform me that I was born with one kidney, which I was completely unaware of), but that's something to be discussed with my surgeon when I speak to him on the 17th. For right now I'm home, recovering, and grateful beyond words that my urgent care doctor refused to accept my insistence that I felt fine and trusted the blood tests to tell her what was going on.
I'm alive. I'm not going to waste that.
Thanks for listening.