Y’all. I have changed so much since I last posted. I’m missing something that I’ve always had before.
Two days ago my gallbladder was removed.
It all started a few weeks ago, when I would get brief twinges of super mild pain in my right upper abdomen. I didn’t worry about it; I figured it was my gallbladder, and I already had an appointment with my family doctor scheduled for October 5.
On September 29, it started hurting again. I went to work, but it kept getting worse. about two hours into my shift, I told my manager I had to go to the hospital. He was very understanding, having had his own gallbladder out last year.
My husband picked me up and brought me in, where the triage nurse completely mangled my explanation of my complaint. When I got into a room, we got that straightened out, and I got an IV, some pain meds, an ultrasound, and a CT scan. And the first of five urine pregnancy tests.
That doc told me that everything was within normal range, even though Ian watched my ultrasound and saw how large and round my gallbladder was. The doc was also a little uneasy to tell me about the lung nodule on my CT–and I just realized I haven’t told y’all about that. It’s fine right now, tell you more later.
So he prescribed tramadol and sent me home with a referral to a GI doctor for a HIDA scan to check on my gallbladder’s functionality. Okay, cool.
Saturday before yesterday I did my bestie’s daughter’s makeup for her first Homecoming dance. Y’all, she was gorgeous! And such a pretty dress, and glitter hairspray because she likes to sparkle as much as I do. I was feeling much better from the night before, but not good in any way.
Sunday morning, October 1, we went back to the hospital. This time I got a CT scan with IV contrast (and a second UPT) and learned that I’m now allergic. Got a nice rash exactly matching the one I had a few months back and realized that was the same week of my abdominal CT with contrast. Good times.
This doc sent me home with percocet and reiterated to followup with the GI doc. Okay, cool, we can call him tomorrow.
Guess what. The doctor I was referred to doesn’t take my insurance, so my husband called the other clinic he heads that does accept it, and an ER referral was not good enough. So he called our family doc and explained everything and they said they’d send a referral over. He called the GI clinic back and talked to someone who said sure, fax over the paperwork you got from the ER. She said she’d work on it but a doctor has to approve it before she can schedule an appointment, and they’d probably want an assessment before they considering doing the scan. Awesome, right?
I got worse again, and we ended up going to the ER at the same hospital as the second clinic on the recommendation of the GI nurse because then they could just called the GI doc on call over to have a look at me.
Thirteen hours later, I left still in pain, without seeing a GI doc or having any imaging done. I did get another urine pregnancy test, though. The ER doc put in a stat referral for me and said to call the next day.
This past Thursday morning, we were still waiting on approval. We went to our scheduled family doctor appointment and told the new nurse practitioner what was going on. She was super nice, and put in another referral for me, along with a neurology referral for my migraines.
And a rheumatology referral for my positive ANA test that no one had told me about. That means I may have lupus. And no one told me or tested me further. Thanks guys. At least you verified that I’m not pregnant for the fourth time this week.
Anyway, still no approval on the referral. I was feeling well enough to go to work, but I warned my boss I was not at 100%. I went home four hours in after getting worse.
Last Friday I woke up early and in more pain than ever before. I took a percocet and then another an hour later. It didn’t help at all, so when my husband woke up, we got ready to go back to the hospital again.
He called the GI clinic to check, and guess what! I finally got an appointment for next Friday. He told the girl that I was in a lot of pain and we were going back to the ER right then, so was there any way I could get a sooner appointment, and she rescheduled for Tuesday at 230.
This time the triage nurse did not take me seriously at all. She told me to hold still and sit back and relax because she needed an accurate blood pressure reading. Yeah, screw her a lot.
This doc gave me some pain meds that didn’t help at all, and that’s when I figured I was in trouble. I had a fifth and final UPT, and this time my bloodwork finally came back with an elevated white count, indicating infection. We found this out when my second nurse came in with a bag of antibiotics and confused the heck out of us, because the no one had said anything. She only beat the doctor in by a couple minutes.
He said he’d called the surgeon to have a look at my ultrasound from a week ago, and I’d be staying at least one night, and maybe have my gallbladder out in the morning. Okay, cool.
I’d never had “real” surgery with cutting and everything before, so I was starting to freak out, even though my husband and my mom and most of my friends have had their gallbladders out and had all been reassuring me that it’s the absolute easiest thing and I”d be back to myself in no time.
The surgeon came in to talk to us and said “I’ve got one more ahead of you, then we’ll get you upstairs and get that gallbladder out. I’ve already done three gallbladders today so I’m warmed up, you’ll go home tomorrow.”
I signed the consent.
The anesthesiologist came in and went over his paperwork, and I signed his consent.
I got an EKG in the midst of a flock of nurses getting everything ready for my transfer upstairs. I got naked and removed all of my jewelry, which someone then had to catalog, even though it wasn’t leaving my husband’s custody.
Y’all, they put me in a size 10X gown. It was like I was wearing a sheet.
They took me upstairs and put me in the holding area and gave me some pre-op Versed and Pepcid. I was a little bit stoned at that point, and insisted on taking the blame for the broken chair so that the nice nurse Sara wouldn’t get in trouble. Apparently she was listening to me argue about it with my husband and thought it was hysterical. The chair was broken when we got there. I didn’t even get near it.
The scope ahead of me turned into another gallbladder removal, so I waited a bit longer than expected, but I finally woke up in the recovery room, just me and two nurses since I was the last surgery of the day. I started crying as soon as I woke up because I still hurt so bad, and they gave me more pain meds and put me on oxygen because I’d had so many opioids that day. Eventually it got a little better and I was finally able to go up to my room and see my husband.
He put my wedding ring back on and told me not to worry about my earrings until I could put them back in myself. I reluctantly agreed because I was worried about them closing since I’d had to wait so long to go into surgery after taking them out. But really, I knew it wasn’t a big deal.
Everyone had told me that I would feel so much better when I woke up, but I didn’t. I still had the same gallbladder pain until I threw up some of the sludge that had been collecting in my guts for the past who knows how long. I immediately felt better, but that sludge was the absolute grossest thing to ever come out of my body. Google it. That stuff came out of my mouth.
Since I was finally doing a little better, my husband agreed to go get a bite to eat and pick up some things from the house. He’d already called my boss and his boss and my parents.
While he was gone, I dug the specimen cup with my earrings from my personal belongings bag and painstakingly replaced them, one by one. The only one I didn’t have a problem with was my freshest piercing. Go figure.
And then I started feeling bad again. Ian showed back up and I was so happy to see him, even though I was puking as he walked in the door. It was more sludge, and this time, getting rid of it didn’t help me feel any better. I called the nurse, but it was too soon for any more nausea medicine, and I had to wait another hour for a percocet. I didn’t think the percocet would help since I’d had two that morning and no relief, but it was a straw to grasp, so I stuck it out.
A few minutes after I finally got a percocet, I vomited for the last time. Including that long-awaited percocet. It was still too early for zofran, but the nurse talked to my doctor and got me some phenergan, which knocked me right out. I startled back awake every time Ian moved in his chair next to me, so he eventually decided that it was time for him to go home. He said it was about an hour after I got the phenergan, but seemed like five minutes to me. I only remember waking up twice before he left.
I am very glad he agreed to go home and not stay the night with me, as much as both of us would have liked him to stay. We both knew how bad his back would hurt the next day if he slept in a chair, and he’d already spent so much time in uncomfortable waiting rooms that day.
My nurse woke me up a few times to check my vitals and once to give me meds. I was so much better from the excruciating pain I’d been having right before I went to sleep. I remember she said it was probably from the local anesthetic he’d put inside wearing off that was causing me to hurt so badly.
When she woke me at five to check my vitals I had to poop, but I knew better than to try just yet. I had some serious tummy cramps, but my abs just had some more serious holes punched in them. I finally did poop, and that’s what I was doing when my husband came back. Sorry fam.
Yesterday morning I was off the clear liquid diet that I didn’t really get since I got to my room too late for dinner anyway, even if I’d wanted to eat. I didn’t.
The day nurse let me have the strawberry jello from my clear liquid breakfast while I waited for my real breakfast. I had scrambled eggs and two slices of bacon and some dry rice chex. It took me about twenty minutes to eat, and I gave Ian my biscuit.
He brought me a KitKat. It was delicious. He told me he rode partway up in the elevator with my doctor, who said as long as I’d stopped throwing up I could probably go home. Ian told him that I’d already texted him that I hadn’t puked any more. Unfortunately, I was on the fourth floor, and the surgeon was just starting his third floor rounds.
But it wasn’t too long before he came in and said okay, you’re good to go. Don’t worry about a followup unless something goes wrong. I don’t have any stitches or staples to remove because he used Dermabond on my incisions.
On the way home we got me an iced coffee with no sugar and some McDonald’s fries which turned out to be disappointingly old and hard, which was probably for the best anyway since I don’t have a gallbladder to help digest fats anymore.
I took the best nap of my life while Ian went to the store, and when I woke up to my get-ready-for-work alarm at 430 I felt a million times better.
Today I feel better still, and I’m looking forward to not hurting anymore.
And btdubs, in case anyone forgets to tell you if you have to have your gallbladder out, you will probably have diarrhea for a while. But that’s better than the pain.
Last night was my second night at my new job. I showed up knowing that I was the only closing driver, but what no one had told me was that I was the only driver from five until close.
So I started off easy, but then it got a little busier. I took a single run, then a double, then a triple, then another triple with another triple waiting to be cooked.
When I pulled up at my eighth delivery, I got out and started to trot up to the front door. I heard someone calling, but they weren’t near enough for me to make out what they were saying. I looked around, and I didn’t see anyone. I ignored it, because jeez, I’m in a good sized neighborhood around dinnertime. There’s all kinds of hollering going on.
I hopped up the steps and knocked on the door, and I heard it again. It sounded like they were possibly talking to me; I heard a woman’s voice calling ma’am, ma’am. My customer hadn’t answered the door yet, so I turned in a circle, scanning up and down the street.
Half a block away and across the street, nearly hidden behind a blossoming tree, I finally caught a glimpse of someone in a dress, outside with a dog. Help me. Was she struggling with the dog? I couldn’t see very well, since the tree was in the way. She started walking, slowly.
I watched the girl stagger out into the street, and I could see that she was splashed with red stains. She was holding her left arm out in front of her body, and there was a large dark stain near her wrist. It felt like I was watching the scene unfold on a screen before me; I mean, who hurts themselves inside and then comes outside for help? Phones are inside. She wasn’t running; she wasn’t acting at all like a person had hurt her. She wasn’t afraid of someone catching up to her and doing worse to her.
None of this was making sense.
My customer, an old woman walking with a cane, opened her door as the girl began calling again. Ma’am. I asked if she had her phone with her, as I had left mine in my car. I said it looked like the girl was covered in blood, and that I thought calling 911 would be a good idea. My customer shuffled out onto her porch and peered around the corner.
“No, I didn’t bring my phone with me to the door but–” Her eyes widened when she saw the girl. “I’ll get it.”
I was still standing there, holding the pizza like an asshole.
The girl was coming closer, the dog with her. She paused every few steps to call the dog back to her. When the girl was on the sidewalk next door, the dog broke away and ran up to me, on the porch, and tried to get into my customer’s house. She shooed it away with her cane, and I blocked it from the doorway while she talked to the emergency services dispatcher.
The girl was now in front of the house, pacing back and forth, talking more, shifting her complaints in rotation. It hurts. I can’t feel my hand. Please, my dogs are killing each other. I’m moving. It hurts. My dogs.
My customer and I encouraged her to sit down right where she was, as she was beginning to sway. Another neighbor from across the street came outside and I reassured her that my customer was on the phone with 911. The girl was begging someone to call her dad, and the neighbor ran to get her phone and call the girl’s father.
I opened my trunk to see if I had any towels, old shirts, anything to apply pressure to her wounds. I found a small dishtowel, but I estimated that it was large enough.
I was finally able to get a good enough look at the girl; she was definitely in shock. She’d been bitten quite badly on her left forearm, at least twice, but the bleeding on one had stopped long enough to have dried, and the other was oozing slowly. Her palms were both the dark maroon of dry blood and gray and white bits of fur were plastered to them. Her dress was bloody and furry. She was crying again that her dogs were killing each other inside her house and would someone please go stop them.
Obviously none of us were willing to go deal with those dogs, seeing what they’d done to her.
My customer was still on her porch, leaning on her cane, hollering advice, trying to calm the girl down, and pointing out that she’d ordered a Dr Pepper with her pizza. I’d forgotten her Dr Pepper in my car, so I brought it to her. She put it inside the door and slowly made her way down the sidewalk.
I stepped back out into the street to see if anyone was coming yet. A police officer had just turned onto the street, so I waved to let him know where we were. I told the girl that he was coming. When he pulled up and got out, her dog ran straight up to him, and I felt a moment of panic when he reached for his gun.
The girl screamed no, the dog turned to run back to her, and the cop relaxed. The neighbor took the girl’s dog and dragged it back towards her own home, to keep it out of the way.
Sirens sounded nearby, so I looked back up the street and the fire truck was turning our way. They slowed at a corner a couple blocks up, checking for addresses, so I waved to them as well.
The cop asked what happened, and she told him that her dogs were fighting. The fire truck pulled up and the EMTs rushed to surround her. The cop took a step back so I grabbed the opportunity and asked him if I needed to stay, because I was at work. He took in my hat and shirt and nametag, furrowed his brow, and asked, “You’re at work?”
I told him yes, that I was delivering here, and pointed at the house. I continued my synopsis: while I was at the door, this girl came out bleeding, and I asked my customer to call you since my phone was in my car, but you’re all here now, and well, I actually have another delivery in my car that I’ll need to call the store about if I need to stay.
Since I hadn’t made the 911 call, he agreed that there was no need for me to stay. He wrote down my name, birth date, and phone number and thanked me.
I hope the girl is okay.
At my next stop, my customer made a joke that they hoped I hadn’t gotten in an accident with their pizza; they’d heard the sirens. Yeah, ha-ha. Good one.
Peter looks in the mirror; a stranger stares back at him. He reaches toward the face he’s never seen before and opens the medicine cabinet. Two should do it. He takes his medicine and goes back to bed, hoping to wake up in a familiar place.
Anxiety lies on his chest like a giant cat, crushing the breath from his lungs . He has to sit up, gasping for air. His hand shakes as it goes to his throat, half expecting to feel hands here choking his life away, but touches only the smooth bare skin of his own neck.
He counts breaths until he can lie down again and feign sleep for another six hours, until it’s time to get up for the day.
Letty hears Peter stir in his bathroom; she grips her pillow even more tightly, hoping against hope that he gets some rest tonight. She spent too many hours today reassuring him that the stove was off, the doors locked, and they had no appointments.
A phrase catches her mind, distracting her from thoughts of caretaking: secret emergencies. It tastes faintly of long-forgotten familiarity; perhaps something she learned in school. A poem, maybe? But it fits Peter so well, describing him to a T with only two words. Secret emergencies.
His anxiety wasn’t improving with the new medication. Letty remembers a day when they were children, playing together in the backyard that seemed to stretch for miles in every direction. As they ran through a patch of clover, Peter disturbed a bee, and it stung him on the tip of his finger. He clutched it, and they ran home together. Letty found their father, who doctored Peter’s finger.
And that was all. No panic, no days of hiding in his room. They were out playing again that same after noon. What happened to that Peter? Letty wonders, drowsing. He must have had a secret emergency that he never told me about.
In his room, Peter’s breathing slows, and soft snores escape his open mouth, free to wander the still house.
Thanks to poet William Stafford and today’s Listserve submission from Michael Brigham.
I spent about eight hours in the ER last night/this morning with my third bout of kidney stone pain in ten days. I get to rise at the crack of dawn tomorrow to be a “scheduled walk-in” at the urology clinic because there is a massive stone possibly stuck in my ureter. After some blood work, we learned that my kidney function was not the best, so depending on how things are in the morning, I’ll either get more tests done if I’ve passed the stone or get a stent if I haven’t.
This was probably the worst one I’ve ever had since my first one fifteen years ago. When the nurse gave me morphine in my IV and it neither helped the pain nor made me not care about it, I started to worry. I’ve only had morphine for kidney stone pain once, but it helped the pain and I didn’t mind what was left.
When I went to CT and had to lie on my stomach I was confused; Ian told me that Google said that meant they thought a stone was stuck. Google was right.
At first the doctor said it was 2.5mm by 5.5mm, but a few hours later, after talking to the urologist, he said the urologist thought it was bigger.
About an hour after the morphine didn’t work, I got Toradol and Zofran. It was another half hour before that kicked in, which was also concerning. The first time I had kidney stones, I got Toradol and felt better before the nurse had the needle in the sharps container.
I thought about How to Die in Oregon. I think if everyone against assisted suicide went through what I did last night, there would be no question. I can’t imagine dealing with constant, intractable pain with no hope for relief. And it’s only been about 24 hours for me.
I don’t want to be too optimistic, but I think my stone has moved some. Hopefully I won’t need a stent tomorrow.
But nothing to eat from now until then, just in case.