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The Attack of the Killer Tuna Melt

I’ve had a lot of people ask me what led up to my ending up in the hospital with an imploding gall bladder last month, so here are the Cliffs notes in case you’re morbidly interested. 

Mistakes were made.

Mistake # 1: Eating like a pig, which happens to be one of my favorite past times.

Lately, I’ve had a bit of stomach issues off and on which I’d been blaming in the salad bar at work. Seriously, salad bars should be banned. It’s a well-known fact people don’t wash their hands, and here I am, handling the same utensils, etc. Plus that craps sits out for hours, right? Whatever. That was my excuse.

Anyway, the week before all this happened, I went to Panera’s with my friend Ruthy. Having been there recently with Pamela (aka another_wip) and THOROUGLY ENJOYED their mac and cheese (“large, not small, thank you very much”) I ordered the same thing. Again, it was delicious! There is no other mac and cheese like it on earth.

In the middle of the night I woke up with severe abdominal, radiating to my back.

Me, thinking: “It’s my gall bladder.”

Yes, classic symptoms. I haven’t been a nurse for 150 years for nothing.

Disclaimer: This has happened to me in the past, maybe once every 6 or 7 years. But seriously, who runs to the doctor for something that happens maybe once a decade?* No one, right? At least not me.

*Of course, this is why people walk around with heart attacks they never knew they had.

The attack lasted 12 hours and then I was fine, though I had to cancel my anniversary dinner with husband. A week after that, December 14, I ate, not from the salad bar, but a tuna melt from the grill. Pretty yummy for hospital food.

I wake up at 3:00 a.m. (which seems to be the gall bladder witching hour) in excruciating pain and riddled with nausea.

Me, thinking: “It’s my effen gall bladder again, dammit.”

I wait for the pain to go away.

It doesn’t.

It lasts all day Saturday and Sunday. I can't eat or drink. I DON'T want to go to the emergency room. I honestly think, like the previous attacks, I can simply ride this one out, which of course was…

Mistake # 2.

Monday Nate drags me into see my doctor.

Me: “I am having a gall bladder attack. There is no doubt in my mind.”

Doctor: “Blah blah blah blah, it’s possible, we’ll do an ultrasound, but it could also be a virus, blah blah.”

Me: “What the **** kind of ****ing virus shows up, lasts 12 hours, goes away, and comes back a ****ing week later?” *

*No, I didn’t say it in those exact words. But I expressed my doubt that this was any kind of virus.

At this point I am also having fever and chills and my whole body's cramping. I've had nothing to eat or drink x 3 days. I am told to go to ER for IVs if I can’t keep anything down and I’m given a shot of Compazine and a prescription for it. Pills, not the shots. Like I can keep them down.

I have the ultrasound, return home, and crumble on the couch. At 6 p.m. someone from the doctor’s office calls and the ultrasound is find. My gall bladder is FINE. I don’t have pancreatitis, either. It’s probably a virus. I should push fluids, etc., and call back if I don’t get any better.

Mistake # 3: Listening to anonymous people calling from a doctor’s office.

My gall bladder is FINE? Now I am doubting my own sanity. How can it be fine?????? I HAVE ALL THE CLASSIC SYMPTOMS. I HAVE PAIN! NAUSEA! I AM DYING HERE!

Beth buys me a smoothie. It takes me a day and a half to drink half of it. I suck on ice cubes. I retch. I am hot and cold. Wednesday I take a Compazine, feel better, and decide to eat something. Eli does well when he’s sick and I feed him rice, so I eat some rice. After two bites I get shooting pains in my right shoulder—another classic sign.

Thursday I call the doctor back. I can’t get in to see her, so they sent me to this little twerp I’ve never seen before.

Me: “It’s my GALL BLADDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Dr. Twerp: “Well, the ultrasound says you have sludge in your gall bladder—“

Me: “I was told it was normal!”

Dr. Twerp: “And your liver enzymes are elevated…”

Me: “Gall bladder, right? GALL BLAAAAAAAADDERRRRRR!”

Dr. Twerp: “You need a hidascan and a GI consult. Go make an appointment. And make yourself eat something.”


Dr. Twerp (who, by the way, wasn’t even BORN the year I graduated from nursing school): “Umm…”

At the appointment desk I learn he didn’t even order the hidascan—OH, and they’ll call me back in 48 hours to let me know when they can fit me in for a GI consult.

Me (sobbing at this point): “Never mind. In forty-eight hours I will be DEAD.”

Appointment maker: “……”

Back home, on the advice of my poor freaking out sister, I call the patient advocate because this hospital, who advertises “world class care,” is supposed to offer SAME DAY APPOINTMENTS in emergency situations. I guess, because I'm still breathing, this was not considered an emergency.

I get a voice mail. So much for THAT.

Then I get a call from the appointment maker. “We can get you in with a GI doctor on January 16th.”

I hang up on her.

Nate, eying me weirdly: “Yanno, my buddy’s dad had a ruptured gall bladder…”

Me: “Yeah? What happened?”

Nate: “He died.”

That was it. Off to the emergency room I go. I will spare you all the gruesome details—and trust me, “gruesome” doesn’t quite do them justice—but I got there Thursday night, had the hidascan on Friday (where they inject radioactive dye into you and see happens…as it happens, my gallbladder was DEAD at that point and didn’t even react to it). My lab work was screwed up, my potassium level was dangerously low (hence the cramps) and my blood pressure was in the toilet. After several days of being shot up with morphine and Zofran, they finally took out my gallbladder—which was loaded with STONES—on Sunday morning.

Biggest Mistake, in Retrospect: Probably not going to the emergency room to begin with. But honestly, most people “trust” their doctors, and I’m no exception—or at least I wasn’t. Now I want to know: Why didn’t one of those two doctors admit me to the hospital instead of FORCING me to go through the emergency process? Who was the IDIOT who read the ultrasound results? Who didn’t notice my enzymes were elevated? Why would a doctor not listen to someone—who NEVER goes to the doctor when she’s sick because she NEVER GETS SICK—when she drags herself into the office twice insisting she’s on death’s door?

It boggles the mind.

Anyway, I’m pretty much recovered. The surgery itself isn't all that complicated, and would’ve been a lot easier to endure had I not been sick as a dog for a full week in advance.

Word of advice for those of you who really enjoy those big fatty meals: Excruciating abdominal pain radiating to your back and right shoulder, nausea, diarrhea, and, later, fever and chills…do NOT let your doctor blow you off! Untreated gall bladder disease is nothing to play with.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 9th, 2013 04:44 pm (UTC)
My husband had that before I met him. He said the pain was excruciating. I'm glad you are feeling better, Jen. I was so sad that you were in the hospital! TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF GIRL!
Jan. 9th, 2013 04:51 pm (UTC)
Doing so much better, Laura.Thanks!
Jan. 9th, 2013 05:48 pm (UTC)
Awwww (((Sweety)))
I am so sorry you had to go through all that he**. And give Nate a big hug for me for making my stubborn friend listen to her instincts and FINALLY get help. (cause you were soooo past the 'biting the bullet' LOL)

I understand the mistakes completely. I never get sick. I don't like doctors and I don't trust ERs (because in 12 years of dragging poor half dead Ashley in there doubled over in pain...not ONE of them ever bothered to notice she had GSE) Yeah. I wouldn't have gone either. Is this a case of a little knowledge (my med tech and your nursing) and a lot of stubborn being a bad thing? ;)

Anyway, I am so glad you are home and back on here too. I have missed your snarkiness. Love ya bunches
Jan. 9th, 2013 06:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Awwww (((Sweety)))
Love you too!!! And gearing up for The Grapeout!
Jan. 9th, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC)
Yikes. I learned the hard way (after my son's bone infection was misdiagnosed for months as a broken foot, then a broken leg, then juvenile arthritis) not to trust doctors. There are great doctors out there (like my brother), but then there are the Dr. Twerps.

Glad you're on the mend!
Jan. 10th, 2013 01:37 pm (UTC)
I guess people on your end can't read an xray either! Ugh!
Jan. 9th, 2013 08:10 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you're feeling better now. I had to have mind out about three months after T was born. I went to the dr. about it first and they scheduled an ultrasound. I had that done and then later that night, when the pain was worse than when I was in labor, my husband took me to the ER. I had a stone stuck between my gall bladder and my liver. They had to blast it out before I could have surgery. I had surgery 2 days later and then 5 days after that, my dr. calls me and says that my ultrasound came back showing lots of stones and that I needed to have my gall bladder removed. I told them I'd already had it removed 5 days earlier. Surprised, she said she'd check my file and came back sheepishly saying that the notes about the surgery were there and apologized for taking so long to get back to me. Needless to say, I never went back to that dr. again.
Jan. 10th, 2013 01:39 pm (UTC)
Ohhh my God! NO communication anywhere in this business!!!
Jan. 10th, 2013 03:27 am (UTC)
What a horror story! You really have to assert yourself but when you're dealing with medical professional who you just assume know what they're talking about, it's tough. So glad you are better!
Jan. 10th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
Yeah, and it's funny, because when you're advocating for a family member, it's (usually) easier. But when it's you (well, in my case, anyway) I turn into a limp noodle. I've learned my lesson.
Jan. 14th, 2013 05:26 pm (UTC)
OMG, how awful! *hugs* This sounds like pure torture. So glad you ended up going to the emergency room in the end, before things got even worse than they already were. Neither of the doctors you saw seem to have their heads screwed on right!
Jan. 15th, 2013 02:48 pm (UTC)
Dr. twerp and the ultrasound person are the ones I especially blame.

The good news is that I am eating absolutely everything, which makes me wonder why I ever needed that damn gall bladder in the first place. :)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


Jeannine Garsee

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