ellid: (Me)
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.

Date: 2013-07-02 03:32 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] helwen.livejournal.com
So glad you're okay and recovering!

A friend of mine recommends considering adding fermented foods like kimchi, fermented cukes(not sure where you'd get those, but _not_ the ones with vinegar), real cole slaw (apparently slaw in restaurants is pickled not fermented), etc. He says that the fermentation process helps break down the food, so it's less work for the body.

Date: 2013-07-02 04:08 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
It's worth a shot. Kimchi is out for the time being, though - no hot spices.

Date: 2013-07-02 03:35 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] scribbulus-ink.livejournal.com
I'm so glad you're all right!

Date: 2013-07-02 04:10 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
It was a near thing, a lot nearer than I liked. If you ever feel that sort of pain in your back, not just your front, go to the doctor. It might not just be a spasm. :)


Date: 2013-07-02 03:44 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] aunty_marion
aunty_marion: Official Aunty Marion (Default)
Good to hear you're recovering! A low-fat/no-fat diet is not fun, but perfectly manageable if you're determined - I had an aunt who had to go on one before having gall-bladder surgery, and a friend who's had similar problems.

Only having one kidney must be fairly uncommon, but not unknown - one of my uncles apparently only has one.

Date: 2013-07-02 04:12 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
The kidney works perfectly well, and if it hadn't been for this I never would have known. Evidently this condition (unilateral renal agenesis) isn't uncommon in girls, and unless I decide to take up rugby or another contact sport won't really make much difference in my life.

I think it's hilarious, personally. :)

Date: 2013-07-02 04:20 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] taradilien.livejournal.com
So glad to hear that you are alright. *hugs*

Date: 2013-07-02 06:25 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
Thanks, hon. Hope they finally figure out your medical issues, too!

Date: 2013-07-03 03:42 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] taradilien.livejournal.com
Thanks. I'm trying to focus on the positive at the moment which is that they haven't found anything life threatening. I also appreciate being taken seriously rather than fobbed off.

Date: 2013-07-04 11:38 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
Being taken seriously is the best part. I've had doctors say it was all in my head when it most emphatically wasn't, and it's incredibly annoying. Good luck!

Date: 2013-07-02 04:30 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] danabren.livejournal.com
Good lord! Yay for your doctor, hiss on the damnfools at the ER.

Glad you're recovering. Wow.

Date: 2013-07-02 06:28 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
I'm definitely going to talk to to my surgeon about the situation at the first hospital. If they'd noticed the gallstones and admitted me, I could had my gallbladder out over the weekend and been back at work yesterday instead of spending the better part of a week taking blood tests and watching my labwork get worse, and worse, and worse.

Thanks :)

Date: 2013-07-02 04:55 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] shalmestere.livejournal.com
Wow! Glad to hear you're on the mend....

Date: 2013-07-02 06:29 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
Feeling much better, though I tired pretty easily - I'm taking this week to rest up and recuperate, and plan to be back at the office on Monday. SO glad I didn't sign up for Pennsic...it would be way too soon after the surgery for me to risk camping.

Date: 2013-07-02 05:48 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] purplefluffycat.livejournal.com
Oh, gosh; what a trauma. I'm very pleased to hear that you cam through it alright, and wish you the very best for a full and speedy recovery.

PurpleFluffyCat x

Date: 2013-07-02 06:30 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
Thanks. I appreciate it :)

Date: 2013-07-02 06:02 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] aseneth.livejournal.com
Glad you're doing better!

Date: 2013-07-02 06:30 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
Thanks! :)

Date: 2013-07-02 06:02 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] valis2.livejournal.com
Thank goodness! What a terrible thing to go through--and I shudder that the hospital missed it at first and what that could have meant.

*hugs* Glad you're still with us!!

Date: 2013-07-02 06:32 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
That's what's scaring me - if I *hadn't* noticed the jaundice on Monday? I could be in an ICU right now, looking at God knows what. Makes me glad I'm something of a hypochondriac!

Date: 2013-07-02 06:50 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] timetiger.livejournal.com
Holy shit! I'm so sorry you had to go through that!

Date: 2013-07-03 12:43 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
Thanks! I'm on the mend.

Date: 2013-07-02 09:02 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] anagramofbrat.livejournal.com
well damn. Heal swiftly.

Date: 2013-07-02 11:08 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
That was basically how I felt about it, especially after the surgeons said that no, there were no options, that if I insisted on being discharged there was an 80% chance that this would happen again within six weeks, and the results could mean permanent damage to my pancreas. It was a stunning turn from "I feel fine" to "I am having an organ removed," and I thank God that the urgent care doctor simply did not and would accept my insistence that I felt fine.

Date: 2013-07-02 11:29 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] anagramofbrat.livejournal.com
ugh! no stranger to going from fine to MEDICAL EMERGENCY THIS IS NOT A DRILL in 0.5 seconds. it sucks.

Date: 2013-07-03 12:42 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
It sure did. Fortunately I'm going to be fine.

Date: 2013-07-02 10:15 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] rufus.livejournal.com
good lord. I have gallbladder problems too, and I've never had it manifest as pain in my shoulder.

In any case, I'm glad at least one set of medical professionals was on the ball and you are still with us, albeit cheese-less.

Date: 2013-07-02 11:15 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
Presenting under the shoulder blade isn't common, which is probably why the first hospital missed it and did a CT scan for kidney stones instead. However, the surgeons told me afterwards that my gallbladder was so heavily scarred that this had unquestionably happened before, so it was only a matter of time.

Thanks for the good wishes. I'm hoping to be back at work on Monday and will be calling the doctor for back to work letter tomorrow - originally the surgeon said two weeks, but I am going to tell him that I am not in any pain, have not used the Percocet prescription once, and aside from fatigue feel perfectly normal. Besides, by Monday it will have been eleven days since the surgery, which is well within the normal parameters for returning after gallbladder removal.

Sorry to hear that you have a ticky gallbladder, too - personally, I haven't noticed any difference in how I feel beyond a little pain when I take an unusually deep breath (probably because one of the laproscopic incisions is directly over my diaphragm). Odds are I'll never miss this having a gallbladder at all.

One note: I Googled "gallstones" and was almost physically sick at how ugly they are - seriously, these things look like something Sauron would play with. They all but radiate "evil," and I am so, so, so glad mine are GONE.

Date: 2013-07-03 01:54 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] tekalynn.livejournal.com
YOW! I'm so glad you got proper treatment in time. Good healing to you.

Date: 2013-07-03 03:45 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
It was not the most fun eight days of my life, let me tell you. Thanks!

Date: 2013-07-04 09:40 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
tree_and_leaf: Dark haired woman, pen and ink drawing with watercolour.  Looks a bit like Harriet Vane. (Harriet)
Eeek! I'm so glad your doctor and the second hospital figured things out, and wish you a swift recovery!

Date: 2013-07-04 11:37 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
I'm feeling pretty close to normal, actually - still a bit tired in the afternoons, but much, much better than I was. Thanks!

Date: 2013-07-04 01:40 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] anotheranon.livejournal.com
Very glad you're on the mend. I'm amazed that the surgery and recovery process from it only meant a 2 da y hospital stay - I guess having your gallbladder removed makes that huge of a difference?

Definitely worry about invective aimed at the hospital after you're completely healed. Take care!

Date: 2013-07-04 05:45 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
It's surprisingly easy to recover from - I'm almost back to normal, and it's been six days. God bless modern medicine!

Date: 2013-07-04 04:59 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] cluegirl.livejournal.com
Well I, for one, am glad to hear you aten't ded yet! Congrats on mighty quick bullet-ducking!

Date: 2013-07-04 06:11 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
Thanks! I'm pretty pleased to be alive :)

Date: 2013-07-09 05:43 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] orphandani.livejournal.com
ext_80247: (Default)
Wow! I really need to check in more often! I am so sorry you went through all that but am very glad you're going to be okay. *HUGS*

Date: 2013-07-09 12:44 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
No problem - life happens to us all :) I'm doing much better, and went back to work yesterday, so there's that.


Date: 2013-07-09 02:17 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] orphandani.livejournal.com
ext_80247: (Default)
What's that saying... Life is what happens while you're making other plans? Or something like that?

That only one kidney thing's a bummer. I'm surprised no one's caught that before.


Date: 2013-07-10 03:20 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
Well, I'd never had an ultrasound or x-ray on my back, so there's no particular reason anyone would have noticed the missing kidney. It's more amusing than anything else...:)

Date: 2013-07-10 05:07 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] orphandani.livejournal.com
ext_80247: (Default)
Just as long as it keeps working... :)

Date: 2013-07-10 02:07 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] girlygothic.livejournal.com
Whoa! I fell behind on my LJ, and am just now catching up.

So glad to hear that your doc was on the ball, that this was caught in time, and that you're doing so much better already.

FWIW, I think you should take legal action against the hospital. Even if you're not all that concerned about any personal remuneration, they need to be made aware of their mistake, so that it hopefully doesn't happen again to someone else. And the best way for their awareness to be raised is for it to impact their bottom line.

Date: 2013-07-10 03:18 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] ellid.livejournal.com
I'm seeing my surgeon next Wednesday and will speak to him then...because instead of being told, "Oh, you had a gallstone attack, see your doctor Monday ASAP" or "Oh, you had a gallstone attack, we're keeping you overnight and you probably should have your gallbladder out," I was given a prescription for Cipro (because of bacteria in my urine), an antibiotic that can CAUSE jaundice, and a prescription for Percocet for pain. I also got instructions for how to handle back pain in the future.

Don't know if this qualifies as malpractice, but at the very least I'm filing a complaint with their QA department. I'm also going to go down to Baystate from now on for emergency care. The people at the Cooley Dickinson ER were very nice, but I will never trust them again.
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