Thursday, December 13, 2007

Medical note

Apologies for the long time between postings but for once I actually have a decent excuse. I've been in hospital for half the past week.

The story began when I woke up last Saturday night (or rather Sunday morning, 2.30am) with the most excruciating abdominal pain imaginable. I was lying in bed when it came on really suddenly and it got worse and worse and I woke up J and said "I have really bad abdominal cramps and I think I have to go to the hospital." J tried to get me to drink some water but I couldn't even lift the bottle. Then he said "Can you dress yourself?" and I realised I was stark naked and couldn't go out even to the hospital like this. So I staggered around trying to find my baggiest underpants and my loosest top and skirt.

J drove me to the local hospital which fortunately was only moderately full for a Saturday night. I must have looked as bad as I felt as the triage nurse gave me a trolley to lie on right away. I listened to J filling in the admissions paperwork. The nurse asked me to rate my pain on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the greatest pain I could imagine. "10," I croaked.

It was a long night. Eventually I was pushed from the hallway into a little room in the emergency department. Various nurses regularly took my blood pressure and heart rate but it was a long time before a doctor arrived. I asked a nurse if there was any chance of getting any pain killers. Eventually I was given a couple of Panadine Forte for the pain and some other medication to settle my stomach.

The doctor when she finally arrived was nothing short of brilliant. She was so thorough that she picked up a couple of minor unrelated health issues, as well as diagnosing me with pancreatitus (inflammation of the pancreas). Once we established that I barely drink any alcohol (excessive alcohol consumption is one reason for this disease) I was sent for an x-ray and ultrasound.
It turned out the pancreatitus was caused by gall stones and there are a fair few of them still in there. And the only way to get them out is to take the whole gall bladder out (it’s kidney stones that get laser zapped). The doctors claim that one can live a perfectly normal life without a gall bladder and the risk of complications from this surgery is much smaller than the risk of having an even worse and more dangerous attack of pancreatitus in the future if I don’t have my gall bladder out.

I spent the next day on a drip, eating ice, and two days on a clear-fluid diet to settle down my pancreas. Once the pain went, I felt fine. I slept and read and had visitors. J was fantastic, bringing me in fresh clothes and mint tea bags and ensuring I had a constant supply of reading material. And had my blood pressure and heart rate taken on a regular basis. To my great delight, I discovered that the few kilos I've lost this year and exercise have already had a profound impact on my health - I no longer have borderline high blood pressure; every single reading was well within the healthy normal range. On the fourth day I was allowed to have real food and when that passed without incident, I was permitted to return home to rest until the operation.

So on Monday I return to the hospital for the operation. It will be keyhole surgery, which means minimal scarring, and is apparently a very common and straightforward operation. Several people I know including my father-in-law and a close friend have had the operation and returned to a normal life. But any operation is scary.

I'm under strict instructions to eat a very low fat diet until the operation.
The gall bladder stores bile which is released when digesting fat; It turns out that eating a slightly fatty meal after a month of eating a very low fat diet (damn J's birthday dinner!) almost certainly triggered the attack - as the bile was released, so was a gallstone. But with the number of gallstones I had, an attack was probably inevitable. I've had mixed reports about whether my diet will be restricted after the operation but to be on the safe side, I will stick to the low-fat regime. I need to loose the weight anyway.

So that's been my excitement for the week. I'll do another post about returning to knitting.


Taphophile said...

Crikey -you poor bugger! Sending you strong and low-fat vibes for Monday.

M-H said...

I only just got this post in my bloglines! I had this experience six years ago and recovered quickly from the surgery. I have been able to eat anything I want to since. Good luck, and I hope your experience ends up as easily as mine did.