Monday, July 9, 2012

Mystery pain = solved!

Early last week, I posted about my mysterious pain that has been dictating my life.  I had spent that entire Monday with my Doc and she had run some labs to figure out what was going on.  Of course, the most important labs didn't come back till Tuesday morning, but she was very concerned.  So much so, that when I woke up at 645 to get up and get ready to go to medical to go over my lab results, I had a voicemail from my Doc.... from 0430.. that said she was probably going to send me to Bethesda (or Walter Reed, they are the same hospital now) and to pack an overnight bag just in case they decided to keep me overnight for observation.


That is the sound of something way more serious than just "a gas bubble from your surgery."  Anything that requires an overnight bag for a hospital made me sit up a bit straighter.. or as straight as I could.  Actually, after a most atrocious weekend of pain, Monday was just a pretty sore day, but the rest of the week, I was fine.  

I arrived to medical a little late.  I had to pack a bag and make reservations for Phil with Teh Best Dog Sitter.  Seriously, she is the best.  She's always there for me, even when I have to call her at 0715 on a Monday and say, "I really hate having to call you so soon (after getting back from Australia), butttttttt....  my doc is sending me to Bethesda for my mysterious back pain and they are potentially keeping me overnight, could you watch Phil if they do keep me overnight?"  

Seriously.  Best EVER.  

After arriving to medical, my Australia Travel Companion explained to me that I probably have a gallstone(s) that is causing pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and Doc thinks that the gallstones are getting stuck in the pancreatic tract, which would be what is causing all the pain.  Doc repeated all this to me, handed me a sheet with lots of writing, lab results on it, and the name of the new doctor that I'd been seeing once I got to the hospital (who I actually only met once, at midnight the night prior to my surgery).  One of my coworkers agreed to drive me up to DC, because Doc was pretty adamant about me not driving myself (I think she knew my future). 

The drive from Pax to Bethesda is 2ish hours.  We took some non-traditional ways, but still made it in about 2.5 hours.  I had a sneaky suspicion that I wouldn't get fed once we got to the hospital, so we stopped at a place called Bethesda Seafood House before heading to the hospital.  I found this place on Urbanspoon, and 90 people had given it a 91% good review, so I was pretty confident.  

1.  There was no parking.  
2.  It smelled like garbage and fish outside.  It didn't help that the dumpster was on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, where there was outside seating, additionally it was almost a million degrees out.  Which we sat in because a) we wanted to make sure the car didn't get towed and b) see #3
3.  The inside of the restaurant wasn't that impressive.  It also had a funky smell.  It was dimly lit and had an overall generally sketchy feel to it.
4.  The prices weren't cheap.
5.  We waited over 35 minutes for the crab legs to come out.  The oysters only took 15ish minutes to come out.

BEST CRAB LEGS I'VE EVER EATEN.  The knives were sharp, so while I was worried about slicing off my finger, I wasn't too concerned about being able to get the crab meat out of the shell/leg.  I did have to shuck my own corn.  Despite it beings steamed with the crabs, it didn't have a fishy taste, although I'm sure it could have used a rinse down before being steamed because there was a slight "dirt" taste to the corn.

Despite the initial omg-I-might-die-of-food-poisoning-this-place-is-so-sketchy vibes we got, we walked away surprised, fed, and satisfied.  Lesson, sometimes, you just have to take the "will I get food poisoning" chance.

Finally, we made it to the hospital.  I was already aware of my room number, so essentially, it was like checking into a hotel.  First we had to navigate the hospital and ask for directions a few times.  Eventually we made it to my floor/wing/room.

My friend stayed for a few hours while I got settled in.  Many, MANY doctors came in to hear my tale of woe, then they would come back with questions.  I'm sure by that point my friend could have told the story herself.  After several doctors pressed on my sore belly they finally left me to don my sexy hospital gown and wait for whatever was going to happen, to happen.

First we got to draw some blood, then I got my handy dandy IV.  Since I wasn't in any pain they didn't really have to worry about pain meds with me.  My friend left around 4, when things had started to calm down, and I got out my cell phone and strived diligently to kill my battery while chatting with Teh Bear.  More nurses/docs came in and out.  I was informed that I wouldn't be eating dinner because they were trying to get my pancreas to calm down.......  NO FOOD?  SERIOUSLY?  I'm on a schedule, Gentle Readers.  I eat in the morning when I get up, lunch from 11-1230, then dinner at 530-7.  If I don't eat within those times, I get a headache.  Ok, I get a migraine, but that sounds so dramatic.  Teh Bear finally had to tell me to explain that it was a migraine, NOT a headache.  He says there is a difference.  I've only ever had migraines, so I just refer to them as the same thing.  Apparently they aren't?

Oh yeah, fun story about getting my IV.  One of my blood vessels blew while the nurse was trying to put in the IV.  Good times.  Super nasty bruise on my arm.  Makes me look like I've been abused.  She luckily got the IV into the other arm with minimal issues.  It did clot after a few days so they had to redo it.  This time, removing the sticker that holds the IV in place hurt more than anything.  YAY sensitive skin.....  :(

Fullo stones!  (image)
Since I had eaten lunch so we had to wait for my food to settle, then it was time to get my belly sonogram!  The sonogram tech took LOTS of pictures and pressure pretty hard on my stomach, causing enough discomfort for her to notice.  She left and came back and I asked her, "What did you see?"  She said, "You're FULL of stones!!  But I didn't tell you that."  I was informed that I was so "fullo" stones that they were going to do a CT scan to ensure it wasn't just hair, which can cause similar effects.  The CT scan showed that I was really "fullo" stones.  The prognosis was to remove the gallbladder completely.  They weren't even going to bother removing the stones since it was so full.  I told them they could have the whole thing as long as I didn't hurt anymore.

I was returned to my room for the evening and after a small period where I thought I might gnaw my arm off, I stopped being hungry for a while.  I got to see some fireworks from my window that night, which was pretty cool. I could only see them over the tops of the trees, but it was better than nothing.  I didn't have to deal with the loud booms or crowd or heat, so it was actually pretty nice.

So, the next day was Wednesday, July 4th.  My present?  At 0900 I was told I could eat that day!  YIPEEEEE!  It took me until 1pm to get a menu, which required me finally walking up to the nurse's station and explaining to my nurse that I had called 4x to get a food menu/directions on how to order food and I was still waiting and I had a headache..  There may have also been tears at this point due to frustration, headache, and starvation.  If the tale didn't work, the tears did.  The nurse walked me back to my room with a menu and even called the food services number for me.  Food was finally ordered, and it took another hour to arrive.  The headache lingered despite eating.

Fruit, sweet potato (plain/with a little sugar due to no butter), cottage cheese, and apple juice!
Feast of a (hospital) queen!

I complained of the headache to the nurse and explained that I thought eating would help but it didn't. A bit later she brought me 2 tylenol. I took them knowing it was like eating Luden's Cherry Cough Drops when you have a cough, and told her that it wasn't going to work. I was able to order my own dinner and I ordered a Pepsi to see if caffeine would eliminate the headache. Nope. I complained of the headache again and the doc asked me what I normally took. I told her an 800mg motrin and a sudafed if eating/sleeping/caffeine didn't work, but the headache had been going on for so long that I was sure we were past that point. She brought me an 800mg motrin... that didn't do anything either.

There were more fireworks that evening.  DC does a concert and fireworks that they air on the local stations, so I watched that and as the concert was ending, I got to watch even more fireworks out my window again.  Luckily, no booms, because that probably would have been headache unbearable.  I complained again before going to bed about the headache and the doc asked what I'd try next if I was at home and I told her something more serious.  I had a migraine med at home, but it gave me an after migraine headache, so I'd probably go with just a strong pain killer.  Finally, at midnight, Tramadol it was!  I was able to sleep that night, and I woke up the next morning with no headache.

They had told me Wednesday that I wasn't to eat after midnight because my gallbladder removal surgery would be on Thursday.  I had no issues with that, because I assumed that meant the surgery would be early in the morning.  I was wrong.  I learned Thursday morning that the surgery was actually scheduled for 9pm.........  SERIOUSLY?  MORE NO FOOD?  My nurse asked if I could have breakfast and even that was a no.  "In case a spot opens up."  I was pretty livid.  It didn't take long for the headache to return.  I was trying to sleep it off and wait on a 2nd tramadol to work when the nurses came in and said, "Time to go!"

It was only 230pm, so early!  YAY for not eating and a spot opening up!  I was quickly wheeled down to the pre-op area where I learned that the spot had been filled and I was to wait for another hour for the surgery, so I laid there with my face covered with the sheet.  When the anastealogist came in, she asked me what was wrong and I explained I had a migraine from not eating.  She offered to turn off the light, which was definitely a relief.  She also said, "Don't worry, I've got something you'll really like for that headache."  I knew we were destined to be friends.  The docs came in and read over consent forms with me and the anastealogist was able to shoot me up with something delightful that made me feel like I was swimming.  First I felt like I melted into the bed, then I felt like I was floating on the ocean.  It made focusing on signing the anastealogist consent form a little difficult, but I managed.  It started to wear off quickly since she hadn't given me the entire dose.  I told her that my headache was returning and she said, "Oh, I'll take care of that for you."  She gave me the oxygen mask and I felt my head stop hurting and the next thing I knew I was waking up from surgery.

This nurse was so much nicer than the one at St. Mary's Hospital.  I started to come to and instead of barking at me, "WHAT IS YOUR PAIN LEVEL?"  She was very nice about it.  She was patient when I looked at her like she was speaking in tongues.  I told her I wasn't sure yet, which made her laugh.  It didn't take me long to realize though.  She made sure that I wasn't hurting and finally I was wheeled back to my room.

Functioning on analgesia is very difficult.  I think I managed well enough to tell Teh Bear that I was alive and drugged and needed to pass out.  I might have also sent out my text message spam to the folks that needed to know that I was alive before I passed out.  My good nurse from the day had left and I was a little upset about it, but I survived the night.

When I woke up the next morning (Friday), my good (favorite) nurse was back.  I was confused cause the drugs made me think that she had worked all night, but instead she had went home AND come back!  I was so excited.  She was really the most awesome nurse I've had.  She was upset that the other nurses had taken so long to help me get food before, that some of the nurses hadn't been emptying my urine (since I was having to pee "in a hat"), and that my headache pain wasn't managed well.  We eventually came up with a system for my pee, which worked nicely for us.  She also spent some time socializing with me, which was nice since I didn't have anyone visit (except for my LPO, who unfortunately left home at the same time I went in for surgery, so I didn't get to see her or her family).

I got to eat!  I was so excited.  Walter Reed probably has the best oatmeal I've ever had.  I was also informed that if everything was ok on Friday, I'd be released from the hospital on Saturday around 10/11.

Once I started hurting, the nurse started offering me my Percocets.  2 at a time, every 4 hours.  I tried taking just one, but usually an hour after taking the one I'd have to take the 2nd pill, but can't say I didn't try.  I also was able to get up and hobble, very slowly, around the ward several times (never consecutive laps).  After an entire day of eating percocets, I'd started to itch uncontrollably.  EVERYWHERE.  My arms, my legs, my butt cheeks, my belly, my fingers, my face, my neck, my back.  There was no rash and I couldn't figure it out.


Teh Bear was my Sherlock Holmes.  He suggested maybe it was the crazy amount of narcotics that I'd taken that day.  Drugs addicts get itchy all the time.  I was given 2 benedryls and still itched.  OMG.  SO ITCHY.  A 3rd bendryl and bedtime helped me pass out efficiently.  It was good that I finally passed out because I was ready to spaz out on my night nurse who seemed like a mostly incompetent idiot.  After waiting 30 minutes on her to take my vitals (around midnight, so I was ready for bed), I finally had to go out and find her so that way she wouldn't wake me up.  Then, she took forever to find the blood pressure cuff.  Then, she left the machine in my room.  I knew she'd wake me up if she had to come in and find it, so I rolled it out of my room and did not slam the door (even though I wanted to).

I had to call at 0230 for more pain killers, which I barely remember.  At 04, the crappy nurse returned to take my vitals, I had to ask her to take her machine (with the suggestion: in case you need it for the next patient) and to shut the door.  Unfortunately, my other nurse didn't come in at the same time to draw my blood, so I got woken up again at 05.  Luckily, with the amount of benedryl and percocet coursing through my veins, I was able to get back to sleep till a doc came in at 0630 to ask me about my pain/itchiness.  I had asked for another pain killer the night before and was disappointed the on call doc had done nothing but give me benedryl instead of changing the prescription.

Later the same doc came in to remove the adhesive off my belly that had been covering the incision sites.  OUCH.  SO much adhesive in the hospital.  Eventually, a Captain (O6) came in and removed my IV.  I was confused why an O6 was doing it, but I didn't ask questions.  I finally got to shower with no crazy plastic thingy over my arm, which was nice because showering with one arm is extremely difficult.  Around 1030 the duty driver showed up to take me home.  He was a pro at Bethesda, so it worked out nicely.  By 11, I was out the door and at the pharmacy picking up my new, not percocet, meds and headed home.  By 2pm, I was in Teh Cloud napping.

But now, I am convalescing.  Getting better, hobbling around, making sure to stay active and moving towards more functionality.  I am grateful for all the people that kept up with my adventures on FB and all the prayers/thoughts.  It was definitely not a week that I had planned, for sure.  I'm just glad it worked out...  even if I had to be starved for it to work.

Hopefully this means that my mysterious, debilitating pain is gone for good.  Now I'm working on figuring out what things I can eat and what things I can't.  So far, not many new things have been put on the "can't eat" list, which makes me happy.  Chocolate was one of the first things tested, and it is still on the EAT ME list.

Now that I've done image searches on Google for gallstones, it makes me wish I would have gotten to keep mine.  Teh Dad actually asked for one, I asked for photos (like I got from my endo surgery (that I never posted)), but didn't get either.  Military medicine, oh well.

Also, my belly looks like I got into a fight with a single clawed cat.  I really should stop getting laparoscopic surgeries done!  It's also extremely painful to the belly button!!!

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