It was a simple weekend plan, jump in the car, zip to Vancouver to see the kids and come back the next day. Just a quick over and back trip. Except for that curve ball.....
We pretty much left the house on time, later pulling into the rest area just north of Vancouver at 11:00 A.M. for a quick stretch and bathroom break. My dear husband asked, (like he always does, bless his heart) "getting hungry?"
My answer was "no, my stomach is giving me trouble right now". We then finished up at the rest area and were pulling out onto Interstate 205 southbound when my entire middle section went from zero to seven on a pain scale in about 10 seconds. I knew I was in trouble. I lied to myself and thought that maybe I was hungry after all and a little food in my belly would solve the problem.
We were headed to Portland OR to replace the custom oil lamp we had commissioned for our home here on the peninsula. It had crashed to the floor the weekend before, taking a few other items with it along the way. Trying to find parking at Saturday Market in Portland, is stupidity in motion and we knew that from living here. Previous visits always included the MAX train to avoid the struggles we were having right now. My mind kept thinking how stupid this driving around really was, and I must say when I get impatient with my husband, I am in bad shape.
I was getting desperate, to feel better.....
Finally, Terry declared that we would have to replace the oil lamp on another trip and we then found our way to some lunch. But a couple bites in and I knew that food was not what I needed. I looked at my husband and explained that while he did not have to hurry, I was returning to the car. I could barely get into my seat in the car I hurt so badly. I also did not know what to do, how does one take care of something this problematic? And while I desperately wanted to feel better, it was too late.
We drove to Vancouver and I told everyone I just needed to take it easy for awhile (I was totally lying, I was masking the pain to not let my family know how ill I was....) but by now it is Saturday afternoon at about 2:30 P.M. and I had been in misery for over three hours. I kept hoping that the pain would stop as fast as it had started, but that did not happen. By 3:30 P.M. I knew I needed some professional help and agreed to be taken to the Emergency Room.
Which was swamped.
It is important to state right here, the hospital staff was wonderful, every step of the way.
But you see, by now in my pain induced stare I am sure I appeared to be a drug seeking person right off the streets, I had really deteriorated as the afternoon went by. I explained to intake that I "could not take the pain anymore". (I am pretty sure drug seekers say things like that.....) I was asked where I hurt, I explained that my entire midsection hurt. There was no real movement on the part of the hospital to get me settled in an exam room, which I did not understand. Things had changed in the 25 years since I had last been in an Emergency Room....at one point I suggested that it might be my gallbladder.
Because of the new finding regarding heart attacks in women, I was immediately given an EKG, which showed my heart was fine. But no pain medication. I explained once again that I could not take the pain anymore, stating that I had been in pain since 11:00 A.M. (it was now about 4:30, that is a long time to be in extreme pain) and I really needed some medication. Vitals and labs showed my blood pressure was seriously high, my blood sugar had surged and then finally, some information. The ultrasound indicated that I had thrown a gallstone into the common bile duct.
Now I got medication and admitted.
At this point, the real work begins. Personally, I was grateful to be able to breathe and answer questions. Holding your breath and gritting your teeth because you are in such pain you cannot breath, does nothing positive for your system nor does it improve your ability to cope.
Did I know I have a serious heart murmur? (The short answer is yes.)
What medications did I take? ( gave the info )
Have I been out of the country in the last year? ( No, no exotic vacations for us!)
And about 100 questions more, that I no longer remember........and they all seemed very far removed from our simple life on the peninsula. I was also worried about my husband, he was frightened, exhausted and was getting impatient. Not to mention my daughter, the last thing I wanted was to impose worry on my family.
Once I received some pain medication, my blood pressure, blood sugar and liver enzymes returned to normal or a form of normal for what was wrong. Earlier lab work indicated my potassium was way too low, and an IV had been started immediately at that point. I was scheduled for surgery to remove the stone from the common bile duct the next morning. At this point, I was relieved, but I had no idea what was ahead.
The surgery took a long time. So long that the surgeon apologized to my husband. Apparently, my personal anatomy design prevented easy correction of the problem. After three failed attempts, he had to use a stent to relieve the duct, of the stone. All the while preventing injury to the pancreas and causing additional problems. My upper lip took quite a beating during the endoscopy, it is still swollen and numb from the length of time needed to complete a successful surgery. (This surgery was on Sunday.)
I was then monitored for the next few hours and had a second surgery the following day to remove the gallbladder. This one was easy in comparison. Because of the heart murmur, I was now best friends with a heart monitor. In the end, it was decided that I have a benign murmur known as Musical Heart or Stills Heart. But to be safe, I wore the monitor until discharge.
Now usually the stent used for removal of the stone will just fall off the end of the common duct. It is not attached and you simply eliminate it naturally. But no, apparently not when it involves me......yes this now brings us to another surgery, X-rays indicated that the stint was firmly in place.......and now it had to be removed through another endoscopy procedure. This was scheduled for the next day.
I did get to discharge and spend the evening with family, at our daughter's home. We then returned on Wednesday for the final step. They were getting easier as time went by, but at this point, I was very tired. After the final surgery, we spent another night with family, before traveling back to Ocean Park.
Once we arrived in Ocean Park, I was amazed at my fatigue level even though I had dozed in the car the entire time we were traveling towards home. And I had been sleeping almost non-stop since discharge. But still, I was so tired. Having been the one to take care of others, I did not think about what I was going through, I just accepted each challenge as it was presented.
My family is a true blessing, and I am so fortunate to have them surround me when I need care. And that has been my week so far. I am so glad to be home!
PS. Part of the reason for writing this down was to be able to process it from the point of understanding the events and not just as a patient in the hospital. Much like the layers of an onion, feelings and awareness must be exposed to be felt and understood. Thank you for indulging me in this process.
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