Home > Out and About, Social Networking > The Road to World Conquest: Medic!

The Road to World Conquest: Medic!

During the past six months, I’d had a few brief episodes of what I thought were just really bad heartburn. The attacks started around bedtime, lasted off and on through the night, and made me utterly miserable. Medications didn’t seem to help. Hot showers, oddly enough, at least alleviated the pain.

But, without fail, these bouts ended by sunrise and I could go on with my life.

Last Tuesday night, Catherine and I had dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse after spending the afternoon in a spinning class at the YMCA. Before bed, I felt another onset of an attack. I took Tums. I took Gas-X. I took repeated hot showers.

The sun came up the next day. The discomfort didn’t relent. By noon, I was on the phone to my general practitioner to arrange an appointment. He was able to see me at 2:30.

During this visit, I received my first ECG. The attendant slapped sticky patches on my chest, arms, and legs, and then hooked wires between them and a computer. The cardiogram spat out seismometer-like readings of my heart. She told me that they were “probably normal.” The doctor took a look and declared it wasn’t just probable, it was definite. My heart was fine. He said my symptoms sounded like a gastro matter and handed me a big box full of Prevacid samples. He ordered me to take one a day. The discomfort should go away soon, he said.

Wednesday night, despite the new medication, was just as miserable as Tuesday. On Thursday, I couldn’t function. I canceled plans to hang out with Catherine and my cousin Donna. When Catherine got home, I insisted that we go to the emergency room at Crestwood Medical Center.

I checked in for chest pains, so I was fast-tracked in the ER. They took another ECG. They drew blood. They grabbed X-rays. And then they tucked me into an exam room bed with a cup that they wanted me to fill with urine, which I managed…eventually.

Around midnight, they informed me and Catherine that I’d be admitted to the hospital overnight for observation and maybe more tests on Friday morning. I was wheeled up to the cardiac ward, to room 238. They gave me a sandwich and some water. When I tried to get to sleep, I couldn’t get comfortable. The nurse pumped morphine into my IV. I felt woozy and out-of-it for about 45 minutes, but the clutching pain still filled my chest. I didn’t sleep much at all. Ultimately, I told the nurse not to bother with the morphine. If it wouldn’t fix the problem, it was just causing new problems. I asked for Tylenol instead.

On Friday morning, my general practitioner showed up, surprised to see me laid out like this. He said the hospital would arrange an ultrasound test for later in the day to figure out the problem. A new shift nurse told me that the ultrasound room would be booked until at least 5.

In the ultrasound room, a kid who looked a lot like Kenneth from 30 Rock covered my abdomen with gel and poked at me with a probe. Soon after I was wheeled back to my room, the nurse reported that the probe revealed that I had a gall stone. I needed my gall bladder surgically removed. All those prior incidents had probably been gall bladder flare-ups that subsided. This latest one could no longer be ignored.

The surgeon came in Friday evening to explain the procedure. It would be done on Saturday afternoon. I wouldn’t be able to eat or drink anything after midnight. I would likely remain in the hospital until Sunday morning.

At this point, I was just glad to have some answers and a plan for what to do next. I was also tremendously grateful that Catherine had joined me in Huntsville for a hiatus just in time for this medical mishap. She took care of Huck and the cat without complaint. She brought my Kindle and my iPhone charger. She kept me company, even though I wasn’t always the most charming companion while I was in pain. She asked everybody lots of awesome lawyerly questions.

I slept fairly well during the night, despite all the efforts to stir me from my slumber for blood tests, blood pressure monitoring, and chest X-rays in advance of the surgery.

Just before I was delivered to the operating room, they told me that I’d probably be relocated to the ortho ward on the third floor, with the surgeon’s other patients. They didn’t need a gastro patient taking up a cardiac bed, after all.

The operating room reminded me of a high school biology classroom. Luckily, I didn’t get to dwell too long on this, as the anesthesiologist gave me this bitter inhalant.

Next thing I remember, I’m in a quiet recovery area full of beds with two nurses on watch. They had me on an oxygen feed. I was soon rolled into room 376, where I was allowed food (I was so very hungry, and once I proved I could ingest ice chips without problem, they let me eat solid food), all the apple juice I could drink, more water, and grapes.

Early on Sunday, I let Catherine know that she could fetch me out of hock. The doctor checked my charts and said it was probably fine for me to begin recovering at home.

I had survived my first full admission to a hospital, ever. I’ve been pretty lucky throughout my life. I’ve only ever needed emergency room visits. The longest stay had been a couple of hours for an outpatient hernia surgery in 1993, but they had immediately sent me home to recover.

Now I was going home without a gall bladder. My abdomen was sore, but I hadn’t felt this good in a long time.

  1. Brian Rucker
    June 23, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I had mine out, oh, about four or five years ago. Same thing. Some nights I’d wake up with a pain in my abdomen. Usually it’d go away by itself eventually. Infrequent enough that I didn’t actually think about it the next day.

    One night it hit so hard I was up all night. Wandered into the emergency room at MCV and had to wait in a freezing room all night until they could do, I think it was, an ultrasound. Just like they do for babies in pregnant ladies. And sure enough I had I whole colony of little gallstones down there.

    Long story short, the operation went fine. I was out and about in a couple weeks thanks to the new, less invasive, technique they used. However…I started having pains again. Evidently the surgeon missed a small stone or part of the stone. He didn’t like that idea and had me going to see a gastro-whatever-ologist to see what else might be wrong with me after one attack triggered a short return to the hospital. I was sick on penicillin for three days before the specialist said, yup, nothing else is wrong. You’re right about the stone fragment.

    About a week later the pains stopped completely as the fragment disintegrated by itself.

    Also my first hospital stay and first surgery ever…unfun.

  2. June 23, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Wow, that sounded bad up till it was just your gall bladder. Don’t get me wrong, having your Gall Bladder out is bad, but I’m glad your heart is fine. Sounds sucky, but better than what you feared

    • June 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      Yeah, the upside of this episode – besides getting rid of a screwed-up gall bladder – is finding out that pretty much everything else about me is just fine. Heart? Great shape. Blood work: All looking good. I’m also discovering this is a rather radical method for weight loss. I’ve dropped about 10 pounds in a week!

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